Obama Makes Final Public Push For Health Reform As Democrats Consider Timeline
President Obama is delivering his "closing argument" for health care reform in St. Louis today as Democratic leaders strategize on moving the bill through the House and Senate.
The Associated Press: "Obama is to speak Wednesday at St. Charles High School, his second health care address in three days. His speech comes as congressional Democrats stand on the brink of delivering the president a dramatic success with passage of his sweeping overhaul legislation - or a colossal failure if they can't get it done." Leaders are waiting for a final analysis from the Congressional Budget Office before they start counting votes "in earnest ... The two-step approach now being pursued calls for the House to approve a Senate-passed bill from last year, despite House Democrats' opposition to several of its provisions. Both chambers then would follow by approving a companion measure to make changes in that first bill" (Werner, 3/10).
The New York Times: Democrats are "bracing for a key procedural ruling [which] could come within days from the House and Senate parliamentarians, and could present yet another hurdle for Mr. Obama and Democratic leaders as they try to lock in support from skittish lawmakers in the House." The ruling considers if the president must sign the Senate bill after House passage before Congress can revise it through the reconciliation process.
"Meanwhile, Congressional leaders and top administration officials met in the offices of the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, on Tuesday evening trying to resolve outstanding policy differences between the chambers." Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin said Tuesday that there's no timetable for a budget reconciliation bill (Herszenhorn and Pear, 3/9).
The Washington Post: "The sequence in which the Senate bill and the package of fixes would move is one of the key unresolved issues, much to the consternation of undecided House Democrats. They would prefer to pass the reconciliation bill first and force the Senate to accept their fixes before the House takes up the Senate bill. But reconciliation rules seem to indicate that the House will have to pass the Senate bill first."
Lawmakers who participated in the meeting in Pelosi's office "said that once the Congressional Budget Office delivers a final cost estimate on the fixes bill, possibly this week, Democratic leaders would begin lining up House and Senate votes" (Murray, 3/10).
CongressDaily: House Rules Committee Chairwoman Louise Slaughter,D-N.Y., "is weighing preparing a rule that would consider the Senate bill passed once the House approves a corrections bill that would make changes to the Senate version." She "has not taken the plan to Speaker Pelosi as Democrats await CBO scores on the corrections bill." In the meantime, House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman said Democratic legislative leaders told White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel at the meeting in Pelosi's office Tuesday night that they don't want deadlines assigned to them (Edney, 3/10).
The Hill: House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer "suggested the March 18 deadline recently set by White House press secretary Robert Gibbs was not endorsed by congressional leaders. 'Our objective is to pass both [healthcare and the 2010 budget] before the Easter break [March 26],' Hoyer said. 'Is that going to be difficult? Yes. Is it a deadline? No. If we can, we can. If we can't, we can't,' Hoyer added" (Allen and Youngman, 3/9).
Roll Call: "Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said House and Senate leaders are moving 'as expeditiously as possible.' Pelosi likewise signaled optimism. 'These meetings now take us more quickly down the road of making good progress'" (Pierce and Newmyer, 3/9).
Reuters: Pelosi is facing her "biggest test" as speaker in trying to get to 216 votes. "If all Democrats voted as they did last year on an earlier version of the bill, Pelosi would reach 216. But many may switch from yes to no - or no to yes. 'Every legislative vote is a heavy lift around here. You assume nothing,' Pelosi said" (Ferraro, 3/10).
McClatchy: Democrats "control 254 of 435 House seats, with four vacancies. When the House last voted on health care legislation in November, 39 Democrats voted no. Should that number hold, the bill would lose" (Talev and Lightman, 3/9).
Meanwhile, a new AP-GfK poll has found that a majority of Americans want a bipartisan health care overhaul, The Associated Press reports in a separate story. "More than four in five Americans say it's important that any health care plan have support from both parties. And 68 percent say the president and congressional Democrats should keep trying to cut a deal with Republicans rather than pass a bill with no GOP support."
"Half of all Americans say health care should be changed a lot or 'a great deal,' and only 4 percent say it shouldn't be changed at all." The telephone survey, conducted March 3-8 by GfK Roper Public Affairs & Media, has a margin of sampling error of +/- 4.2 percentage points (Babington, 3/9).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.