Video: Obama ‘confident’ health bill will pass

  1. Closed captioning of: Obama ‘confident’ health bill will pass

    >>> that investigation.

    >>> beginning this thursday morning with the final push for the president's health care reform and the president's contentious interview on fox news. kel o'donnell has the latest.

    >> reporter: of all the complex issues in the health care debate, one question is now bubbling to the surface -- how important is the process? the rules, the strategy that democrats might use to get health care passed. now republicans are attacking that process and now president obama has weighed in.

    >> i don't spend a lot of time worrying about what the procedural rules are in the house or senate.

    >> reporter: but there is a heated fight over the fairness of those rules. house republican leader john boehner .

    >> you can't hide from this vote. you can't gimmick this process up.

    >> welcome to washington --

    >> reporter: that issue spilled into a contentious interview the president gave to fox news.

    >> what i can tell you is, is that the vote that's taken in the house will be a vote for health care reform and if people vote yes, whatever form that takes, that is going to be a vote for health care reform . i don't think we should pretend otherwise.

    >> reporter: democrats may use a controversial vote shortcut called deem and pass.

    >> so you support the deem and pass rule.

    >> i am not --

    >> you're saying that that's that vote.

    >> what i am saying is that whatever they end up voting on, and i hope it's going to be some time this week, that it is going to be a vote for or against my health care proposal. and that's what matters.

    >> reporter: house democrats want to make big, and some say popular, changes that would strip out of the senate version of health care lots of deals cut for specific states, and then vote on it. the president cass quwas quizzed project by project about what stays and what goes.

    >> everybody knows what's in the bill.

    >> president, you couldn't tell me what the special deals that are in or not today.

    >> i just told you what was --

    >> is connecticut in?

    >> connecticut -- what do you specifically referring to?

    >> reporter: mr. obama said he expects states to be treated equally. but that won't matter unless the president and house speaker nancy pelosi convince enough wary democrats . they have turned ohio congressman dennis kucinich who stressed he still has doubts about the bill.

    >> i've decided to cast a vote in favor of the legislation.

    >> reporter: the president had this message for democrat holdouts --

    >> if they vote against it, then they're going to be voting against health care reform and they're going to be voting in favor of the status quo .

    >> reporter: it was a spirited exchange.

    >> they're going to be able to keep their doctor.

    >> you got to let me finish my answer.

    >> sir, i know you don't like the filibuster.

    >> i keep trying to answer your questions and you keep on interrupting. if it doesn't pass, i'm more concerned about what it does to family out there who right now are getting crushed by rising health care costs and small businesses who are having to make a decision do i hire or do i fix health care . that's the reason i make these decisions.

    >> mr. president, we're wrapped up, i don't want to interrupt you, but to finish up, do you think this is going to pass?

    >> i do. i'm confident it will pass. and the reason i'm confident that it is going to pass is because it's the right thing to do.

    >> i apologize for interrupting you so much, sir. i'm trying to get the most for our buck.

    >> reporter: now there could be something today that might be enough to turn some of those democrats toward the president or maybe nail down some "no" votes. although people know what's in the bill generally, today they expect to be able to see all the details in writing. and some democrats say that's very important. they may also get from the congressional budget office the official price tag on the bill. that might be what's needed to finally convince some people to decide on a vote one way or another. that's something we're watching closely today. matt?

msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 3/18/2010 8:58:17 AM ET 2010-03-18T12:58:17

President Barack Obama indicated Wednesday that he does not oppose plans by House Democrats to pass his much-challenged health care overhaul without a direct vote.

"I don't spend a lot of time worrying about what the procedural rules are in the House or Senate. What I can tell you is that the vote that's taken in the House will be a vote for health care reform," Obama said in an interview with Fox News.

"If people vote yes, whatever form that takes, that is going to be a vote for health care reform," he said in an excerpt of the interview to be aired later Wednesday evening. "And I don't think we should pretend otherwise."

Democratic leaders hope to vote this weekend on the measure, which will require 216 votes to pass.

Leaders have embarked on a two-step approach that requires the House to approve the measure passed by the Senate, despite misgivings on key provisions. Then both chambers would quickly pass a second bill making several changes to the first. In the Senate, that vote would come under rules that keep Republicans from using the filibuster to hold up the bill.

Some House members are wary about the Senate keeping its end of the deal.

"The House wants assurances, and we intend to give them assurances," said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

One possibility discussed is a letter signaling that 51 senators support the second bill.

Gaining support
House Democrats' efforts to marshall support for the bill's passage gained traction Wednesday when a liberal lawmaker became the first to switch his opposition and Catholic nuns declared their support in an unusual public break with the bishops.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, long a supporter of Medicare-for-all, voted against the House Democratic bill in November because it did not go far enough in creating a robust government-run plan to compete with private insurance. But Kucinich said in a press conference that the bill coming before the House represents the best chance to expand coverage to the uninsured, even if it does not include a public plan.

Kucinich said his decision was a combination of pragmatism and concern about the impact that defeat of the health care bill would have on Obama's presidency.

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"You do have to be very careful that the potential of President Obama's presidency not be destroyed by this debate," said Kucinich. "Even though I have many differences with him on policy, there's something much bigger at stake here for America."

Kucinich said he'd met with Obama four times to discuss the health overhaul, most recently on Monday when he flew back to Ohio with the president aboard Air Force One. Obama called Kucinich's decision "a good sign."

Video: Kucinich switches to 'yes' vote on health care

At stake is a bill that would cover some 30 million uninsured people, end insurance practices such as denying coverage to those with a pre-existing conditions, require almost all Americans to get coverage by law and try to slow the cost of medical care nationwide. The comprehensive legislation could affect nearly every American, from those undergoing annual checkups to people facing major surgery.

Meanwhile, in a rare public disagreement that will reverberate among the nation's 70 million Catholics, leaders of religious orders representing 59,000 nuns sent lawmakers a letter urging them to pass the Senate health care bill. Expected to come before the House by this weekend, the measure contains abortion funding restrictions that the bishops say don't go far enough.

"Despite false claims to the contrary, the Senate bill will not provide taxpayer funding for elective abortions," said the letter signed by 60 leaders of women's religious orders. "It will uphold longstanding conscience protections and it will make historic new investments ... in support of pregnant women. This is the real pro-life stance, and we as Catholics are all for it."

Video: House leaders spar over 'deem-and-pass' The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National Right to Life Committee have denounced the bill as a backdoor subsidy for abortion. But the nuns and the Catholic Health Association — representing some 600 hospitals — say restrictions in the Senate bill would still prevent taxpayer funding for abortion, although the legal mechanism for doing so is different from what the bishops prefer.

"This is politics; this isn't a question of faith and morals," said Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, a national Catholic social activism lobby. "We are the ones who work every day with people who are suffering because they don't have health care. We cannot turn our backs on them, so for us, health care reform is a faith-based response to human need."

Another sign of a rift among abortion opponents emerged as Rep. Dale Kildee, D-Mich., announced his support for the bill. Kildee was among the anti-abortion Democrats who backed a Michigan Democrat, Rep. Bart Stupak, in forcing tough restrictions on the original House-passed bill.

Kildee said in a statement Wednesday that after careful study, he's concluded the Senate bill would also bar federal funding for abortion — while saving lives by providing coverage to those now uninsured. "Voting for this bill in no way diminishes my pro-life voting record or undermines my beliefs," he said. "I am a staunch pro-life member of Congress, both for the born and the unborn."

Another anti-abortion Democrat who voted against the House legislation in November said the nuns' support for the Senate bill is factoring into his decision-making. Freshman Rep. John Boccieri of Ohio said Wednesday he remains undecided, and wants to see cost estimates and detailed language before making up his mind.

He's been bombarded with phone calls, e-mails, television ads and more from both sides of the issue — including private planes circling the skies over his district pulling signs. "They've laid our office under siege," said Boccieri. "We can't even get to the business of the day."

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

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