Speaker Nancy Pelosi and members of the leadership and relevant committees in the House just held a press conference to brief reporters on the status of their meeting about health care legislation. There wasn’t too much of note in the briefing. Pelosi said that she had a productive meeting with her leadership team and that “conversations continue” with their counterparts in the Senate to arrive at a reconciled bill that both chambers can pass.

Pelosi would not confirm that the House and Senate would forego a formal conference committee for the bill, saying that the decision has yet to be made. She said that the leadership “will do what is necessary to pass the bill,” and that could happen through a conference or through “ping-ponging” the legislation back and forth between the chambers.

In contrast to the 11-page letter highlighting differences between the competing pieces of legislation, Pelosi said that there is “much in common in both bills.” Majority Leader Steny Hoyer actually noted “significant differences” between them, but said that the House and Senate will reconcile those differences in the coming weeks. Majority Whip James Clyburn added that “the two bills are good bills” and that they had to meld them together.

In a brief moment of pushback against the notion that the merged bill would have to mirror the Senate’s legislation, Charlie Rangel, the Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, said that the final legislation would “have to get 218 votes too,” referring to the threshold to pass legislation in the House. Pelosi would only say that the final product would have to ensure affordability for the middle class, accountability for insurance companies and accessibility to health care for all, and that there were many routes to get to that goal, one she says the House and Senate bills share. On the public option, she said its goal was to hold insurance companies accountable, and that “there are other ways to do that, and we look forward to those discussions.”

On the excise tax for high-end insurance plans, Pelosi said that the House believes their approach is “the fairest of them all,” but that they’d have to see which perspective gains favor at the end of the process. Hoyer added that everyone was committed to paying for the bill in full and having it reduce the deficit.

Asked about the C-SPAN letter to House and Senate leaders asking that the conference negotiations be held in front of TV cameras, Pelosi insisted that no decision has been made on a conference. Chris Van Hollen, one of the assistant Majority Leaders, noted that the health care debate has been “subjected to an unprecedented degree of scrutiny and input.” He cited the thousands of town hall meetings, hundreds of hearings and dozens of hours of markup. “We will continue to have that kind of open process… we will continue to keep American people informed.”

David Dayen

David Dayen