Obama, Democratic Leaders Confident About Health Reform LegislationThe Wall Street Journal / Dow Jones: "House Democratic leaders expressed confidence Friday that they would have enough votes to pass health-care legislation, picking up one new 'yes' vote and promising that they would resolve lingering concerns raised by undecided Democrats." A House vote is planned for Sunday. "House Democrats met Friday morning to discuss the bill and get a sense of how their ranks plan to vote on it. Rep. John Boccieri, (D., Ohio) told reporters ... that he now planned to vote in favor of the health-care measure, after voting against a different version of it last November. Boccieri pointed to the number of uninsured people in his district as well as to the new Congressional Budget Office cost estimate of the bill as reasons for his switch." His decision is "another positive sign for Democratic leaders, who have seen several new commitments to the bill this week. But they are still seeking to woo anti-abortion Democrats, as well as other lawmakers concerned about issues ranging from Medicare reimbursements to the affordability of insurance coverage under the bill" (Yoest and Raice, 3/19).
Politico: "House leaders could free up as many as half a dozen votes - probably enough to ensure passage of the health care bill - if they can strike a deal with a few antiabortion Democrats who are negotiating a separate bill with a stronger ban on federal funding for abortion. The lawmakers want 'a commitment to act later,' according to West Virginia Democrat Nick Rahall, who says he'll vote no if a deal can't be struck. House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson (D-Conn.) insists that Democrats will win a majority with or without the votes of the anti-abortion group, which is headed by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.)." Ongoing negotiations indicate, though, that "House leaders want their votes and ... lawmakers are looking for a way to both vote for the bill and not turn their backs on prior commitments to hold the most ardent anti-abortion line" (Allen, 3/19).
Roll Call: Top House Democrats are divided regarding the pursuit of such a "side agreement on abortion. ... A key question for vote-counters is how many lawmakers Stupak brings with him. The Michigan Democrat has maintained he has about a dozen. But Natural Resources Chairman Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), who counts himself in the group, estimated that the number is about half that" (Newmyer, 3/19).
The New York Times Prescriptions Blog: Meanwhile, "[i]n a last rally for votes on the big health care legislation, President Obama has invited the entire House Democratic caucus to the White House on Saturday afternoon." Though vote-counters should know where they stand by that time, the invite is a "just in case some rank-and-file Democrats are wavering" so that the president and party leaders can offer this as "a reminder of what voters seemed to want when they elected Mr. Obama and expanded the Democratic majorities in Congress in 2008. The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, will also join House Democrats at the White House" (Herszenhorn, 3/19). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.