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August Vote Increasingly Elusive

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Tuesday offered his clearest indication yet that the chamber will not vote on a health reform overhaul until after the August recess.“You understand that if we pass something out of committee this week, we’ve got to spend the month of August putting together the three bills,— Hoyer said. “There’s going to be a lot of work involved, a lot of scoring that needs to be done on that.—But Hoyer did not completely rule out the possibility that work on the bill could slip into next week. “There’s still obviously other time available to us,— he said. “Saturday and next week is available. Now whether or not there will be any productive reason to stay for that period of time remains to be seen over the next couple of days.—Two House committees have approved their versions of the measure, but progress has run aground in the Energy and Commerce Committee, where seven moderate Blue Dog Democrats are mulling a compromise offer from Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) aimed at breaking an impasse.The White House and House Democratic leaders had hoped to clear the package before the August break. But slow progress in the Senate and the stalemate in Waxman’s panel have prompted them to soften those expectations and train their focus on a new pre-recess target: passing the bill out of Energy and Commerce.Education and Labor Chairman George Miller (D-Calif.), a key ally of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), backed the idea of going home in August and giving the committees ample time to sort out the differences in their bills. “It will take some time, and you also have to have that [Congressional Budget Office] score,— Miller said.Congressional Progressive Caucus members also have dropped their demands that the House vote on a bill before recess, instead hoping to get a measure ironed out that they can sell over the break.“We need to have a bill before recess,— said Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.), co-chairwoman of the Progressive Caucus, after a meeting with Pelosi. Pelosi reiterated her support of a strong public insurance option, the main demand of liberals, Woolsey said. The Members also talked during the meeting about ways to move the bill forward if the Energy and Commerce Committee is unable to reach agreement with the Blue Dogs, Woolsey said, including the possibility of bypassing the Energy and Commerce panel and sending a bill directly to the floor.“It’s not going to be sitting in committee in September,— Woolsey said.Miller, meanwhile, blasted legislation that appears to be emerging from the Senate Finance Committee, with no public insurance option or an employer mandate to provide insurance: “I don’t think that adds up to health care reform. It doesn’t add up to insurance reform. It doesn’t add up to keeping costs down. I don’t know what the hell that adds up to.—Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health chairman, said they would keep meeting with the Blue Dogs until they have an agreement and are still hopeful of going to a markup Wednesday.But Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), another Democrat on Energy and Commerce opposing the bill, said that he has been urging going home without a vote for more than a wee, and that the Senate Finance Committee’s omitting of a public insurance plan and an employer mandate only add to that reasoning.“The Senate’s on a completely different agenda,— Stupak said. “It’s time for the House and Senate to get together.—Stupak said Members don’t want to vote for a bill that has no chance of becoming law.“I’ve been here long enough, you do a bill and you get a plank sawed off behind you,— he said. “That’s what Members do not want.—And Stupak said they still are far apart on the particulars of the legislation.“We have no bill,— he said.

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