House, Senate Close to Deal on Final Health Care Bill, Passing it a Question

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 15, 2010   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

House, Senate Close to Deal on Final Health Care Bill, Passing it a Question

by Steven Ertelt Editor
January 15
, 2010

Washington, DC ( — Democrats who run the House and Senate are reportedly very close to a deal to finalize the language of the health care bill that is expected to contain massive abortion funding. The question would then become whether they have the votes to get it through both chambers.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said today that, after consultation with pro-abortion President Barack Obama, Democrats are "very close" to a final deal on the government-run health care bill.

Hoyer, in an interview with CNBC, said he thought a final bill would be crafted in the next few days: "I would certainly hope that within the next 24, 48, 72 hours, that we have a general agreement between the Senate and the House."

But, he told Reuters it could be as early as today: "My expectation is that we will be getting very close today. Now, whether it’s at noon time or later, I don’t want to speculate."

The question for the pro-life movement is whether predictions that the final bill will contain the Senate’s language containing massive abortion funding and other pro-abortion threats, or if it will retain the Stupak amendment that bans abortion funding.

The announcement comes after Democrats were criticized for offering unions major financial incentives and exceptions to get their support for the legislation.

Once a bill is produced, it will need 60 votes in the Senate and a majority vote in the House and there is a real question about whether Democrats have the votes. Abortion funding may very well determine the outcome of the bill.

Fred Barnes, a pro-life columnist for the Weekly Standard, makes the case that Democrats will not be able to get the needed votes.

"Obamacare is in trouble in the House. Passage of whatever compromise health care bill is agreed on by White House, Senate, and House negotiators had been taken for granted in the House – until now," he writes.

"House Speaker Nancy Pelosi finds herself in a precarious position. She cannot afford to lose a single Democratic defector. She’s already missing two of the 220 votes for Obamacare in November. Democrat Robert Wexler resigned two weeks ago and Anh (Joseph) Cao, the lone Republican to vote for Obamacare, is expected by Republican leaders to vote no this time," he explains. "That leaves Pelosi with 218 votes. If she loses one more vote, the compromise bill could fail."

The one vote could easily come from Rep. Bart Stupak and his group of 10-12 pro-life Democrats who say they will change their vote from yes to no if the final version of the health care bill contains abortion funding.

Barnes says that group of 10-12 are part of a larger group of 39 total Democrats who may possibly change their vote from yes to no on final passage and who are on the receiving end of major lobbying efforts from pro-life groups and Republicans.

‘The task of persuading potential switchers may not be all that difficult. Obamacare, according to every national survey, is deeply unpopular. Only roughly one-third of Americans favor it," he says.

The Senate could also come into play, especially depending on the results of the special election in Massachusetts.

"And if Republican Scott Brown wins the special election in Massachusetts next week to succeed the late Teddy Kennedy in the Senate, that will make Democrats all the more leery of bucking public opinion and voting for Obamacare. Brown has made opposition to Obamacare the centerpiece of his campaign," Barnes writes. "Obamacare isn’t a done deal yet."

On the other side of the coin, some moderate Democrats who voted no in the House on the health care bill may change their votes to yes.

The Hill, a Congressional newspaper, reports that "Some centrist Democrats who voted against the House healthcare reform legislation say they may vote yes on the final bill if it closely mirrors the Senate-passed measure" because the Senate bill wasn’t quite as left-wing as the House version as it did not contain the public option.

"Most of us, if not all of us, who voted no but issued pretty moderated statements leaving open the door to voting yes, are waiting to see what the final product is, so that we can get the budget analysis of what’s been negotiated," one Democrat who voted no told the publication.

Science Committee Chairman Bart Gordon, a Tennessee Democrat, is another member who says he may change his vote from no to yes.

"I think a number of people might still be in play, myself included," said Rep. Brian Baird of Washington state.

Some who favor killing the pro-abortion health care bill say the lack of a public option could cause liberal House members to vote no, but most, if not all, will likely stay in line with Democratic leaders to get the bill approved.

The questionable outcome, pro-life advocates say, puts more pressure on pro-life people to continue calling and emailing their lawmakers to urge a no vote.

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