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Pelosi: Democrats Not Sacrificing Too Much in Reform Effort

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that Democrats are not giving up too much in the push to pass a bipartisan health reform plan.

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    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, thank you very much for talking with us.

    REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-Calif., speaker of the house: My pleasure.


    If "A" is the beginning of the push for health care reform and "Z" is the end, final passage, president's signature, where do you stand at this point, with the House about to go out for August recess?


    We're somewhere in the middle of the alphabet, but we have a long way to go. I would say we're probably around A-B-C-D-E-F-G-H-I-J-K. I've been singing with my grandsons. About "K" I would imagine. We have a long way to go.


    So the House Energy and Commerce Committee, a lot of attention yesterday due to the fact that there was a deal cut with the Blue Dog Democrats, self-described fiscal conservatives, with others on the committee, essentially — and with the leadership, you, essentially cutting back on the public plan. There's already concern being raised by progressive Democrats that too much is being given to the Blue Dogs. What do you say to them?


    Well, first of all, I don't like the word "deal," because this isn't about a deal. It's about an agreement as to how we will go forward and a recognition of some of the needs that some of our members have to meet the needs of their constituents in rural areas.

    The public option is a must-have provision for me, a strong public option, and a public option is in this agreement. The language of it is exactly the language that Senator Kennedy has in the Help bill in the Senate. And so it is something that is acceptable language. I'd like to improve upon it. And we like our original language that is in the Ways and Means Committee and the Education and Labor Committee.

    But this is the legislative process, the give-and-take of that, and there's plenty in this legislation for everyone in America to rejoice about who cares — as everyone, I think, in the Congress does — about making our country healthier.


    So is it fair to say these concessions to the more moderate conservative Democrats are temporary, just to get the bill out of committee, or they could be there in the long run to get it through the House?


    Well, first of all, let me say this. Some of the initiatives are initiatives that — ideas that have been shared by many members of Congress.

    For example, one of their big points was increasing the exemption for small businesses from $250,000 payroll to $500,000 payroll. That had very general popularity in our caucus and in the Congress, I'm sure among the Republicans, as well. So that was one point.

    Another point was how we do the public option that is more serviceable to them in their regions. And this is one bill. We have two other bills that have a stronger public option in it.

    Third is to lower cost. We all share that view. And, of course, they wanted more time to review the bill now that we've had these changes.

    These are all within the realm of a very important piece of legislation that must go forward and have a complete comfort level with what the agreement contained.