Health Care Deadline: Congress, White House Disagree On A Date

House Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) expressed optimism about the future of health care reform while taking questions from reporters on Tuesday. But along with that optimism, he indicated a disagreement with the White House on the proposed deadline of March 18 to pass a bill.

"None of us has mentioned the 18th, other than Mr. Gibbs," Hoyer responded when asked if he thought a health care reform package could be agreed upon and passed through Congress by the March 18th deadline proposed by Robert Gibbs last week.

Before the House moves forward, Hoyer said the chamber would first have to deal with the delicate abortion wording that has led Representatives such as Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) to block passage of reform.

Furthermore, President Obama's budget blueprint is also on the House docket, an issue that Congress may be forced to delay if they undertake an aggressive push on health care reform.

"The budget is a very tough item. The president has sent down an austere budget, correctly so. We will have to deal with that," Hoyer told reporters. "Is it going to be difficult? It's gonna be difficult. Our objective is to pass both before the Easter break. Is that going to be difficult? Yes. Is it a deadline? No. Everybody understands that it's an objective, not a deadline. If we can, we can. If we can't, we can't. We will continue to pursue both items."