With Clock Ticking Toward Saturday, House Leaders Continue Push For Health Reform Votes

The Associated Press: "Voting is set for Saturday on the 10-year, $1.2 trillion legislation that embraces Obama's goals of extending health coverage to tens of millions of uninsured Americans and putting tough new restrictions on insurance companies." The points of contention remain abortion and immigration (Werner, 11/6).

The New York Times reports that Democratic vote counters said they don't have the 218 members needed to pass the bill yet, but that they were confident they would them by the time of the vote. "Some Democrats from more conservative districts, like Representative Ike Skelton of Missouri, Representative Dan Boren of Oklahoma, Representative Jim Marshall of Georgia and Representative Bobby Bright of Alabama, made it clear they would oppose the measure. ... Several others, including Representative Jim Cooper of Tennessee and Representative Jason Altmire of Pennsylvania, remained undecided. ... 'They are trying to get you any way they can,' said Mr. Altmire, who also met for an hour on Thursday with conservative constituents who traveled to Washington to take part in the rally [against the bill]. 'I am doing the best I can against competing interests.'" (Hulse and Herszenhorn, 11/5).

The Washington Post reports that there are 25 "hard no" Democrat votes. With 258 Democrats in the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi can't lose more than 15 more and still see the bill pass, especially because there is likely to be no Republican support. "For party leaders, setting a weekend deadline for passage represented a calculated risk, one that could backfire if the vote — now expected late Saturday or Sunday — fails or must be delayed" (Murray and Montgomery, 11/6).

Politico: "The fate of the bill itself rests on the shoulders of a new generation of Democrats whose young careers will be defined, in part, by the votes they cast Saturday — votes sure to be used against many of them in 2010. But Pelosi, ever mindful of the political stakes, seems to have convinced them that there is more danger in not passing a bill after all this time, than in passing one" (O'Connor, 11/6).

Bloomberg reports that House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer Thursday "predicted the House will narrowly pass the overhaul. 'It's going to be close,' he told reporters. 'This is a huge undertaking; there are legitimate concerns'" (Rowley and Dodge, 11/6).

The Hill reports that others, however, remain confident: "'It's coming together,' said House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.), adding that scheduling the vote for Saturday night helped because, 'it's always easier to whip when people want to go home'" (Soraghan, 11/5).

Officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, in the meantime, say it's unlikely they will be done with their cost estimate of the House bill before the vote this weekend, The Hill reports in a second story. The Congressional Budget Office has already scored the bill, but Republicans are pressing for the CMS score estimate. "Regardless of what (CMS) concludes, Congress is bound by CBO estimates. However, a high CMS score could persuade some Democratic centrists to vote no" (Young and Cusack, 11/5).

The Newshour has a preview of the House activity with KHN's Mary Agnes Carey (Bowser, 11/5).

The House will meet at 9 a.m. Saturday, though a final vote on the health care reform bill isn't likely until the late afternoon, Roll Call reports (Bendery, 11/5).

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