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Health Care Talks to Continue Wednesday in House

Education and Labor Chairman George Miller (D-Calif.), a key ally of Pelosi, backed the idea of going home in August and giving the committees ample time to sort out the differences in their bills. “It will take some time, and you also have to have that [Congressional Budget Office] score,” Miller said.

Congressional Progressive Caucus members also have dropped their demands that the House vote on a bill before recess, instead hoping to get a measure ironed out that they can sell over the break.

“We need to have a bill before recess,” said Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.), co-chairwoman of the Progressive Caucus, after a meeting with Pelosi. Pelosi reiterated her support of a strong public insurance option, the main demand of liberals, Woolsey said. The Members also talked during the meeting about ways to move the bill forward if the Energy and Commerce Committee is unable to reach agreement with the Blue Dogs, Woolsey said, including the possibility of bypassing the Energy and Commerce panel and sending a bill directly to the floor.

“It’s not going to be sitting in committee in September,” Woolsey said.

Miller blasted legislation that appears to be emerging from the Senate Finance Committee with no public insurance option or an employer mandate to provide insurance: “I don’t think that adds up to health care reform. It doesn’t add up to insurance reform. It doesn’t add up to keeping costs down. I don’t know what the hell that adds up to.”

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health chairman, said they would keep meeting with the Blue Dogs until they have a deal and are still hopeful of going to a markup.

But some Blue Dogs not on the panel doubt that will happen.

“I think they need to start over,” said Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), a senior Blue Dog member. “It can’t be fixed.”

Rep. Bart Stupak (Mich.), another Democrat on Energy and Commerce opposing the bill, said he has been urging going home without a vote for more than a week. He said talk that the Senate Finance Committee may shelve a public insurance plan and an employer mandate only adds to that reasoning.

“The Senate’s on a completely different agenda,” Stupak said. “It’s time for the House and Senate to get together.”

Stupak said Members don’t want to vote for a bill that has no chance of becoming law.

“I’ve been here long enough. You do a bill and you get a plank sawed off behind you,” he said. “That’s what Members do not want.”

Stupak said they still are far apart on the particulars of the legislation.

“We have no bill,” he said.

Jay Heflin of CongressNow contributed to this report.

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