At a roundtable meeting with several health care reporters and bloggers this morning, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi once again predicted final passage of a far-reaching heath care bill by week’s end–but she insisted that success will only be possible if she acts quickly, even if that means members and reformers will have to abandon some of their key priorities, and trust the Senate to pass an amending bill through the reconciliation process.
“I have no intention of not passing this bill,” Pelosi said in response to a question from TPMDC. “Let me say it in a positive way: I have faith in my members that we will be passing this legislation.”Pelosi explained away a statement by her Whip, James Clyburn, that the votes aren’t there “yet,” by noting that the bill is still not yet complete. But getting a majority won’t be easy. No vote is easy, Pelosi said, and she’ll need members to focus on the big picture–insurance for 31 million people–without getting distracted by the demise of the public option, or the fact that the Senate may not be able to deliver what they say they can in reconciliation, in order to get it done.
“Time is important for us here, because this city is the city of the perishable and every special interest group out there who doesn’t want this to pass–including the entire Republican party–benefits from any delay,” Pelosi told those in attendance. “Delay is our enemy.”
That’s true even if it means members must move beyond the demise of the public option and other high-priority provisions. Pelosi said it’s important that members “keep the focus on what is in this bill. Because the more we talk about public option, the more we talk about abortion, we’re not talking about innovation, prevention, wellness. We’re not talking about 31 million people.”
Still, one key obstacle remains, and that is assuring her members that the Senate will be able to act to pass the fix bill in reconciliation. That may take a leap of faith.
“There has to be complete agreement on what the package is…I have asked [the Senate] to show me what it is they can show me that I would be able to convince my members to go forward,” Pelosi said. “We’re…willing to trust the Senate that they are able to pass the reconciliation package.”
Pelosi avoided delving deeply into postmortems–Why didn’t the public option survive? What should have been done differently?–but she did suggest, at a couple different points, that the White House was not a perfect ally in this fight.
“There will be plenty of time for whatever–in the executive and the legislative branch–as to how [the public option] evolved to what it is now,” Pelosi said, suggesting that some fault lies with the White House.
Equally vexing for her have been elements in the White House who urged her to revert to a strategy of passing a small–rather than comprehensive–health care bill. “Those who are trying to say ‘just do a small bill,'” Pelosi said gesturing out the window of her office, westward toward the White House. “In our midst there’s the small bill crowd. Here and there. And that empowered [the insurance companies].”
And that’s to say nothing about the White House/PhRMA deal.”If you’re asking me were we unhappy about the pharmaceutical thing?” Pelosi asked rhetorically. “Yes. Very. But apart from that, I don’t know what else they’ve done with industry….We just thought, Wait a minute, the Senate and the White House and PhRMA made a deal, and we have to honor that?”
But now is not the time for that, she said: “After it’s over I’m sure books will be written about how it evolved and the rest of that. Right now we’re just focused on getting the job done.”