Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Two House Health Care Reform Votes: First Fixes, Then Senate Bill

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Two House Health Care Reform Votes: First Fixes, Then Senate Bill

Article excerpt

House leaders rejected 'deem and pass' Saturday, and negotiations on abortion concern made progress, clearing the way for Sunday's health care reform bill vote.

On the eve of a historic healthcare reform vote, President Obama rallied House Democrats on Capitol Hill Saturday to pass "the most important piece of domestic legislation since Medicare."

"Don't do it for me, do it for the people who need help," he said. "Do it for the people who are really scared right now."

The president's appeal capped 24 hours of intense negotiation as Speaker Nancy Pelosi pressed to get to a critical 216 votes, while working out late-breaking disputes within Democratic ranks over everything from abortion rights to geographic quarrels over Medicare funding formulas.

After heated exchanges over a proposed procedure to "deem" the Senate health care bill passed without a direct vote, the Rules Committee agreed to stand-alone votes for both the Senate bill and a package of "fixes."

"We are about to unleash a cultural war in this country if we unleash this process and do not allow legitimate differences to be debated and compromised," said Rep. Joe Barton (R) of Texas, the top Republican on the Energy and Commerce Committee, in the Rules Committee hearing Saturday.

Democrats say they have gone the distance in a bid to accommodate Republican concerns, but that the minority was clearly committed to opposing healthcare reform.

"We have tried every way in the world to be bipartisan, but we have to play the hand that is dealt us," said Rep. Louise Slaughter (D) of New York, who chairs the Rules panel. "In time, everyone will see that what we have done here will make a big difference in the United States, and we have to get on with it."

But by mid-day, House Democratic leaders had concluded that the cost of the controversial procedure - used by Republican majorities as well, but never on a proposal of this scope, - was too high. Instead of "deeming" the Senate bill passed when the House passes a package of "fixes" to that bill, the House now will hold two votes: one on the fixes and a second on the underlying bill. "We decided this was a better way to go," said Brendan Daly, a spokesman for Speaker Nancy Pelosi. …

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