Hoyer: House ready to move forward without a deal on abortion

House Democrats are ready to “forge ahead” on healthcare without a deal on abortion, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Friday.

Hoyer said hopes for a deal have all but evaporated with a dozen Democrats who want tougher restrictions on the use of federal funds for abortion services than are included in the Senate’s healthcare bill.

Democratic leaders have been trying to reach an agreement with Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) and his allies before moving forward with a vote.

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But Hoyer said Friday that Democrats were preparing to take the plunge without Stupak’s votes in tow.

“We don’t want to go without their votes but we do want to forge ahead,” Hoyer said.

“And as you know, Mr. Stupak has made it very, very clear that he’s very strongly in favor of seeing healthcare reform in this Congress, and I think a lot of his colleagues feel the same way.

“We are hopeful that we will get a majority and we believe we will get a majority,” Hoyer added.

Democrats met as a caucus Friday morning to discuss the process of bringing the Senate bill to the floor, as well as a package of changes to that bill that the Senate would consider under budget reconciliation rules. The rules would prevent Republicans in the Senate from filibustering the package.

The Congressional Budget Office has not yet released its score of the reconciliation bill, so members are still without legislative language. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday said she would give members a week to study the language before asking them to vote.

The White House had set a March 18 deadline for the House to vote on the Senate bill, which Democratic leaders have criticized. That deadline increasingly looks like it will not be met, and President Barack Obama on Friday delayed an overseas trip he was to start on March 18 to give the House more time to complete its work.

Hoyer described the process talks as “positive,” and affirmed that the House Budget Committee will convene a markup of the reconciliation bill on Monday.

Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said that he expects to see reconciliation language on Friday and to be able to vote within 10 days.

Stupak has warned that he has about a dozen Democrats who supported the House bill in November but will not vote in favor of the Senate bill because of the abortion language.

Hoyer said Thursday that more restrictive abortion language, based on Stupak’s amendment to the House healthcare bill, cannot be attached to the reconciliation bill.

“It is clear that that matter cannot be dealt with, per se, in the reconciliation bill,” Hoyer said. “So we’re pretty much going to have to deal with it as is at this point in time.”