Health Bill Update: Pelosi Counting Votes, Scott Brown Lambastes Dems
News outlets reported that Democrats seeking to pass a health bill next week got a boost from a Cabinet official, a key senator and the Catholic Health Association, while newly-elected Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., attacked the Democrats' plans.
Wall Street Journal: "'When the people of my state elected me in January, they sent more than a senator to Washingtonthey sent a message,' The Massachusetts Republican said in the weekly Republican address. Brown castigates Democrats for focusing on health care over jobs and the economy for the past year and that the focus has been a 'bitter, destructive, and endless drive' to change the nation's health care system.' ... The senator calls for scrapping the bill and starting over, a popular GOP proposal that has been dismissed by the White House and Democratic leaders."
'''Recent polling shows the American people want action on health insurance reform legislation and continue to strongly support key elements of the Democratic proposal,' said Brendan Daly, a spokesman for [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi" (Davis, 3/13).
Roll Call: "Brown criticized Democrats for pivoting from their jobs agenda to passing health care reform before the Easter recess, a legislative goal the freshman Republican noted was inevitable but distasteful. 'Somehow, the greater the public opposition to the health care bill, the more determined they seem to force it on us anyway,' Brown said" (Brady, 3/13).
The Washington Post: "The House is preparing to vote, perhaps Friday or next Saturday, on the legislation that passed the Senate on Christmas Eve, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said she was 'delighted that the president will be here for the passage of the bill. It's going to be historic.'"
The health-care debate has been marked for months by false hints of resolution. Although House Democrats believe they may finally be on the brink of victory, they lack iron-clad commitments from the needed 216 lawmakers. The biggest worry for the caucus is the Senate, where Republicans are blocking a host of major bills and where action looms once the House completes its work" (Murray and Montgomery, 3/13).
CongressDaily: "House Budget Chairman John Spratt said House Democratic leaders want to try to pass the bill through the House by March 19. But House Majority Leader Hoyer cautioned that could slip into that weekend. ... The [Democratic] Caucus also was informed that the corrections bill eliminates two special deals in the Senate bill -- one for Nebraska, dubbed the 'Cornhusker Kickback,' that gave the state extra help with Medicaid funding, and another for Florida that slowed Medicare Advantage benefit reductions."
"The bill will not eliminate additional Medicaid funding for Louisiana or a hospital deal for Connecticut, aides said" (Edney, House and Sanchez, 3/13).
The Hill: "House Democratic leaders don't have the votes to pass healthcare reform. At least not yet. ... Pelosi is clearly down in the vote count. Thirty-four House Democrats are either firm no votes or leaning no, according to The Hill's whip list. Dozens more are undecided. The list of Democratic members who haven't committed ranges widely, from liberal Reps. Michael Capuano (Mass.) and Anthony Weiner (N.Y.) to centrist Reps. Jason Altmire (Pa.) and Chris Carney (Pa.). Two committee chairmen -- Reps. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) and Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) -- say they are firm nos and three others, Reps. John Spratt (D-S.C.), Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) and Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.), are undecided" (Cusack, 3/13).
The New York Times: "Senator Mary Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana and at one point a skeptic of sweeping health care legislation, has written an opinion article in The Shreveport Times in which she makes a strong case in favor of moving forward with a bill. 'For months, Louisianians have heard the poll-tested one-liners, false claims and disingenuous rhetoric from opponents of this effort,' Ms. Landrieu wrote.'"
"'Some lawmakers would have Louisianians believe that scrapping a year of hard work and starting over is a way forward,' she wrote. 'It is not. Now is not the time to quit or start over'" (Herszenhorn, 3/13).
Politico: "Not exactly a shocker that an administration official supports the president's health reform plan, but President Obama tries to leverage the voice of his Republican transportation secretary, Ray LaHood, to make the case why conservatives should support his plan. LaHood's op-ed in tomorrow's Chicago Tribune is aimed squarely at independent and Republican voters who are increasingly down on reform" (Frates, 3/13).
Meanwhile, The Associated Press reports that "A group representing Catholic hospitals Saturday rallied behind" the president's health bill. "The chief executive of the Catholic Health Association, Carol Keehan, wrote on the group's Web site that although the legislation isn't perfect, it represents a 'major first step' toward covering all Americans and would make 'great improvements' for millions of people. The more than 600 Catholic hospitals across the country do not provide abortions as a matter of conscience."
"Major anti-abortion groups, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National Right to Life Committee, are adamantly opposed to the legislation, preferring stricter restrictions passed last November by the House" (Alonso-Zaldivar, 3/13).