Pelosi: Votes aren't there for healthcare

Jan. 21, 2010 at 2:14 PM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 21 (UPI) -- U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday she doesn't have the votes to pass the current Senate version of healthcare reform.

Pelosi has been trying to sell the Senate version to reluctant House Democrats so a healthcare bill could be sent to President Barack Obama soon. House liberals have expressed displeasure with the Senate measure and moderates in both chambers have concerns about passing the sweeping legislation without bipartisan support, The Washington Post reported.

"I don't think it's possible to pass the Senate bill in the House," Pelosi, D-Calif., said after meeting with her caucus. "I don't see the votes for it at this time. There are certain things the members simply cannot support."

The only possibility would be for senators to initiate a package of amendments that would address House concerns about their bill, she said. Among other things, Pelosi said members were opposed to a Senate language benefiting only Nebraska's Medicaid system, the level of federal subsidies the Senate would offer uninsured individuals and a provision that would levy a new excise tax on high-value policies.

Republican Scott Brown's victory Tuesday in a special Senate election in Massachusetts sent the White House and congressional leaders scurrying to rethink the scope of the healthcare system overhaul. Brown was elected to fill the seat held for nearly 50 years by the late Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy, stripping the party of its filibuster-proof majority.

Obama seemed to indicate favoring House and Senate votes on a scaled-back version that would retain some popular provisions, The Washington Post reported.

"We know that we need insurance reform, that the health insurance companies are taking advantage of people," Obama told ABC News. "We know that we have to have some form of cost containment because, if we don't, then our budgets are going to blow up. And we know that small businesses are going to need help."

White House spokesman Reid Cherlin said in a statement Obama still wants comprehensive reform.

"(Let's) be clear that the president's preference is to pass a bill that meets the principles he laid out months ago: more stability and security for those who have insurance, affordable coverage options for those who don't, and lower costs for families, businesses and governments," Cherlin said.

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