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Saturday Health Reform Wrap

After a Saturday full of partisan bickering, presidential arm-twisting, rowdy protests, and naked racism, the House stands ready to vote today on a historic, $940 billion health care reform proposal that would leave 95 percent of the country’s population with health coverage within 10 years. Democratic leaders still don’t quite have the votes they need, but behind a lobbying push from President Obama (who visited the Capitol yesterday), they appear confident they can secure the necessary support by this afternoon. The highlights of Saturday’s events on Capitol Hill:

  • Faced with criticisms over their “deem and pass” strategy, House leaders dropped it. The deeming plan would have allowed the Democrats to pass the health care reconciliation bill — which tweaks the Senate-passed reform proposal — and “deem” the Senate bill passed without an actual vote on it. The new plan is to vote separately on both bills. Obama would then sign the Senate version, after which the Senate would take up the reconciliation bill.
  • The Rules Committee finalized the guidelines that will govern today’s events, setting formal debate time at two hours (split between the parties), and allowing the Democrats to postpone the vote if they fail to rally enough support to pass the bill.
  • Some Tea Partiers reportedly showed their racist stripes yesterday, allegedly showering several black lawmakers — including the civil rights hero Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) — with racial slurs as they walked from their offices to the Capitol. And the office of Rep. Emanuel Cleaver said that a protester spat on the Missouri Democrat, issuing this statement:

This afternoon, the Congressman was walking into the Capitol to vote, when one protester spat on him. The Congressman would like to thank the US Capitol Police officer who quickly escorted the other Members and him into the Capitol, and defused the tense situation with professionalism and care. After all the Members were safe, a full report was taken and the matter was handled by the US Capitol Police. The man who spat on the Congressman was arrested, but the Congressman has chosen not to press charges. He has left the matter with the Capitol Police.

Tea Party leaders are condemning the episode today, but it still hurts the image of a movement already seen to be dominated by bitter-class whites.

Meanwhile, those anti-abortion Democrats who continue to insist that the Senate reform bill would open doors to federal funding for abortions have been negotiating with the White House over whether the administration will issue an executive order reiterating the federal ban on abortion subsidies. Their beef is this: While the Senate bill bans federal subsidies of abortion services (requiring women to write a separate check for abortion coverage to ensure the funds are segregated), the anti-abortion folks want to ban subsidies for any plans that include abortion as part of their coverage package. The reason? They want those plans either to go out of business or to drop abortion coverage altogether.

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