Video: Health care vote to be held Sunday?

  1. Closed captioning of: Health care vote to be held Sunday?

    >> sitters. james clyburn , the democratic chief vote counter joins us now. thanks for your patience while we were waiting for that breaking news from robert gibbs . i know that this was very much the hope of your leadership, that he not be in the air when you were trying to twist arms and get those final votes across the finish line . so, now that he's going to be here, will you dpo ahead and have the vote at noon?

    >> i certainly hope so. i have not heard of any changes, of course, the speaker will make that decision, but i am hopeful we will stay here, cast this vote on sunday so when we come back next week, we can start other business and it's an important thing that we need to do in addition to health care .

    >> commlet's talk about the final votes. you've got perhaps ten who are still fence sitters unless you've got some in your back pocket. every time you pick up one, you have the risk of losing another. where do you now stand?

    >> we have not made a hard-count. as i've been saying all along, we are not going to ask members to make a firm commitment until we do certain things. two of those things happened today. number one, we have got the cbo numbers and i think the most important number is not 216 right now. the most important number to me is that $138 billion deficit reduction in the first ten years. 1.2 trillion deficit reduction in the second ten years. those are the two most important numbers to me right now. i think those numbers are the numbers we needed to look at before trying to determine how to get to 216.

    >> let's talk about the problem of getting these votes lined up though. you've got to process and you've got to substance. the republicans are all over you about the fact that you were trying to give people political cover and not have an actual role call vote. at this point, do you think you can get to 216 and go back to normal procedures? it's become a big issue. it's becoming a political, you know, an anchor around all of your -- weight around your ankles because they're making such a big stink over it. at this stage, can you get 216 votes and do a normal role call?

    >> i think this is a normal role call. look, the republicans are experts at misnaming things, arousing all kinds of suspicious. there were never any death panels in this bill. they're doing the same thing with this they did with that. i remember all the stuff about death taxes. fair taxes. all these things are the way they try to arouse the american people . all we're doing in this deal is voting on the senate pass bill as well as the fixers to that bill at the same time. that's all this is.

    >> it has become a political -- you're saying that -- it's become a political problem. right now, they're gaining advantages on you just streenlgically, are you going to proceed with this deem and pass rather than an actual role call?

    >> i have no idea where deem and pass came from. i've looked at the language. that word is never used anywhere. all we're doing, as i said earlier, is voting on both bills at the same time. deem and pass is just like death panels, just like death tax . those things the republicans are very expert at using these little catch phrases that people latch on to. so that word is not in anything that we're doing. we are doing what newt gingrich did 92 times. what hastert did 103 times. what's been being done since 1933 and we did not have a conference. we had a conference, you could just come out and vote on a conference report. because we did not have a conference, you've got to vote on both of them at the same time. this is nothing for anybody to be alarmed about. it is normal procedure and i would ask all of your listeners or viewers to really take a look at how often this has been done and it's just regular order.

    >> thank you very much. the majority whip , james clyburn . thanks

updated 3/18/2010 10:52:18 AM ET 2010-03-18T14:52:18

It may not bode well for Rep. Travis Childers that many voters in his rural Mississippi district have stronger opinions about President Barack Obama's health care plan than they do about the Democratic congressman.

Regardless of how Childers votes, the legislation is threatening to swamp the carefully crafted bipartisan brand he's been building with his Republican-leaning electorate for the past two years.

"I think it's probably going to bankrupt the United States of America," said Diane Wall, who manages a pool and spa store in Columbus, home to about 25,000 people and one of the largest cities in the district. Wall, who mostly votes Republican but often splits her ballot, said she isn't sure whether she'll support Childers in November. But "he might as well retire" if he votes for "Obamacare," she said.

Perhaps more than any other Democrat, Childers represents the political risks Democrats are taking by forging ahead on a party-line vote with one of the most sweeping legislative proposals in a generation. While the bill may boost Democratic credentials in some parts of the country, the party is having a hard time selling it in moderate and conservative areas like northern Mississippi's 1st Congressional District.

Voters in a few dozen swing districts will probably determine whether Democrats maintain control of the House in November, and even party moderates who vote against the health care package could get caught in a backlash.

Democrats already lost one such member in December, when freshman Rep. Parker Griffith, whose Alabama district sits just across the state line from Childers', cited the health care fight as the reason for his defection to the GOP. The former state senator not only opposed the bill but viewed it as so politically toxic that he was compelled to quit the Democratic Party.

It's no coincidence that many of the other 37 House Democrats who opposed the initial bill are relative newcomers facing difficult re-election prospects in November, including Reps. Glenn Nye of Virginia, Walt Minnick of Idaho and Frank Kratovil of Maryland.

Childers, 51, a rare Democrat in a conservative Southern stronghold, is near the top of the Republican target list.

The former chancery court clerk and nursing home owner from rural Booneville is serving his first full term after initially winning the seat in a special election amid an anti-Republican wave two years ago. His relatively poor district, which has no urban areas aside from small cities like Columbus, Grenada and Tupelo, had been in Republican hands for 12 years before his victory. It gave Obama just 37 percent of the vote.

The health care proposal appears to be playing into the same line of criticism here that has become something of a Democratic stereotype in conservative areas around the South: Democrats spend too much money on inefficient government programs and handouts.

While many conservatives and independents say they're not thrilled with the current health care system, they complain of what they see as costly, big-government solutions.

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Shopping at a home improvement store on the outskirts of Columbus, Terry Williamson said he's gotten frustrated with trying to get his private insurance to approve an MRI scan to find out what's causing health problems that have forced him to use a cane. But he doesn't think the Democratic bill will help him, and he suspects it will cut into the Medicare benefits he's earned over the years.

Video: Pelosi: Health legislation will save money "I think they're going to take the money out of Medicare and use it to cover young people who don't want to buy insurance or people who are too lazy to work," he said. "They're just slinging money left and right."

Air Force retiree Howard Jenkins said getting the government more involved in health care will only create a "big mess."

"I don't know of anyone who's really for it," he said after lunch in the city's historic downtown.

Both men said Childers, who has frequently bucked his party, still could be in jeopardy over his party's direction.

"As far as a Democrat, he's done fairly well, but what's going on in general, he might be in trouble," Williamson said.

Childers has worked for months to make it known that he voted against the initial House bill, which passed in November with a slim five-vote margin. With Democrats scrambling for votes on final passage this week, he is keeping his options open on the latest version, although he said he probably won't change his position.

While he said he wishes Democratic leaders had moved more slowly to sell the package in bite-sized chunks, he won't concede that a "yes" vote would cost him his job or that passage of the bill even without him could complicate his re-election.

His party is betting his political future — and the congressional majorities it worked so hard to build in 2006 and 2008 — on it.

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

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