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Pelosi Assures Members She Is Fighting for House Health Bill

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) assured Democrats on a conference call Thursday that she would fight for House priorities on the health care bill and not simply give in to the Senate, while Members expressed concern about a host of issues, including the plan to tax high-cost health insurance plans.

Pelosi “won’t just take the Senate’s bill,” a Democratic aide said after the call.

About 175 Members were on the call, Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson (Conn.) said. He said several Members said they were concerned about the “Cadillac” tax on insurance plans that’s contained in the Senate health care reform bill. Other Members complained about the Senate’s language on immigration, abortion and affordability for the middle class.

House Members prefer a tax on the wealthy instead, but they may be willing to settle for a hybrid that includes both a tax on insurance as well as a tax on the wealthy.

But House Education and Labor Chairman George Miller (D-Calif.) said they told the Members that “no decisions” have been made on any of the major issues yet, although House and Senate staff have been talking about the differences in the bills. Democrats are hoping to reconcile the two versions and pass a final package by February.

A Democratic aide said that in response to a question about the sweetheart Medicaid deal Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) extracted for his home state, Pelosi and House leaders said they were trying to achieve “equity” for all states.

Pelosi also told Members that despite press reports, no final decision has been made on whether to hold a formal conference committee on the bill, an aide said.

Democratic staff and leaders will continue to meet around the clock, with the aim for more progress to be made before a Tuesday evening Caucus meeting, Larson said. President Barack Obama also is expected to attend the Democratic issues conference on either Wednesday or Thursday of next week.

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