House health bill may get vote by next Thursday, Pelosi says

A vote on a House healthcare reform bill could come up as early as next Thursday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday.

A floor vote for the bill unveiled this morning would come up by Thursday under the best of circumstances, the speaker said, but would likely take place before the November 11th Veterans Day holiday.

"The earliest we can file a manager's amendment is Monday morning, keeping with the 72-hours on the internet before we could file," Pelosi told liberal bloggers during a conference call this afternoon, audio from which was posted by the blog CrooksandLiars.com. "We would in the meanwhile be preparing the amendment to file as soon as possible, so we can take up the bill by Thursday if we are ready to do so."

"Next week or the week after is when we'll be voting on the bill, under the best circumstances," she said.

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Pelosi said the timing depends on the ability of Democratic leaders to craft rules for the health debate under the manger's amendment, leading to a hopeful signature on final legislation as soon as before the Thanksgiving recess, or as late as "the weeks before Christmas."

But the speaker signaled a reluctance to allow amendments during the floor debate to her health bill, though she cautioned that she is open to the idea, and has not yet made up her mind on the matter.

"I'd have to be talked into it, I think, but -- let's put it this way -- I'm open to it," Pelosi said of the prospects for allowing floor amendments.

The speaker said that she considered the variety of meetings with her party's members in recent weeks as tantamount to having allowed amendments.

"We've probably had 78 caucuses on this subject, where we've listened to members -- they've had I think 2,000 town meetings on the subject. So they have brought back their concerns and our freshmen and sophomores in particular had fresh ideas about some of the issues in the bill, and they have made a big difference, from [H.R.] 3200 to our new bill," she explained. "I've considered all of that input as our amendment process."

"I do want to go to the floor with the knowledge that when we come off the floor we'll have a bill that's intact," she added.

That move could inflame a number of House constituencies, not least of which liberal Reps. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) and Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), who had hoped to hold a vote on whether to allow states to opt-in to a single-payer health plan.

The move may also threaten recalcitrance from some pro-life Democrats if they maintain the bill falls short of barring federal funding for abortions, and it would anger minority Republicans, who have already complained about having little to no input in crafting the bill.

Pelosi said that members would have plenty of opportunities to engage the legislative process during the floor debate, even if amendments are not allowed.

"It isn't as if the floor is without opportunity for those who have another view," she said.