Pelosi to Caucus: We Are On Track for Health Care Vote

Posted July 21, 2009 at 1:59pm

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told Democrats they remain on track for passing a health care overhaul before they leave for the August recess, Members said after a Caucus meeting Tuesday.

“We’re on schedule,— Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.) said.

Pelosi’s confidence comes despite a revolt among Blue Dog Democrats who are demanding deeper cuts in spending and other changes — and a suggestion earlier in the day by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) that he might not favor keeping lawmakers in town into August if consensus remains elusive.

“I’ll make that decision next week. I’m not going to make it now,— Hoyer told reporters at his weekly roundtable.

Democratic leaders in the chamber are struggling to strike breakthrough agreements with moderates, who have pledged to block the bill in the Energy and Commerce Committee if a number of their concerns aren’t addressed. The panel, the last of three to approve the bill, postponed a planned markup on Tuesday, and its Members are heading to the White House Tuesday afternoon to huddle with President Barack Obama.

On top of substantive gripes with the bill, vulnerable House Democrats have made it clear they don’t want to take a tough vote on a health care overhaul if the Senate doesn’t go first. And some freshmen have proposed staying in session for the first week of August if it would help the chamber track more closely with the Senate.

But Hoyer said, “I don’t think it’s a question of staying another week. It’s a question of seeing whether or not we can get to consensus. And if we can, both in the House and in the Senate, we ought to move.—

House Rules Chairwoman Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) said she expects to send the bill to the floor next week.

“I don’t see any reason for the delay,— she said. “We’re doing fine with it.— She said passing the bills in both chambers would be important so the bills could be met on by a conference committee in September.

Slaughter, meanwhile, said she and other Members are prepared to stick around into August if they need to do so.