Pelosi says House will vote on health care “when we are ready”

Jon Ward Contributor

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi emerged from a meeting with the Democratic Caucus with no new details on whether she has enough votes to pass a health care bill, or when a vote might take place.

But she again pushed back against the White House’s March 18 deadline for a House vote, and said she was still waiting on a final report from the Congressional Budget Office on the reconciliation bill that would fix the Senate’s bill to pacify House members.

“March 18th is an interesting date,” Pelosi said. “Our clock starts ticking when we get the final CBO report.”

Even after receipt of the CBO report, Pelosi said, “we will have at least one week to have our own conversations.”

“It may take longer. We will take up the bill when we are ready,” she said. “But it is not something we want to drag out … the choice has to be made.”

Still, she said, the session with members and Nancy-Ann DeParle, head of the White House office of health reform, was “another step taking us closer” to passage of a bill.

“The attendance was great, and that’s always good,” Pelosi said.

Pelosi said one thing that was emphasized during the meeting was that a reconciliation bill is a “very narrow discipline.”

“Unless a provision is central to the budget, it cannot be considered,” Pelosi said.

That seems to be a clear indication that abortion language will not be included in the reconciliation bill. This continues to put pro-life House Democrats who want language changed in a tough spot. On their way into the meeting, two of those Democrats did not sound optimistic about reaching an agreement.