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House Dems Question Senate Health Bill's Excise Tax, Nelson Deal

(AP)
In a phone meeting with their leadership today, House Democrats took the opportunity to express their grievances with the Senate health care bill, from its tax measures to its abortion language.

No firm decisions were made on how to reconcile the House and Senate bills, but many issues were discussed. House Democrats are unhappy with the Senate bill, particularly the excise tax on high-end, "Cadillac" insurance plans. Many members have heard from their constituents who are not happy about this provision.

Caucus members are in favor of a national exchange, which is included in the House version, as opposed to the Senate bill's plan to create 50 state exchanges.

Abortion also came up, but that is a work in progress that has yet to be resolved.

On immigration, the Hispanic Caucus made it clear that they want the House language, which allows illegal immigrants to purchase insurance from the exchange, to be in the final product.

Other concerns brought up by the 25 members who spoke included the so-called "sweetheart deal" worked out by Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) for his state. In the deal, all Medicaid expansion for Nebraska will be funded by the federal government rather than with the help of state contributions.

There was also some question about why the process of reconciling the House and Senate bills has to be secret. There didn't seem to be a definitive answer for that, other than doing things this way will move the process along and keep the Republicans from slowing things down.

While some noted a frustration from members because the House has already given up a "robust public option" for no public option, the Speaker reminded members that this was still a good bill.

All in all, members and staffers felt this was a good start for the work ahead. About 100 members took part in today's call. There will be a full caucus when the members return to work on Tuesday.


Evelyn Thomas is a CBS News Capitol Hill Producer.