Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

House to take up one piece of health care reform

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House plans to vote to strip the health insurance industry of its anti-trust exemption.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House plans to vote to strip the health insurance industry of its anti-trust exemption.
  • Progress on health care reform stalled in House after inability to compromise with Senate.
  • House Democrats want to move ahead on individual provisions to maintain momentum
  • Provisions won't substitute for comprehensive health care reform, Nancy Pelosi says
  • Sen. Harry Reid says he still believes health care bill will pass this year

Washington (CNN) -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday the chamber will take up one piece of its health care bill as a separate provision next week.

The House passed a comprehensive health care bill last year, but progress has stalled over the inability to work out a compromise with a separate version passed by the Senate.

Faced with unanimous Republican opposition and concerns by some Democrats over specific issues, House Democrats want to move ahead on individual provisions to maintain momentum and keep the topic in the public eye.

Pelosi said the House plans to vote next week on a measure to strip the health insurance industry of its anti-trust exemption involving practices such as market allocation and price-fixing. Many Democrats believe removing the exemption will inject new competition into the industry, leading to lower prices for consumers.

The House version of the health care bill passed last year would remove the anti-trust exemption, while the Senate's version would not, making it unclear if a separate provision focused only on that specific issue would win Senate approval.

Also Tuesday, Pelosi met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to discuss how to advance a comprehensive overhaul bill. Democrats had appeared poised to push through the comprehensive bill without any Republican support until Republican Scott Brown won the January 19 special election for the U.S. Senate seat formerly held by liberal Democrat Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts.

Brown's victory cost the Democrats their 60-seat super-majority in the 100-member Senate necessary to overcome Republican filibusters, imperiling the health care legislation and other major initiatives championed by Democrats and President Obama.

Reid, D-Nevada, said Tuesday that he still believed a health care bill would pass this year.

"We plan to do health care this year, and do it as quickly as we can," Reid told reporters.

Last week, Pelosi, D-California, described a two-step process in which the House would likely vote in coming weeks on a series of specific health care provisions that have popular support. At the same time, Pelosi said, work would continue on finding a way to pass a more comprehensive overhaul later.

The idea was to demonstrate continued momentum for some of the most important aspects of health care reform, Pelosi said.

"That doesn't mean that it is a substitute for doing comprehensive" legislation, Pelosi said. "It means we will move on many fronts, any front we can."

House Democrats believe that moving forward with some health care reforms that the public favors would demonstrate their resolve to work on a top priority issue during a congressional election year.

In the Senate, some liberal Democrats have urged Reid to use the legislative tool known as reconciliation, which would allow some components of the health care bill to pass with only 51 votes.

Under that scenario, the House would then pass both the original Senate bill and the package of changes approved by the Senate through reconciliation.

Some Democratic sources warn, however, that using reconciliation is complicated and fraught with legislative hurdles, raising questions about whether it could happen even if enough congressional Democrats supported the move.

Other Democrats in tough re-election fights worry voters will see such a move as legislative gimmickry, reinforcing complaints that Democratic control of Washington has been business as usual.

CNN's Ted Barrett contributed to this report.