Pelosi won't commit yet to moving Obama's health bill

SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will not commit to hold a House vote on President Barack Obama’s soon-to-be-unveiled healthcare package.

The highest ranking House member on Saturday said she would make no decisions on moving the bill, set for release on Monday, until her caucus gives their approval.

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According to a Democratic aide, Pelosi has not seen the specifics of the package though she has spoken to Obama, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) about it.

“We’ll look and see respectfully … what the president, having listened to all sides on this, puts on the internet, we’ll see it together probably on Monday. And we will take it up with our caucus and I cannot ever say until I hear from our members how we will deal with it, until I hear from my members as to their comfort level,” Pelosi told several reporters following a roundtable with military veterans.

The Speaker, clad in a dapper burgundy-and-slate-colored blazer, gray slacks and a rope of alternating black and white pearls, made the remarks after participating in an event hosted by Rep. Charlie Gonzalez (D-Texas) at the University of Texas, San Antonio (UTSA), located in his district.

Gonzalez, a 12-year House veteran and member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, knows well the frustration that his party has felt in not producing a final healthcare bill acceptable to both the House and Senate.


Pelosi, however, expressed confidence that “in a short period of time, that we will be able to go forward” on healthcare that has been at a legislative standstill since the Senate approved their version of the bill along party lines on Christmas Eve. 

Congressional Democratic leadership and the president have scrambled since early January, when Scott Brown, a Republican running to fill the Massachusetts Senate seat vacated by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D), won a surprise victory, in part on his pledge to sustain a filibuster against comprehensive healthcare reform.

At the time, Democrats discussed the possibility of moving the Senate-approved bill through the House without changes, but key blocks of Democratic House members vowed to oppose the Senate bill that differed on certain issues including taxing high-value health plans.

Pelosi admitted on Saturday, again, that she didn’t have the votes in her caucus of 256 members to approve the Senate bill as is.

"We have made it clear in our House we do not have the votes to pass the Senate bill as is. But one that increases affordability, access and accountability is within reach,” she said while surrounded by a group of local officials involved in veteran outreach programs in “Military City, U.S.A.”

The Speaker added that “hopefully … we’ll have a timetable for how we take this forward" after Thursday’s high-profile healthcare summit at Blair House called by Obama with bicameral, bipartisan leadership.

Pelosi's Senate counterpart, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), said on Friday that he intended to move a healthcare reform package through his chamber within the next two months via the procedural nuclear option, reconciliation, which would only require a majority of senators to approve a final package.

"I've had many conversations this week with the president, his chief of staff, and Speaker Pelosi," Reid said on Friday in an televised interview on "Face to Face with Jon Ralston" in Nevada. "And we're really trying to move forward on this."

That same day, Senate Republicans issued a document that contained the names of 18 Democratic senators wary of using the potentially explosive procedural tool, to show that Reid may lose the vote even if he attempts reconciliation.

At this point, House Democratic leaders look toward Monday evening when their caucus will meet to discuss the president's legislation.