Van Hollen: Democrats 'very close' to healthcare agreement

Democratic congressional leaders and the White House have closed in on a final healthcare reform package, a member of the House Democratic leadership said Wednesday.

"The House and Senate have come very close to a final agreement in coordination with the White House. I think the president has a very good idea of what legislation is needed in order for us to move forward," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and serves as assistant to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), during a conference call with reporters.

ADVERTISEMENT
With President Barack Obama's bipartisan healthcare reform summit planned for Feb. 25 -- just over a week away -- an agreement on how to advance the stalled initiative would be a major breakthrough for Democrats, who have been in a holding pattern on healthcare since Sen. Scott Brown's (R-Mass.) electoral victory last month deprived them of their crucial 60th vote in the upper chamber.

Having a complete Democrats-only deal in place, however, would rile Republicans who are already complaining that Obama's meeting will be just for show.

Obama has vowed to post a healthcare reform plan online prior to the summit  -- prompting questions about what exactly would be published: a compromise between the House and Senate healthcare bills, a new bill representing Obama's preferences or something else.

The only thing ruled out has been starting over with a blank sheet of paper as Republicans demand.

Van Hollen and other Democrats on the call insisted they do not know exactly what Obama plans.

"I don't know whether the president is going to but one particular piece of legislation on the table," Van Hollen said.

Given Obama's statements that the conversation at the summit would begin with the legislation already passed by two houses of Congress, "Everybody has the general idea of what we can expect," said Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calf.), the vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. Democratic Reps. Rosa DeLauro (Conn.) and Loretta Sanchez (Calif.) also participated in the call.