Pelosi Hasn't Failed Before, She Won't On Health Care, Say House Dems

Pelosi Hasn't Failed Before, She Won't On Health Care, Say House Dems

A trio of House Democrats expressed confidence on Friday that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will summon the 217 votes needed to get health care legislation through her chamber.

"This speaker has never brought a piece of legislation to the floor and failed to pass it," said Rep. Rob Andrews (D-N.J.), during a conference call with new media reporters on Friday. "And she is not about to start now."

Speaking the morning after Thursday's bipartisan health care summit, Andrews and Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), vice-chair of the Democratic Caucus, said they still hope that at least one Republican will be persuaded by the forum to support legislation -- though they're not holding their breath.

The more pressing problem facing House Democrats, however, comes from within the party -- where a coalition of conservative and anti-abortion Democrats could derail the bill's passage. But Andrews, Becerra and members of party leadership didn't seem concerned that the whip count wouldn't end up in their favor.

"When we take up the bill, we will have the votes," Rep. George Miller (D-Calif), chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, told MSNBC. "I think that will be relatively soon. I don't think that there's any reason to wait any longer to do this."

Exactly what type of legislation House Democrats will try to pass remains an open question. As it stands now, the most obvious path forward is for the House to vote on the Senate's health care bill and then to follow with a package of amendments using reconciliation. Those amendments, theoretically, would be structured on the 11-page health care policy proposals introduced by the Obama administration this past week.

On Friday's call, however, Andrews and Becerra left open the door that additional elements of reform (such as some variation of tort reform) could be added to the legislative language. Moreover, there are serious debates yet to be waged over what can actually pass using the reconciliation process.

"Each parliamentarian for each of the chambers looks at it differently," said Becerra. "We have obviously been in conversation with the parliamentarian and we are hoping to do this without any obstruction."

Miller was a bit more detailed. "The choreography gets a little complicated here, but the point is that the House will present a reconciliation bill that will be based on the principles the president put forth to correct some of the problems the House and others have had with the Senate bill," he said. "That may require us to pass the Senate bill first, and then send the reconciliation bill to the Senate for them to pass. I think Senator Reid believes that he can put together the votes for that, and then we can have a new, modern health care system in this country that can be signed by... President Obama."

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