January 19th, 2010
12:59 PM ET
12 years ago

Hoyer: Senate bill 'clearly better than nothing'

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/01/19/art.stenyhoyer3.gi.jpg caption="House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said that the Senate health care bill is 'clearly better than nothing.'"]Washington (CNN) - A top House Democrat said Tuesday that the Senate health care bill is "clearly better than nothing" - an indication the House of Representatives is considering passing the more conservative Senate measure with no alterations.

The House Democratic leadership may resort to that course of action if Massachusetts GOP state Sen. Scott Brown wins Tuesday's race to fill the vacancy created by the death of Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy.

A Brown victory would deprive Democrats of their 60-seat Senate supermajority and give the GOP enough votes to block future Senate votes on health care and other White House priorities. If the House passes the Senate bill as currently written, however, the measure could proceed straight to President Barack Obama to be signed into law.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters he remains "hopeful" Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, the Democratic nominee, will defeat Brown. But if she does not, passing the Senate version would be "clearly better than nothing," he said.

Later, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi added, "Whatever happens in Massachusetts, we will have quality, affordable health care for all Americans, and it will be soon."

Several Democratic congressional sources tell CNN that having the House approve the Senate bill is likely the best of a series of bad options to pass health care in the event of a Brown victory.

Before Christmas, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected the idea of passing an unamended version of the Senate bill. At the time, she cited several key differences between the Senate and House bills.

But Democratic congressional sources now say the White House is privately laying the groundwork for the idea, hoping that enough House Democratic lawmakers may change their mind if confronted with the idea of not passing any bill.

A House decision to pass the Senate bill with no changes would likely have to be tied to a promise from the Senate leadership to pass changes favored by the House in the future, sources say.

"I would be willing to listen to ways to maybe do a two-bill strategy if that were necessary," Connecticut Democratic Rep. Joe Courtney told CNN in an interview.

"But ... I just think there are so many flaws, I think a lot of House members would really struggle to do one vote and walk away with the Senate bill as is."

Courtney is a vocal opponent of the Senate bill's tax on high-cost plans, saying it would hit too many working Americans.

One senior Democratic source told CNN one of the many problems with this plan is House Democrats' distrust of the Senate. Courtney said he agrees.

"The inter-chamber tension is real. There is just no denying it," he said.

"The White House and the president would play a key role in terms of just trying to create a lead-pipe certainty that if there is a multi-step process that they're going to be there to ensure everybody lives up to their end of the deal."

Relations between the chambers have become so bad, the source asserted, that House Democrats may not believe Senate Democrats will follow through on promises to make changes later.

Hoyer said it would be possible for both chambers to pass a bill within 15 days after Tuesday's election, which could be the deadline for the Massachusetts secretary of state to certify a Brown victory and thereby allow Brown to be officially seated in the Senate.

But Hoyer's office later sent out an e-mail noting that the majority leader "did not say that (the bill) would be passed in that time."

Regardless, several Democratic sources have told CNN that option is extremely unlikely because of the political fallout of trying to push something through at a time when voters in Massachusetts may be demonstrating that the health care bill is unpopular at the polls.

Hoyer maintained that Democratic leaders are making progress at negotiating a final bill. "Our objective is to get agreement, not to take the Senate bill or the House bill, but to come to an agreement, as is normal legislative process," he said.

Hoyer pushed back against the notion that the Massachusetts special election is a harbinger for what Democrats will face in the November midterms.

"I don't need the Massachusetts race to tell me the psyche of the American people. I just need to go to the grocery store," he said. "People are angry, people are fearful, people are very concerned about where the economy is."

But, Hoyer asserted, Democrats are responding to the sentiment by focusing on jobs, fiscal responsibility and health care reform.

Story updated at 4:40 p.m. EST with Pelosi comments.

Filed under: Health care • Steny Hoyer
soundoff (94 Responses)
  1. T'SAH from Virginia

    FIRST of ALL – Majority RULES!!!!

    What makes BROWN think he can come into Congress and UPSET a vote that already took place????? If you think the American people would be upset if Congress RUSHES to get a vote in BEFORE Brown is sworn in................ Think about the Americans who would be upset if ONE MAN comes in and STOP THE SHOW!!!

    RepubliCAN'Ts said from DAY ONE all they had to do is BAD MOUTH the Health Care Reform Plan and President Obama would FAIL!!!

    I ASK – What does the RepubliCAN'Ts have to offer IF they DO get back in office ------ NOTHING and MORE OF THE SAME from the BUSHwack years!!!

    January 19, 2010 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  2. Steve (the real one)

    Somebody asked this on a different story:

    How many homes does Brown own and how much money does he have, Trucks are props.. what are the facts of this guy being a common man.
    My response is this: Did you bother to ask this when the late Ted Kennedy was in office? Did it matter to you then? This is one of the greatest examples of liberal hypocrisy I have ever seen!

    January 19, 2010 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  3. Willy Brown


    Middle Class


    Hope they don’t Revolt!

    January 19, 2010 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  4. Johnny DC

    Why? Why is the position of the uber-Liberal Democrats to claim anything is better than nothing.

    Sometimes nothing is better than an awful idea. That is a possibility. Are you aware of that, Mr. Hoyer?

    In this case, we're talking about fiscally-irresponsible legislation that has minimal benefit and maximum cost.

    The typical Liberal mantra of "anything to help the struggling" doesn't work anymore, Hoyer. Go sell it to someone who's buying. The American people (translation: GOP and Independent voters) are not.

    January 19, 2010 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  5. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    I have to agree with Hoyer at this point. I would that something get done. We can fix problems later as they are discovered. This has been a far longer and bloodier problem than needed thanks mostly to the Republicans (and some Senators that caucus with the Democrats).

    January 19, 2010 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  6. Steve in North Carolina

    Many people think that nothing is better than either flawed version of this bill whether it be the house or the senate.

    January 19, 2010 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  7. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    We don't have to look to far to see nothing, look at Haiti a country where people don't know what heathcare is and poor Americans will be victims of the same. Wakeup out there people and look at Haiti.

    January 19, 2010 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  8. Bill

    Power to the people; not the politicians.

    January 19, 2010 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  9. Russ from Md

    Steny Hoyer is nothing but a loyal lap dog of Pelosi. Believe me, I am in his district and he's useless.

    January 19, 2010 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  10. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha......

    last week they were on the one yard line.....Obama and the Dems. are just pitiful inside the "red zone."

    They've proved it over and over again with the Olympics, Climate Conference, Gitmo, Iran, N. Korea, Don't ask, don't tell, and unemployment......

    Time to dump these guys.

    Obama is ONE and DONE.

    January 19, 2010 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  11. Liberal wingnut

    Yes spending a trillion dollars on something that also raises everybody's insurance premiums is a good thing!

    January 19, 2010 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  12. Tom L.

    Now there is a ringing endorsement!

    Has there ever been a time where a bill as major as this passed without ONE vote from the other party? This is just ridiculous.

    One would think that the mere fact that the Massachusetts race is even close would wake Democrats up that they are going too far. Plain and simple, they just don't seem to care because they think they know better.

    January 19, 2010 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  13. Ask the unions Steny.....

    I don't think they'll agree with you.

    Also you do realize that any Dem. from a red state that votes for the bill will be out of a job in November. Do you think these 37 Dems. are going to fall on their swords for you and Obozo?

    January 19, 2010 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  14. Derek

    Geez, so now the house is just going to vote for the trashy senate bill, just for the sake of passing something, no matter how bad it is. Thanks a lot jerks!

    January 19, 2010 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  15. Obama 2.0

    If you don't pass HCR you might as well pack your bags 🙂

    January 19, 2010 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  16. Mike in MN

    Why do the Dems continue to insist on passing this piece of crap? Why won't they start over and listen to the people and write a bill a majority of voters will support? What is there damage? Biggest collection of aragont idiots who ever tried to force their will on the American people since before our nations revolution.

    January 19, 2010 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  17. unshrub

    Republican's have a new campaign motto, "Vote for us because the Democrats are too slow in fixing the problems we create."

    January 19, 2010 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  18. AJ

    No, it isn't better than nothing it's a bad bad bill that does nothing to address spiraling healthcare costs nor does it address how the middle class and working poor will be able to pay for the deductables and copays on thier mandated insurance. This bill is nothing but another huge corporate giveaway and Hoyer knows it. Middle America is tired of pouring billions of taxpayer dollars into private companies with little or no relief on Main Street.

    January 19, 2010 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  19. sandy

    What planet are you from Hoyer? I would rather have nothing than what the Senate has proposed. No wonder you Democrats are loosing,and I'm a democrat

    January 19, 2010 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
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