March 16, 2010— -- Even as Democrats face increasing heat from Republicans for their health care overhaul bill, House leaders are continuing to push ahead in the hopes of passing a bill by this weekend.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi told reporters today she is waiting on numbers from the Congressional Budget Office analyzing the cost of President Obama's health care bill, which proposes "fixes" to the Senate health care bill passed on Christmas Eve. But she reiterated that Democratic leaders will continue to fight for the passage of the health care bill.
"We will do what is necessary to pass a health care bill," said Pelosi, D-Calif.
Tea party protestors gathered once again on Capitol Hill today to denounce the bill. Holding signs and chanting "Kill The Bill," the riled-up attendees took their protests into the halls of Congress, even though many lawmakers were not in their offices.
"It seems they're hiding," said Bonnie Oleksa of Plymouth, Ohio, who tried to speak to Ohio Democratic Rep. Zack Space but was not allowed to. "We spent 10 hours on a bus to talk to our representatives and I think it's a shame they don't want to hear from the people they represent, the people they work for."
Andrew Ricci, a spokesman for Space, later issued a statement to ABC News, saying that the congressman has listened to his constituents on the health-care issue but that Oleksa does not live in the area he represents.
"Congressman Space respects the level of passion on both sides of this issue and certainly welcomes the input of his constituents," Ricci said.
Congressional staffers were put on notice to expect protests in the corridors of the Capitol today as activists descended on Washington for this week's raucous final battle over health care legislation.
"You are here to say, the American people don't want a government takeover of health care," Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., told the crowd.
"Here we are, we are at the bottom of the ninth. We've won every inning so far, so that should feel pretty good," Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., told the charged crowd. "All we have to do is keep this up until Saturday. President Obama delayed his trip... so why don't we give him a farewell party when he goes to Indonesia and let him know we do not want this bill passed, we want to kill the bill."
Separately, House Republican leaders today unveiled the National Republican Congressional Committee's campaign, dubbed Code Red, targeted at wavering Democrats unsure of whether they will support the health care bill.
"We want Americans to go Code Red," House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said at a news conference today. "This is the biggest vote that most members will ever cast. You can't hide from it. And the American people will never accept some trickery to try to make this bill become law."
Interest groups on both sides have ramped up the pressure and have hit the airwaves. More than $10 million is expected to be spent on ads this week alone.
The White House has set a deadline of this weekend for the House to pass the bill, before the president departs for his international trip Sunday. But it remains unclear whether Pelosi has the votes she needs, even though she insisted Monday they will have the votes by the end of the week.
The focus among House Democratic leaders is to convince the 37 lawmakers who voted against the health care bill the first time around. So far, 21 of those members of Congress haven't changed their mind, 16 are either undecided or won't say how they are going to vote, and none have said they would vote "Yes."
If they don't get the needed votes, House Democratic leaders are looking at employing a procedural maneuver that some Republicans charge is unconstitutional.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer today defended that procedure, arguing that it has been used before by both Democrats and Republicans, and that Americans don't care about how a bill is passed but the final result.
The procedure involves allowing the House to approve the Senate version of the legisltation without technically voting on the bill itself, instead agreeing that the Senate bill would be passed once changes are made by House members.
The first time the procedure was used was March 16, 1933, on a bill to raise the government's debt limit. The procedure has been used 20 times over the last 30 years by both Democrats and Republican, often on technical or unpopular measures like raising the debt limit, but never one as big as health care reform.
"We're playing it straight," Hoyer told reporters today. "We will vote on it in one form or another."
Republicans are accusing them of using procedural tricks to ram the bill through Congress.
"Last year, they [Democrats] thought they could pass a bill without having to read it. This year they want us to pass a bill without having to vote on it," Tom Price, R-Ga., charged at a rally with other Republican lawmakers.
Bachmann said the strategy is unlikely to hold up in the legal arena.
"There will be any number of groups taking this up because this won't stand. It's so blatant on its face unconstitutional -- it doesn't have a chance for standing," Bachmann said on ABC News' "Top Line" today. "It's the 'Slaughter of the House' rule that I'm referring to -- this will not be upheld in a court because it's patently unconstitutional."
Even former President Bill Clinton jumped into the fray today. Speaking at the 25th anniversary of The Policy Impact Forum, Clinton used the discussion of helping third world countries with health services to transition into talking about the health care reform debate in Congress.
"We're [United States] really good at some things. We're great at aggressively treating cancer and being creative about it," Clinton said. "We're great at aggressively treating heart problems, otherwise someone else would be giving this speech to you right now. But we insist on spending money nobody else in the world would even think of spending money on."
Obama: We Will Get the Votes for Health Care Reform Bill
On Monday, President Obama told ABC News' Jake Tapper he is confident that there will be enough votes to pass health care legislation.
"I believe we are going to get the votes, we're going to make this happen," Obama said in the exclusive interview. Obama said Democrats continue to work to get a bill ready for a vote by the end of the week.
To members of Congress and Americans who may be afraid of this large bill, the president said there was a lot of "misinformation" about "death panels" and that this was going to be a government takeover of health care, which turned out to be false.
"What it true is that this is a philosophical disagreement because some who are opposed to this bill think that if we de-regulate the insurance companies, that that will reduce rates," Obama told ABC's Tapper. "There's no evidence that that would, in fact, happen.
"For most people who already have health insurance, they're not going to see much of a change except they'll have more protection in the insurance they already have. But for millions of Americans, they'll be in a more secure position and the federal government and state governments are going to be in a position where they are not running these huge, outside multi-billion-dollar deficits over and over again each year that add up to an unsustainable debt we'll be imposing on future generations," he said.
Obama said the bill is being planned in stages precisely to guard against unintended consequences.
"The infrastructure couldn't take it right away, which is why this is all being phased in. The question is, if we don't start now, then it won't be in place three, four, five years from now and then we'll be waiting another decade or another 15 years or another 20 years to actually take on this problem," the president told Tapper.
"This is not a problem I chose. This is a problem that is there and is affecting every aspect of American life, and if we don't tackle it now in a serious way, not only are you going to see folks like Natoma get in a tougher and tougher spot, but what you're also going to find is a federal government that can't pay its bills on Medicare and Medicaid," he said.
"You're going to see companies who are dropping health care -- and we've already seen more and more companies getting rid of their health care -- and we're going to be burdened in terms of competitiveness in a way that's going to affect our ability to grow the number of jobs that we need to give everybody a change for the American dream."
ABC News' Dean Norland and Boris Korby contributed to this report.