U.S. President Barack Obama has met with Democrats in the U.S. House of
Representatives to urge them to support the health care reform bill
being debated in the chamber.
House Democratic leaders met with Mr. Obama behind closed doors for
several minutes Saturday. Speaking to reporters at the White House Rose
Garden, the president said he told House members the country is closer
now than ever before to passing health care reform, and that it is time
to finish the job.
House Majority Whip James Clyburntold reporters the visit brought Democrats together, but he said that Mr. Obama's appearance probably did not change any votes.
While the president met with Democrats, spirited, sometime rancorous debate on the bill continued on the House floor.
Democratic leaders in the House expressed hope the bill could be voted
on later in the day, but the discussions could extend into Sunday.
In interviews Saturday, House Democratic leader Representative Steny
Hoyer expressed confidence they will have the votes needed to pass the
Democrats will have to pass the measure on their own because no Republicans have indicated they will support it.
In the Republican Party's weekly radio address, Mississippi Governor
Haley Barbour called for the House bill to be scrapped and replaced by
a more modest measure that would have bipartisan support.
Late Friday, the Democratic leadership cleared an abortion-related
impasse that would have blocked the sweeping reform package when they
agreed to allow the entire House to vote on an amendment limiting
Under the amendment, only people buying private insurance and without
any federal subsidies would be able to buy policies that cover
abortion. The only exceptions would be in the case of rape, incest or
when the mother's life is in danger.
The compromise has disappointed the many Democrats who favor abortion
rights, but it will gain support from anti-abortion Democrats whose
votes are crucial to passing the larger bill.
The independent Congressional Budget Office estimates the bill will
cost a little more than $1 trillion. It has received the endorsement of
the American Association of Retired Persons, a powerful senior citizens
lobbying group, and the American Medical Association, an organization