The Treatment

Backing Away? Not Pelosi

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If you obsess over every twist and turn in the health care debate, you may have noticed a story that Fox News posted on its website a few hours ago:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Monday President Obama will soon propose a health care bill that will be "much smaller" than the House bill but "big enough" to put the country on a "path" toward health care reform.

A senior administration official told Fox Obama's proposal will be introduced Wednesday.

"In a matter of days, we will have a proposal," Pelosi said, pointing to Obama's forthcoming bill. "It will be a much smaller proposal than we had in the House bill, because that's where we can gain consensus. But it will be big enough to put us on a path of affordable, quality health care for all Americans that holds insurance companies accountable."

One reading of the article--which, I know from e-mail traffic, others shared--is that Obama will introduce a bill far less ambitious than what the two houses in Congress have passed already. Remember, even though the House and Senate bills have differences, in the grand scheme they are very similar: Both would extend insurance coverage to roughly 30 million people, both would call for around $900 billion in new expenditures, and both would have a series of delivery reforms.

I checked with Pelosi's office, though, and that interpretation seems to be wrong. Via e-mail, spokesperson Brendan Daly says

The Speaker was referring to the compromise between the House and the Senate that the President unveiled last week--not a new smaller bill.  As she has said repeatedly, she is committed to passing comprehensive health insurance reform.

This is consistent with the message Pelosi and her lieutenants sent over the weekend in a series of television interviews.

If somebody is going to back away from comprehensive reform, it won't be Pelosi.

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