Key takeaways from today's meeting with Speaker Pelosi on health reform:
Who killed the public option? When asked about the public option, Speaker Pelosi said she was told there were not enough votes for it in the Senate. She did not name names, which isn't surprising, as I don't believe she has ever named names on matters such as these.
Further, she endorsed single-payer, claimed that kept the public option alive as long as she could, and said her goal was to round up enough votes to pass the boldest bill possible.
Public options already in the Senate bill (Medicaid and Community Health Center expansion). The Speaker indicated that the reconciliation bill corrects Medicaid funding inequities by providing more federal support, and also expands funding for Community Health Center funding.
Can the bill still be changed? In response to my inquiry about whether the bill can still be changed or not, the Speaker indicated that the bill is substantively done and just awaiting final word from the CBO. Only minor changes would be conducted from here on out, all of them while working with the CBO.
On this front, the Speaker emphasized the need for quick passage, ruling out any significant changes. She referred to Washington as the "city of the perishable." The Speaker said that if the process drags out any longer it will make the town halls of august look like a day at the beach, given the forces that are lining up to defeat the bill.
Vote counting Pelosi said the whip operation began on Friday, and she does not have numbers yet. Seemed very confident about passage.
Procedural notes Speaker Pelosi said that both she, and the majority of the caucus, were leaning toward a procedure where they would not directly vote on the Senate health reform bill itself. Instead, they would vote on a rule that would mean the Senate health reform bill had passed the House once the reconciliation bill passed the House. So, they vote on the rule, then on the reconciliation bill, and when the reconciliation bill passes, it means the Senate health reform bill has passed the House and can be signed into law.
In this way, the House does not directly vote on the Senate bill, and the Senate bill passes the House simultaneously with the reconciliation bill. Expect the House to take this path.
Getting assurance from the Senate. Speaker said that the House was seeking an iron clad guarantee that the reconciliation bill would not be changed in the Senate. When I asked her what sort of guarantees the House was looking for, she said they had asked the Senate "to show us what they can show us to convince us they have the votes for the bill we pass."
Speaker Pelosi is very engaging in person. She was animated in her defense of the bill as a progressive victory, and said those who support its passage can, and should, do so with pride.