WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Friday that health care legislation, which House Democrats hope to pass by the end of next week, would also include a proposal to overhaul the nation's student-loan program.
Tying the student loan and health care legislation "has always been part of the plan," Pelosi said.
House Democrats are readying a two-part strategy to pass the legislation. First, the House is expected to vote on a Senate-passed version of health-care legislation. Later, they will vote on a package of changes to the bill, which will be considered under a fast-track legislative process known as budget reconciliation.
The White House announced Friday that President Barack Obama will delay a trip to Asia so that he can concentrate on the health-care bill. Obama was originally scheduled to leave Washington on March 18, but will now depart on March 21.
Pelosi said she is "delighted that the president will be there for the passage of the bill." A Pelosi spokesman said lawmakers want to vote on the measure before next weekend, setting up a possible vote on the measure next Friday.
Pelosi also said that she expected the total cost of the measure would be equal to, or less than, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office's most recent estimate of the Senate bill, which projected a $875 billion price tag over 10 years and overall deficit reduction of $118 billion.
The Democrats' plan to pair the health-care and student-loan legislation saw criticism Friday from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who said "it would show again the lengths [Democrats are] willing to go to have the government expand their tentacles to absolutely everything."
The student loan legislation would end private lenders' involvement in the origination of student loans. The U.S. Department of Education would become the sole provider of loans through the government-backed program. Companies would then be hired to service the loans and to go after borrowers who fail to pay.