March 20, 2010 in Nation/World

Democrats close to vote goal

House likely to pass health bill this weekend
William Douglas, David Lightman And Margaret Talev McClatchy
 

WASHINGTON – Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives continued scouring for votes Friday among reluctant anti-abortion and conservative Democrats in search of enough “Yeas” to triumph in Sunday’s historic vote on a $940 billion health care overhaul – and they appeared tantalizingly close to their goal.

Democrats picked up five more “yes” votes Friday when Reps. John Boccieri, D-Ohio; Charlie Wilson, D-Ohio; Allen Boyd, D-Fla.; Suzanne Kosmas, D-Fla.; and Scott Murphy, D-N.Y., all said they would support the bill. Boccieri, Boyd, Kosmas and Murphy had voted against the House health care bill in November. Wilson voted for it then but had been undecided about Sunday’s vote.

Democrats need 216 votes for passage, and if no “ayes” switch to “no,” they should have enough. However, qualms about abortion, as well as some other concerns on a variety of topics, kept the outcome in some doubt Friday.

House Democratic leaders were working to head off a possible revolt among 15 lawmakers upset that House-passed increases in Medicare reimbursements for local hospitals were removed from the final health care bill.

The latest bill contains Senate language that several Democrats said does not do enough to overcome geographic disparities in Medicare reimbursements.

“We need to make sure providers are reimbursed more on value than volume,” said Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis., who is undecided on how he will vote Sunday.

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama continued his efforts to drum up public support for his health policies, speaking at a campaign-style event Friday in Fairfax, Va.

With the pool of uncommitted Democrats shrinking, Pelosi turned her attention to the 54-member Blue Dog Coalition of moderate-to-conservative Democrats, as well as anti-abortion lawmakers led by Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., who said they’ll oppose the bill unless its language is toughened to ensure that no federal funds will pay for abortions.

Boccieri, Kosmas and Wilson said they were persuaded by Congressional Budget Office estimates that the bill would cut the federal deficit by $138 billion over 10 years. Boyd said this bill meets his requirements that it must reduce costs, increase access, ensure patient choice and won’t add to the federal deficit.

“This bill may not be perfect, but it strikes the proper balance of reducing costs, increasing consumer choices and lowering the staggering deficit from runaway health care spending,” Boccieri said. “While this bill has a whole host of Republican ideas, it is a shame it seems it will have no Republican votes.”

The president of the American Medical Association, Dr. James Rohack, said almost the same thing in announcing the AMA’s support for the legislation in a conference call with reporters. “The pending bill is imperfect, but we cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” Rohack said.


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