The historic Congressional debate on health care reform legislation has begun. It is streaming live on C-Span. Democratic leaders are confident they have won the 216 votes they need to secure passage. Pro-life Michigan Democrat Bart Stupak and his bloc of supporters reportedly came on board this morning and then maybe changed their minds and then, most recently, came back on board again.
Colorado’s Ed Perlmutter just spoke in favor of the bill, referencing his daughter, who has epilepsy, one of millions of Americans with a preexisting condition whom he says will benefit from the insurance reforms the bill would introduce.
Colorado Rep. Jared Polis just said he was honored as a freshman member of Congress to be a part of the historic debate. He referenced his own controversial earlier objections to the bill– the way he believed it would weigh on small business owners– but he said those concerns had been addressed in the bill he was looking forward to voting on today. He hoped to further ease burdens on small businesses in the years ahead.
Republicans are talking about the bill in apocalyptic terms, cautioning the Stupak bloc not to believe in any of the promises on offer. They’re also looking for ways to stall debate, asking for time to “revise and extend their remarks in opposition to this flawed or unconstitutional or enormously long or government takeover health care bill.”
Firedog Lake, which has been reporting the unofficial see-sawing whip count for days, is live blogging tonight’s action. CBS last night listed a likely schedule for the debate:
2 p.m.: The House will debate for one hour the rules of debate for the reconciliation bill and the Senate bill.
3 p.m.: The House will vote to end debate and vote on the rules of the debate.
3:15 p.m.: The House will debate the reconciliation package for two hours.
5:15 p.m.: The House will vote on the reconciliation package.
5:30 p.m.: The House will debate for 15 minutes on a Republican substitute and then vote on the substitute.
6 p.m.: The House will vote on the final reconciliation package.
6:15 p.m.: If the reconciliation bill passes, the House will immediately vote on the Senate bill, without debate.