The Play-by-Play on Health Care

Will they or won't they? What will the end of summer bring? And will we see new health care laws by Christmas?

Though Congress has long since bucked President Obama's deadline to produce a health care bill before the August recess, both the House and Senate continue deliberations.

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

Video of Sen. Harry Reid defending the health care reform process.
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What's Happening Today:

House Democrats could take a solid step forward today on health care reform.

This morning the House Energy and Commerce committee that's been deadlocked over the details reconvenes to consider the measure, having appeared to come to an agreement Wednesday behind closed doors.

If the deal sticks and the panel approves the measure, every House committee with a stake in the bill will have approved its pieces of reform before Congress takes its August break. That would put the House in good shape to merge the bills and vote on a comprehensive measure when lawmakers return in the fall.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., today rejected speculation that the deal would cost support for the bill.

She also said she wants the measure to make up for what she said insurance companies have done to American health care.

"I think it's very clear that we want a strong public option in the legislation. Insurance companies are out there in full force carpet bombing, shock and awe, against a public option," Pelosi said.

Not quite so far along, Senate negotiators took the morning off -- possibly an indication that their talks are running into trouble.

Another potential sign it's not looking good: Today Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D- W.V., who says a public health insurance option is "a must," has requested studies from three different government agencies on a co-op proposal that some have proposed as a replacement for the so-called public option that Obama favors.

"There are real concerns about the potential impact of health care co-ops on consumers, and we cannot afford to hang our hat on any unproven, unregulated, or unreliable model for health insurance coverage," Rockefeller said in a statement. "At a minimum, we need to know more of the facts."

Senate negotiators including three Democrats and three Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee are still at odds over how to pay for health care. Seemingly better news came yesterday when a cost analysis priced the bill below $1 trillion.

Today Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., maintained he's still "cautiously optimistic we'll get something from the Finance Committee" by next week.

Best-Case Scenario:

Initial deadlines are long gone, but at this point if House lawmakers on the Energy and Commerce Committee vote on their measure this week, and if the Senate Finance panel could reach an agreement, too, that would be a good sign for the president.

If that happens, lawmakers would return in September a major step closer to voting on comprehensive measures on each side of the Hill.

The president voiced his own projections Wednesday in North Carolina.

"This bill, even in the best-case scenario, will not be signed -- we won't even vote on it probably until the end of September or the middle of October," Obama said. "We're just trying to get all these different bills out of committee."

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