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House Lacks Votes to Push Senate Health Bill Through, Says Pelosi

Source: Associated Press

Posted on 22 Jan 2010

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Speaker Nancy Pelosi said yesterday that she lacks the votes to quickly move the Senate's sweeping health overhaul bill through the House, a potentially devastating blow to President Barack Obama's signature issue.

Pelosi’s (D-CA) concession came after a House Democrat closed-door meeting at which participants vented frustration with the Senate's massive version of the legislation.

Her words meant there was little hope for a White House-backed plan to quickly push the Senate-approved health bill through the House, followed by a separate measure making changes sought by House members, such as easing the Senate's tax on higher-cost health plans. Such an approach would be "problematic," she said, though Democrats haven't completely ruled out pursuing it.

"In its present form without any changes I don't think it's possible to pass the Senate bill in the House," Pelosi said, adding, "I don't see the votes for it at this time."

Pelosi also signaled that advancing health legislation through Congress will likely be a lengthy process despite Democrats' desire for a quick election-year pivot to address jobs and the economy, which polls show are the public's top concern.

"We're not in a big rush" on health care, Pelosi said. "Pause, reflect."

Two days after the stunning special election in Massachusetts where Republicans captured the Senate seat held for decades by the late Edward Kennedy many House Democrats said one lesson was that the public wanted a more modest approach to overhauling the health care system. Several said Democrats should refocus the legislation onto popular proposals like barring insurance companies from denying coverage to sick people.

"The mega bills are dead," said Rep. Michael Arcuri (D-NY). "If we didn't see what happened Tuesday night, we have blinkers on."