Menu

Politics

Politics

House, Senate Lawmakers Race to Advance Health Care Reform

The clock ticking, House and Senate lawmakers scrambled to advance a health care reform package Tuesday even though Democratic leaders have admitted that neither chamber will be able to approve a bill before the August recess.

The behind-the-scenes discussions in the House -- which involved House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and the Blue Dog Coalition of fiscally conservative Democrats -- ended Tuesday evening without a deal, though talks will resume Wednesday morning.

There are big differences between the two sides, said Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., a member of the Blue Dogs.

"The clock is ticking," she said, adding that she is willing if necessary to stay beyond Friday, when Congress is scheduled to begin its recess.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer had said Monday night that a floor vote on health care reform "clearly will not be possible" by Friday. But House Democrats are trying to at least pass their version of the bill out of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the only House panel yet to vote on the package, this week.

And Senate Democrats are trying to do the same in the Senate Finance Committee.

On the House side, the Blue Dogs were reviewing proposals offered up Monday night by Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif. Several Blue Dogs said Tuesday that Waxman's plan will need to be modified, though one called it a "good-faith proposal." 

"There's still a bit of daylight before we have common ground," said Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D. "At this point in time ... I think that the bottom line of Blue Dogs has not been met." 

He said negotiators were still at a "conceptual stage." 

In the Senate, Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., met behind closed doors with fellow committee Democrats. 

Baucus is in a tough spot since he's the only chairman trying to forge a bipartisan health care compromise. 

After weeks of secretive talks, three Democrats and three Republicans who are hammering out key details of the compromise were apparently edging closer to a deal that excludes a requirement that large businesses offer coverage to their workers. They also were leaving out a provision for a government insurance option, despite President Obama's support for such a plan, officials said. 

Such omissions are sure to draw the ire of Baucus' other Democratic committee members, who last week expressed concerns that Baucus was granting too many concessions to Republicans. 

It does not appear that he is ready to present the bill to his committee, though. 

Members are still stalled as they try to find ways to pay for this $1 trillion bill in the least politically crushing way. They are trying to fill a hole of about $320 billion, though they are getting closer to embracing a proposal by Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., that slaps a tax on insurance companies with the most costly plans. 

Waxman said Monday he wants to have a mark-up in his committee on Wednesday. A mark-up is where lawmakers finalize the language in a bill. 

FOX News' Trish Turner and Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report.