Representative James Clyburn, the Democrats' chief head-counter in the House, says that the there are not yet the 216 votes required to pass the Senate's health-care bill, but the White House remains optimistic that the votes will appear this week. Meanwhile Representative John Boehner, the House minority leader, has vowed to do "everything we can to make it difficult for them, if not impossible, to pass the bill," taking aim at Democrats who are up for reelection.
The Democrats' strategy calls for the House to pass the Senate version of reform, followed by consideration of a package of fixes to that legislation known as a reconciliation bill. The fixes must meet specific budget requirements allowing it to be approved in the Senate with a simple majority vote. The approach avoids having to muster 60 votes to overcome a threatened GOP filibuster; Democrats control 59 seats.
The reconciliation package will aim to remove special deals included in the Senate's bill that benefit only one state, like Nebraska's "Cornhusker Kickback," which would keep the state from paying its share of the Medicaid expansion.
That means that deals sought by senators from Montana and Connecticut would be fine — even though Gibbs last week singled them out as items Obama wanted removed. There was resistance, however, from two powerful committee chairman, Democratic Sens. Max Baucus of Montana and Chris Dodd of Connecticut, and the White House has apparently backed down.
President Obama delayed a scheduled trip to Asia in order to stay behind and help gather votes in the House. The president will travel to Ohio on Monday to spend time with Natoma Canfield, a cancer patient who had to choose between keeping her health insurance and keeping her house. According to Robert Gibbs, she chose the house.