- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 17, 2010

President Obama on Wednesday said he’s confident Congress will approve his health-care overhaul but sidestepped questions in an interview with Fox News about the controversial process by which House Democrats plan to push it through.

“I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about what the procedural rules are in the House or the Senate. What I can tell you is that the vote that’s taken in the House will be a vote for health care reform,” Mr. Obama told Fox anchor Bret Baier. “And if people vote yes, whatever form that takes, that is going to be a vote for health care reform. And I don’t think we should pretend otherwise.”

Mr. Baier pressed the president on the use of what’s referred to as “deem and pass,” a parliamentary tactic that would allow House leaders to hold a vote on a package of fixes to the Senate’s legislation without actually voting on the underlying Senate bill, which is unpopular with several House Democrats. Republicans used it when they were in power, but talk of the process this week has sparked a fierce backlash among critics who say it has never been used on something as major as the health-care bill.

Mr. Obama sought to redirect the conversation to the impact the bill would have on families and small businesses struggling to afford insurance, shrugging off the controversy about congressional procedure.

“Washington gets very concerned about these procedural issues in Congress,” he said. “This is always an issue that’s — whether Republicans are in charge or Democrats in charge — when Republicans are in charge, Democrats constantly complain that the majority was not giving them an opportunity, et cetera.”

The president also fought back against criticism of the legislative dealmaking that went on to secure key votes in the Senate, saying he has taken out some of the more insidious sweetners, such as the special Medicaid funding for Nebraska — derided as the “Cornhusker kickback” — but defended the $300 million secured by Louisiana, which he said would help any state that suffered a natural catastrophe.

Mr. Obama also rejected criticism that the bill-writing process has not been transparent.

“This notion that this has been not transparent, that people don’t know what’s in the bill, everybody knows what’s in the bill,” he said.

As House leaders scramble for votes heading into this weekend, when Mr. Obama leaves for Indonesia, he said he’s confident the measure will pass.

“The reason I’m confident that it’s going to pass is because it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “Look, on a whole host of these measures, whether it’s health care, whether it was fixing the financial system, whether it’s making sure that we passed the Recovery Act, I knew these things might not be popular, but I was absolutely positive that they were the right thing to do and that, over time, we would be vindicated in having made those tough decisions. I think health care is exactly the same thing.”

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