Democrats make final push on health care

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But fearing backlash that lawmakers from other states have faced, Mr. Conrad on Thursday asked for the carveout to be removed.

“The fact is the Bank of North Dakota is a unique entity - it is the only state-owned bank in the nation,” he said in a statement, citing the bank’s low default average compared to the rest of the country. “But often, facts are the first victim in an overly heated partisan environment. And rather than see the excellent reputation of the Bank of North Dakota damaged, I have asked to have the provision removed.”

But top House Democrats say they expect the reconciliation bill to help push fence-sitting rank-and-file members into the “aye” column.

“I think Democrats, particularly some of the conservative Democrats concerned about the cost of this bill, are pleasantly surprised at the CBO estimates,” said Rep. Henry A. Waxman of California, chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee.

Others have concerns that the bill would allow for federal funding of abortions. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, Ohio Democrat, said she is trying to talk leaders into holding a separate vote to prevent federal funding of abortions in the bill. Leadership says the bill wouldn’t allow it.

But not even all the liberal members are on board yet. Rep. Stephen F. Lynch, Massachusetts Democrat, said Thursday that he’s not entirely sold on the plan, which he said doesn’t do nearly enough to change the health system.

“I just think it’s a very poor bill,” he told reporters.

It’s unclear how close Democrats are to the 216 they need as several members who previously voted for the House’s bill are now calling themselves undecided. Three of the 39 Democrats who voted against the House bill - Mr. Gordon, Ohio Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich and Colorado Rep. Betsy Markey - said publicly this week that they plan to vote for the Senate bill.

“If I and each of my 534 colleagues in Congress had been able to write our own health reform packages, we would be looking at 535 different bills today,” Mr. Gordon, who is retiring at the end of this term, said in a statement Thursday. “In the end, the question I’m faced with is this: will this reform be better for Middle Tennessee than the status quo? I think it will.”

The House is expected to vote Sunday on the bills. On Saturday, a House committee is expected to decide whether or not to essentially tie the Senate bill and the reconciliation bill together, allowing members to vote only indirectly on the Senate plan that few of them like.

House Democrats crafted the reconciliation bill with hopes that it survives the complicated reconciliation process in the Senate. Each provision of the bill must be related to the budget or risk being deleted by the Senate’s parliamentarian and Democrats don’t have enough members to override those decisions.

Mr. Obama had hoped to create a new regulatory authority to oversee insurance premiums in the reconciliation bill but it wasn’t included over concern that it would be taken out.

Also left out was a Republican proposal to establish undercover Medicare investigators to combat fraud. The idea came from Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and held up by Mr. Obama as a sign that he was open to Republican ideas.

If the reconciliation bill changes at all, it has to be voted upon in the House again, which is likely to be difficult.

Senate Republicans plan to challenge as many provisions as they can and are already eyeing changes to the tax on high-cost insurance plans that they say would impact Social Security, a violation of the reconciliation rules.

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