I'm not getting my hopes up. But it sure would be nice if the House started thinking more about those of us who are hurting instead of their own reelections:
WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)--U.S. House leaders signaled Tuesday they are willing to agree to a final health overhaul bill without a government-run health insurance option if other parts of the bill would fulfill the same goals.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) said after meeting with senior House Democrats that the bill must meet the test of "holding insurance companies accountable," whether or not it includes a public option.
"There are other ways to do that, and I look forward to discussing those other ways. ... We will have what we need to hold the insurance companies accountable," Pelosi said.
Pelosi huddled with House committee chairmen as talks between the House and Senate on reconciling competing versions of the health care overhaul bill got underway Tuesday. House leaders are to meet with Senate leaders via teleconference at the White House on Tuesday evening. They are aiming to strike a deal by early February.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D., Md.), one of Pelosi's top lieutenants, said House leaders will expect concessions from Senate Democrats, including possibly a repeal of the antitrust exemption for insurance companies, if the public option is absent.
"Especially if you were not to have a public option, that would be important," Van Hollen told reporters. "The whole purpose of getting rid of the exemption would be to make sure you police competition so you cannot collude."
And on the more candid side:
Speaker Nancy Pelosi had little to say this afternoon at a press conference following a meeting between House leaders and health care principals. She and other members acknowledged that a number of differences must be resolved between House and Senate bills before a final reform package can be signed in to law--and all are aware that too much tinkering could upset a delicate balance in the Senate, where legislation often must meet a supermajority threshold.
But Pelosi did toss a jab President Obama's way.
Referring explicitly to one of Obama's campaign pledges, a reporter asked Pelosi whether C-SPAN cameras would be allowed to film the House-Senate negotiations.
"There are a number of things he was for on the campaign trail," she said, without addressing the question.