Pelosi backs off recess healthcare deadline

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday that the House can go home for its August recess without passing a massive overhaul.

Pelosi dismissed concerns expressed by many Democrats that a monthlong delay could give opponents more chances to rally opposition to the bill.

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"I'm not afraid of August," Pelosi said. "It's a month."

That is different from what she said Wednesday and contradicts one of her fellow Democratic House leaders. On Wednesday, Pelosi had indicated that she supported staying into August, saying, "70 percent of the American people would want that."

As the bill has bogged down in the Energy and Commerce Committee, the July 31 deadline for passing the bill has seemed increasingly more difficult to meet. Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) have promised lawmakers two days to read the final bill, so it must get out of the committee by Wednesday.

The committee again delayed its markup Thursday. The committee hasn't met since Monday.

Hoyer has said he didn't see the need to keep lawmakers in session if Democrats haven't reached consensus.

But shortly before Pelosi's news conference, House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.), the No. 3 Democrat in the House, said the House should "postpone, if not cancel, our August recess" until the healthcare bill is passed.

"If we leave here without doing this, nobody is going to interpret that we're going home to listen," Clyburn said. "They'll say we're going on vacation without having done it."

Blue Dogs on the Energy and Commerce Committee have threatened to block the bill, saying it doesn’t do enough to cut healthcare costs and puts too heavy a burden on employers. And even if the Blue Dogs' concerns are assuaged, there are still looming problems with the tax on the wealthy to pay for it and objections by rural members who feel Medicare shortchanges their physicians and hospitals.

Pelosi reiterated Thursday her belief that she has enough votes to pass the bill. Democratic opponents of the current bill said it is nowhere close to having the votes to pass on the House floor. But she stood by her vote count Thursday.

"I'm more confident than ever," Pelosi said. "I stand by my statement."