On the House floor Friday, Democratic leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland noted the difficulty Democrats have had agreeing to a bill in the Energy and Commerce panel. As a result, he said, "the probably of doing that bill by the 31st [of July] is very small."
He said it is possible, however -- though not planned -- that Democrats could delay August recess and have a vote in early August.
To further complicate the matter, there are other ideas out floating around the House too that are less likely to gain traction. The conservative House Republican Study Committee plans to offer its reform plan on Thursday, the group's chairman, Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., said today on ABCNews.com's "Top Line." House Republican leadership is also crafting a separate proposal.
"What we see [among] the moderate Democrats and certainly on our side is that we believe the American people aren't behind the bill that's before us in the House of Representatives, a bill that would in essence be a government takeover of our health care system," Price said. "And that's why you're seeing this slow-down on the House side."
The Senate's six negotiators are trying to figure out how to pay for an overhaul and control insurance companies without a public insurance option. On Monday, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., said he's been talking to President Obama almost daily about the talks.
Some details are starting to emerge, though nothing is final. Negotiators seem to be rejecting a so-called mandate for employers to provide insurance for their employees. But there is apparent agreement that employers who drop coverage for employees should have to cover the cost of any government subsidy their employees would qualify for under reform. There is also talk of not taxing the people who receive pricey insurance plans, but rather taxing insurance companies that offer them.
Last Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the new goal was to have a bill passed out of the Finance Committee by Aug. 7. Reid said he would then merge the Finance bill and the other Senate bill that's already been approved by the Senate's health panel so that senators would be ready for September..
Today he added that in order for that to happen, Democrats, including himself, will have to make some sacrifices.
"I have a responsibility to get a bill on the Senate floor that will get 60 votes, so we can proceed to it," Reid said. "That's my number one responsibility and there are times when I have to set aside my personal preferences for the good of the Senate and I think the country."
Senate Democrats are also acutely aware that Sen. Ted Kennedy's absence due to his illness could ultimately make or break the measure. They're hopeful that he can get to Washington when it's time for a vote.
Health care reform's foremost champion, Kennedy is closely tracking negotiations and has spoken twice with Obama by telephone over the past two weeks.
"One of the biggest problems is unifying the Democrats," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. "And to be honest with you, he's the only person I know in the Democratic Party who could bring together its five largest groups."
Republicans, meantime, remain cautious.