Video: Does Pelosi have enough health votes?

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    >> day in washington as well. joining us from washington , the moderator of "meet the press," david gregory joins us. good to have you on.

    >> isn't it?

    >> it's all right.

    >> tom david gregory. even though this is the tom, tom and tom show . david gregory , the white house , yesterday, of course, having to defend the fact that the president wasn't going to use 50 plus 1 tactics. they have to do this. the question now is nancy pelosi going to get 218 votes in the house. stupak announcing he 12 people with him that weren't going to support this bill.

    >> i think it's going to be very difficult. the position they've taken is tell those wavering democrats now, just don't make a decision yet. let's have a conversation about it, look through the bill, look through the proposed fixes that cou would be part of a budget reconciliation bill . that's how precarious the situation is, they areavoid a rush to a no vote. very difficult circumstances. i talked to a democrat yesterday, the president won't lose if he calls a vote, because presidents can't lose that vote. the question is, will they be comfortable enough to call that vote in the house? and there's a lot of work to be done and not a lot of time to do it.

    >> david, i don't know where the numbers come from. where does 218 come from? they won 220, 215. if the vote were held today it would be 217 2shg 1, 217. have you all of the southern democrats , midwestern democrats in trouble after massachusetts. if nancy pelosi brings 218 to the table, she is a star. i don't know how she gets there.

    >> she also declared it will pass. she's really laid the -- created this gauntlet here for the legislation. the other aspect of this that is really hard goes to that. they are still facing a huge challenge, on a day when the unemployment rate is likely to gun this is supposed to be such a bad report. people looking for work, one, health care , they want it, but they want a job first. some 80% of those who have health care are satisfied with their plan. they are making a very difficult argument about the popularity of something that has yet to materialize. for the president to say that i don't know what the politics of this are, but i know this is right, a very principle ed thing to say, but we know how washington works. and for democrats in the house that already feel burned by the white house and the senate, because they already had to take a tough vote on health care , take a tough vote on health care , it may still ultimatingly down and may hurt them seems like a difficult thing to do.

    >> tom friedman , i remember in the early '70s, my dad worked for lockheed and was laid off, without a job for 18 months. this is in the middle of vietnam, as it was grinding to a very bloody, messy ending and my family, we just cared about one thing when we watched walter cronkite at night, we wanted to know if the economy was turning around. we didn't understand what was going on in the college campuses. my dad just wanted a job so he could take care of his family. i wonder if as mike said, washington in this administration, still don't get that.

    >> i think they don't get something here, joe. if this health care thing passes, and i were the president, one thing i would say to the american people , folks this is the last slice of pie you'll get in a long time. the future is about building a bigger pan if we don't building a bigger pan this is the last slice you're ever going to get for a long time.

    >> i understand that, and i also agree, but i don't think there's a connection with the jobs issue. it's on the forefront of people's minds. tom and david gregory , is it possible if he gets this through that this will be seen as courageous. something no president could do and something he stuck to through thick and thing and a lot of people trying to bring him down and his aend gentleman? is it possible it could really turn?

    >> politically, absolutely. no question about it. in terms of where we need to be as a country right now, whether we can too before or after health care , we need to be making the pan bigger.

    >> i don't disagree with that. david gregory .

    >> george bush was courageous on iraq and that didn't work out so well. even if iraq is in a better place now, it didn't help him politically. he certainly stuck to his guns. health care is different, and i think tom is right, because the white house does make an argument that once you get it passed, once you have the acheechlt and it starts affecting people's lives, then they see some of the benefits of it, but it's how long that takes. and, look, this is also not happening in a vacuum. it's not just that we're waiting for health care reform . there are a lot of things happening all at once that the government is involved in. the lack of trust in government is what is so -- really the backbone of this argument against washington , and whether washington is broken right now. americans don't trust government to run complex systems .

    >> david, you talk about the lack of trust in wash. jeff zalany, front page of "the new york times," democrats feel the sting of scandal and the scandals are erupting at the worst time.

    >> absolutely.

    >> david paterson , because he's in the media capital of the world. that has national implications for democrats . charlie rangel , of course, the most powerful guy on the capitol hill whether it comes to tax writing. and mark foley -type scandal, already when 86% of americans tell us that washington is broken.

    >> how do you change the tone in washington ? it's what george w. bush promis promised, what barack obama promised. a lot of americans don't like what's happening in washington . this goes back to 2006 for republicans. they were dealing with the legacy of the iraq war , too much scandal. the whole idea of the country being off on the wrong foot, going off in the wrong direction, hurts democrats . the difference between this in 1994 , the chaos theory, democrats in charge not able to get things done it happened early on, and, yes there, is more time to reverse some trends, and charlie rangel stepping down from the chairmanship may help in that regard. the narrative is still building and in this news cycle, the connectivity of our media now makes it more ferocious as a story and more intense as a story.

    >> one political bomb, mike, going off after another.

    >> there are 535 elected officials in washington , in the house and senate. they all react to poll numbers. why don't they all come home, and we'll just run the whole show by poll. that's what they do.

    >> and twitter.

    >> david gregory , who is on the show this sunday?

    >> we'll talk about the health care endgame. kathleen sebelius , secretary of hhs, and roundtable. orrin hatch and harold ford among others.

    >> very nice. thank you very much.

updated 3/5/2010 11:19:36 AM ET 2010-03-05T16:19:36

On the other side of the obstacle course that President Barack Obama must clear to get his health care overhaul, a final trapdoor is lurking: the divisive politics of abortion.

The issue pits House Democrats against each other just when Obama is calling on them to unite for one last push on health care in a perilous election year. The fate of the sweeping legislation to expand coverage and revamp the health insurance market hangs in the balance.

House Democrats opposed to abortion, as well as their counterparts who support abortion rights, are resisting funding restrictions on the procedure spelled out in the Senate health care overhaul bill. But the plan Democratic leaders have worked out for the health care endgame calls for House Democrats to pass that same Senate bill, with little prospect of changing the abortion language.

Although each chamber is also supposed to pass a companion package of agreed-upon changes, abortion funding is not among them. It doesn't appear likely to be included.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi vented her frustration Thursday, telling reporters she will not stand for health care legislation getting dragged down in a battle over abortion. "This is not about abortion," said Pelosi, D-Calif. "This is a bill about providing quality affordable health care for all Americans."

She may not have a choice, says a leading abortion foe.

Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., says he and a dozen fellow Democrats who supported the House bill will vote against it this time unless the Senate language is replaced with stiffer restrictions previously adopted by the House. The House health care bill passed by 220-215 last November, only after Pelosi was forced to give Stupak a floor vote that incorporated his strict abortion funding provision in the measure.

Nothing has changed, said Stupak. "I don't think they have the votes to pass it," he said.

It's not clear, however, that every lawmaker who voted with Stupak the first time will stick with him.

Rep. Dale Kildee said he's keeping an open mind as he studies the Senate bill. "I'm looking at the language in the Senate bill to see if it carries out the purpose of the Hyde amendment," said Kildee, D-Mich. "If it does so to my satisfaction, I think I could go along with it."

The long-standing Hyde amendment bars federal funding for abortion except in cases of rape, incest or to save the mother's life.

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Obama is pleading with Democrats to overcome divisions over abortion and other issues to seize a historic moment to remake the health care system.

On Thursday, he summoned more than a dozen House rank-and-file liberals and moderates to the White House. It's the opportunity of a generation, he told them — a chance to revive the party's agenda after his rough first year in office.

In back-to-back meetings in the Oval Office and Roosevelt Room, Obama urged lawmakers to focus on the positives rather than their disappointments. Lawmakers said Obama assured them the legislation was merely the first step, and he promised to work with them in the future to improve its provisions.

Settling the dispute over abortion funding remains one of his biggest challenges. Government policy on taxpayer funding for abortion has been settled for years, following the Hyde amendment. Obama insists he never wanted to alter that balance.

But that's exactly what happened. The Democratic bills created a new stream of federal money to help working households afford health insurance premiums. And those funds were not subject to the Hyde restrictions.

The House responded by adopting Stupak's amendment, although it was opposed by most Democrats. It says no health insurance plan receiving federal subsidies can pay for abortion, except under the three exceptions already allowed by federal law. Women who want insurance coverage for abortion would have to buy a separate policy.

The Senate bill took a different approach. It says health insurance plans operating in a new consumer marketplace can cover abortion, but it may only be paid for with private premiums. Money from federal subsidies would have to be strictly segregated from any funds used to pay for abortion. Consumers would have to write two checks to their insurance plan, one for the regular premium, the other for abortion coverage.

Leading abortion opponents — including the nation's Catholic bishops — say the Senate language is a fig leaf, opening the way for government subsidies for abortion. They're urging defeat of the health care bill unless it takes Stupak's approach.

Abortion rights supporters say both measures impose unreasonable restrictions on women's access to a legal medical procedure now widely covered by health insurance.

Rep. Diana DeGette, a prominent abortion rights supporter, said Pelosi should call Stupak's bluff.

"Ten or 11 votes is not going to kill the bill," said DeGette, D-Colo., explaining that many of the 39 conservative Democrats who voted against the House bill could well find the moderate Senate version more to their liking. DeGette also wants to change the Senate language, saying it's too restrictive.

Abortion rights supporters backed down once the last time. This time, if House Democratic leaders can't line up enough votes without placating Stupak, it's unclear how they will get the abortion language changed.

Pelosi says it can't be done in a companion package that would move through both chambers as part of deal worked out with Obama. Under congressional rules, the elements of that package would have to have a significant budget impact. A third piece of legislation may be needed.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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