Hoyer Wants Guarantees from Senate on Health Care Bill

Perhaps they’ll need to create a special handshake, like how college fraternity brothers do it. Or even sign their names in blood.

But House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) wants some sort of assurances from the Senate that it won’t torpedo key policy provisions important to House members on health care reform.

It’s likely that Democrats could stood start down a special procedural path called “reconciliation” to pass the health care bill without enduring a potential Republican filibuster. But to launch the reconciliation process, the House must first adopt the Senate’s version of the health care bill. And that doesn’t sit well with many House Democrats who are afraid of getting quashed by the Senate yet again.

“Every time we send something over there, it gets big-footed,” said a senior House Democratic aide of the Senate.

Hoyer echoed the aide when asked whether he “trusted” the Senate.

“I think there’s an experience,” Hoyer said of the history the House has endured with the Senate modifying legislation the way it senators want it.

But Hoyer noted that he is confident the Senate leadership will make a good-faith effort.

“I trust Leader Reid,” Hoyer said of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).

Meantime, Hoyer said rank-and-file Democrats are waiting for President Obama to present his modified health care proposal this week. Hoyer says Democratic leaders are “talking to everybody” in an effort to round up the necessary votes for the next bill. In particular, the leadership is said to be targeting the 39 House Democrats who voted against the original health care bill in November. Of particular interest are three Democrats who voted no and announced they are retiring early next year: Reps. Brian Baird (D-WA), John Tanner (D-TN), Bart Gordon (D-TN). They are also said to be eyeing freshmen Reps. Suzanne Kosmas (D-FL) Scott Murphy (D-NY), Glenn Nye (D-VA), Michael McMahon (D-NY) and Frank Kratovil (D-MD). Senior lawmakers like Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA) are also in the crosshairs.

Hoyer indicating that tweaking the legislation could persuade some lawmakers who voted no last fall to have second thoughts this time around.

“Do I think there’s a possibility of some people changing? Yes I do. This will be a different bill,” Hoyer said. “When bills change, people look at it somewhat differently.”

It’s also doubtful Hoyer will get any support from Republicans during this go-round. Only one Republican, Rep. Joseph Cao (R-LA) voted for the legislation last time. And many Republicans are arguing that they scrap this legislation and begin the process anew.

“Starting over is a euphemism for not doing anything,” the Maryland Democrat said.