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Obama Defends Use of Procedural Maneuver for Passing Health Care

President Barack Obama on Wednesday dismissed the idea that House Democratic leaders are poised to lean on procedural maneuvers to avoid a direct vote on health care reform legislation.

During an interview on Fox News Channel’s “Special Report,” Obama said the strategy being considered by House Democratic leaders — passing a rule that deems the Senate bill passed and then sends it to the president’s desk only after a companion reconciliation package of amendments is passed — is the equivalent of voting on a bill. He also criticized the media’s focus on process and not on the substance of the legislation.

“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. And I don’t think we should pretend otherwise,” Obama said.

The key is that “you’ve got a good package on the substance,” the president said. “I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about what the procedural rules are in the House or the Senate.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has not yet made a decision on whether to use the special procedure to enact the Senate bill without a separate vote — a move intended to shield members of her Caucus from directly voting on a bill that they don’t like. House Republicans plan to offer a resolution on Thursday morning that would prohibit the use of the deeming process for the health care bill, forcing a vote.

“House Democrats are not going to be able to hide from this vote,” said Michael Steel, spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio). “They will have to vote for every tax hike, every Medicare cut, the ‘Cornhusker Kickback,’ the ‘Louisiana Purchase,’ the PhRMA carve-out and every other stinking backroom deal in this legislation. The American people know what’s in this bill, and they oppose it.”

Obama said House Democrats have legitimate concerns about casting a final vote on the Senate bill instead of on his proposal, which is based on the Senate bill but includes key changes to appease the House Members.

“That may mean they’ve got to sequence the votes. But the ultimate vote that they’re taking is on whether or not they believe in the proposal that I’ve put forward,” he said.

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