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Obama gives Democrats pep talk on eve of health vote

2010-03-21 06:36:00 GMT2010-03-21 14:36:00 (Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

A woman listens to U.S. President Barack Obama deliver remarks on health insurance reform at St. Charles High School in St. Louis, Missouri, March 10, 2010. (Xinhua/Reuters File Photo)

WASHINGTON, March 20 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama Saturday gave congressional Democrats a pep talk before a make-or- break vote Sunday on health insurance reform on the floor of House of Representatives, urging them to pass the reform.

As Democrats say they have the 216 "yes" votes to pass the bill, Obama made the trip from the White House to the Capitol Hill down Pennsylvania Avenue on Saturday afternoon, rallying House Democrats to the party line.

Calling the reform "the single most important step that we have taken on health care since Medicare," which was introduced in 1965, Obama called for Democrats to "get this done."

Admitting the process has been "a difficult process," Obama said, "it is time to pass health care reform for America, and I am confident that you are going to do it tomorrow."

The bill seemed to be hanging by a thread just days ago, with politically vulnerable Democrats worrying about its potential damage to their re-election later this year. But as Democratic leaders worked the rank-and-file, and Obama weighed in personally, the balance has been shifting to his side in the past few days.

Steny Hoyer, House Majority Leader, said Saturday they have enough votes to carry the bill Sunday, and Democrats decided not to use a controversial procedure which would not require members of the House to be associated with unwanted portions of the bill for it to pass, another sign of confidence.

The House will employ a procedure called reconciliation. Hoyer said the Chamber will vote first on a fix-it bill for a Senate version of the health reform which passed the upper chamber last year, and then conduct another vote for the Senate bill, which many House members find unable to reconcile themselves with just as it is.

Fearing it might founder in the House, the Democrats considered using a controversial procedure called "deem and pass," which is a self-executing provision tucked into the fix-it bill. If the fix- it bill passes, the Senate bill is deemed as passed, with no vote needed. Wary House Democrats can therefore not associate themselves with it. Republicans were having a field day assailing it.

According to Hoyer, after the Senate bill passes the House, it would be sent to Obama to be signed into law. The fix-it bill will then head to the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has informed Hoyer that they have enough votes in the Senate. According to reconciliation rules, the Senate needs only 51 votes to pass it. Democrats employ this method to prevent a Republican filibuster, as they have lost their supermajority of 60 votes earlier this year.

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