Showdown On Health Bill Nears, Dems Still Counting Votes
The New York Times: "With the stage set for a historic showdown over landmark health legislation in the House, the White House and Democratic Congressional leaders narrowed their hunt for votes to a slim list of lawmakers, including several opponents of abortion who were demanding assurance that no federal money would be used to pay for insurance coverage of the procedure.
Even on Sunday morning, the vote was clearly too close to call. Rep. John Larson, the chairman of the Democratic caucus, told ABC's 'This Week' program that the votes were in hand. 'We have the votes now - as we speak,' he said. But at the same time, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the deputy Democratic House whip, told 'Fox News Sunday' that the Democrats 'don't have a hard 216 right now'" (Herszenhorn and Pear, 3/21).
USA Today: House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said that if the bill passes it "would drive up health care costs, and lead to big GOP victories in the November congressional elections. 'We are going to use every means at our disposal to oppose this government takeover of health care,' said Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., chairman of the House Republican Conference, on CNN's State of the Union" (Jackson, 3/21).
In another story, The New York Times reports: "In announcing that he would oppose the health care legislation, Representative John Tanner, Democrat of Tennessee, offered a signal that Democrats were close to securing the votes needed to pass the bill. Come again? Yup."
"Mr. Tanner is retiring at the end of this year after completing his 11th term in Congress. Politically, he cannot be punished for voting in favor of the bill. ... If House Democratic leaders are comfortable letting Mr. Tanner publicly announce his opposition, it is the clearest sign yet of their mounting confidence that they will have the 216 votes needed to pass the bill" (Herszenhorn, 3/21).
The Hill reports: "Rep. Marcy Kaptur will vote for healthcare reform legislation, she announced Sunday. Kaptur's vote is a big one for Democratic leaders. She had been a no vote because of language in the bill on abortion" (Fabian, 3/21).
In another story, The Hill explores negotiations between the White House and other abortion foes: "Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) said Sunday morning that he is close to striking a deal with the Obama administration on abortion provisions. The possible deal would focus on an executive order that would specify there would be no public funding for abortions in the healthcare bill" (Cusack, 3/21).
Congress Daily reports on Saturday's late night announcement from the House Rules Committee about how the debate would advance: "After a day-long debate and 80 votes to reject Republican amendments, the House Rules Committee tonight cleared the Senate-passed healthcare bill for consideration in the House Sunday under a closed rule allowing separate votes on the massive measure and a package of accompanying tweaks intended to smooth the way for House approval of the landmark measure. The rule calls for one hour of debate on the rule itself plus two hours on the healthcare legislation and the revisions. Altogether, seven votes would take place Sunday, including one on moving the previous motion for the rule, two on points of order expected to be raised against the healthcare plan and revisions package, and one on an expected motion to recommit the bills. No amendments would be considered" (Kivlan, 3/20).
NPR: "It won't be the so-called 'deem and pass' strategy Democrats contemplated - that idea was dropped Saturday after crushing pressure from Republicans and the public. Instead, the House will hold two hours of debate on the reconciliation bill - that's the package of changes Democrats want to attach to the Senate health care bill. Then, representatives will cast two separate votes - the first one on the reconciliation bill, the second on the Senate health care bill. That's the crib sheet. Remember, anything could change at any moment - a fact President Obama acknowledged Saturday" (Seabrook, 3/21).
Politico: "If Republicans take control of the House this fall, Minority Leader John Boehner said Sunday he'd work to repeal the health care bill that's heading to final congressional votes. 'If this bill passes, we will have an effort to repeal the bill, and we'll do it the same way that we approached health care on a step by step basis,' the Ohio congressman said in an advanced transcript of NBC's 'Meet the Press.' 'I'd have a bill on the floor the first thing out, to eliminate the Medicare cuts, eliminate the tax increases, eliminate the mandate that every American has to buy health insurance and the employer mandate that's going to cover jobs'" (Sherman, 3/21).
In another posting, Politico reports: "The passage of health care reform will result in the 'Europeanization' of the United States, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said Sunday. 'We're coming to a Europeanization of America. And the American people feel it,' Hatch said on CNN's 'State of the Union.' 'People come up to me from everywhere,' Hatch said, 'and say, "we can't do this. We can't afford this.' But Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) didn't seem to mind the European comparison. 'The basics are that we pay a lot more than European nations do for health care, and they have far better performance,' Feinstein said" (Javers, 3/21).
The Washington Post: "Following reports yesterday that black and openly gay Democratic lawmakers were subjected to spitting and epithets from anti-health care reform protesters outside the Capitol, Republican leaders said Sunday that such incidents were 'isolated' and 'reprehensible.' Michael Steele, the Republican National Committee's first black chairman, ... added, 'we do not support that.' 'What you had out there yesterday were a handful of people who just got stupid and said some ignorant things,' Steele said" (DeLong, 3/21).