- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 21, 2010

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that she doesn’t have the votes to pass the Senate’s health reform bill as written and is not rushing to come up with an alternative.

“In its present form without any changes I don’t think it’s possible to pass the Senate bill in the House,” Mrs. Pelosi said. “I don’t see the votes for it at this time.”

The comment marks a potentially serious setback in efforts to pass President Obama’s top legislative priority now that Democrats are one vote shy of enough to overcome a Republican filibuster in the Senate. The surprise election Tuesday of Republican Massachusetts state Sen. Scott Brown to former Sen. Edward M. Kennedy’s senate seat has left Hill Democrats shaken and without a clear path forward.

While both chambers have passed health bills, the two pieces of legislation have to be merged before moving to the president’s desk.

Senate Democrats were hoping that the House would merely pass its bill unchanged to eliminate the need for the Senate to take another vote.

Mrs. Pelosi left open the possibility that the House could pass the Senate’s bill along with another bill to serve as a “patch” to fix what the House doesn’t like in the Senate’s plan. But she called even that plan “problematic.”

House Democrats say there are too many problems with the Senate legislation. Mrs. Pelosi specifically pointed to a provision that would send Nebraska’s Medicaid expansion tab to the federal government and a tax on high-cost, so-called “Cadillac” insurance plans.

The Speaker said Democrats will take their time to figure out what to do next, even with Mr. Obama scheduled to give his State of the Union address in less than a week.

“We’re not in a big rush,” she told reporters. “But we will go forward. … We have to get a bill passed.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made similar comments on Wednesday, refusing to put a timetable on moving forward with the legislation.

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