Health Care Drama Reaches Fever Pitch

Republican Rep. Jack Kingston of Georgia, speaks to people demonstrating against the health care bill on the U.S. Capitol steps Saturday.
Republican Rep. Jack Kingston of Georgia, speaks to people demonstrating against the health care bill on the U.S. Capitol steps Saturday. AP Photo

Despite the protests raging in and around the Capitol, at least 216 members of the House of Representatives are predicted to cast votes of "yea" on the health care bill today, finally passing a history-making overhaul package. That is, if all goes according to the Democrats' plan.

Today, at least 216 members of the House of Representatives will cast votes of "yea" on the health care bill, finally passing a history-making overhaul package — that is, if all goes according to the Democrats' plan.

There is one thing Democrats, Republicans, the president and even the demonstrators outside the Capitol agree on: Democrats in conservative districts who vote for this health care bill may lose their jobs.

That's why it's been so hard for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to muster the votes she needs to pass it, and why she implored House Democrats on Saturday to show courage in their voting.

"We are on the verge of making great history for the American people," she said, "and in doing so, we will make great progress for them as well."

Democrats Rally, Opponents Rage

Democrats rallied their caucus with President Obama in the lead Saturday. He sparked standing ovations for Colorado's Betsy Markey and Ohio's John Boccieri — both moderate Democrats who have decided to support the bill. And he acknowledged outright the risk they take by voting for it.

"I can't guarantee this is good politics," he said. "Every one of you know your districts better than I do. You talk to folks, you're under enormous pressure, you're getting 'robo-calls,' you're getting e-mails that are tying up the communications system."

But, Obama said, he is convinced that if the bill passes, Americans will realize that this is not a government takeover of health care, as Republicans charge.

"It'll turn out that this piece of historic legislation is built on the private insurance system we have now and runs straight down the center of American political thought," he said.

Meanwhile, Republicans have not let their energy flag. Inside the Capitol, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor repeated Republicans' plans.

"There are many other swing districts on the Democratic aisle that are in play," Cantor said. "We are fighting hard to make sure we are doing everything we can to fight this bill."

Outside the Capitol, a few hundred Tea Party protesters chanted their familiar refrain, "Kill the bill," while vowing to work against any moderate Democrat who votes for the bill.

What You'll See Today

Democratic leaders will open the House floor in the early afternoon. Two votes are expected. One vote is on the Senate health care bill, and another on the reconciliation bill — that's the package of changes Democrats want to attach to the Senate health care bill.

But anything could change at any moment — a fact President Obama acknowledged Saturday.

"It is in your hands," he charged Democrats. "It is time to pass health care reform for America, and I am confident that you are going to do it tomorrow. Thank you very much, House of Representatives. Let's get this done!"

Copyright 2010 National Public Radio.

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