Responding to President Obama’s call to “not walk away from reform,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) today reaffirmed her commitment to comprehensive health care reform and pledged to “take whatever time it takes to do it.” Pelosi said that the House could pass additional measures that “may not fit into the bigger plan,” stressing that these sidebar issues can be done quickly but wouldn’t “substitute for doing comprehensive.” “It means we will move on many fronts. Any front we can”:
As I said to some friends yesterday in the press, we will go through the gate. If the gate is closed, we will go over the fence. If the fence is too high, we will pole vault in. If that doesn’t work, we will parachute in. But we are going to get health care reform passed for the American people for their own personal health and economic security and for the important role that it will play in reducing the deficit.
Pelosi said that the House and Senate bills are “about 75 percent the same” but refuted the notion that negotiations only had to make “minor tweaks” before merging the two bills. “I would not call them them minor tweaks because that would infer, would imply, that there was something there that we could easily accept, except for some minor tweaks. No, it’s more serious than that,” she said, suggesting that the ball was now in the Senate’s court.
Pelsoi didn’t specify which sidebar issues the House would take up, but House aides told TPMDC’s Brian Beutler that “[o]ne of the issues said to be under consideration was a repeal of the health insurance industry’s anti-trust exemptions.” The House could also potentially create a temporary reinsurance coverage to retirees over age 55 who are not eligible for Medicare, allow young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance coverage, reduce the price of COBRA coverage, and begin closing the Medicare Part D doughnut hole.
Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), who is holding a meeting on how to move forward on health care reform, also committed to passing health care reform “this year.” “This is not a one-year Congress, this is a two-year Congress and we have had a number of extensive meetings of trying to come up with a path forward,” Reid said. “We are going to move forward on health care. We’re going to do health care reform this year. The question at this stage is procedurally how do we need to get where we need to go.” “The President said that jobs was the number one issue before us in 2010 and we couldn’t agree more,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) added. “In fact, the three top issues on our agenda this year are jobs, jobs, and jobs.”