House Heads Toward Health Care Vote
President Obama and Republicans Are Ramping Up the Pressure
By DAVID KERLEY
WASHINGTON, March 14, 2010
With the climax just days away, Democrats admit they still don't have the votes for health care reform.
Yet at the same time, they are expressing confidence they will have enough votes in the House, where 216 must vote to pass the Senate health care reform bill passed late last year with some changes. The Senate Democrats would then try to approve that version through a parliamentary move known as reconciliation, which only requires 51 votes.
"I am confident there will be a majority," said Maryland Democrat Rep. Chris Van Hollen, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, on "Fox News Sunday."
Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin went further.
"We are going to pass it," he said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
However, the White House is still turning up the heat on Democrats who are unsure.
"Lobbyists from the insurance industry [are] descending on Capitol Hill like locusts and trying to pressure people to vote against this bill," presidential senior adviser David Axelrod said on ABC's "This Week."
Republicans hope to increase that pressure.
"The American people are getting tired of this crap," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said on ABC.
He also issued a warning if reconciliation is used. "There will be a price to be paid to jam a bill through. The American people don't like using a sleazy process," Graham said.
"This is the most brazen act of political arrogance that I can remember since the Watergate years. Not in terms of breaking the law, but in terms of thumbing your nose at the American people," Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said on CBS.
To retain votes in the Senate, the White House is now backing away from its ban on special deals for individual states, which was a promise the president made after the "Cornhusker Kickback" was revealed -- giving Nebraska extra Medicaid money to win Sen. Ben Nelson's vote.
President Obama Backtracks on Banning Special Deals
Now, White House aides say deals such as in Nebraska will be allowed if they benefit more than one state.
It's a sign of the extremely high stakes for Obama's presidency.
"If he loses, it's a question of failed leadership," said presidential scholar Al Felzenberg. "Can the Democratic Party govern and why should they ask for another chance again?"
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., pushed back after President Obama called for a March 18 vote in the House, saying House Democrats would vote for a bill when they were ready. But the president has even postponed his trip to Indonesia to make sure a vote happens this week.
"It's going to be one wild week to watch it," said Karl Rove, a republican strategist.
Tomorrow President Obama heads to Ohio to highlight the plight of a woman who gave up health insurance to save her house and is now ill. Democrats claim that by this time next week, stories like that will be history.
ABC News' Kristina Wong contributed to this report.