President Barack Obama on Wednesday asked Congress to deliver a final health care reform bill to his desk this month, even signing off on a controversial procedure that would allow Senate Democrats to sidestep a GOP filibuster and clear a bill with just 51 votes.
“I believe the United States Congress owes the American people a final vote on health care reform. We have debated this issue thoroughly, not just for a year, but for decades. Reform has already passed the House with a majority. It has already passed the Senate with a supermajority of 60 votes. And now it deserves the same kind of up-or-down vote that was cast on welfare reform, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, COBRA health coverage for the unemployed, and both Bush tax cuts — all of which had to pass Congress with nothing more than a simple majority,” Obama said, in a speech meant to salvage his No. 1 domestic priority.
“I have therefore asked leaders in both of houses of Congress to finish their work and schedule a vote in the next few weeks. From now until then, I will do everything in my power to make the case for reform. And I urge every American who wants this reform to make their voice heard as well — every family, every business owner, every patient, every doctor, every nurse.”
Democratic leaders in the House and Senate, as well as top White House officials, had already begun work on a reconciliation bill before Obama’s Wednesday afternoon address, delivered from the White House briefing room. Their plan would most likely call for the House to pass the $871 billion Senate bill approved on Christmas Eve, as well as a sidecar bill of “fixes” sought by House Democrats.
Senate Democrats would the clear that second measure using reconciliation rules. Republicans are crying foul, saying the budget procedure was never intended for legislation as complex and expansive as health care reform.
“Reconciliation has never been used … to redirect one-sixth of the American economy,” Senate Finance ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said.