Speaker Pelosi just concluded a blogger conference call discussing the House bill [pdf], (which has as of 3:00 eastern time 8.2 million
downloads requests) and where it goes from here.
Stressing that this bill is the "manifestation of rejecting business as usual," the theme on which Barack Obama ran and won, Pelosi hit particularly strong on the fact that the House bill is stronger than the Senate bill in a number of ways, but particularly in rejecting the PhRMA deal--which she stressed the House was not a part of--struck between the White House, Senate and PhRMA. Answering a question from Ryan Grim, Pelosi stressed that the provisions included in this bill will recoup $120-130 billion to help bring costs down.
An addition key difference between the House and Senate bills she focused on is the "pay for" strategy. While the White House "clearly prefers" the Senate's excise tax on high-value insurance plans, Pelosi stressed that "99.7 percent of the American people will be excluded" from the tax increases, which will raise over $400 billion, and "while it's a few people, it's a lot of money."
These two issues--the additional money wrung out of PhRMA and the excise tax--are likely to be key flash points when the bill goes to conference. A third, employers mandates, wasn't discussed in this call, but will be another point of contention in conference. The Senate bill (as far as we know, since they haven't released details of which provisions of which bill--HELP v. SFC are going to be used) does not include the employer mandate, the House does.
Because there has been conflicting information this morning on whether amendments would be allowed for the bill, I asked Speaker Pelosi if that decision had been made. As of yet, she says she's been too busy getting the bill melded to focus on that, but that she "would have to be talked into it," but isn't closed. The fly in the ointment on amendments is Rep. Bart Stupak and threat to team up with Republicans "unless Democratic leaders allow a floor vote on an amendment that would add new restrictions on the use of federal funding for health plans that cover abortion with private dollars."
This complicates the issue of the single payer amendment that Rep. Anthony Weiner was promised he would be able to offer. When Chris Bowers asked about it, Pelosi said that she would be meeting with Weiner and Rep. Kucinich today or tomorrow. Additionally, Rep. Grijalva is continuing to push for the robust public option.
"I am not rolling over. I will insist on a Medicare-plus-five amendment on the Floor so that the full Caucus can vote on it. We are hopeful that the Rules Committee will allow this amendment, which has tremendous public support, to be voted on for the record."
Leadership, including Rules Committee chair Louise Slaughter, are going to have some interesting needle-threading to do on the rule for floor action and the amendment process on this one. The schedule has not yet been determined completely. It will be available for the next 72 hours for all members to access, then will be submitted as the manager's amendment Monday morning. Floor action could begin as soon as next Thursday. She said that it's possible to have a vote before Veterans Day, Nov. 11, but as of yet that's not decided.
Update: Chris has more. And Amato has posted the audio of the call at Crooks and Liars.