Top House Dems Give Mixed Signals on HC’s Next Step

Following yesterday’s summit, top House Democrats have been giving mixed signals on whether the Senate would have to act first in order to pass a health care bill.

In MSNBC appearances, House Majority Whip James Clyburn and House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller both signaled a willingness for the House to act first.

But then Speaker Nancy Pelosi sung a different tune.

TPM reports:

“It’s up to them,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at her weekly press conference today, referring to the Senate.

Pelosi wants the answer to a few questions before she can proceed. “One, what is the substance. Secondly, what is the Senate able to do with a simple majority. And then we will act on that,” she said.

On substance, Pelosi needs the Senate’s affordability provisions strengthened. She wants the final legislation to close the prescription-drug donut-hole for seniors, to be stripped of the Nebraska Medicaid deal, and for the tax structure of the bill to be moved away from the controversial excise tax.

However, the House can’t act, she noted, until “we see what the Senate will be able to do.”

The problem as I see it is that even if Harry Reid were to assure Pelosi that the Senate could pass some sort of reconciliation bill to appease House members, it would be impossible to know ahead of time what they’d actually be able to do through reconciliation. The way the process works, it’s subject to a series of rulings by the Senate parlimentarian that can’t be predicted ahead of time.