Liberals in the House will insist on a conference with the Senate to finalize healthcare legislation, one of their leaders said Monday.

Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), the co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, warned that support for healthcare reform would be in jeopardy if the Senate "ping-pongs" its bill back to the House, forcing the lower chamber to vote on the Senate bill without an opportunity to meld the two together.

"We need to have a conference," Grijalva said during an appearance on ABC News's "Top Line" webcast. "This cannot occur without a conference."


The caucus chairman signaled an openness to compromise on healthcare -- a step far removed liberals' initial threat to vote down a bill without a robust public option -- but said that was only possible with a conference.

"I think there is a compromise to be found, but we won't be able to find that compromise unless there is a conference," he said.

Chatter has emerged in recent weeks about the potential for the ping-pong move, which would consciously eschew conference out of concern that the House bill would drag the overall bill back beyond what's acceptable to crucial centrists in the Senate.

The Arizona Democrat warned, somewhat cryptically, that such a maneuver would be a mistake.

"If we get something from the Senate that basically what replicates what we have in the system now, it will have a difficult time if not an impossible time in the House," he said. "To try to steamroll something, where there is no conference or serious debate, would be a serious mistake."

Grijalva said that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) had been insistent on a conference last week, and that House liberals are "counting on" the speaker to remain firm in that position.

As for healthcare's place among Democrats' agenda in 2010, "healthcare is either dealt with -- we pass something legitimate -- or we move on," Grijalva said.