(CNSNews.com) – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said she was not aware of a previously reported plan by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to attach a final Senate health care bill to an already-passed House bill in order to push the measure through Congress. Pelosi, in fact, said reporters knew more about the idea apparently than she does.
Under the plan, as previously reported by CNSNews.com, Reid would attach a final Senate health reform plan to H.R. 1586, a bill that currently taxes bonuses paid to bailed-out bank executives. If the effort survived a filibuster, Reid would then send it to the House, which could vote on it directly and then send to President Obama, bypassing the conference-negotiating process and the public scrutiny that comes with it.
On Tuesday, CNSNews.com com asked House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) about the plan and whether he would rule out fast-tracking the bill. Hoyer said he would not rule it out, adding that it depends on the contents of the Senate’s shell bill.
“Well, I won’t rule it out or in because I don’t know what that package is,” Hoyer said. “So it would be premature for me to answer that question because I don’t know exactly what form it’s going to be in.”
On Thursday, CNSNews.com asked Pelosi that if H.R. 1586 were amended to include the Senate health bill, would she rule out holding a direct vote on it and the bypassing of the conference-negotiating process?
The Speaker of the House said: “Really, you know more about it than I do. This is the first I’m hearing of it. I really can’t comment on that because, as I said, we’ll deal with process as soon as we’re finished with the policy on this.”
House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said he had heard of “a lot” of things Democrats might try to get their health care bill through Congress, stressing that everyone would have to wait for Senator Reid to make his move.
“I’ve heard a lot of things about how they may consider [moving forward],” said Boehner. “Until the [Senate] Majority Leader makes some announcement, we’re all going to be guessing about it.”
Boehner explained that any bill that raises taxes, as the Democrats’ health care bill does, must originate in the House. If the Senate were to try to pass its version first, it would have to include it in some kind of shell bill to pass Constitutional muster.
Boehner said that if Pelosi and Hoyer tried to move such a shell bill through Congress without subjecting it to conference negotiations and their inherent public scrutiny, it would amount to a “legislative trick.”
“When you’re talking about a piece of legislation that will be over 1,000 pages, that will transform the American health care system, the last thing we need are any legislative tricks,” said Boehner.
“This ought to be transparent,” he said. “This ought to be open and members and the American people ought to have the ability to really understand what’s happening.”
Boehner cast doubt on whether Pelosi, Hoyer, or Reid would be able to fast-track any health care legislation, saying he thought it would be “some time” before anyone would find out how, or if, the Democrats would proceed.
“So I think it’ll be a while before we see how they proceed, but I’m as anxious as you are to see when and if they’re able to proceed,” said Boehner.