Don't bet on the House rubber-stamping the weaker Senate health care reform bill, Speaker Nancy Pelos (D-Calif.) said Thursday.
"I don't think it's possible to pass the Senate bill in the House," Pelosi told reporters at her weekly press conference. "I don't see the votes for it at this time."
But, said Pelosi, there are a number of different options that the House is considering, including passing the Senate bill along with a secondary bill making patchwork improvements that implement the compromise reached by the chambers.
"There's a recognition that there's a foundation in that bill that's important," she said. "So one way or another, those areas of agreement that we have will have to be advanced, whether it's by passing the Senate bill with any changes that can be made, or just taking" some elements of it.
"We have to get a bill passed. We know that. That's a predicate that we all subscribe to," she said.
Although the Senate has been in control throughout much of the health care debate, the current uncertainty over the House's next move means Pelosi has a lot of power to shape the process. The Speaker said House Democrats "simply cannot support" certain provisions of the Senate bill, but she said she is open to offers. "Nothing is discarded, everything is on the table," she said.
The House has a full year to vote on the Senate package before it expires.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Tuesday that the Senate bill would be "better than nothing," but the House only passed its own bill by a five-vote margin back in November. Earlier in the week, some Democrats were talking about trying to pass health reform in the two-week window before Senator-elect Scott Brown (R-Mass.) is seated, but President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Wednesday that will not happen.
Given all the details left to be worked out in negotiations -- possibly including a more generous patch to the Senate bill passed through budget reconciliation -- Pelosi said she's "not in a big rush." That doesn't mean either of the health care bills is dead, however; Pelosi said Obama will be able to sign health reform into law sometime this year.