Health Care Hurdles: Legislation's Fate Hangs in the Balance

Dropping Health Care

House Majority leader Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland Tuesday said one of the options lawmakers are mulling is to do nothing.

"There are no easy choices," the Maryland congressman said of the difficulties Democrats face in passing their health care bill after losing the seat in Massachusetts to Scott Brown. "The first [choice], of course, is not to pass a bill."

Democrats will be looking for guidance from Obama tonight on the next steps they should take.

"By next week, we need to come to focus on the way we want to move forward," Hoyer told reporters. "I think the president's discussion will certainly add to our information ... to make that decision."

The president will continue to push Congress to pass a health care bill. He will likely talk about the ramifications on Americans -- high insurance costs and high premiums while insurance companies profit -- and the high costs of health care to the economy to drive his point across.

Health Care Hurdles

The future of health care overhaul is unclear. Republican leaders, such as Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., have said Congress needs to scrap what has already been done and start from the beginning. But Obama is urging lawmakers to instead find common ground.

His advisers say Democrats need to make a move on health care to save themselves politically.

"I think where we stand is the health care plan has become a caricature," Obama's 2008 campaign manager and White House adviser said last week. "And if we walk away from it now, everyone who supported it is going to have all of the downside and none of the upside. We have to deliver. If we don't deliver, I think voters will rightfully say, you know, 'What's going on here?'"

Democratic leaders are working behind closed doors to launch a last-ditch effort to save the health care bill. Senate Majority leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., are mulling a plan in which the House would "fix" the things it doesn't like about the Senate health care bill, such as a tax on high-premium insurance plans.

The changes would be included in a bill passed under special budget rules, called reconciliation, which would only require 51 votes to pass the Senate. Once there's agreement on those changes and they pass in the Senate, the House would move to pass the original Senate bill along with the companion reconciliation bill.

It remains to be seen whether that plan can actually go into effect. Many Democrats are not happy with cutting out the many provisions in the original bills. Shaken by Democrats' loss in Massachusetts, many are growing weary of the health care bill and the public opposition.

Others continue to argue that something is better than nothing and that overhaul is much needed.

For now, Democrats are in a hold pattern awaiting further guidance from today's State of the Union address.

"It's certainly on the front burner but there is no rush that we have to do something this week or next week," Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., told reporters Tuesday, "but there is a feeling that we have to do something."

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