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Pelosi: House Lacks Votes to OK Senate Health bill

Pelosi: House Lacks Votes to OK Senate Health bill

Photo courtesy Creative Commons

Associated Press

January 21, 2010

WASHINGTON – Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that she lacks the votes to quickly move the Senate’s sweeping health overhaul bill through the House, a potentially devastating blow to President Barack Obama’s signature issue.

Pelosi, D-Calif., made the comment to reporters after House Democrats held a closed-door meeting at which participants vented frustration with the Senate’s massive version of the legislation.

Her concession meant there was little hope for a White House-backed plan to quickly push the Senate-approved health bill through the House, followed by a separate measure making changes sought by House members, such as easing the Senate’s tax on higher-cost health plans. Such an approach would be “problematic,” she said, though Democrats haven’t completely ruled out pursuing it.

“In its present form without any changes I don’t think it’s possible to pass the Senate bill in the House,” Pelosi said, adding, “I don’t see the votes for it at this time.”

Pelosi also signaled that advancing health legislation through Congress will likely be a lengthy process — despite Democrats’ desire for a quick election-year pivot to address jobs and the economy, which polls show are the public’s top concern.

“We’re not in a big rush” on health care, Pelosi said. “Pause, reflect.”

Two days after the stunning special election in Massachusetts — where Republicans captured the Senate seat held for decades by the late Edward Kennedy — many House Democrats said one lesson was that the public wanted a more modest approach to overhauling the health care system. Several said Democrats should refocus the legislation onto popular proposals like barring insurance companies from denying coverage to sick people.

“The mega bills are dead,” said Rep. Michael Arcuri, D-N.Y. “If we didn’t see what happened Tuesday night, we have blinkers on.”

Rep. Jose Serrano, D-N.Y., said that ideally, Democrats would like to address a whole range of problems, including giving more people coverage, helping them pay for it and curbing the growth of medical costs.

“We’re obviously finding out we don’t have an ideal world, so why not deal with that which we can get done,” Serrano said.

By all accounts, Democrats have made no final decision on their options, which included breaking the health legislation into several smaller bills. But with Republican Scott Brown’s Massachusetts victory denying Democrats the 60 Senate votes they need to kill Republican delaying tactics, Obama and others were talking about legislation that would attract broad support.

“I would advise that we try to move quickly to coalesce around those elements of the package that people agree on,” Obama said Tuesday in an interview with ABC News.


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