CBO Figures Show Health Care Bill Would Cut Deficit
LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Im Linda Wertheimer.
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
And Im Renee Montagne.
On Capitol Hill, the tension is high and the stakes are even higher, as Republicans and Democrats near the decisive moment of the health care battle. The language of the final bill was released yesterday, along with numbers that showed it cost $940 billion over 10 years, but at the same time reduce the federal deficit.
NPR's Andrea Seabrook has more on the health care end game.
ANDREA SEABROOK: If these are the last days of the epic health care debate, theyll be remembered here in the Capitol for the unbelievable pressure everyone is under. Democrats are clamping down on their members, pushing, pushing toward a final vote. Republicans issue increasingly dire warnings of the disaster this health care bill will be. And journalists run from press conference to stakeout, trying to follow the debate as it grinds toward a weekend vote.
The release of the final bill yesterday answered a lot of pressing questions. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office rated its impact on the federal budget, a big issue for fiscally conservative Democrats. It came in under a trillion dollars at $940 billion. And better news, said House majority leader Steny Hoyer, was that it will reduce the budget deficit by $138 billion in the next decade.
Representative STENY HOYER (D-MD, Majority Leader): This bill is the biggest deficit reduction bill that any member of Congress is going to have the opportunity to vote on.
SEABROOK: The bill would help 32 million people who currently have no health insurance at all get covered. And it would enact new regulations on insurance companies, ending some of the most loathed practices, like denying and cancelling coverage because of previous medical conditions.
House speaker Nancy Pelosi had great praise for the final bill and for her fellow Democrats, even as she scrapes and scrounges for the 216 votes needed to pass the legislation. She said what may look like weakness is actually strength, a great diversity among Democrats.
Representative NANCY PELOSI (D-CA, House Speaker): We dont have a rubber stamp Congress or a rubber stamp caucus.
SEABROOK: And Pelosi racked up several more yay-votes yesterday, notably Illinois Democrat Luis Gutierrez. He had threatened to vote against the bill because it bars undocumented workers from buying health insurance with their own money.
Representative LUIS GUTIERREZ (Democrat, Illinois): After extensive discussions with the president, I believe we have a health care bill I can vote yes for.
SEABROOK: Gutierrez says the president will work with him toward larger immigration reform. And with that, the entire Congressional Hispanic Caucus will support the bill.
At the same time, Republican leaders amped up their energy in opposition to the bill. Almost constant emails from various groups flew through cyberspace, suggesting that government is taking over health care and the process Democrats are using to pass the bill is fraudulent.
All House and Senate Republicans gathered in the House chamber to strategize. Senate leader Mitch McConnell and House leader John Boehner said they're working hard together.
Representative JOHN BOEHNER (R-Ohio, Minority Leader): And we're going to continue to work closer together, and to do everything that we can do to make sure that this bill never ever, ever passes.
SEABROOK: House Republican Whip, Eric Cantor, took to the floor with a privileged resolution, saying that by lumping votes on the health care bill together, the Democratic leadership is willfully abusing its power.
Representative ERIC CANTOR (Republican, Virginia): To obfuscate what the House will vote on in an illegitimate effort to confuse the public, and thereby fraudulently insulate certain representatives from accountability for their conduct of their offices.
SEABROOK: Cantor's motion was defeated by a mostly partly line vote.
As the debate draws to a close, speaker Nancy Pelosi praised Democrats for maneuvering through the complications.
Rep. PELOSI: We are grateful to our chairman. We are grateful to the president of the United States for getting us to this historic place, which will sit comfortably with Social Security and Medicare - health care for all Americans as a great progress. As the president has said, we will measure our success by the progress being made by the American people.
SEABROOK: And finally, at the end of the day, Democrats announced their next steps. They're giving everyone three days to read the bill online and make a decision. The House will be in session tomorrow with a series of mundane votes, more important for keeping lawmakers in town than for their legal effect.
And then Sunday, the House chamber will open at 1:00 local time, with a last debate and vote on the health care bill. At least thats the plan.
Andrea Seabrook, NPR News, the Capitol.
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