House Democrats initiated a 72-hour final countdown Thursday on their effort to overhaul the health care system, unveiling a nearly final version of the legislation that promptly won additional support by promising to more than pay for itself in the next decade.
Armed with detailed legislative language and a report on the bill’s costs from the Congressional Budget Office, congressional leaders and White House officials kicked off a new round of arm-twisting to line up the final votes they will need to pass the legislation when it comes to the House floor in the face of intense Republican opposition on Sunday afternoon.
With the fate of his top domestic priority still up in the air, President Barack Obama postponed a trip to Indonesia and Australia that had been scheduled to start Sunday so he could be on hand for the final House vote and a subsequent round of voting that would begin in the Senate next week.
The legislation’s chances seemed to be improved by the budget office report, which estimated that it would reduce projected federal budget deficits by $138 billion over the next decade. Many of the House Democrats who have continued to waver over the bill had been concerned about costs. The bill would provide insurance coverage to most of the uninsured, put new restrictions on insurers and seek to put downward pressure on rising health care costs.
The version of the legislation unveiled Thursday is based on the bill passed by the Senate in December, but it incorporates a package of changes that would address concerns raised by House Democrats. The scheduled House action on Sunday would in effect make the Senate bill the law of the land but would immediately alter it. The Senate would then have to agree by majority vote to the package of changes.