Are We There Yet? Health Care Summit Could Be Final Play Before A Merged Bill Passes

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Key House Democrats said today they think the White House health care summit will yield some sort of final agreement allowing Congress to pass a compromise reform measure and get it to President Obama’s desk.

When and how remain large outstanding questions, but lawmakers stressed Obama’s invitation to bipartisan members to the televised summit is among the last steps on the long road to reform.

Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) said on a conference call with reporters today they are “not starting from scratch” despite Republicans calls to do just that.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen said repeatedly the compromise is 90 percent done, and said Obama would put “all the facts on the table” and give Republicans another chance to present their ideas.

“The House and Senate are very close to reaching a final agreement,” Van Hollen said.Sanchez pointed out that several key GOP planks outlined on the Republican National Committee Web site already are part of the health care bills passed by the House and Senate.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) said not passing a measure given the dire state of the health care system will mean that lawmakers “will pay a heavy price at the next election.”

DeLauro offered “a strong and vigorous yes” that talks are continuing despite what seems to be a standstill on Capitol Hill since Republican Scott Brown won the Senate election in Massachusetts.

Even though the White House specifically said that Obama would post “online the text of a proposed health insurance reform package” before the summit next week, these Congressional leaders today repeatedly dodged saying they weren’t sure if the president would present a plan orally or in written form. (White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said yesterday people should “stay tuned” and refused to offer any more details.)

Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports that Senate Democratic leadership aides say reconciliation is still an option and that members want health care “off the agenda” quickly.

The Post also reports that most of the health care talks are about the tax on high-end plans and “the House leadership may sign on to the compromise even without a tweak to the Cadillac tax, according to a senior leadership aide.”

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