Pelosi Says House Could Pass Senate Bill Under Two-Track Approach

"Laying out a possible path to approving healthcare legislation, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) said Wednesday that the House should pass the Senate's version and then use a process known as 'budget reconciliation' to make the changes some lawmakers are demanding," The Los Angeles Times reports. "But House and Senate leaders have not agreed on what later changes to make to the Senate bill. Among other things, House Democrats have demanded elimination of a new tax on high-end 'Cadillac' insurance plans. They also want more subsidies to help low- and moderate-income Americans buy health coverage, and more aid to help states expand Medicaid. The Senate version of the bill would give that extra aid only to a few states, including Nebraska" (Levey, 1/28).

In an interview with Politico Wednesday, "Pelosi reiterated that ramming the existing Senate bill through the House is not an option. 'There is no support in my caucus in the present form, at this time, for the Senate bill,' she said. 'I don’t see that as an option. But I do think that we're in range to make some improvements in it that will make it more affordable for the middle class, which is essential. Hold the insurance companies more accountable. Those two things are essential to us'" (Harris, 1/27).

The New York Times: "Meanwhile, a Senate Democratic aide criticized Ms. Pelosi's demands as potentially adding $300 billion to the cost of the legislation. Of course, that presumes that the excise tax would not be replaced, as House Democrats suggest, with an income surtax on individuals earning more than $500,000 and couples earning more than $1 million." A spokesman for Pelosi said the House is still exploring options, "and there is no set cost" (Herszenhorn, 1/27). 

CongressDaily: "Pelosi said both chambers would need to approve the package of adjustments before the House would consider the underlying Senate bill. 'Whatever the order is, the whole thing has to be finished, reconciliation, House and Senate, before we take up the Senate bill,' she said" (Brownstein, 1/28).

CongressDaily reports on another possible strategy. "House Democratic leaders might attempt as early as next week to begin moving smaller healthcare bills as they figure out how to pass a comprehensive overhaul, while Senate Democratic leaders are reaching out to their GOP colleagues to see whether they can get any Republican support. House leaders are working on a bill that would repeal the health insurance industry's antitrust exemption. They could bring the bill up for a vote as early as next week, two House Democratic aides said" (Edney and Friedman, 1/28).

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