As The Push To Gather Votes Continues, Democrats Express Confidence Health Overhaul Bill Will Pass
Democrats spent Sunday trying to pull enough votes together in the House to pass a health care reform bill later this week but said they were optimistic that they can get the support they need.
The Washington Post reports that the "rosy predictions of success, combined with the difficult realities of mustering votes, underscore the gamble that the White House and congressional Democrats are poised to make in an attempt to push [President Barack] Obama's health-care plans across the finish line. The most optimistic talk on Sunday came from the White House. Obama senior adviser David Axelrod predicted that Democrats 'will have the votes to pass this,' and press secretary Robert Gibbs declared that 'this is the climactic week for health-care reform.'" Others were not so optimistic, however. Rep. Jim Clyburn, the Democrats' "chief head-counter in the House, cautioned that the party has not yet found the 216 votes needed to win approval of the health-care bill passed by the Senate in December." House Democrats expect to receive a final cost estimate of their reconciliation bill Monday before it goes to committees for consideration and aides expect a vote as soon as Thursday, but it's more likely to happen Friday or Saturday (Eggen, 3/15).
Los Angeles Times: "Despite the White House bravado that healthcare legislation will pass the House, most political odds-makers predict it will be close and could go either way. And a key House Democratic leader cautioned Sunday that they didn't have the votes yet." Most observers estimate that Democrats remain about a half a dozen votes short in the House (Serrano, 3/15).
Roll Call: "Because their whip efforts have been so sensitive, leaders wouldn't say it outright last week, but they essentially have a deal on what to include in the crucial health care reconciliation bill. The chief uncertainties are whether they can get 216 House Members and 51 Senators to vote for it and whether the measure will remain intact during an expected onslaught of amendments and points of order from Senate Republicans." Leaders are also favoring simply passing the reconciliation bill and attaching to it a provision that would deem the Senate bill passed in the House to shield politically vulnerable members from casting votes on it, Roll call reports. "A second senior Senate Democratic aide said the negotiations have been so sensitive and the votes so precarious that people should not expect any dramatic announcements that they have sealed a deal and are certain of victory" (Pierce, 3/15).
The Christian Science Monitor: "House Republican leader John Boehner said there was 'bipartisan opposition' to efforts to pass healthcare reform. 'I'm doing everything I can to prevent this bill from becoming law,' he said" (Nichols Douglass, 3/14).
Bloomberg/Business Week: Boehner predicted that the House is currently short of the House support necessary to gain passage. His statement came after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) "signaled she would seek a vote in her chamber on the legislation next week. President Barack Obama is pushing the House and Senate to finish their work before they leave for a two-week recess on March 26" (Riddell, 3/14).
Bloomberg/Business Week: "House members are seeking assurance the changes will be passed after the Senate parliamentarian decided that Obama would first have to sign the Senate bill into law. 'Members of the House are being asked to trust an untrustworthy body,' said Representative Anthony Weiner, a New York Democrat. (House Speaker Nancy) Pelosi said many members don't trust the Senate because so much House-passed legislation has languished there" (Jensen and Litvan, 3/15).
The New York Times: As Democrats look for votes, the amount of money being spent to sway about 40 of them has risen. "The coalition of groups opposing the legislation, led by the United States Chamber of Commerce, is singling out 27 Democrats who supported the health care bill last year and 13 who opposed it. The organizations have already spent $11 million this month focusing on these lawmakers, with more spending to come before an expected vote next weekend." An alliance of groups in support of the health bills has spent far less. "But after pharmaceutical companies made a $12 million investment for a final advertising push, spending by both sides for the first time is now nearly the same" (Zeleny, 3/14).