(CNN) - Defying President Obama, House Democrats voted Thursday not to bring up the tax package that he negotiated with Republicans in its current form.
"This message today is very simple: That in the form that it was negotiated, it is not acceptable to the House Democratic caucus. It's as simple as that," said Democratic Congressman Chris Van Hollen.
Washington (CNN) – Multiple senior Democratic sources say House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has stepped into the battle between Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland and Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, for the number two Democratic leadership post, and is personally trying to negotiate a compromise. The sources say her goal is to avoid forcing the caucus to cast what many fear could be divisive votes.
"The speaker and everyone else think it's good to settle this quickly." said one of the senior Democratic sources with knowledge of the private conversations.
Washington (CNN) - Outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Friday she will run for minority leader, even as some moderate and conservative Democrats have said she should step aside. Pelosi made the announcement on Twitter: "Driven by the urgency of creating jobs & protecting #hcr, #wsr, Social Security & Medicare, I am running for Dem Leader."
She further explained her decision in a statement.
(CNN) - Democratic congressional leaders used a White House strategy session Thursday to push President Barack Obama to be more aggressive in helping them campaign in the final weeks before November's elections, multiple senior Democratic sources familiar with the meeting tell CNN.
According to the sources, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told the president that congressional Democrats want to see more of the kind of campaign rally and rhetoric he displayed this week in Wisconsin. They said they especially want him to continue to make the case - and the contrast with Republicans - on jobs and the economy.
The president said he would, and signaled that there are other campaign events in the works beyond the handful that have already been announced, according to the sources.
Washington (CNN) - Congressional Democrats were working toward an agreement Monday with the White House and possibly the Pentagon on a legislative step toward repealing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that bars openly gay soldiers from the military, sources told CNN.
In a letter to President Barack Obama obtained by CNN, three congressional sponsors of legislation to repeal the policy outlined the proposed agreement that would set contingencies based on completion of a military review of the matter already underway and subsequent final approval from the president and military leaders.
"We have developed a legislative proposal for consideration by the House and Senate that puts a process in place to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" once the working group has completed its review and you, the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs certify that repeal can be achieved consistent with the military's standards of readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention," said the letter sent Monday night that was signed by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Connecticut, and Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Pennsylvania.
Congressional Democratic sources said they hoped Gates himself would explicity support the compromise language because that could determine whether the measure will pass. Several Democrrats in the Senate and House have said they are reluctant to support any legislation that doesn't have complete backing of the Pentagon.
There was no formal comment from the Pentagon on a possible agreement.
"Given that Congress insists on addressing this issue this week, we are trying to gain a better understanding of the legislative proposals they will be considering," said a statement by Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell.
Washington (CNN) - Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell will deliver the Republican response to President Obama's first State of the Union address next Wednesday.
McDonnell won the Virginia governorship last November, reversing nearly a decade of Democratic gains in the purple state. He was sworn in as governor of the commonwealth last weekend.
After his resounding victory over Democrat Creigh Deeds, Republican strategists pointed to McDonnell's path to victory - focusing on economic issues while remaining committed to conservative principles - as a blueprint for future GOP successes in the 2010 midterm elections.
In 2006, Democrats tapped then-Gov. Tim Kaine to deliver the response to President Bush's State of the Union speech for similar reasons; national officials saw Kaine's win in Virginia the previous year as a sign that Democrats were finding ways to win elections in traditionally-red states.
Washington (CNN) - In the face of a major political upset Tuesday night and with Republican Scott Brown poised to fill Ted Kennedy's Massachusetts Senate seat – ending the Senate Democrats losing their filibuster proof majority – House Democrats across the political spectrum largely rejected the idea of passing the Senate health care bill.
Liberal New York Democrat Anthony Weiner predicted the Senate bill wouldn't have the votes to pass the House.
Weiner ridiculed House Democratic leaders for holding a meeting to brief House Democrats on negotiations with the White House on a health care bill, telling reporters: "They're talking as if, 'what our deal is, what our negotiators are at the White House.' Yeah, and then the last line is, 'Pigs fly out of my ass' ... It's just, we've got to recognize we are in an entirely different scenario."
Several rank-and-file Democratic lawmakers on the right and the left suggested it may be best now to scrap their big overhaul bill and pass a smaller measure with provisions they can all agree on, such barring discrimination by insurers for those Americans who have pre-existing conditions and closing the donut hole to bring down prescription drug costs. But it's unclear if that option, like other contingency plans Democrats are considering, is doable now.
Weiner argued the Massachusetts results demonstrated that Democrats have to change their strategy on health care.
Washington (CNN) - Congressional Democratic health care negotiators, working with the White House, have reached a tentative deal with labor unions on restructuring a tax on high-end insurance plans, a key proposal to pay for health care reform, according to two sources familiar with the fast-moving talks.
The "Cadillac tax" is one of the major issues dividing House and Senate Democrats, who have been in intense negotiations with Obama administration officials at the White House over the past two days. Labor union leaders were instrumental in the bargaining, attending multiple separate meetings all week at the White House and on Capitol Hill.
Labor officials are trying to protect workers currently receiving high-cost plans from their employers. Over the years, many unions have negotiated generous health benefits - sometimes in lieu of wage increases.
Under the outline currently being discussed, which the sources stressed is still fluid, the threshold for the tax on insurance plans would be raised above what passed the Senate - which was a tax on insurance plans costing $23,000 and up for families.
Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama and congressional Democratic leaders finalized a decision Tuesday to bypass a formal House and Senate conference to meld their health care bills, according to two congressional Democratic leadership sources.
The two told CNN that Obama and Democratic congressional leaders will instead hold informal negotiations to sidestep possible Republican delays of the process.
Avoiding a formal conference has long been expected, but one of the Democratic leadership sources said the president used Tuesday evening's White House meeting with Democratic congressional leaders to formally clear the idea.
To hold a formal conference, conferees - members of the House and Senate - must be appointed by both bodies with resolutions passed by the Senate and the House. Democratic leadership aides said getting those resolutions passed could delay and even derail Democratic efforts, because Republicans would be allowed to offer amendments and hold lengthy debates on the resolutions to appoint conferees.
Instead, White House, House and Senate Democratic leaders and their key committee chairmen will informally meet to find compromise between the two health care bills.
In fact, the White House, criticized by many Democrats for months for having too much of a hands-off approach to health care, has promised that the president and his aides will take a more "prominent role" in the final health care talks, according to a Democratic leadership source.
Obama aides will begin convening and coordinating initial discussions with House and Senate Democratic aides, the source said. The first will take place Wednesday at the White House.
Another Democratic leadership source said house Democratic leaders, who huddled Tuesday in the House speaker's office, will hold a follow-up meeting at the Capitol on Wednesday morning, then go to the White House on Wednesday afternoon.
House Democratic leaders returned a week early from congressional recess to start plotting strategy in resolving what House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer acknowledged Tuesday are "significant differences" between the House and Senate health care bills.
Washington (CNN) - The House of Representatives doesn't officially return from its holiday break until next week, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, other top House Democratic leaders and committee chairmen will return to Washington this week to prepare for health care negotiations with the Senate, two Democratic leadership aides tell CNN.
First, Pelosi is scheduled to huddle in her office with other House Democratic leaders Tuesday afternoon. On Thursday, House Democratic leaders plan a conference call with all House Democrats. A similar House Democratic conference call was held December 23, on the eve of the Senate's health care passage, to begin discussing the differences between the two bills. Since then, House Democratic aides have drafted an analysis laying out the differences between the House and Senate bills.
House Democratic leaders are also likely to meet with President Obama as soon as this week, but Democratic leadership aides say a meeting hasn't officially been scheduled yet.
Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid spoke once by phone about health care over the holiday break, according to aides to both, but broader talks have yet to begin.
When House and Senate negotiations to meld the health care bills do start, senior Democratic sources say a formal House-Senate conference is unlikely because of the Republicans' ability to slow the process in the Senate.