July 30, 2009 -- 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.
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.
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."
"I heard from key negotiators in both the House and the Senate side who said, 'Don't be surprised if we don't finish this until Christmas,'" ABC News' George Stephanopoulos said Wednesday night.
What Happens in August:
The House is scheduled to begin its recess tomorrow, the Senate a week later.
Today Republican leader Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, predicted lawmakers will take heat on health care once they get home.
"I've got people who stop me non-stop to voice their concerns and their outrage," he said. "I've spent time traveling around the country and I'm going to tell you, there's a lot of outrage out there and members are going to hear about it."
Of the latest deal, Boehner said, "It's the same government run plan that the Democrats have been trying to ram down the American people's throats all year."
"Senators, if they want to take this bill home with them during the August recess, they would have more than enough time to read it," Obama said Wednesday.
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."
Health Care: Latest From The House
Wednesday's sudden burst of activity in the House hinged on deals Democrats made with each other after days of deadlock.
Facing concerns from moderate Blue Dog Democrats about the cost of the measure, a House deal came due to several agreements:
Negotiators agreed to lower the cost of bill by $100 billion over 10 years, bringing the House bill below the $1 trillion mark.
They agreed to increase the number of small businesses who are exempt from the requirement to provide health insurance to employees.
They also softened the contentious public option, creating a government health insurance program that competes on equal terms with private insurance.
If a measure is passed by the House Energy and Commerce panel, Pelosi would next need to merge the three House bills together.
Wednesday, Rep. Mike Ross, D-Ark., leader of the the Blue Dog group that has been blocking progress on the bill, said the agreement addresses the group's concerns.
But while a deal has been struck with four of the seven moderate Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee who originally objected to the bill, the rest of the Blue Dogs are withholding judgment.
"Many Blue Dogs remain concerned with various aspects of the bill draft," Blue Dog co-chair Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, D-S.D., said in a statement released late Wednesday. "The 52-member Blue Dog Coalition has not taken a group position on the draft health care legislation that is working through the committee process. Today's announcement signifies that the committee process is moving forward. The committee will work its will, but the broader coalition has not ratified any agreements related to the draft legislation."
Today on ABCNews.com's "Top Line," House Majority Whip James Clyburn predicted the House Energy and Commerce Committee would pass a bill this week, but he added, "We have absolutely no idea" if the concessions negotiated into that bill by the Blue Dogs would survive in a final product.
The other two House panels with purview over aspects of health care reform effort have completed their work. The Ways and Means Committee finished its markup a couple of weeks ago, followed by the House Education and Labor Committee.
Clyburn added, "If you get these three committees working in concert with each other, we go out there next month with this bill coming out of all three committees, we've then got one bill to go out to the public that says, 'This is what the Democrats are offering you. We're offering you a change from your current situation.'"
Read more opinions on health care reform from lawmakers and others on ABCNew.com's "The Note".
Rep. Tom Price, R. Ga., Talks GOP Proposals (July 28, 2009)
What Clergy Members Think (July 28, 2009)
What The Health Insurance Industry Thinks (July 27, 2009)
What The Chamber of Commerce Thinks (July 27, 2009)
Former President Bill Clinton Weighs In (July 27, 2009)
Health Care: Latest From the Senate
On Wednesday, Sen. Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., saw the cost analysis of the panel's bill as a good sign. The plan was predicted to cost less than $900 billion and lead to reductions in the deficit within 10 years.
After the Wednesday meeting, Baucus added that negotiators had reached a tentative agreement on another outstanding issue that he would not identify.
He qualified agreement on that issue as "big T for tentative."
But no deal yet. One of the six senators negotiating the Finance Committee bill was asked if the committee could wrap up its work by the end of next week when the Senate plans to recess for the remainder of the summer.
"It's possible, but extremely challenging," said Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D.
Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., who dismissed the idea of a breakthrough Wednesday, further said he wouldn't agree to a deal unless he had a commitment from Reid, Pelosi, and the White House not to undue those agreements in subsequent negotiations.
Reid's hope was that he'd have committee-passed bills in hand to merge over the August recess.
The other Senate panel with jurisdiction over parts of the chamber's measure has already approved its proposal.
Read more about what other senators think on ABCNews.com's "The Note".
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Sounds Off (July 29, 2009)
Senate Finance Committee Warns They're Not There Yet (July 29, 2009)
Sen. John Kerry: We're 80 Percent There (July 28, 2009)
Sens. Olympia Snowe and Max Baucus Talk Details (July 27, 2009)
Read how Sen. Ted Kennedy's absence has altered the debate (July 27, 2009)
ABC News' Lindsey Ellerson, Jonathan Karl, John Hendren, Jake Tapper, Karen Travers, Rick Klein, Yunji de Nies, Theresa Cook and Huma Khan contributed to this report.