Hoyer: Leaders Still Rounding Up Votes

Posted March 21, 2010 at 10:28am

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) predicted Sunday that Democrats will have the votes to pass the massive health care bill later in the day, but he suggested a number of crucial Members were still undecided.

“There are still Members looking at it and trying to make up their minds, but we think there are going to be 216-plus votes when we call the roll,” Hoyer said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” He added, “We’re going to pass this bill.”

Hoyer said the remaining votes the Democrats need are “in the low single digits, certainly.”

But House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said that Hoyer’s comments implied “they don’t have the votes yet.”

“This fight is not lost yet,” Boehner said on the same program. If the bill does pass, Boehner said Republicans would push for its repeal, saying it would “ruin our economy, ruin our health care system, which is the best health care system in the world.” He said the difficulty that Democrats have had in crafting the bill and rounding up support was evidence of its unpopularity.

At the same time, Boehner distanced himself from some of the tea party protesters at the Capitol on Saturday, who hurled racial and homophobic comments at some Democratic lawmakers.

“There were isolated incidents on the Hill yesterday that were reprehensible and should not have happened,” Boehner said.

Responding to the remarks of some protesters, Hoyer said the debate has been “denigrated.”

The Majority Leader disputed Boehner’s contention that the bill is unpopular.

“I think Americans are for this bill. What they don’t like is the divisiveness,” Hoyer said. The Majority Leader said Republicans had similar difficulty passing a prescription drug benefit for senior citizens when they were in charge of the House.

Boehner said there were insurance and health care reforms that the two parties could agree on. But he said Republicans would not go along with the “government takeover” of health care. He cited the mandate on every American to purchase health care as evidence of the government intrusion.

“If this bill passes, we will have an effort to repeal this bill,” Boehner said.