President Barack Obama signaled to House Democratic leaders Wednesday that they'll have to drop their opposition to taxing high-end health insurance plans to pay for health coverage for millions of uninsured Americans.
In a meeting at the White House, Obama expressed his preference for the insurance tax contained in the Senate's health overhaul bill, but largely opposed by House Democrats and organized labor, Democratic aides said. The aides spoke on condition of anonymity because the meeting was private.
House Democrats want to raise income taxes on high-income individuals instead and are reluctant to abandon that approach, while recognizing that they will have to bend on that and other issues so that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., can maintain his fragile 60-vote majority support for the bill.
Pelosi and four committee chairmen met with the president Wednesday as they scrambled to resolve differences between sweeping bills passed by the House and Senate. The aim is to finalize legislation revamping the nation's health care system in time for Obama's State of the Union address early last month.
Despite the dispute over the payment approach, Pelosi, D-Calif., emerged from the meeting expressing optimism.
"We've had a very intense couple of days," Pelosi said. "After our leadership meeting this morning, our staff engaged with the Senate and the administration staff to review the legislation, suggest legislative language. I think we're very close to reconciliation."
Congressional staff members stayed at the White House into the evening to continue work and a conference call of the full House Democratic caucus was scheduled for Thursday.
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