Obama Delays Asia Trip as Dems Wrangle Health Care Votes

Speaking volumes about how Democrats lack the votes to pass overhauling health care legislation, President Obama has delayed next week's trip to Indonesia and Australia.

The president was scheduled to leave Thursday, which is the deadline the White House gave Congress to finish negotiations and pass a bill.

But the White House has confirmed that Obama will leave for Asia three days later, on Sunday, March 21, and without his wife and daughters, as originally planned.

White House officials and congressional Democratic sources expressed confidence that the compromise House-Senate legislation would ultimately pass, but as of now, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., does not have the votes.

VIDEO: Race to the Health Care Vote
Sen. Reid's Wife and Daughter in Accident

"We'll take whatever time is required for us to pass the legislation," Pelosi told reporters today.

She needs 216 votes -- a majority of the House's 431 members -- to pass the Senate bill and changes to it. Anti-abortion Democrats, led by Rep. Bart Stupak, D- Mich., have said they would not support the Senate bill because it has less restrictive language on abortion than the House bill.

Democratic congressional leaders had asked the president to delay his trip until after the health care overhaul vote so he could make a personal appeal to House Democrats to vote for legislation that has consumed so much of his presidency.

"I'm delighted the president will be here for the passage of the bill," Pelosi said. "It's going to be historic."

Video of hospital press conference on Senator Harry Reids wife.
Landra Reid, Wife of Senator, Stable After Surgery

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a key figure in the ongoing negotiations, is facing a personal health care crisis of his own.

Reid's wife and daughter are recovering from a car accident Thursday that left the women hospitalized in serious condition.

Democrats Await CBO Score to Move Ahead

Sen. Reid's wife, Landra, 69, suffered a broken nose, back and neck. Daughter Lana Reid Barringer, 48, has a neck injury and facial lacerations. Both are "conscious, can feel their extremities, and according to doctors, their injuries are nonlife threatening," a Reid spokesman said.

The incident put Democrats' intense legislative negotiations temporarily on hold Thursday as Reid rushed to the hospital to be by their sides. But Reid soon after returned to the Capitol; one sign that negotiations among House and Senate Democrats have become make-or-break.

"If Nancy Pelosi had the votes, they'd have already voted on this," conservative commentator Laura Ingraham said on "Good Morning America" today. "Obviously, the president, he's put it all on the line here. It's not going to be good for Democrats, no matter what they do."

But Democrats insisted they have the will and the votes to pass a bill soon.

"We're in the home stretch," Democratic strategist Donna Brazille told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos. "There's no question the Democrats will round up the votes."

The White House had set a deadline for the House to pass the Senate bill by March 18, when the president was originally scheduled to leave for an overseas trip to Indonesia and Australia.

The White House has since backed off its deadline.

"Our hope is to get this done as soon as possible," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Thursday. "If it ... takes a couple extra days after a year, it takes a couple of extra days."

One reason for the delay is the eagerly anticipated Congressional Budget Office score on how much the health care bill now before the House would cost. Its release is expected any day.

The CBO issued an updated cost estimate of the health care bill that passed the Senate Dec. 24, which didn't include the changes being negotiated with the White House. The updated estimate was up slightly, from $871 billion to $875 billion over 10 years. And the total deficit reduction went from $132 billion to $118 billion.

'Full Speed Ahead' for Reid Despite Personal Matter

After congressional Democrats broke from their meeting Thursday night, White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel told reporters, "It was a very good meeting. A lot of decisions were made. We're getting towards the end."

Sources described "dramatic" developments in the closed-door meetings in the past 24 hours.

As for whether Reid's personal situation will affect the process ahead, many people close to the senator say that's unlikely.

"This won't slow him down, although he may have to spend quite a bit of time with his wife here in the next few days," Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., said "It's going to be a full speed ahead for him for sure."

The House budget committee may begin writing the "fixes" to the Senate bill Monday.

ABC News' Devin Dwyer contributed to this report.

-- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 10079066. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 10079066. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 10079066. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 10079066. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 10079066. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 10079066. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 10079066. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 10079066. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 10079066. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 10079066. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 10079066. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 10079066.
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...