Washington Report

Updates from Capitol Hill

House Set to Vote on Healthcare Bill Saturday

healthcareDespite rumors that Democrats may not yet have the 218 votes needed to pass an historic healthcare reform bill this weekend, floor debate on the bill will begin in earnest on Saturday. A vote is scheduled to take place Saturday evening, but House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland has hinted that a vote could be postponed until Sunday or even later due to Republican delay tactics or insufficient Democratic support.

Language over funding for abortion services continues to present the most serious problem, followed by lingering concerns over illegal immigrants’ access to healthcare. But Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland) says such debates may add to the suspense, “In the end I can’t imagine that Democrats will let this bill fail. The bill’s going to pass in the House–period.”

This is the closest Congress has come to overhauling the nation’s healthcare system since it first started trying 60 years ago. On Thursday, several large interest groups such as AARP, the American Medical Association, the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network, and the Association for Community Affiliated Plans, endorsed the House bill.
President Barack Obama plans to meet with the Democratic caucus Saturday, which Cummings says could go a long way in persuading anyone who may still have reservations. Some of the bill’s provisions, such as the public option, may not be as robust as some lawmakers would like, he added, but the measure includes other very significant provisions to expand coverage, cap deductibles and copayments, prevent insurance companies from raising premiums or dropping policyholders if they become ill, among others.

“We’ve come too far for this bill to not pass,” Cummings says. “He will say we’re on the one-yard line and no one else in history has gotten past the 50-yard line. We have to go over.”

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