- The Washington Times - Friday, March 19, 2010

UPDATED:

House Democratic leaders Friday picked up a significant “yes” vote from a former opponent of President Obama’s health care overhaul plan as they close in on a make-or-break Sunday vote.

Rep. John Boccieri, a pro-life Ohio Democrat who opposed the bill last year, said he would support the plan to prove what he believes in.

Public polls show that the plan lacks popular support, making the freshman lawmaker’s decision a political risky one in a close swing district. He won the seat in 2008 after a Republican held it for more than 30 years.

“A lot of people are telling me this decision could cost me my job,” Mr. Boccieri said.

TWT RELATED STORY: Democrats make final push on health care

He said he wanted to prove to Natoma Canfield — a cancer patient and constituent whose plight Mr. Obama highlighted on a trip to Ohio earlier this week — and his mother, a cancer survivor, that he can stand up for what he believes.

“My mother said, ‘Don’t tell me what you believe in. Show me what you’ve done and I’ll tell you what you believe in,’ ” Mr. Boccieri said at Capitol Hill press conference that included constituents talking about their struggling with such health issues as autism and a heart attack without insurance.

Mr. Boccieri became the fourth Democrat who voted against the House’s bill in November to publicly flip in support of the bill.

Later Friday, Joe Courtney, Connecticut Democrat, said he would vote for the plan following recent changes — including closing the coverage gap in Medicare prescription insurance known as the “donut hole.”

“It was a fair compromise,” he said. “I think we’ve struck that balance.”

The House is scheduled to vote Sunday on the overhaul plan, the Senate’s version of the health bill and a group of repairs, as Democrat leaders work furiously in the final hours trying to persuade roughly 30 undecided members to vote yes and get the minimum 216 votes.

“I am very excited about the momentum building around the entire bill,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, at a press conference after Mr. Boccieri’s.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, said Friday “were going to have the votes.”

However, no Republican has publicly supported the legislation and it remain unclear whether Democrats will have the votes.

Mr. Boccieri had faced enormous lobbying on the issue beyond the president’s visit, with numerous ads funded by labor unions and other groups airing in his district.

His announcement followed House leaders saying Thursday their overhaul plan will cost $940 billion, under the trillion dollar threshold.

“If we can spend a trillion dollars on wars, then we can find the money to reform the health care system,” Mr. Boccieri said.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimated Thursday the bill will reduce the deficit by $138 billion over 10 years and extend insurance coverage to 32 million more Americans.

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