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Pelosi Vows to Pull Out Stops to Pass Health Care

Echoing President Barack Obama’s call for lawmakers not to abandon their beleaguered push for a health care overhaul, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) vowed Thursday to take as long as necessary to pass a comprehensive package.

The top House Democrat said her chamber could move smaller reforms while trying to find agreement with the Senate on the broader bill, outlining a two-pronged approach that could hand Democrats weary from a lengthy, bruising fight on the issue a morale boost in the form of some quick wins. But Pelosi lowered expectations for a swift fix on the broader package, insisting that the differences between the House and Senate bills are not minor and will require more than simple tweaks to iron out.

“I would not call them minor tweaks because that would imply there’s something there that we could accept, except for some minor tweaks. No, it’s more serious than that,— Pelosi told reporters Thursday at her weekly press conference.

Among the major issues that would need to be resolved in a package of fixes: the sweetheart Medicaid deal for the Cornhusker State negotiated by Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), the shape of an excise tax on high-cost insurance plans, the level of affordability credits, and closure of the “doughnut hole— in the Medicare prescription drug benefit. That package would move through budget reconciliation rules, meaning it would only need to gather a simple majority vote in the Senate.

House Democrats are still developing the menu of possible items to move in the meantime. But Pelosi cautioned that some insurance reforms would have to remain in the comprehensive package to maintain “leverage with the insurance companies— and prevent the industry from simply jacking up rates to compensate.

With tactics and timing still largely in the air and many of her rank and file itching to move on to the more politically pressing issue of tackling joblessness, Pelosi remained resolute about finishing what the party started last year.

“We’ll go through the gate. If the gate is closed, we’ll go over the fence. If the fence is too high, we’ll pole vault in. If that doesn’t work, we’ll parachute in. But we’re going to get health care reform passed for the American people,— she said.

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