Dems seek votes for healthcare bill

March 18, 2010 3:01:55 PM PDT
The Congressional Budget Office reported the health care bill will cost $940 billion over the next decade. That's less than the opposition to the bill had said. In addition, it could reduce the deficit by $138 trillion.

The president and Democratic leaders are hoping the CBO report is the missing piece they need to convince a House majority to get behind the healthcare reform bill.

The bill's opponents are concerned if the Democrats don't rally a majority, they'll still get their way using a parliamentary maneuver.

Chicago-area representatives face a difficult decision on the controversial issue.

Dan Miller of the Chicago-based, free market think tank called the Heartland Institute calls the pending healthcare bill, as written, a disaster waiting to happen.

"It will add enormous cost to us in our generation and to generations to come our children and grandchildren, medical procedures or doctors," said Miller.

But congressional Democrats, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and under increasing pressure from President Obama, appear poised to pass the bill by Sunday. Some two dozen wavering Democrats concerned about the measure's cost. Now have the CBO report saying the bill's price tag is not as high as Republican critics have charged.

"We have brought together the elements of healthcare reform, and now the Congressional Budget Office tells us this will be the largest reduction in the deficit of the United States of any bill that we pass," said Sen. Dick Durbin, (D) Illinois.

Of the Chicago area's House delegation, all the Republicans are opposed to the bill and want it scrapped and re-written.

"This proposal contains the same massive tax increases, Medicare cuts and government controls that the public has widely rejected in two previous forms," said Rep. Judy Biggert, (R) DuPage & Will Counties.

The 10 area Democrats are mixed with only four of them definite yes votes. Lipinski says absolutely no because the reform bill does not ban public money being used for abortions. Quigley, Bean, Foster and Halvorsen are undecided. And Gutierrez wants movement on the immigration issue before he'll sign on.

If Speaker Pelosi does not have the necessary 216 votes to pass the bill by Sunday night, she's says she's willing--and the White House agrees--to have the House rules committee 'deem' the bill already approved by the Senate, automatically passed by the House without a vote.

"Deeming a bill to have passed, yeah, that happens with some frequency in Congress, but on this bill, which accounts for 20 percent of our economy, and it's going to change how that economy runs, passing a bill on a simple majority by deeming that it passed without an up or down vote, that is totally unprecedented," said Miller.

Speaker Pelosi says she'll give House members 72 hours to read the budget office report. If she believes her Democratic caucus has the necessary 216 votes by Sunday morning, she'll call the measure for a vote.