Continued from page 1

The debate over how to reform the $2.5 trillion health care industry has taken on a deeply partisan tone for more than a year. Many of the moderate Democrats who won Republican-leaning districts on Mr. Obama’s coattails in 2008 acknowledged that their support may cost them their jobs this November as the overhaul hasn’t polled well.

Democrats say that support will shift once Americans see the plan’s benefits — the poor will get tax credits to help them meet the requirement to buy insurance coverage; their insurance company won’t be able to impose lifetime or annual caps on coverage or deny coverage because of pre-existing conditions; young adults can stay on their parents’ plan until age 26; and Medicare’s gap in drug coverage will be filled.

It’s paid for through cuts to Medicare funding, which Democrats say will only cut waste and fraud, and a new Medicare tax on unearned income, such as investment profits, of couples making over $250,000 and individuals making over $200,000.

Abortion threatened to hold up the vote until almost the last minute.

A group of about 10 pro-life Democrats said they wouldn’t vote for the Senate plan unless they had a guarantee that it wouldn’t allow for federal funding of abortions. They were concerned the bill would allow federal tax subsidies to fund insurance policies that cover the procedure and that funding for community health centers would not come with a prohibition on covering abortions.

But their objections were met with an executive order Mr. Obama issued on Sunday affirming that the bill wouldn’t do so.

Catholic groups have been divided over whether the Senate bill would authorize the federal funding of abortions, with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops staunchly opposed to the Senate plan; but others, such as a group of hundreds of nuns, endorsed the plan last week.

Catholic Advocate, a 501(c)(3) lobbying group, said Sunday that passing the Senate bill would account for one of the greatest expansions of abortion since the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling and promised to contest House members who supported it.

But the executive order was thought to be enough to push Democrats over the 216 mark required for passage. The companion reconciliation bill would remove the Senate’s tax on high-cost insurance plans, federal funding for Nebraska’s Medicaid costs and other problems House members had with the Senate plan.

The Senate is expected to start work on the bill on Tuesday.

Over the weekend, Democrats decided against using a controversial procedure, called “deem and pass,” that would have allowed both bills to pass with one vote. Republicans had called it a parliamentary trick. The vote required House members to take a bit of a leap of faith that the Senate was going to be able to deliver on the companion bill.

They now have no leverage left since the Senate bill can go to Mr. Obama’s desk and become law despite their grave misgivings about it.

Senate Democratic leaders are expected to easily come up with the 51 votes they need.

“There’s a strong desire to do what’s in that bill,” Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Michigan Democrat, told reporters last week.

But it’s a potentially difficult climb for the Senate as reconciliation rules allow Republicans to introduce an unlimited number of amendments and require each provision of the bill to affect the budget or be struck by the Senate’s nonpartisan parliamentarian.

Story Continues →