This Week In Congress - March 19, 2010 | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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This Week In Congress - March 19, 2010

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I’m Elizabeth Wynne Johnson of Capitol News Connection. This Week in Congress...

PELOSI: What a happy day for us at the Capitol of the United States...

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and other top Democrats held press conferences pretty much every day – inviting so-called "ordinary Americans" to help make the case for passing a health care overhaul bill. And setting the stage what they hoped would indeed be the final push toward a vote in the House. To that end, on Monday, Children’s Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman found herself upstaged.

EDELMAN: It makes critical investments in prevention... our next generation – that is making their voices heard

PELOSI: Just so you know, after we’re finished here, these babies and children are going to members’ offices...

Clearly – all’s fair in health care and politics. The week would see its share of partisan posturing – but for a while the real action would be with Democratic leaders in the House working to pin down the squirmiest and more wriggly members of their own caucus.

Not that Republicans were staying quiet. Senate minority whip Jon Kyl issued a warning to Democrats in the House:

KYL: If they think that they can fix the senate bill through reconciliation, they need to appreciate that that bill will likely not emerge from the senate in the same way that they pass it.

South Dakota Senator John Thune echoed the warning – and forecast ‘what next.’

THUNE: A lot of those things… aren’t going to withstand point of order, which obviously we intend to raise.

HOYER: Look, we talk a lot about process in this town. We are seized of the process issue.

House majority leader, Steny Hoyer.

HOYER: Very frankly, the family whose premiums went up 60 percent, they’re not focused on process, they’re focused on results...what does this mean to them?

The Democrats’ began to focus on a three-fold message about immediate changes when–and if–their bill passes. A message embodied by one Ed Morris of Franklin, a rural mountain community in western North Carolina. Owner of the Franklin Health and Fitness Center.

MORRIS: One of our employees had cardiac bypass surgery about eight years ago...our premiums went out the roof the next year.

Morris believes the Democrats’ health care bill would help –by increasing the size of the insurance pool, reducing sudden increases in premiums, and by giving him a tax credit to off-set the cost of providing insurance to his employees.

MORRIS: So I’m here as a small business owner to urge my congressman, Congressman Heath Shuler, and really all the members of Congress–both Democrats and Republicans–to do the right thing.

That right thing, according to Morris, is to vote yes on the health care bill. But Shuler voted ‘no’ last time, saying the bill didn’t do enough to reduce costs. And he could be one of the Democrats giving Party leaders heartburn all the way to the bitter end.

SHULER: It has to have substantial changes from what the House bill was or even the previous Senate bill for me to change my mind.

By the end of the week – certain key pieces seemed to be falling into a place.

PELOSI: I’m very excited about the momentum that is developing around the bill...

The Congressional Budget Office finally put out a preliminary cost estimate. Republicans seized on the nearly $1 trillion price tag over ten years. Democrats seized on the projected deficit reduction of $130 billion. Neither interested in seizing on the highly speculative nature of both numbers.

Apparently one number was solid, though. Democratic leaders announced they have the votes they need to pass their health care overhaul bill. Setting the stage one last time… for Sunday afternoon.

That was This Week in Congress. I’m Elizabeth Wynne Johnson, Capitol News Connection.

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