U.S. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said today that unless “delaying tactics are employed” he expects a vote Saturday evening on the 1,990-page health-care reform bill as well as the 219-page Republican substitute proposed this week.
If a conclusion isn’t reached Saturday, members would come back into session Sunday afternoon and continue Monday and Tuesday as needed, said Hoyer, a Democrat from Maryland.
Hoyer said he and other supporters are trying to assuage Democratic caucus members’ concerns that no federal dollars will cover health care for undocumented workers or abortions except in cases of rape, incest or risk to the mother’s life. “Clearly, that’s not the intent,” he said. “We don’t think that’s what the bill does, but we want to make sure that members are comfortable with that reality.”
The House vote is just one step toward enacting health-care reform. The Senate still has to pass its legislation, and Senate-House conferees must work through their differences. (Politico has a good comparison of the major differences.)
“I expect the conference to be relatively lengthy and difficult because of the differences, but the good news is I think the conferees will be committed to passing legislation,” Hoyer said during a Families USA conference call with reporters. “I think we can come to agreement and bridge the gaps between the two.”
For now, the focus is on lining up 218 votes in the House to support the Affordable Health Care for America Act [pdf]. “We’re very close,” Hoyer said.
“Unless there are delaying tactics employed, or something happens that I don’t foresee, I think we can finish the debate by 7 to 8 o’clock tomorrow night and finish the bill by then,” he said.
Before taking questions from the media, Hoyer said Democrats had “subjected our proposal to an enormous amount of scrutiny” and that he had never seen this “level of examination and debate” in his 29-year career.
“We had more than 3,000 events in local districts, 100 hearings in Congress, and over 160 hours debating and amending the bill in committees, and as a result it’s a stronger, better bill,” he said.
News editor and staff writer Casey Selix can be reached at cselix[at]minnpost.com. Follow her on Twitter.