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This Week In Congress - March 26, 2010

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

...began Sunday with a so-called "final" vote on the health care overhaul bill in the House. Republican Adrian Smith of Nebraska--

SMITH: This bill is so monstrous, that it speaks to the complexity--we have not learned from our mistakes from the past when it comes to health care, more government intrusion.

FORTENBERRY: We tend to debate through such sanitized means these days...(That’s Jeff Fortenberry – also a Republican of Nebraska). This is kind of hearkening back to a day of old where civic debate took place on the stump or in the town hall.

And Congressman Lee Terry...

TERRY: It’s THEM that we listen to, and if you stack the yes’s that have come into my office versus the no’s, it’s ten-to-one against this bill.

The all-Republican Nebraska delegation in the House is part of a united front, steadfast in its opposition to the bill.

But the majority had the numbers it needed. Including Colorado Democrat Betsy Markey, who clearly struggled with her decision. She’s one of many Democratic members up for reelection with constituents who are deeply divided.

MARKEY: It is a tough vote but it is good for the district and I do think that public opinion will change. I think there is a lot of misinformation about what is in this bill and how it is good for individuals, for businesses for the deficit.

VAN HOLLEN: They’re quickly learning that it’s not going to be the Armageddon that Mr. Boehner, the Republican leader, described.

For the rest of the week, top House Democrats like Chris Van Hollen of Maryland would express confidence (every chance they got) that in the end, they’ll be proven right on this. For that matter, Republicans would do the same. Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska?

FORTENBERRY: I think the President himself was right when he says, 'hey after this point we have an election to decide the outcome.' I think that’s a fairly-a good predictor of where the debate actually may take place.

First, however, a package of changes would have to pass the Senate, where Republicans like Judd Gregg of New Hampshire vowed to flood the bill with amendments.

GREGG: The purpose of which is to try to correct some of the fundamental flaws. I know we can’t fix it really, because it’s such a terrible bill...

HARKIN: Democrats are going to have to exercise some real discipline.

Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa.

HARKIN: Because there’ll probably be amendments that sound nice that, given any other circumstance, you’d like to vote for. Somebody will probably offer a public option, but I’m going to vote no. Because the bill is more important.

The Senate passed the reconciliation package as expected, but in the interim the Senate Parliamentarian did find what he called "minor" violations of procedural guidelines. And with that, the framework for the final chapter to play out this week...was set. Those "fixes" would have to go back, one last time, for a vote in what was – by week’s end – a restless and cranky House of Representatives.

Thursday night, Minority Leader John Boehner had to concede the battle. But not the war.

BOEHNER: Mark my word. We will be back to this bill over and over again in the next six months...

For California Democrat George Miller, this was about here and now.

MILLER: Join me tonight to vote ‘aye’ for our families, for our small businesses, and for America! Vote AYE tonight. Thank you very much!

And the words that many thought this Congress and this country might never hear:

"All time for debate has expired. Pursuant to HR1225… All those in favor...the Ayes have it..."

Congress is off now for a two week recess.

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

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