Chicago lawmakers undecided as health vote looms

March 20, 2010 8:46:27 PM PDT
President Obama headed to Capitol Hill Saturday, launching a final push on health care reform.A showdown is expected Sunday in the U.S. House of Representatives.

In the normally reserved halls of the nation's capitol, things got ugly Saturday. Protestors shouted gay and racial slurs at a few congressmen.

The outcome was anything but certain Saturday night, and several Chicago area Democrats were still on the fence. It appeared their votes would be key.

"After a year of debate, after every argument has been made by just about everybody, we're 24 hours away," Pres. Barack Obama said Saturday.

The health care vote could be seen as a referendum on Obama's presidency.

"I've been in your shoes," Obama told lawmakers. "I know what it's like to take a tough vote. But what did Lincoln say, 'I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true.'"

Meanwhile, outside and inside the capitol building, protestors shouted, "Kill the bill." Members of Congress came face-to-face with demonstrators who were being stoked by Republican leaders, including House Minority Leader John Boehnner, who referred to Sunday's vote as "Armageddon."

"This health care bill will ruin our country. It's time to stop it," Boehnner said.

Democrat Dan Lipinski of Chicago's Southwest Side says he will vote "no" on the proposal, out of concern federal money could end up funding abortions.

"It is certainly a very big and very important vote, and people will have to judge afterwards if I have made the right choice," he told ABC7 Chicago over the telephone.

On the Chicago area undecided list are Bill Foster, Bobby Rush and Mike Quigley.

Northwest suburban Democrat Melissa Bean got off the fence and decided to vote "yes" Saturday morning.

"We save $1.3 trillion. That's an historical federal deficit reduction, and as I said, when you can save lives and money, there's no question in my mind that that's the way you want to go," Bean said.

Stricter language on abortion is proving to be a major sticking point. Nearly 50 Democrats threaten to pull their support if language is tightened. If it's not, Obama may lose the final few pivotal votes he needs to win.

"Tomorrow will be a sad day for me as I cast a 'no' vote against something I believe we need, to prevent the expansion of abortion," said Rep. Anh "Joseph" Cao, a Louisiana Republican.

Congressman Bobby Rush's office did not return ABC7 Chicago's calls Saturday night to explain why he is undecided. Politico reports Rush -- who is the only person to beat Barack Obama in an election -- is upset the Senate bill does not include a plan to provide prescription drugs at discount prices to poor patients in hospitals.

The health care vote is expected toward the end of the day Sunday. As of 10 p.m. Saturday, neither side had the necessary 216 votes.