Image: House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais  /  AP file
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., sketches an ambitious timetable for President Barack Obama's agenda.
updated 3/5/2009 12:36:03 PM ET 2009-03-05T17:36:03

The No. 2 Democrat in the House laid out an ambitious timetable for President Barack Obama's agenda, with action on the budget later this month and a vote on health care by August.

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., told reporters Thursday that the congressional budget resolution, which sets the parameters for subsequent tax and spending legislation, is slated for a House vote the week of March 30. Obama has proposed a $3.6 trillion budget for next year that calls for higher taxes on the wealthy and takes the first step toward guaranteed health care for all.

On health care, Hoyer said House leaders would like health care reform to pass by August, which would leave the rest of the year for Senate debate and negotiations on a final compromise bill.

Hoyer said House and Senate leaders still hadn't figured out the voting procedure for pushing ahead with Obama's health plan to cover some 48 million who are uninsured. The options are either a simple majority in the Senate or 60 votes, which would require Republican support.

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Hoyer said senior senators such as Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., preferred to pass a bill with a sweeping vote rather than along party lines.

Hoyer also sketched an ambitious — and perhaps unrealistic — timeline for Obama's global warming initiative, which relies on a deeply controversial "cap and trade" plan that would limit emissions of greenhouse gases but lead to higher utility bills for consumers. Obama wants to use much of the revenue from the idea to extend $400 tax credits for most workers and pay for renewable energy research.

Video: Romney: Obama has to ‘rein in spending’ "Clearly, energy, energy independence, global warming is something that ... is a priority objective," Hoyer said. "We expect to move that early in the year, maybe as early as before the Memorial Day break."

But he acknowledged that the system of capping emissions and auctioning permits "is controversial and will be controversial."

Hoyer defended the large deficits in Obama's budget, saying that the president has inherited a mess from President George W. Bush. But he also said that Democrats were resigned to deficits in the last half of Obama's 10-year budget plan that could range from $533 billion to $712 billion.

"They're not good enough," Hoyer said of the long-range deficit predictions. "I'm not sure that leads to the conclusion that it's not the best we can do."

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Video: Obama gears up for budget fight


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