Democrats Push 'Up-or-Down' Health Care Vote; Reform Bill's OK Unlikely without Legislative End Run

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Byline: Jennifer Haberkorn, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The White House and congressional Democrats are calling for what they are framing as an up-or-down vote on a health care overhaul bill, signaling that they are preparing to pass it through the controversial reconciliation process.

President Obama is expected to announce how he wants to proceed on the bill this week, but Democrats on Capitol Hill are already trying to rally around using reconciliation, which would eliminate the chance for a Republican filibuster.

Republicans have already accused Democrats of using the procedural tool to pass a major social-policy change, which they say was never how it was intended.

But Democrats say the health bill deserves a vote in Congress. Without using reconciliation, Republicans would likely use their 41 votes - which they acquired in January's special election of Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown - to filibuster the bill, preventing it from getting a vote.

The health care reform has already passed both the House and the Senate, with not only a majority in the Senate but a supermajority, White House Office for Health Reform director Nancy Ann DeParle said Sunday on NBC's Meet the Press.

We're not talking about changing any rules here. All the president is talking about is, do we need to address this problem, and does it make sense to have a simple up-or-down vote on whether or not we want to fix these problems, she said.

While bills have passed both the House and Senate already, the bills differ considerably, and each chamber needs to vote again on how to merge the bills before sending anything to the president's desk.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called on House Democrats to put aside any concern about their own re-election and support the health bill.

Why are we here? We're not here just to self-perpetuate our service in Congress, she said on ABC's This Week. "We're here to do the job for the American people, to get them results that gives them not only health security, but economic security, because the health issue is an economic issue for - for America's families."

A series of polls have found that the public has grown frustrated with the yearlong, deeply partisan debate over how to pass a health bill. While specific aspects of the Democrats' plans - such as insurance industry reforms - are popular, the overall bill is not. …