Obama Delays International Trip, Says Health Bill Is Rx for Deficit

CBO: Bill would reduce deficit by $138 billion over ten years.

ByABC News
March 10, 2010, 3:43 PM

WASHINGTON, March 18, 2010— -- President Obama again postponed a trip to Australia and Indonesia because of an expected House vote on health care reform, which Democrats now say will likely not come before Sunday afternoon.

The president was scheduled to depart for his international trip on Sunday, but the White House said the president postponed his visit "in order to remain in Washington for this critical vote, " White House Press Secretary Robert Giibs said.

"The president greatly regrets the delay," Gibbs added.

The long awaited analysis of the bill by the Congressional Budget Office was released today and predicts the legislation will reduce the deficit by $138 billion over ten years.

The controversial measure will cost $940 billion over the same ten years.

However, the CBO stated explicitly that its projections are only preliminary.

The final version of the bill was posted on line Friday afternoon, which Democrats promised to do at least 36 hours before a vote.

Obama hailed the bill this morning as the "most significant effort to reduce the deficit since the Balanced Budget Act" of the 1990's.

"This is but one virtue of a reform that will bring new accountability," Obama said while signing the jobs bill at the White House. He urged undecided members of Congress to vote for the health care bill.

Even before the nonpartisan CBO released the numbers officially, Democrats announced them earlier this morning in jubilation. The CBO's estimates are good news for House Democrats because of the deficit reduction.

The health care bill makes "fixes" to the Senate health care bill, which passed on Christmas Eve after months of debate and negotiation.

Earlier this week, Rep. James Clyburn, D-.S.C., who is in charge of marshalling votes for Democrats, said he did not yet have the votes to pass the bill. But the deficit reduction in the CBO score will help matters, Clyburn said today. Democratic leaders, he added, are "absolutely giddy" about the numbers, and he will start asking wavering members for commitments on the bill starting this evening.

"We are much closer today," he added.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, still looking for votes to pass health reform legislation in the House, said every vote is a "heavy lift."

"We have great diversity in our caucus. We don't have a rubber stamp Congress, or a rubber stamp caucus," she told reporters Thursday.

Democratic leaders say two-thirds of the costs of the bill come from savings primarily in Medicare.

Eleven GOP lawmakers who are doctors railed against Democrats' health care reform plan this afternoon, demonstrating the increasingly heated and personal rhetoric surrounding the health reform bill.

"I have three simple questions Ms. Pelosi," said Rep. Paul Broun, R-Ga., referring to the speaker of the House. "Are you so arrogant that you think you know what's best for the American people? Are you so ignorant that you are oblivious to the wishes of the American people? And are you so incompetent that you are going to ignore the Constitution of the United States, use tricks, deceptions, bald faced lies to try to ram down the throat of the American people something that they do not want and is going to be absolutely worse for their health care?"

Pelosi, D-Calif., needs 216 votes -- a majority of the House's 431 members -- to pass the Senate bill and changes to it. About 23 lawmakers are still undecided or have said they will vote "No" on the current health care bill.

Democratic leaders still do not have all the votes they need to pass the health care bill in the House, but they appear to be inching closer to that number, nabbing the votes of several key lawmakers -- Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, Rep. Dale Kildee, D-Mich., Bart Gordon, D-Tenn., and Rep. Betsy Markey, D-Co.

If they are not able to garner enough votes, Democratic leaders have hinted they may employ a parliamentary maneuver dubbed as "deem and pass."

The controversial procedure would allow House members to vote on health care changes without ever voting directly on the Senate bill. In this case, the House would vote on a "fix it" measure that would make changes to the Senate health care bill and then automatically, in the process, pass the bill without actually having to vote on it.

The procedure has been used 20 times over the last 30 years by both Democrats and Republicans, often on technical or unpopular measures like raising the debt limit, but never on one as big as health care reform.

Republicans have opposed such a measure, charging that it has never been used for a bill this size and that using it would just be a way of fooling the American public.

All 41 Republican senators have vowed to do everything in their power to kill Democrats' health care legislation and vote together against procedural motions that Democrats want to use to "fix" the health care reform bill passed Christmas Eve by the Senate.

Today, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called on undecided members of Congress to vote against the bill. "It's not too late," McConnell said at a press conference where he was joined by GOP leaders from both the House and Senate.