The Play-by-Play on Health Care

health care

Expectations may have shifted in the debate over health care reform, but lawmakers are still eager to make at least some progress this week before Congress takes a break for the month of August.

Here's a rundown on what's really happening in Washington, when Americans can expect movement on health care bills, and whether reform will actually happen this year.

Watch "World News With Charles Gibson" tonight at 6:30 p.m. ET for the full report.

What's Happening Today:

Today six Finance Committee senators -- three Democrats and three Republicans -- continue their torturously slow march toward a bipartisan health care reform bill.

One of those Democrats, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, left today's meeting and said there is agreement on about 80 percent of health reform. Kerry added that over the next hours and days, he sees further agreement emerging.

On the other side of Capitol Hill, House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., expects to hear back from moderate Democrats today after making them an offer late last night. Waxman met Monday evening with Blue Dog Democrats opposed to portions of the House plan, but they have not yet reached an agreement.

Today Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., said Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats were "on the verge of a historic victory" by defeating Democrats' reform plans.

Facing opposition from members of his own party, Obama held yet another town hall meeting on health care today, this time addressing the nation's retirees at the AARP.

In a brief moment of candor, Obama told them, "We're not going to have a perfect health care system. It's a complicated system. There are always going to be some problems out there. But we could be doing a lot better than we're doing right now."

Elizabeth Edwards is also scheduled to testify today before a House subcommittee about medical debt and bankruptcy.

Best-Case Scenario for Democrats:

A vote on a House bill has not been ruled out entirely, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., was sounding far less optimistic Monday about that prospect than she had last week. The Senate has already said it won't be ready to bring a bill to the floor before the recess.

A more realistic best-case scenario for Democrats eager to change health care laws: If House lawmakers on the Energy and Commerce Committee could vote on their measure this week, and if the Senate Finance panel could reach an agreement, too.

In that case, both the House and Senate would come back a major step closer to voting on comprehensive measures on each side of the Hill. First, however, they need to settle disagreements about the details of the several bills being crafted.

What Happens in August:

The House is scheduled to begin its recess on Friday, the Senate a week later.

Last Friday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs no one involved in health care reform planning meetings has opted to take August off. Time spent back home will also allow lawmakers to hear from constituents before returning to Washington in the fall.

Regardless, decision makers will need new momentum to accomplish their goals in September.

"Whatever they do over August is still going to require almost a complete reset in September," ABC News' George Stephanopoulos said Friday on "Top Line."

The Sticking Points:

How to pay for it. Some of the toughest opposition has come from within Obama's own party due to concerns about the cost of reform. Today the president tried to calm those fears.

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