STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
That is just one news development we're waiting for on a pretty dramatic day. The other is in the House of Representatives which is debating the Republican bill to repeal and replace key parts of the Affordable Care Act. This is a very similar bill to the one that was pulled from the House floor just over a month ago when it was clear Republicans didn't have the votes. Now they are about to try again. NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis is at the Capitol. Hi, Sue.
SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: Hey, Steve.
INSKEEP: So do they have the votes this time?
DAVIS: They believe they do. House Republicans met this morning in the basement of the Capitol. I talked to several of them coming out of that meeting, and they're positive. They're feeling confident. And as more than one member said to me, the feeling inside the room was this is our moment, this is our time, this is something that we've been campaigning on for the past seven years. And if we don't do it now, it's never going to happen.
INSKEEP: What changed between the last time when they didn't have the votes and now?
DAVIS: They've made a couple of fundamental changes to the bill which brought on a combination of conservative and moderate members who both were skeptical about it. Essentially, those changes will give states an option or an avenue to opt out of some of the Affordable Care Act mandates including mandates on what insurance companies have to cover. And then it will also provide more money to states to make sure that they can help pay for sick people who might face higher premiums because of those changes.
INSKEEP: So they've continued tweaking the bill trying to get just enough votes. What are you hearing specifically from some of the lawmakers you've been talking with and watching this morning?
DAVIS: Steve, you'd love it up here today. It's one of those days where most of the members are on the floor. They're actually really engaged in the debate. And because health care is such a polarized issue, there's a lot of really impassioned debate. I want to play some of that sound for you. James McGovern is a Democrat from Massachusetts, and he was on the floor making the case for why they should vote against the bill. This is what he had to say.
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JAMES MCGOVERN: Any kind of health care bill that came to this floor ought to be about expanding coverage and lowering cost. We want to work with you on that. And instead, you come to a bill that's going to rip health care away from tens of millions of people. How can you do this? How can you do this to the American people? How can you do this to your constituents? This is a terrible, terrible bill. You should vote no on it or better yet pull it.
DAVIS: And, you know, Republicans were meeting that with the same amount of enthusiasm. They're sort of pumped up right now coming out of this meeting. There's sort of a group sort of pep rally going on on the Republican side. And here's a good example of that. This is Doug Collins. He's a Republican from Georgia making the case for the bill and against President Obama's health care law.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
DOUG COLLINS: If we want to talk about misleading the American people, it started seven years ago, and it ends today. It ends today. The American people deserve better. They've been thrown under the bus for seven years. They deserve an insurance market that is open, that is accessible, that does cover pre-existing conditions. If you want the deception, follow the other side. You want the truth? Follow this side.
DAVIS: Now, of course, this does not end today. This is just a bill. They are not passing a law. It still has quite a ways to go, and it heads - if they pass it this afternoon - over to the Senate where big changes to the bill are likely.
INSKEEP: Very briefly - two quick fact-checks on things we just heard. We heard a Republican say that this bill does cover people with pre-existing conditions. True?
DAVIS: They say it does. It creates a new mechanism by which they can get covered, but that is a matter of deep debate. And because we don't fully understand the implications of this bill, it's hard to give that a hard fact-check right now.
INSKEEP: OK. And then there's Democrat McGovern saying that this is going to rip health care away from tens of millions of people. I know the Congressional Budget Office said that of the older version of this bill. Is it known if this bill would do the same?
DAVIS: The - it is estimated that less people will be insured, but Republicans say that that's because they're getting rid of the individual mandate. And that's part of the philosophical debate here. The Republican Party with this bill is saying it is not the government's job to insure you. It is your job to decide for yourself whether or not you want to have health insurance, and that is the fundamental philosophical question at hand.
INSKEEP: OK, a dramatic and potentially historic day on Capitol Hill, and NPR's Susan Davis is there to watch it. Sue, thanks very much.
DAVIS: You bet.
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