President Obama plans to go to Capitol Hill on Sunday to bolster Democratic support for health care reform legislation as the debate on the bill reaches a critical point.
In a rare weekend session, senators debated the president's health care overhaul bill Saturday as the Democrats' self-imposed deadline to pass health care legislation by the end of this year approaches.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid opened the Saturday session arguing Americans don't get weekends off from losing their health insurance.
"The American people don't get weekends off from this injustice," Reid, D-Nev., said on the Senate floor. "Bankruptcy doesn't keep bankers' hours. They don't go away just because it's Sunday or Saturday. The pain is still there and so our work continues this weekend. It will continue until we give this nation's citizens a health insurance system that works for them."
"If we have to be here today, fine. and tomorrow, fine. and all next week, fine. and next weekend. and if we have to, right through the holidays -- the American people are looking to us to get this job done," said Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, on the Senate floor.
"No matter how much our friends on the Republican side want to delay, delay, delay, and try to kill this bill, it's not going to happen," Harkin said, "This bill is unstoppable because the American people are demanding that we do something about it. We're responding to that and we're going to get the job done."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell argued Saturday Republicans are responding to public pressure to oppose the legislation.
"What I hear the American people saying to us, 'vote for this bill and you'll be history," McConnell, R-Ky., said on the Senate floor. "This is not in the gray area. The American people are asking us to stop this bill and start over."
In an effort to undermine support for the legislation, Republicans Saturday highlighted the bill's cuts in Medicare payments to home health agencies over the next decade.
In the most heated exchange of the day so far, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., accused Democrats of hatching a "deal" with medical industry lobbyists behind closed doors to get their support for the bill despite cuts to Medicare home health services.
"I don't know what the deal was cut that bought them, but I know deals have been going on and I know they are unsavory," McCain said.
It was the latest GOP effort to highlight the legislation's more than $400 billion in cuts to projected Medicare payments for private insurance companies and other providers.
A Republican amendment that would have sent the bill back to the Senate Finance Committee to restore home health care cuts failed 41-53 Saturday. A Democratic amendment stating that nothing in the bill would result in the reduction of home health care benefits passed 96-0.
At a news conference Republican leader McConnell was asked to speculate on why Democrats were keeping the Senate working on weekends. He argued Democrats thought Republicans would blink if forced to work on weekends, but he vowed they would not.
But even among Democrats, deep divisions remain, guaranteeing a rocky road as the debate approaches its final phases, with a vote expected by month's end.