Policy-ish

Kucinich Concedes He's A Yes On Health Bill

In a bit of a stemwinder this morning, Democrat Dennis Kucinich of Ohio ended our suspense and announced that he will vote for President Obama's health care plan. Now Democrats have only a dozen or so more votes to turn by the end of the week to get their bill passed, depending on who's counting.

Dennis Kucinich on March 15, 2010. i i

Was it an Air Force One ride that made Kucinich switch? AP Photo/Cliff Owen hide caption

itoggle caption AP Photo/Cliff Owen
Dennis Kucinich on March 15, 2010.

Was it an Air Force One ride that made Kucinich switch?

AP Photo/Cliff Owen

"I have doubts about the bill. I do not think it's a step toward anything I've supported in the past... However, after careful discussion with President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, my wife Elizabeth and close friends, I've decided to cast a vote for the legislation," the progressive congressman said in a press conference. It's unclear if his declaration brings any more liberals with him.

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Kucinich assured reporters his turnabout was not due to any Cornhusker-type deal, and he made a joking reference to flying on Air Force One without a parachute, but it's clear: The picking off of fencesitters, one by one, is beginning in earnest as the administration makes its final health care push.

Kucinich says he still supports the public option, as do a number of other liberals, although it's highly unlikely Democrats will be able to or have the desire to revise the bill once again.

Opponents of the health bill are using the discussion of a House rules procedure known as "deeming" to demonize the bill. Sound familiar? "Deeming" is a quirky process to prevent the House from holding a separate vote on the Senate health bill so many of them find lacking and move the process forward more quickly. It's been used dozens of times by both parties, but to many people, it just sounds like more ugly Washington wrangling.

Meanwhile, Democrats are trying desperately to turn the discussion back to what the bill would do. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, at an Aging in America conference in Chicago today, listed the handful of items that would kick in quickly if the bill is passed, including the creation of a high risk pool to help those with pre-existing conditions, and a plan to keep twentysomethings on their parents'health plans longer.

Sebelius railed against the bill opponents' strategy of scaring seniors about cuts to Medicare, but acknowledged that the Administration could have been making better arguments.

"I do think that we probably should have been more aggressive in not only talking about what's in the package for seniors — and it's everything from closing the doughnut hole to eliminating co-pays for preventive care, which I think are good health strategies — but also, with the passage of comprehensive health reform, the Medicare trust fund gets an additional decade of life."

(Hat tip to Peggy Girshman of Kaiser Health News, who filled us in on the meeting)

Coming up later this week, maybe even today, House leaders are hoping Congressional Budget Office OK's its compromise bill that would make changes to the Senate bill — there's been a bit of back and forth here. It's not unlike telling the taxman how much you want in your refund and then going back to fix the return accordingly. Changes expected include more generous subsidies for middle class people to buy insurance and a new tax on investment income to help pay for it.

If they get that OK, the compromise bill and the Senate bill will get married up by the House Rules Committee and eventually come to a floor vote late in the week. Then it's back to the Senate for another round.

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