Members of the House of Representatives are poised to vote Saturday on health care legislation, but a top Democratic leader acknowledged today that the vote may get pushed back to Sunday or later if there is not enough support to pass the bill on the floor.
Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said today that he still expects the vote to take place on Saturday, but that Democrats may not have the 218 votes needed for the bill to pass. He added that he has alerted lawmakers that they may need to return to the Hill on Sunday, and the vote could even spill to early next week.
"Unless there are delaying tactics or something I don't foresee, I think we can finish the bill by 7, 8 o'clock tomorrow night," Hoyer said in a conference call to reporters today. "There are still many people who are looking to get a comfort level that this is the right thing to do."
"We are on our path. We're very excited," she told reporters.
But the leadership needs the support of centrist Democrats, some of whom are skeptical of the bill's language on abortion and illegal immigrants.
President Obama will make a House call on Saturday to speak to Democrats and rally support for the legislation. He was originally slated to go there today but White House officials said the plan was changed because of the "events of the past few hours" and because the president "preferred to go slightly closer to the vote."
"The sales pitch is simply that we're on the cusp of the type of health care reform that this country has been talking about for decades," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters. "I anticipate that the president will lay out why he thinks health care reform is important. He'll talk about it as an economic issue. I assume he will rally the troops."
Gibbs said the president will carry with him the message of "Do this for the country. Do this for your constituents. Do this for the people that you represent."
No Republicans are expected to support the legislation, which, they still argue, amounts to a government takeover of Americans' health care system.
"Now Speaker Pelosi is pressing ahead with her $1.3 trillion government takeover of health care," Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a press conference today. "The speaker's bill includes job-killing taxes and mandates that will hurt small businesses. And for the sake of our families and small businesses, this job-killing bill needs to be defeated."
The White House would like to be able to say that any bill that reaches the president is bipartisan, but on the House side at least, the signs of that happening are non-existent. Hoyer said Republican opposition will not keep Democrats from moving health care overhaul legislation ahead.
"We simply cannot afford to act," he said.
When asked by reporters whether Obama believes there are enough votes to pass the bill, Gibbs would only say, "We're going to go up there to talk to the House about passing health care reform and believe they will do so, yes."
Gibbs added that the bill the president signs will not fund abortions and illegal immigrants through the health insurance exchanges, a concern among some Democrats.