Pelosi Says Senate Bill Won’t Pass House as Written

BY Lea Winerman  January 21, 2010 at 2:01 PM EST

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday that the Senate’s health care reform bill will not pass the House as it is written now.

“I don’t see the votes for it at this time,” she told reporters after a meeting with her caucus.

In the wake of Republican Scott Brown’s upset victory in a Massachusetts Senate election, Pelosi has spent the past day meeting with House Democrats across the political spectrum — the conservative Blue Dogs, the progressives, the Hispanic caucus and others — to figure out how to move forward on health care reform without a filibuster-proof 60-person supermajority in the Senate.

Her comments Thursday indicated that one option seems off the table — convincing House Democrats to quickly pass the Senate’s version of the bill unchanged, so that it could be sent directly to the President’s desk without another Senate vote.

“There are certain things [in the Senate bill] that members just cannot support,” Pelosi said.

She did appear to leave the door open a crack to another possibility — passing the Senate bill, accompanied by fixes in a separate piece of legislation that the Senate could then approve in a parliamentary procedure called reconciliation, which would require only 51 votes.

Democrats are also considering scaling back and aiming to pass a stripped-down version of the legislation with some of its most popular elements, including insurance industry reforms.

White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel has been talking to Democratic lawmakers about that option, according to Politico.

But some analysts say that plan is problematic, because the elements of the bill are so interconnected that one legislative change will not work without the others.

“The difficulty is that, in health care, it’s kind of like one of those balloons,” Washington Post health policy reporter Ceci Connelly said on the NewsHour. “And, if you do something on one side, you can see more problems pop up over on the other side.”

As of Thursday morning Democrats had not settled on a plan for moving forward with the legislation. And Pelosi also said that they are “not in a big rush” to do so and must “Pause, and reflect on what our options are.”

In a separate news conference, though, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., told reporters that Congress must move quickly on health reform. “I don’t want to be doing this for the next three months,” he said.