Return to Transcripts main page


House Set to Vote on Health Care Reform

Aired March 21, 2010 - 15:00   ET


BLITZER: Welcome back. We're watching what's happening in Congress right now. Dana Bash is our senior Congressional correspondent.

Both sides, Dana, the opponents of health care reform, the supporters of health care reform, they both say they're close to that magic number of 216 needed to either pass or defeat the legislation. What are you picking up?

DANA BASH, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: That's right. I talked to so many members of Congress, Democrats coming out who say the buzz on the floor, the leadership won't admit it firmly, but the buzz on the floor is that they have these votes. But, one of thing that has been going on, the drama that is still very much hot right now is whether or not the group of antiabortion Democrats will be able to come along and vote for this health care reform bill.

The key player in this is Bart Stupak of Michigan. And one of our intrepid producers, we have a lot of them up here, one of them -- Lesa Jansen (ph) just caught up with Bart Stupak to ask him the latest is on negotiations. Listen to what happened.


LESA JANSEN, CNN PRODUCER: Congressman Stupak. Hi Lisa Jansing from you CNN. I know you (INAUDIBLE) Tell me, do you have a deal?


JANSEN: Not yet. How close are you?

STUPAK: We're not -- there's different parts to it. We're trying to get it done.

JANSEN: Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said some of your colleagues, who were with you have agreed to this, so far.

STUPAK: Well, I don't know who her source of information is, so I don't know.

JANSEN: How close are you to a deal again?

STUPAK: Getting there. Getting there. If I can get in my office, maybe we can get it done.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BASH: So, there you see him going right back in the door trying to get to work again. And specifically what he's working on is language for the president to sign an executive order making very clear that there would be no taxpayer funding for abortion and that is ultimately the goal Bart Stupak says that he has and about a dozen of his colleagues. They think that the way it is written legislatively in the bill it doesn't make it explicit explicitly clear.

Just one little bit of color, additionally, our -- another one of our congressional producers, Deirdre Walsh, who covers the Hill 24 hours a day, she was in the House chamber just before Bart Stupak talked to Lesa Jansen, and she said she saw him going back and forth talking to his allies on this, and many other antiabortion Democrats on the floor, and then leaving the floor, going into the anteroom, getting on the phone, coming back to talk to them. So these negotiations are white hot right now. They say they're close. Once the -- if they do in fact reach a deal on the executive order, as we've talked about, it looks like it would be a no-brainer for House Democrats to have pretty comfortable majority in approving this health care bill.

BLITZER: I think you're right, Dana. And the key question is, though, is Bart Stupak, does he control these 10 or 11 or 12 Democrats who support -- who oppose abortion and want tighter language, the House language as opposed to the Senate language or are some of the other members basically making their own decisions?

BASH: It's a great question. We've already seen some of the Democrats who are with him on the issue -- they are staunchly against abortion, break from him. Marcy Kaptur is a great example. She is somebody who was with him and has been on this issue, but she has already said, you know what? I have become convinced. I believe that the language in the bill that we're voting on makes clear enough for me that there will be no taxpayer funding for abortion. She's already said she's voting yes. A couple of others have as well.

But, I think we're talking maybe about six or seven Democrats at this point who he he's still conferring with and are still with him in terms of wanting to see language in this executive order to really feel comfortable voting for the bill.

BLITZER: Yeah, so that's a really significant development. It could be make or break for the Democrats based on what these members, these Democrats who oppose abortion, decide. Dana, stand by. David Gergen is going to help us better appreciate some of this.

Because, if they get Bart Stupak and these other Democrats, David, they'll get more than 216 votes.

DAVID GERGEN, FMR PRESIDENTIAL ADVISOR: Absolutely. They're home free with a comfortable margin, they could let a few people go and vote no who are in very sensitive districts as Candy has been pointing out. It's hard to know what language they can come up with that's anything more than symbolic. The law of the land is going to be the Senate bill on this and Stupak objected on substantive grounds. An executive order can't undo that. But the other thing I wanted to make a point about, Wolf, if I could, why we're in such a different place this year from in the past, and that is that so many of the key players in the health care field have switched their positions. Doctors, for years and years, as Sanjay knows, were opposed to this kind of reform, so were pharmaceutical companies, so were small business people. That's what killed a lot of the Clinton health care initiative, as you know. But there's so many of these groups now feel that the system is so broken down, and such meltdown, that something has to be done, and this year they are much more prepared to support it.

And, by the way, the White House then went and cut some deals. This is where Rahm Emanuel, the chief of staff of the White House, does come in. They cut some deals with these folks, such as pharmaceutical, to keep them on the sidelines or indeed to advertise for it. So that deal making, while it may not have been met all the highest aesthetic standards, folks actually are coming into play in a very, very important way now.

BLITZER: You know, David, you raise an interesting point, an important point. If the House passes this Senate bill, and the language in the Senate bill becomes the law of the land, how can't president then issue an executive order in effect changing what's in the Senate bill if, in fact, he does that?

GERGEN: He can't. The legislation will be the determinative factor of how this system actually works. He can do, is make some promises that are mostly are restatement of given policy and that's why it doesn't offend the prochoice people, they're willing go along with it, because as Gloria has said, they've been accepting for sometime the pro -- you know, that they've got to live with the Hyde amendment, they don't like it, but they live with it. and so I don't think he can do anything more than be symbolic in an executive order. I'm not quite sure what else there is that's legally impossible for him to do.

BLITZER: Because in the reconciliation bill they can't change the language of abortion because if you want to do it through reconciliation that's got to deal with just funding, appropriations. It can't deal with substantive policy issues. It may in effect simply be the Democrats don't want to hear me say this and we just raised this issue with Debbie Wasserman Schultz, one of the Democratic Congresswomen -- it may just be a little bit of a cover giving Bart Stupak and these other antiabortion Democrats an opportunity to say, you know what? The president has reassured us he is going to sign this executive order and we're willing to give him a chance.

GERGEN: Right. And that's what, you know, Candy said something very important earlier. She said, you know, Bart Stupak all along has wanted to vote yes and so he's looking for some way, something he can take back home and take to the Catholic bishops and to others saying, well, we did get this pledged. It is a firm commitment on the part of the president to the Hyde amendment, even though the Senate language will be the determinative law of the land.

BLITZER: Good point. All right. David, hold on one second.

Alex, you wanted to weigh in?

ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: Well, it's just I don't see how much political cover it's going to provide because Republicans are going to make the case in these districts and if you're a conservative Democrat voter or centrist voter and you vote for a prolife Democrat or you vote for a blue dog Democrat, forget it. When they get to Washington there is no such thing. Look what happens. They get some cloaking thing from the president that doesn't really mean anything and they vote like Nancy Pelosi.

BORGER: But then Bart Stupak can say well it was good enough for the nuns in the Catholic Church, right? Because the Catholic Church is...

BUNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's good enough for the catholic hospitals. And if you care about pregnant women you want to reduce the incidence of abortion in this country, you should support this bill because women will have access to preventative care.

CASTELLANOS: Well, which Bart Stupak should we agree with? The principled one who said that the language that was operative in the bill was just unacceptable for him a few days ago or the one who says it's acceptable now if the president issues some fairytale of a cloak for it?

BLITZER: All right. Let me go to Dan Lothian, he's our White House correspondent to update us on what the president and the folks at the White House are doing on this day where there is so much activity going on, Dan, on the House floor.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, all the activity on Capitol Hill, but the president, here, has also been reaching out, we're told by White House, aides to these House Democrats and also getting calls from them, as well. Of course, the big issue is what's happening with this executive order issue and the White House has been tight lipped about this but a White House aide telling me that we would not be wrong in reporting that indeed this is a critical issue that the president and others were involved in deep negotiations, but that there is still agreement on that front.

Now, what else is the president doing? I asked if he was watching television, meaning is he watching the health care debate? I was told that, yes, he's watching the final four or actually, rather the March madness action. So, I was talking about health care, but instead he is watching basketball. But I was told by an aide that he is getting frequent updates from his staff about what's going on up on Capitol Hill -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I'm sure he is. Any indication he is still making phone calls to a Bart Stupak or some other members, Democrats who are, perhaps, on the fence?

LOTHIAN: Haven't been told specifically to Bart Stupak but have been told that he is reaching out to House members by phone and also getting phone calls from them up on capitol hill, so the negotiations, that sense of urgency we've seen over the last few days, that does continue down to the wire -- Wolf. BLITZER: What, if anything, should we read into the fact, Dan -- and I'll let you go on this -- the president said Kansas was going to win the whole thing. They were going to be the big winners and guess what? They lost to northern Iowa yesterday.

LOTHIAN: That's right. I don't think that when the president is talking about college ball, that he'd like to have that be paralleled to what's going on up on Capitol Hill.

I'll tell you, in talking to one aide a few moments ago they're feeling fairly confident that they do have the votes. They won't go out and say, listen, we do have them, but they're feeling very good about where it is. In fact, I said, how close are you? And this aide went like this. So, they're feeling good about where they are, but not yet ready to say that it's all over.

BLITZER: I'm still feeling good about my choice, Duke, going all the way this year. I will see...

LOTHIAN: And I didn't pick anything. I did not get involved this year.

BLITZER: You're obviously feeling pretty good, as well.


BLITZER: Stand by. We have a lot to cover. Right now there are some more delaying tactics, apparently, very authorized parliamentary maneuvers going on, perhaps to pushback this final vote on the Senate health care reform bill. We'll update you on that when we come back.


REP KATHY CASTOR (D), FLORIDA: new tax credits for small business owners and families all across America. Yes, we're going to side with American families today because we're not just members of Congress, we're daughters and sons and parents, we're grandchildren. And for once and for all, we're going to ensure that all families all across America have what members of Congress have. We're going to side with families against the insurance companies, fight through these dilatory tactics, and pass this historic, landmark legislation.

REP JESSE JACKSON, JR. (D), ILLINOIS: The gentle lady's time is expired. The gentle lady from New York...

BLITZER: Kathy Castor, the Democratic congresswoman from Florida making the case for the Democrats' health care reform legislation. We're going to continue to watch what's happening on the floor.

Our coverage is going to stay with this story. This is an important day here in Washington. Candy Crowley is here. Gloria Borger, together with the best political team on television.

As we look at this, Candy, as we look at this debate, it looks like the final votes are slipping and slipping and slipping in terms of the delay. We thought maybe the first few votes, the vote on the Senate bill, could happen as early as 3:00 or 4:00, maybe not so early.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Oops. 'Twas ever thus. I mean, and particularly, you know, it seems to me if you're going to have an historic vote on something, you ought to have as much a debate as time can bear, and that's what they're doing. It's too -- not everybody can talk, there's a lot of members up there. But, you know, a full airing after more than a year of it, there's not much wrong with that and generally Congress tends to expand the amount of time it has.

BLITZER: And the good news is that once the actual substantive discussion begins, Gloria, we'll hear Democrats make their case, Republicans make their case, and we'll let that breathe, we'll let the members, the key members, the leaders, make their respective cases and the American public in the end will have a better appreciation of what's going on here.

BORGER: You know, it's interesting. We don't get to watch these debates very often, and when you watch them, they're always more interesting than you think they're going to be. You think you've heard all the arguments. You've heard all the people talking about them. We've been debating health care in this country for decades and decades, but when people get up on the floor in this kind of historic debate, they're talking to their constituents, talking to their families, talking for history. They know that this is going to be an important vote one way or another. Some of these members are putting their jobs on the line, literally, in voting for this measure and I'm sure you're going to hear them say it.

BLITZER: Let me go back to Sanjay for a moment.

Sanjay, you said something interesting and maybe you could explain. Why would the American Medical Association be in favor of this bill, but the surgeons, the college of surgeons -- what's the name of the organization?

GUPTA: American College of Surgeons.

BLITZER: They oppose it?

GUPTA: Well, you know, and keep in mind. If you look at the American Medical Association's sort of history they have opposed health care reform in the past and they supported this initially then had some concerns, but in the end, as you say, they support it. There's really a couple issues, here. One has to do with what this is going to mean ultimately for certain types of doctors, the type of insurance they take, and where they are practicing. So to say that this is going to affect doctors the same across the nation is simply not true.

BLITZER: So in other words, general practioners might be less affected than surgeons, is that what you're saying?

GUPTA: Yeah, I think that's fair to say. I think that there is going to be an emphasis on primary care physicians, preventative care physicians, as well and a little bit of less incentive, or less emphasis, I should say, on specialists. Now, there aren't enough primary care doctors in this country, Wolf. We talk about that all the time. In 2008 out of the 1,200 or so graduating medical students only two percent went into primary care. It should be closer to 30 percent, some say even 40 percent. So I think built into this there's some potential incentives to try and get more primary care doctors.

But, the other part of it, I think, is that this idea that simply giving more people an insurance card, is that enough? And I think when you read the language closely from the American College of Surgeons they say, are we marrying this with delivery enough? Are people going to be able to pay for the care that they still want or are they just simply going to simply have an insurance card and not a doctor to see or access?

BLITZER: The other health care professionals, the major health care professionals, like the nurses, their major organizations they say, while not perfect, vote for it.

GUPTA: Yeah, you know, and it's an interesting adage. You hear it all the time. You know, don't let perfect be the enemy of good. Something is better than nothing. But not everyone thinks that way, either. You have a lot of support for this that you didn't have back 16 years ago from the pharmaceutical industry, the medical industry, but again, the question comes up, you get a lot more people this insurance card they can put in their wallet, what is the next step really going to be and has it gone far enough?

BLITZER: We're going to have a lot more of what's going on the floor. There is some parliamentary intrigue going on right now. Rules, debates, we'll give you a little flavor of what's going on right after this.

REP TODD TIAHRT (R), KANSAS: Compromise, the Louisiana purchase, and those special provisions designated in the Senate bill are changed as was assured by the chairwoman of the rules committee would not that bill have to go back to the Senate for further action?

JACKSON: Not interpret of the (INAUDIBLE) of the resolution.

The gentleman from California.

TIAHRT: Further inquiry, Mr. Speaker...

JACKSON: Kansas.

TIAHRT: Mr. Speaker, I'm asking a question that if a bill is changed, does it not have to go back to the other body for further a action? Because the gentle woman from New York has assured the gentleman from California that his concerns about specific sections that were used to get specific votes is going to be changed by the manager's amendment. Would that not then change the underlying Senate bill which would then have to go back to the other body for further action? Is that not true?

JACKSON: Chair will not interpret the meaning of the pending resolution as it is being debated by members in the present debate.

The gentleman from California?

TIAHRT: Well, Mr. Speaker, I'm a little confused, then. Perhaps you could, in a parliament...


REP BARBARA LEE (D), CALIFORNIA: ...for our children, our grandchildren, so that they will live longer and healthier lives. And we cast our vote in memory of those people who didn't have preventative health care and died prematurely.

JACKSON: The gentle lady's time has expired.

LEE: Health care will finally become a right for all.

JACKSON: The gentle lady from California time has expired. The gentle lady from New York reserves the balance of her time.

The gentleman from California.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, at this time I yield one and one half minute to Mr. Smith to consume in order -- and I would ask that the House be in order before he begin.

JACKSON: The House will be in order.

The gentleman from New Jersey is recognized for one minute and a half.

REP CHRISTOPHER SMITH (R), NEW JERSEY: For those of us who recognize abortion as violence against children and the exploitation of women, nothing less than a comprehensive prohibition of public funding of elective abortion satisfies the demands of social justice. Regrettably the language that emerged from the Senate is weak, duplicitous, and ineffective not by accident, but by design. It will open up the floodgates of public funding for abortion in a myriad of programs resulting in more dead babies and more wounded mothers. For the first time ever the Senate passed bill permits health care plans and policies funded with tax credits to pay for abortion so long as the issuer of the federally subsidized plan collects a new congressionally mandated fee from every enrollee in the plan to pay for other people's abortions.

The Senate passed bill creates a community health center fund. The Hyde amendment, Stupak amendment does not apply. Therefore either the Obama administration or a court will compel funding there, as well. Also, OPM, the bill creates a huge new program administered by OPM that would manage two or more new multistate or regional health plans.

JACKSON: All members please remove their conversations from the floor, the gentleman from New Jersey deserves to be heard.

The gentleman from New Jersey.

SMITH: The legislation says that only one of those multistate plans not pay for abortion which begs the question what about the other multistate plans administered by OBM? Why are those federally straited plans including abortion? This represents a radical departure from current policy. Abortion isn't health care, Mr. Speaker. It's not preventative health care. We live in an age of ultra sound imaging, the old window to the womb and its occupant. Let's protect the unborn child and their mother. This, unfortunately, is the biggest increase in abortion funding ever.

JACKSON: The gentleman from New Jersey yields back the balance of his time. The gentleman from California reserves the balance of his time.

The gentle lady from New York.

Mr. Speaker I yield two minutes to...

BLITZER: All right. There you just heard a little passion from Chris Smith, the Republican congressman from New Jersey, one of the most outspoken opponents of abortion making the case against abortion saying this Senate language which the House is about to consider would increase abortion in the United States.

Jesse Jackson, Jr. the Congressman from Illinois, he's trying to keep everything in order right now. He's got the gavel there. Not an easy chore, as passions are as intense as they are.

We'll go back to the floor of the House of Representatives. We're getting ready for the first of several key votes setting the stage for health care reform or not right after this.


BLITZER: A lot of questions about Bart Stupak, the Democratic Congressman from Michigan who opposes abortion but maybe getting ready to switch his vote. What are we hearing right now, Dana, as far as Bart Stupak is concerned?

BASH: He just announced a press conference in about a half an hour, 4:00 Eastern Time. We do not know what he is going to say at this press conference, but the fact that he has called it indicates that there is potentially some movement. He has told us, as we've seen, all day long, that he feels that he is very close to a deal with the White House and the deal with the White House specifically on writing language for an executive order that President Obama would sign affirming that what he wants of his goals here, and that is making sure that no taxpayer dollars will be used for abortion. So we'll see if we're going to try to get more information just to confirm if there is, in fact, a deal. We'll get that back you to. But one thing just since the last time you and I have talked about this that we've picked up, because we are here talking to members of Congress as they go back and forth. We're right off the House floor, is that part of the issue is that there are some very staunchly abortion rights Democrats, many of the women in the caucus especially. They have been meeting down the hall with Nancy Pelosi.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dana, I'm going to interrupt you for a moment. Henry Waxman is walking right behind you. See if you can grab him and ask him to come over.

BASH: I'm just live and Wolf is on with me and he wanted to know if you could come over here and if you happen to have any information specifically. Bart Stupak is giving a press conference in about a half hour. Do you know if there's a deal?

REP. HENRY WAXMAN (D) CALIFORNIA: Well, I look forward to his press conference but it sounds good. It sounds like they're moving to a place where we can unite everybody behind our legislation.

BASH: I was just going to tell Wolf and maybe you can enlighten us about this as well. What I was hearing especially from Democrats like your colleague Diana DeGette of Colorado, those who are very staunchly for abortion rights, that they have seen the language of this executive order and they didn't feel that comfortable with it. They thought it actually went too far. Can you fill us in on some of those discussions?

WAXMAN: Well, I don't want to comment on the different views. They need to sort it through and find out exactly what the language says. That's important for both sides. But from what I'm hearing, I think the language may bring everybody together.

BASH: You feel good about it.


BASH: And this bigger picture that obviously means that you feel pretty good about getting that 216 that you need to pass this bill?

WAXMAN: We're going to pass this bill. I feel very confident.

BASH: Do you have the 216 as we speak?

WAXMAN: I believe we do.

BASH: So this sounds like it's news or you feel confident. Let me be more specific. Do you have 216 commitments from your fellow Democrats to vote yes?

WAXMAN: I don't want to make any statement like that. There are some people still thinking it over. I'm being optimistic. I'm telling you how I feel.


WAXMAN: And we'll see whether my feelings are justified that we're going to have more than 216 when the vote comes.

BASH: Thank you very much. Thanks for stopping.

WAXMAN: Thank you.

BASH: Sorry to get you like that on the fly but we appreciate your being nice and stopping. Thank you. There you have it, Wolf. That's actually just a good example of the confidence that we're hearing but confidence mixed with caution. They won't say yes we have the firm 216, you know, quietly, privately, without attribution we are hearing a little bit more candor that they do really feel that they have 216.

BLITZER: And he is one of the key players on the House side. He's the chairman of that committee that really helped draft that initial legislation that got through the House rather dramatically.

BASH: That's right. There are three key chairmen in the House that have been doing all of the work here, writing the legislation and dealing with the ins and outs of it. He is one of them. He is absolutely a key player on this.

BLITZER: Dana, thanks very much. Good hustle. Thanks to Henry Waxman as well.

BASH: Thanks for seeing him back there.

BLITZER: If I see others behind you I know you don't have eyes behind your head. We can see what's going on behind you.

BASH: Thanks. We'll work on that.

BLITZER: There is Darrell Issa. He's one of the key Republicans from California, David Dreier, another Republican from California. Let's listen in briefly and then take a quick break.

REP. DAVID DREIER (R) CALIFORNIA: -- Absolute certainty if, in fact, that it pass is that the Senate bill will become public law. We have heard all about this reconciliation package and the gentlewoman seems to be certain of its passage, but is it not true that this rule guarantees that the only thing that will be law for sure is the Senate bill, which has the cornhusker kickback, the Louisiana purchase and those other items?

REP. LOUISE SLAUGHTER, (D) NEW YORK: Mr. Dreier, it's absolutely true that the Senate bill does contain those things. It has already been passed and requires no further action in the Senate. What we will do today is pass the bill, which will then be sent to the president and become law. We will this afternoon pass the reconciliation --

DREIER: The gentlewoman has just --

SLAUGHTER: Please let me answer. Please let me answer.

REP. JESSE JACKSON JR (D) ILLINOIS: The gentleman from California controls the time.

DREIER: Madame speaker, Mr. Speaker, we now know with absolute certainty that the only thing we are --

SLAUGHTER: No you don't.

DREIER: -- We are guaranteed is --

SLAUGHTER: No you don't.

DREIER: Mr. Speaker the House is -- Mr. Speaker --

SLAUGHTER: You don't know that.

DREIER: Mr. Speaker -- Mr. Speaker.

JACKSON: The House will be in order. The gentle lady from New York will suspend.

SLAUGHTER: All right.

JACKSON: The gentleman from California controls the time. The gentleman from California has been recognized.

DREIR: Madame Speaker, Mr. Speaker, I encourage everyone to read the rule because the only thing that we are guaranteed upon its passage is that the Senate bill with the cornhusker kickback, Gatorade, Louisiana purchase and all --

JACKSON: Time is expired.

DREIER: -- In fact, becomes public law.

JACKSON: The gentleman's time is expired. The gentle lady from New York is recognized.

SLAUGHTER: Mr. Speaker I yield myself one minute. Yes the Senate bill will become law today followed by the reconciliation bill which contains the amendments to the law which contains what everybody here wants us to take out. The best way that they can achieve their ends of removing the things that are objectionable from the Senate bill is to support reconciliation. And let's see if you can do it.


BLITZER: We're here watching what's going on on the floor of the House of Representatives. I'm Wolf Blitzer together with the best political team on television. It was fascinating just a few moments ago. You heard a lot of screaming and shouting on the floor of the House of Representatives, passions clearly escalating.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The House can be fun in that way. In some ways the Senate can do it. Usually they do it at the end of the day when they mix it up but this is fun. It's the Republicans, David Dreier of California making the point that this Senate bill that they're about to pass has a lot of things in it, the so-called cornhusker deal, these little private side deals that were made in order to bring Senate support on. Obviously it all goes away if they pass the second bill, which changes it, the fixer bill. But the fact of the matter is these are Republicans making their point and you're going to hear this over and over again I think because they're going to take up the time that's allotted them.

BLITZER: And Louise Slaughter is the chair of the rules committee in the House of Representatives, David Dreier was the chairman for many years of the rules committee when the Republicans controlled so these arcane parliamentary maneuvers, they both appreciate what's going on. GLORIA BORGER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Welcome to their world, right? On the rules committee that is the way, that is what they do every day. And what Dreier was trying to do is to sort of get this on the record over and over and over again. I know you'll be shocked, Alex. He'll probably be using this in campaign ads, that you Democrats are voting for all of these special interest provisions that you say you hate but you're voting for them. Let's just get this clear. You're voting for them even though you're going to try and fix them and undo it, by the way, what are you doing right now? You're voting for them.

BLITZER: It was precisely because of that fear that they were -- originally the Democrats wanted to do the so-called deem-and-pass motion.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: So they wouldn't be able to say I directly voted for the cornhusker kickback or the Louisiana purchase or whatever. But the Democrats in the end said you know what, we're not going to fool around with trickery like that. We're going to let the House vote for the Senate bill as is. Donna, a wise decision?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, Wolf, I would have allowed the rules that the Republicans used -- you know, it's like having two chefs in the kitchen. We have the same rulebook. It's just that Republicans use the rule book to pass very comprehensive, controversial legislation and the Democrats are using the same rule book. So I would have used the same rule book, but the speaker has decided that the members will have three up-or-down votes. That's what the American people want. The Democratic caucus decided to do that and this is a fair process so that people will go on record in support of health care.

BLITZER: Vote on the rule, vote on the Senate version, vote on the reconciliation bill. I think they'll also have a separate vote, motion to recommit and we're not going to go into all sorts of technical stuff. But there's a lot of parliamentary stuff. Was this wise just to do it in a straight forward way like this? Because originally yesterday they said they were going to vote on the reconciliation bill before they voted in the Senate bill but overnight that changed.

ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: It's a much smarter thing to do. The idea that somehow the American people wouldn't figure out that if you gift wrap the box that no one would ever figure out what was in the box after we've been debating it for two years. (INAUDIBLE) hold water. But also, you know, this is actually cutting on surveys out there. Republicans have an issue on this in that Americans are seeing how the sausage is made and it doesn't matter what ends up in the jar here. They'll cut a deal. They're -- just to get anything done. And if this is how they're deciding such an important issue as health care on crass politics, then how do we know they're going to get it right? How do we know it's going to help us?

BLITZER: Let's go back to the floor of the House of Representatives and listen in because it's getting lively. Listen to Louise Slaughter, the chair of the House Rules Committee. SLAUGHTER: So we may debate and pass this important legislation today and I yield back -- what? Mr. Speaker, I'm certain that I heard you say that the gentleman's time has expired. Is that not correct?

JACKSON: The gentle lady's time has expired as well. All time having been expired --

BLITZER: OK. Jesse Jackson Jr. the congressman from Illinois getting some instructions.

JACKSON: The rules are being applied. The point of order was made and was being debated. All time has expired.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker clarification of point of order?

JACKSON: The question is shall the House now consider the resolution?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, clarification on point of order.

JACKSON: The gentleman from Kansas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it my understanding that you said that the rules will apply to the Senate bill on earmarks that were not covered by the reconciliation bill?

JACKSON: The point of order was raised against the pending resolution. The point of order was debated. The question is, shall the House now consider the resolution? All those in favor say aye.


JACKSON: Those opposed say nay.


JACKSON: The ayes have it.


JACKSON: The gentleman from California.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On this we demand the ayes and nays.

JACKSON: The ayes and nays are requested. Those favoring a vote by the ayes and nays will rise. A sufficient number having risen the ayes and nays are ordered. Members will record their votes by electronic device. This will be a 15-minute vote.

BLITZER: All right. So there you have it. The rule will now be debate -- will no longer be debated. It's going to be 15 minutes of actual voting. They do it electronically on the floor of the House of Representatives. I assume this will be pretty much party line and will be passed. Once it's passed, they will then go forward with the next major vote. Candy Crowley correct me if I'm wrong, the next major vote will be the Senate bill unless there is another preliminary bill in between. CROWLEY: Actually, I think they're voting on a point of order. I don't think they're voting on the rule yet.

BLITZER: So they still have to vote on the rule and then they'll vote on the Senate bill.

CROWLEY: Unless there is another point of order. You know, I think that's what's going on here.

BORGER: Which is about the earmarks. Darrell Issa making the point --

BLITZER: It's will the House now consider the resolution? They're not actually considering the rule of resolution yet. It's dragging it out to a certain degree, Gloria. But that's part of the process.

BORGER: It is part of the process. And normally we're used to it in the Senate more than in the House but in the House, there are always ways to play with the rules, to call points of order to delay and delay and delay what could be inevitable today which is the passage of health care reform in the House and I think again Republicans are doing this for their own reasons. They want to use every opportunity they can to point out what is in this bill that the public should not --

BLITZER: And we should know with less than 15 minutes, about 15 minutes from now, whether or not the Democrats will in fact have 216 votes that they need to pass the Senate bill, make that the law of the land and then go on and pass the separate reconciliation bill. That's because (ph) at the top of the hour. Bart Stupak, the Democratic congressman from Michigan, fiercely anti-abortion, is about to announce which way he will go. Does he go in favor of the health care reform bill or oppose and if he goes either way, how many other votes does he bring along with him? Our coverage continues after this.


BLITZER: They're voting right now on a procedural issue to move forward. We expect this will pass and then they'll vote on a separate rules resolution. We assume that will pass and then they will go forward and vote on the Senate health care reform bill. It's sort of complicated, but it goes with the track. Some delaying going on. Not as early that first vote as we had anticipated but it is moving forward. Once again, we're standing by to hear from Bart Stupak, the Democratic congressman from Michigan, fiercely anti-abortion. We're going to hear how he stands. That's coming up supposedly at the top of the hour. He's scheduled a news conference in the House of Representatives. David Gergen, you're our senior political analyst. Help us get a little bit better appreciation of what we're seeing right now because it's lively there on the House floor.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is lively, Wolf. I want to enter a dissenting voice on some of this by the way. I understand why the Republicans want to drag this out. But if they're not careful they're going to lose their audience. If they go through a lot of these procedural things and it just seems slow, once we hear where Bart Stupak is, if he's coming over as yes, I think the Republicans' interest is in trying to make their best arguments, make their best case and call it a day after an hour and a half or so. To stretch this on for a long time, unless they want to get into primetime and they want to get some arguments out in front of what conceivably will be a much bigger audience, I don't quite see the point. I must want to tell you, that just as an oratorical question of argument, it must really be frustrating to be in the House and be limited to these short little speechlets (ph) as opposed to getting to the Senate where you have a chance to really develop an argument. This Senate debates to me seem richer than these do. It's hard for -- I think it's hard for the Republicans and the Democrats to make their complete points in this kind of sort of cramped rule setting.

BLITZER: That's the nature of the House versus the nature of the Senate. That's the way it's been as you know for a long time. What was fascinating is they were arguing over 10 seconds on the House floor just a little while ago. They were saying, I have another 10 seconds. No, you don't have another 10 seconds. They were going to review the clock to see if they have another 10 seconds. That's the nature of the House of Representatives.

GERGEN: Well, it is, but, you know, the nature of modern television is such that people want to hear something interesting or excited or they go away. So, you know, it's -- I thought that the Republicans at Blair House during that day were able to make much more complete arguments and I thought did themselves well as did the Democrats because you got a really a more complete sense of what the points were and what sort of the underlying arguments are when you reach conclusion. So we'll see. I think we're all looking forward to Mr. Stupak now and seeing where that goes and that's going to be maybe one of the most dramatic points and then to see the language. We've just been hearing from Dana Bash that there may be some pro-choice people up on the Hill who don't like this executive order that's emerging so that also adds some drama to this.

BLITZER: We're going to wait to hear what Bart Stupak has to say. He's getting ready for his news conference. Dana Bash is watching what's going on. You got some now information Dana?

BASH: That's right. This comes from our producer Deirdre Walsh (ph). She just talked to Steve Driehaus. He is a very key player in this. He is a freshman from Ohio. He is staunchly anti-abortion. He's been with Bart Stupak of Michigan on this all of the way. He just told her that he is going to go to this press conference with Congressman Stupak. He said he's OK with the language that they have crafted, an executive order saying no taxpayer dollars for abortion and probably more. We'll see the details later and Congressman Driehaus, who has been on the fence said he will vote for the health care bill after this executive order is a done deal. He said he wouldn't speak for Bart Stupak but he personally says he will vote for it. You got to think that if Congressman Driehaus is going to Bart Stupak's press conference, maybe seven or eight others, he's going to vote for it. It looks like we could get some pretty big news here as soon as the press conference begins. They're voting right now so that press conference may be a little bit delayed. But that gives you an indication that things could be moving in the direction of this group of anti-abortion Democrats deciding to vote, all of them deciding to vote for this health care bill.

BLITZER: That explains why Henry Waxman Dana, when you grabbed him before, was as upbeat as he was because that would be significant if Bart Stupak and these other anti-abortion Democrats announce that their going to vote for it. Then it looks like it's over at least on the House side.

BASH: It could be. That's right. It certainly looks that way. And one other point, I knew you and David were just talking about the other side of this, the staunchly abortion rights Democrats. I just talked to a couple of them. They have been in Nancy Pelosi's office down the hall reviewing this language. They've been doing it on the floor. They were not thrilled about the concept of this executive order but they feel comfortable with the way it's written as of now.

BLITZER: Stand by Dana. We're going to go to that news press conference as soon as it begins. Dr. Sanjay Gupta is going to be joining us as well. He's being getting a lot of tweets, questions from viewers, what all this means, for folks who are watching. Our coverage will continue after this.


BLITZER: The U.S. Capitol, that's where the action is right now, the House of Representatives more specifically. They're getting ready to vote aye or nay on health care reform. We're also standing by momentarily to hear from Democratic Congressman Bart Stupak of Michigan and some of his colleagues who oppose abortion. Have they decided to go forward and vote in favor of the Democrats' health care reform bill or not? That will be significant if the answer is yes. The Democrats probably will have enough votes, 216 to get it done on this day.

Let's bring in Sanjay Gupta, our chief medical correspondent. Sanjay, viewers out there are watching and they're intrigued by all the political stuff that's going on, but they want to know what this means. They're tweeting you. They're asking you questions.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's more complicated than a cerebral aneurism. That's what I've been tweeting back.

BLITZER: You know something about cerebral aneurisms, too.

GUPTA: It's interesting. Some good tweets coming in. Is there anything in the bill about rationing health care, deb 231 asks? No one is going to say if we're rationing health care obviously as part of the bill. But there is this sort of term that makes a lot of peoples' eyes glaze over, this idea of comparative effectiveness. And that's this idea that we figure out what works in medicine and make sure to pay for those things, which also means that there are a lot of things being done right now that there's not scientific proof that it works and maybe those things won't get paid any more. Some people call that rationing. Other people say, look, rationing exists right now under the current system. It's just the insurance companies are essentially rationing by denying payment or dropping people off their coverage. Got another question here. With the increases in Medicaid coverage, will doctors charge more to offset losses in Medicaid reimbursement rates?