Got Votes? House Will Try To Pass Health Overhaul

Lawmakers in the House of Representatives are headed toward a historic vote on health care at the end of this week. So far, it's a nail biter. The House needs 216 votes to approve the Senate bill, and analysts say Democratic leaders seem to have about 200. All Republicans are expected to vote against it.

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Im Linda Wertheimer, in for Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And Im Renee Montagne.

In Congress, a historic vote on health care is headed for the House floor late this week, and so far the fix is not in. The House needs 216 votes to pass the Senate bill. Analysts and lobbyists estimate House leaders have about 200 yes votes so far, not quite enough to pass.

NPR congressional correspondent, Andrea Seabrook, joins us now to parse those numbers.

And, Andrea, remind us about the process. I mean the House has to pass the Senate bill, but the house dislikes the Senate bill.

ANDREA SEABROOK: Yes, I would say hates, Renee, they hate the Senate bill for all sorts of reasons. It's got abortion language that is not strong enough for some pro life Democrats in the House. It's got immigration provisions that Latino lawmakers hate. And it doesnt have the public option that's the thing that many more progressive members wanted to substitute for a broader single-payer system.

So, really there are a lot of people in the House who do not want to vote for the Senate bill. They're going to have to, anyway. They'll do it with this crazy process called deeming. If you thought reconciliation was a crazy word deeming, the House will vote. This is likely, anyway the House will vote for the Senate bill as they vote for the changes to the Senate bill, basically at the same time. And it's likely to happen Friday.

MONTAGNE: Okay, so what will it take for the House to pass the Senate bill? I mean who's on board, who isn't?

SEABROOK: Well, let's start with the Republicans. That's easy, they're all voting no even the one Republican who voted yes last time. At least that's what we expect at this point. Um, on the Democrats, it's much more complicated. On your left, you have the single-payer people, your Dennis Kucinichs. These are the people who would like to vote for the bill, but it doesnt do enough not big enough.

President Obama, by the way, is courting Dennis Kucinich, flying him around on Air Force One yesterday, trying to get his vote.

You also have the Hispanic Caucus, threatening to vote no against the Senate bill because of its immigration language. They're not likely to kill the bill, though. We'll see what happens there.

On abortion, you have the conservatives that are loyal to Michigan Democrat, Bart Stupak. They voted yes, last time, on the House bill, but they hate the Senate bill because it has, as they see, less strict abortion language.

And really, the biggest constituency among those maybe votes, at this point freshman. We're talking about people who were elected on the coattails of President Obama, who are in relatively conservative districts. They would like to not vote for this bill. On the other hand, they were elected, in part, because of President Obama and Rahm Emanuel, and they have a tough vote to take here.

MONTAGNE: So, in a nutshell, Okay, what happens this week? And may I just ask, if the votes don't come together, what then?

SEABROOK: Well, first of all, there is a kind of pressure that happens in the final week of a huge bill like this. I mean, it's like a giant pressure cooker lid is clamped on to the Capitol, and votes tend to either jell or come together in the last 12 hours, five hours, even on the floor of the House of Representatives as the vote is going on. So, that could happen this week. If you like watching Congress at all, this is the week to do it. It's fascinating. If it doesn't come together, then this would be a terrible blow to the president, to the Democrats. Really, this has to happen for anything else to happen at this point. It's the endgame for health care is what it is. If it doesn't happen, then nothing can move forward if it doesn't happen in the House this week. If it does happen, it's likely to pass. So really, the House vote you want to watch. It's really the big one.

MONTAGNE: Andrea, thanks very much.

SEABROOK: My pleasure, Renee.

MONTAGNE: NPR congressional correspondent, Andrea Seabrook.

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