Hoyer suggests health care might not be done by August break

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) Tuesday backed off from previous leadership goals of passing a massive health care reform bill before the August recess.

“We want to pass it next week,” Hoyer said at his weekly meeting with reporters at the Capitol. “Hopefully we’ll bear fruit and meet the schedule that we’re hopeful of meeting.”

But the leader signaled that deep divisions among Congressional Democrats could preclude the House from having enough votes to approve the reform plan before going on vacation.

“If we get consensus, we’ll do it,” Hoyer said of passing the legislation next week, the final week the House is scheduled to be in session until September. But the Maryland Democrat noted that he didn’t believe it would be productive to delay the break if the health bill isn’t wrapped up.

“I don’t think staying in session is necessarily necessary to getting consensus,” Hoyer added.

When asked if the House could stay in session to forge an agreement, Hoyer responded, “We’ll see.”

Conservative and moderate Democratic members of the so-called “Blue Dog” coalition are skeptical about the cost of the legislation, proposed tax hikes and the speed at which the House is moving on health care. A team of Blue Dogs huddled Tuesday with President Obama at the White House in an effort to break the impasse imperiling the administration’s leading policy goal.

In the House, Democrats appear to be stymied in passing a bill without support of the Blue Dogs and other key Democrats. Many of the Blue Dogs remain shell-shocked after taking a tough vote in June to approve an energy and climate bill. That package was a priority of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Many voters gave moderate and conservative Democrats an earful over the July 4th break for voting in favor of Pelosi’s plan.

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) said he thought Democrats were struggling to cobble together a coalition to approve the health care bill because of the vote on the energy-climate legislation, known colloquially as cap and trade.

“There are Democrats who feel there were a lot of arms broken after the cap and trade bill,” said Boehner. “And there are no more arms to be broken.

But Hoyer rejected that claim.

“I think the energy and climate bill was an excellent bill,” Hoyer said. “I think if our members go on offense on that bill, we’ll win on that bill.”

Still, Republicans were nearly giddy at the Democrats’ health care conundrum.

“A bipartisan majority has formed against this health care bill,” said House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA).

“Mr. President, it’s time to scrap this bill. Let’s start over in a bipartisan way,” added Boehner.

But Hoyer shot back the GOP.

“They are much more interesting in making failure happen,” Hoyer said.