The final push: Tracking the health-care bill
Though some elements of Democrats' procedural strategy have yet to be decided, the majority's basic plan is clear: The House will approve the bill that was passed by the Senate in December and will vote on a package of amendments (known as the reconciliation bill) that would then need to be passed by the Senate. Here's what has happened so far, and what you can expect:
Click on each day to see that day's summary
The House Budget Committee voted 21 to 16 to send reconciliation legislation to the House Rules Committee. The bill approved by the budget panel is known as a "shell bill" and does not include the actual fixes the Democrats want to make to the Senate bill. The contents of the shell bill will be deleted and replaced with the guts of a new bill written by the Rules Committee, which must wait at least two days before it takes up the measure.
A day of waiting and review as the the House Rules Committee must wait until at least Thursday before taking up the measure sent by the Budget Committee. Congressional Democrats also faced a new snag as the final piece of the health-care package was held up by concerns that it would do too little to reduce the nationís budget deficit. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Tuesday afternoon that Democrats were still waiting for congressional budget analysts to determine whether the package -- which contains an array of amendments to the health-care bill aimed at winning over wavering House Democrats -- will meet the partyís deficit-reduction goals.
Democrats had hoped to unveil their final reconciliation health-care package and clear the way for a vote this weekend. But the Congressional Budget Office did not release its report on the legislation's budgetary impact during the day on Wednesday, and late Wednesday night it appeared that the CBO would not unveil its findings until Thursday morning at the earliest.
Meanwhile, as House Democrats searched for the votes to send the bill to President Obama, dozens of Republican lawmakers and candidates signed a pledge to back an effort to repeal the bill, should the GOP take control of either house of Congress after this fall's elections.
Kucinich says "yes": Facing pressure from both President Obama and liberal groups, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), who had been a stalwart "no" vote on health-care reform, announced Wednesday morning he would back the health-care bill. "I know I have to make a decision, not on the bill as I would like to see, it but on the bill as it is," the longtime congressman said in a 30-minute press conference on Capitol Hill where he detailed his vote change. "I have doubts about this bill," he said. "...This is not the bill I wanted to support."
"However, after careful discussions with President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, my wife Elizabeth and close friends, I have decided to cast a vote in favor of the legislation," he said.
It was a big day for Democrats. The Congressional Budget Office released its report on the health bill's impact on the federal budget, projecting savings of more than $130 billion over 10 years. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs announced that President Obama had postponed his trip to Indnoesia and Australia in order to be in Washington D.C. as the health-care debate wraps up. The House Rules committee posted the reconciliation bill that would add a package of "fixes" to the Senate bill and House Democrats defeated a Republican resolution (not once, but twice) that would have forced an "up-or-down" vote on the Senate health-reform bill.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) announced the House would convene on Sunday at 1 p.m. with a vote coming not expected until at least 2 p.m.
This should be a day of lobbying and review. The final 48 hours before this vote is known as the "whip count," in which Democratic leaders send around a one-page sheet to each of the 253 Democrats asking where they stand on the issue. Those remaining undecided votes will get calls from President Obama and his Cabinet secretaries, and will have meetings with the House leadership.
Though it is expected that the House will use the "deem and pass" rule to pass both the reconciliation bill and the Senate's health bill at the same time, the House Rules Committee still has to formally decide how the full vote or votes will proceed:
Option 1: The House votes on the original Senate bill and then votes on the reconciliation bill separately.
Option 2: The House would "deem" the original Senate bill passed after the House votes on the rule for debate. In other words, the House could pass the original Senate bill without lawmakers actually taking a stand-alone vote on the question. They would only have to pass the reconciliation measure.
Assuming no unforseen issues arise, the House would vote in one of two ways, depending on which option the Rules Committee chooses.
If the Senate bill passes the House (or is "deemed" passed by the House): Then the bill will go to President Obama for his signature, regardless of what happens with the reconciliation bill.
If the reconciliation measure passes the House: Then it goes to the Senate for a vote as early as next week. The Senate could pass the reconciliation bill as is, or it could amend the measure and send it back to the House.
By Ben Pershing and Kenneth W. Smith Jr. -- The Washington Post