Pelosi to Offer New Draft of Health Care Bill Next Week

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi intends to present a unified, redrafted health care reform bill next week, the head of the House Democratic Caucus said Wednesday. 

Chairman John Larson said the new bill would meld together parts of legislation written and approved in July by the House Education, Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce committees. But Larson cautioned against people reading this as the last step in a long health care journey for the House.

"That won't be the final answer," said Larson of Connecticut. "This is the refining process."

There continues to be a lot of back-and-forth between varying wings of the Democratic caucus. The most-liberal factions are pushing for the so-called "public option," a federal health insurance plan that would be made available to people who are uninsured. But some conservative Democrats are bucking that idea, preferring to limit the scope of the plan.

The lengthy, behind-the-scenes negotiations have left many scratching their heads as to how Pelosi will secure the necessary votes to pass the bill without alienating at least one branch of her caucus.

"You should be the head of the caucus," Larson responded when asked if he thought the status of the legislation was hard to track. "I can't quite get a feel for where we're going to go. Every day reveals a new wrinkle or nuance."

Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer have recently underscored their support for government-operated insurance, a position that has created some consternation among the moderate and conservative "Blue Dog" Democrats in the House.

"There was quite a bit of dismay," Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin of South Dakota said about reaction from the Blue Dogs to the apparent push for an government-run option. "We sort of feel like we're getting mixed messages."

Herseth Sandlin, one of the Blue Dog leaders, said she didn't think Pelosi and Hoyer had the votes to pass a health care reform package without the help of moderate Democrats.

"If the leadership feels they have the votes for H.R. 3200 (the health care reform bill), then they don't need to negotiate (with us) and bring this to a vote," Herseth Sandlin said. "Right now I don't think they have the votes to pass H.R. 3200."

Questions have also swirled about whether the House would wait for the Senate Finance Committee to write its health care bill this week. Larson conceded that House Democrats were "taking a look at what the Senate is doing." But he made it clear that House action is not contingent on the Senate.

"Honestly , we don't worry about the Senate," Larson said. "And God bless them."

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