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Uncertainty prevails in Washington as Democrats wait for health care Budget Office ruling

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Jon Ward
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      Jon Ward

      Jon Ward covers the White House and national politics for The Daily Caller. He covered the last two years of George W. Bush's presidency and the first year of Barack Obama's presidency for The Washington Times. Prior to moving to national politics, Jon worked for the Times' city desk and bureaus in Virginia and Maryland, covering local news and politics, including the D.C. sniper shootings and subsequent trial, before moving to state politics in Maryland. He and his wife have two children and live on Capitol Hill. || <a href="mailto:jw@dailycaller.com">Email Jon</a>

There was churn and noise on Capitol Hill Tuesday, but no discernible progress toward resolution of the health-care fight, as uncertainty prevailed in Washington.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she did not know when House lawmakers would look at a legislative text of President Obama’s proposal, telling The Daily Caller that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) was working on a preliminary score of the bill and of a reconciliation package.

“It’s all up to the CBO. We don’t know anything until they tell us,” Pelosi said in a brief interview after meeting with the Democratic Caucus Tuesday night. “It’s really the strangest thing because so much of this is very new, so we thought we’d get it back sooner. But anyway, they do their very careful work and I respect that.”

Pelosi and her leadership team want to present a package deal to House Democrats — President Obama’s proposal and reconciliation fixes both scored by CBO for its impact on the budget.

But House Democrats likely won’t get a look at any language on Wednesday, Pelosi’s office said.

Rep. Charlie Rangel, the New York Democrat who relinquished his chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee last week amid scandal over accepting improper gifts, complained that the CBO “doesn’t tell us anything.”

The mood in Washington was, for the second day, one of tense anticipation aggravated by a lack of new information. The conventional wisdom is that Pelosi will somehow find a way to pass a bill, despite a staggering set of political and procedural challenges.

The complexity and intractability of those challenges is what has much of the city’s political class uncertain if Pelosi can pull it off.

A growing public disagreement between the White House and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, however, was a distress signal for Democrats.

Gibbs said last week that the House would need to vote on the Senate bill before the president leaves for a week-long trip to southeast Asia on March 18. Hoyer dismissed that date as Gibbs’s idea alone, and said the “objective” was for the House to vote before they leave for Easter recess on March 26.

“Is it a deadline? No. I want everybody to understand that it’s an objective, not a deadline, and if we can, we can, and if we can’t, we can’t,” Hoyer said.

A seemingly nonplussed Gibbs said later in the day that he “not been given any updated information that leads me to believe that March 18th isn’t a doable date.”

“This was information that I was given based on conversations that people had in this building with Capitol Hill,” Gibbs said. “There seems to be a disconnect.”

Adding to the confusion, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius on Sunday refused to back up Gibbs’s talk of a March 18 deadline.

“I have not set a deadline. That’s really up to the leadership of Congress,” Sebelius said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Aides to top House Democrats said they understood the White House talking points as a way to exert pressure on the chamber and play the bad cop, allowing Pelosi and her deputies to be the good cop in rounding up votes. The House aides said so with a roll of the eyes.

Elsewhere Tuesday, Senate Republicans denounced, in the strongest terms, Democrats’ plans to force a bill through using reconciliation, and one Senate Democrat, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, said she opposes the procedure.

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  • hurtzallot

    Quoting Nancy Pelosi speaking before the National Association of Counties today, “It’s going to be very, very exciting. But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy. . .

    Health insurance reform is about jobs. This legislation alone will create 4 million jobs, about 400,000 jobs very soon. . . .

    Is it just me or does this sound delusional? How about this? Tell us what’s in it! Better yet read the damn thing! 4 million jobs?1?! Crazy ass Obama math.

  • reuelsample

    The more political stunts they try to pull – the more of the American people they will leave behind. The no-more-politics-as-usual crowd that got the President his majority will not stand for too much more of this.

    In the end – it will not be the abortion issue that will kill this bill. As we have seen – the anti-abortion folks cave with lucrative deals. It will be the realization that a political career may end with the passing of this bill.

    http://rsample.com

    • thebigodoopedu2

      To bad when Dems are so set on killing babies they hold up an entire health care recovery bill. Odumbo just needs to take out all the special interest spending/pork/earmarks and the baby killing. hmmmm Wonder if there is anything left in the bill?

  • scorpioman

    I’m so excited I can hardly wait.

    • scorpioman
    • adamincalifornia

      What? Have are you waiting for your bribe? Or do you have an unemployed sibling in need of a judicial appointment? Perhaps you are excited because the FBI has been investigating you and that is now going to be called off?

      Those are the things that Democratic members of the Most Ethical Congress Ever® are excited about.