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CNN Live Event/Special

House Set to Vote on Health Care Reform

Aired March 21, 2010 - 21:00   ET


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: And then this debate will continue through the election year. This is a victory for the speaker. Her caucus may pay a price politically. Her party may pay a price politically. We'll see how it plays out, but she has been tenacious. This was at the abyss. It looked like it was going to fail and she decided no, it was not. She worked the president to keep him from backing down into a more modest bill and she worked her caucus and she is going to get 216 plus, probably in the ballpark of 220 tonight. So whatever you think of the speaker or whatever you think of the legislation, you have to applaud her success in getting to the finish line.

Now we'll go into the next chapter of this debate, how many seats might she lose because of her victory tonight? That is a challenge going ahead. How can they frame the debate? Both parties and now both sides are trying to frame the debate, re-brand the conversation between now and November.

There's a big challenge, Wolf, for the Democrats on the price tag of this because that is already one of the most successful Republican arguments and they are going to have to come back soon, the Democrats and the speaker made this promise to do what's called the doc fix, increase what doctors get when they treat patients in the Medicare and Medicaid program.

So that that's going to cost more money. So they're saying this bill they're voting on tonight will reduce the deficit. Much if not all of that goes away if they use deficit spending to do the doc fix. And then you have one of the congressmen from Kentucky was saying both Democratic and Republican governor have said, this is going to cost the states a lot of money.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I want to alert our viewers that there will be a live "LARRY KING LIVE" at midnight Eastern tonight, "LARRY KING LIVE," a live edition at midnight.

We're going to continue our special coverage here. We're getting ready for the roll call on this historic moment. Then there will be a separate roll call on the so-called reconciliation bill and all of this will culminate later tonight with the president of the United States going into the east room of the White House to speak, to speak directly to the American people. He's been working on this together with Nancy Pelosi, the speaker, Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader for more than a year.

But that effort is now about to pay off. And it's a significant moment for these Democrats, for the president. They've worked tenaciously. And all of those officials like the White House chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel, for example, whose stock was going down, all of a sudden that stock could be going back up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Funny what happens in Washington, Wolf. I think when we look back on this, you have to look back to the vote for Social Security. You have to look back to the vote for Medicare. No matter where you are on the political spectrum on this, this is how important this vote is. Because it will change the way people behave in this country. All of us in our families and all of our children.

So, you cannot understate the significance and the importance of this. One other thing that's so interesting to me is that this is a vote for more government in the Congress. You say, Kevin, it's just out of sync with the rest of the country. So look at this. Barack Obama proposes a plan that has more government involvement in your life at a time when trusting government is lower than it was during Watergate and they're passing this. So there clearly are going to be political consequences. The debate will change and we'll have to see who's on the right side of history because there aren't going to be any Republican votes on this.

BLITZER: I just want to bring back this whole issue of the impact this will have on people. If you've spoken movingly about your family and your own experience with lack of health care and your mother, for example, who was a relatively young woman when she died -- correct me if I'm wrong, she did not have health care.

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: She worked like so many of our fellow citizens every day of her life. My dad is a veteran, shout out to my dad and all of the veterans out there who enjoy their health care. My mother took sick and she didn't have a regular doctor. She worked every day. Her employer did not provide health care for her and so she went to emergency room like so many Americans who don't have the ability to get regular treatments and by the time she arrived at the hospital, it was too late. She had a blood clot in her lung -- her lungs. And when they went in to perform the surgery, she had a heart attack. So sadly my mother passed away.

But tonight as I said, so many families can rest assured that this bill will not only help Americans who live below the poverty line, that's $10,000 for a family of four, $23,000 I believe for an individual. So this will give them the ability to go out there and purchase health insurance or the ability of small businesses to go out there and provide health insurance to their employee. So this is a victory for the American people. I understand the politics and I will debate the politics. We have 225 days so I look forward to all of that debate. But for tonight, this is a victory for those Americans who are suffering who need a chance to go and see their doctor.

BLITZER: Kevin, I want to have you weigh in but I want to bring back David Gergen right now. David, the country is on the verge, only moments away from the roll call, moments away from the House of Representatives passing health care reform, the exact version that the Senate passed. Then it will go to the president for his signature.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, I've just come from greeting a group from -- young leader from around the globe. And I can tell you that people all over the world are watching tonight. They're curious. They've been watching -- they've been wondering about Barack Obama's leadership. They've wondered for a long time why the world's most advanced industrialized nation does not provide health care for everyone.

And they also wonder whether we can afford it. They have some of the same divisions looking at this that Americans do to go back to John King's point. But it is certainly an historic night, the biggest piece of social legislation since the 1960s, since Medicare. And yet also is the first piece of major social legislation past 60 years that has been voted on in an entirely partisan way. And that, I think, is a disappointment to many Americans even as we welcome in the idea that we're moving toward universal coverage.

BLITZER: Another 32 million or so, Kevin, Americans eventually over the next few years will get access to health insurance as a result of this legislation. But they're still by the year 2018, 2019 will be 20 million others who still remain without health insurance. This is going to cost money presumably. Even though the CBO says there will be a deficit. They'll work on it. They'll be constantly savings from Medicare and other expenditures but it will probably wind up costing money. Here's the question -- what's wrong with spending money -- potentially a lot of money -- in order to provide health insurance for millions of Americans?

KEVIN MADDEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I don't think there is anything wrong with it. I think it's again, it's a fundamental approach on how we do it. I think there's no doubt right now, that Republicans and Democrats alike agree and independents, all agree that this is an historic moment. But the question is will it be a historic burden 20, 25, 50 years from now on our country financially?

So, the problem with spending the money is how we spend it and whether or not it suffocates the long term -- the short term and the long term growth of our economy. That's why Republicans have always professed that they believe in getting greater access, believe in driving down costs, but we don't think that we should have a one-size- fits-all Federal mandate out of Washington apply to 50 different states with very unique health care populations. So I think that again is the argument. There's no doubt it's historic. But Republicans believe it's an historic mistake and that's why they fought so hard to try and stop it.

BLITZER: All right. We'll take a quick break. The final arguments before the roll call. That's coming up right after this.


BLITZER: Republican Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, a rising star in the party, is speaking right now. We'll listen.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R) WISCONSIN: ...mass of land from Hawaii, to Maine, from Wisconsin, to Florida, America is an idea, it's the most pro-human idea ever designed by mankind. Our founders got it right when they wrote in the declaration of independence that our rights come from nature and nature's God -- not from government. Should we now subscribe to an ideology where government creates rights, is solely responsible for delivering these artificial rights and then systematically rations these rights? Do we believe that the goal of government is to promote equal opportunity for all Americans to make the most of their lives? Or do we now believe that government's role is to equalize the results of peoples' lives?

The philosophy advanced on this floor by this majority today is so paternalistic and so arrogant, it's condescending and it tramples upon the principles that have made America so exceptional. My friends, we are fast approaching a tipping point where more Americans depend upon the Federal government than upon themselves for their livelihoods, a point where we, the American people, trade in our commitment and our concern for our individual liberties in exchange for government benefits and dependencies.

More to the point, madam speaker, we have seen this movie before and we know how it ends. The European social welfare state promoted by this legislation is not sustainable. This is not who we are and it is not who we should become. As we march toward this tipping point of dependency, we're also accelerating toward a debt crisis, a debt crisis that is the result of politicians of the past making promises we simply cannot afford to keep, deja vu all over again. It's unconscionable what we're leaving the next generation.

This moment may mark a temporary conclusion of the health care debate, but its place in history has not yet been decided. If this passes, the quest to reclaim the American idea is not over. The fight to reapply our founding principles is not finished. It is just a steeper hill to climb and it is a climb that we will make. On this issue, more than any other issue we've ever seen here, the American people are engaged. From our town hall meetings to Scott Brown's victory in Massachusetts, you have made your voices heard and some of us are listening to you. My colleagues -- let's bring down this bill and bring back the ideas that made this country great.

SPEAKER: Gentleman yields back his time. Does the gentleman from South Carolina wish to yield any time?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Could I ask again, we're trying to even out the time, and we had a 20 to 15-minute difference between us, we thought after Mr. Ryan spoke. Can you tell us what the difference at this point is?

SPEAKER: Well, Mr. Camp will have 20 minutes. The gentleman from South Carolina will control 15 minutes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you like to use some additional time?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My time is expired. It's the gentleman from South Carolina's time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I first recognize Mr. (INAUDIBLE) - of California for a unanimous consent request. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent to address the House for one minute, the strong support of this legislation.

SPEAKER: Without objection, so ordered.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Israel from New York is --

SPEAKER: The gentleman may extend his remarks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I also ask unanimous consent to -- recognize Mr. Israel.

BLITZER: They're trying to figure out how much time both sides have left. The Democrats and the Republicans at 6:42 p.m. Eastern. They were supposed to have two hours of debate, one hour for the Democrats, one hour for the Republicans. That's the House of Representatives time is clearly not precise. It's now 9:15 p.m. Eastern. So, it's a little bit longer on a half an hour than it was supposed to be.

But you know what? That's what happens. This is an historic debate. Let them go on a little bit longer. We'll continue to watch what's going on. And remember, when all is said and done, the final two speakers will be the two leaders, John Boehner, the Republican leader, the minority leader and Nancy Pelosi, the speaker. They will have as long as they want, basically, to make their wrap-up statements before the actual roll call. It's sort of a done deal as far as we can tell, the 216 votes needed to pass the Senate version.

The Democrats will have it. And then they have a motion to recommit as they say. The Democrats will win that one. And then finally tonight, they'll have a separate roll call on the so-called reconciliation bill which the Democrats will be able to pass as well, sending that to the Senate with some changes of the Senate version and then there will be a fight in the coming days in the Senate over that.

Just want to remind you as well that when all of this House action is done, the president of the United States will go into the east room to speak to the American people. We thought that could happen in the 10:00, 10:00 p.m. Eastern hour, but, you know, it could go later, it could go earlier. We're watching this. We're learning about the rules of the House as we go along. I suspect a lot of folks are. We'll continue our coverage after this.


BLITZER: Indiana Republican Mike Pence, one of the Republican leaders is now making his final speech.

REP. MIKE PENCE (R) INDIANA: When you mandate every American have government-approved insurance, whether they want it or need it or not, when you create a government-run plan paid for with job-killing tax increases, when you provide public funding for abortion, that's a government takeover of health care and the American people know it. The American people want to face our challenges in health care with more freedom, not more government and this really is about freedom. The more I think about this debate, the more I think about what Ronald Reagan said in 1964. He said then and now, it's about whether we abandon the American revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far distant capital can plan our lives better than we can plan them ourselves.

It's a day (ph) we gather in the old House chamber for a time of worship and prayer, members of Congress been doing that for about 200 years. It's a chamber filled with statues of great Americans -- Sam Huston, Blue (ph) Wallace, Robert Fulton, William Jennings Bryant, soldiers, heroes, heroines of freedoms passed.

As I sat there, I thought of that Bible verse that says, we're surrounded by such a great crowd of witnesses. Standing here tonight, I believe we are as well. And not just those that are looking in tonight from here and around the country, but by those that have gone before, men and women who did freedom's work in their time, who persevered, who made this the greatest nation on earth possible.

Now it's our turn. We can reform health care without putting our country on a pathway towards socialized medicine. We can reform health care by giving the American people more choices, not more government. So I say to my Democratic colleagues -- stand with those who have gone before and made the hard choices to defend freedom in their time. Stand with us. Stand for freedom and the American people will stand with you.

SPEAKER: The gentleman yields back his time. The gentleman from South Carolina, the gentleman from South Carolina.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Gentleman, I first recognize for unanimous consent the request from the gentlewoman from Ohio.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you very much. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent to revise and extend my remarks in support of this health care legislation.

SPEAKER: Without objection, so ordered.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Once again, Mr. Speaker, can you tell me if the times are equal, more or less.

SPEAKER: The gentleman from South Carolina has 13 and a half minutes, the gentleman from Michigan has 16 and a half minutes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you like to have the next --

SPEAKER: Gentleman, do you reserve, the gentleman from Michigan?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. At this time I yield two minutes to the distinguished gentleman from California.

SPEAKER: The gentleman is recognized for two minutes. REP. KEVIN McCARTHY (R) CALIFORNIA: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, this is the peoples' House. And we're sent here to represent the people throughout America. Some are actually in the gallery, some marching around this building. Some are sitting at home watching on TV or they're in their car driving back from church and many of them have been calling this Congress.

And they've been asking one thing -- why does Washington refuse to listen? They see what many on this side of the aisle see -- the arrogance of Washington. We're here to represent our constituents which is why we're asking why are we voting on a health care bill today that empowers government instead of the people? Survey after survey demonstrates the great unpopularity of today's bill, not only the substance of it, but the trickery, the deals and the short cuts that led us to where we are today. But this bill is being pushed through because the majority in this Congress refuse to listen to the people.

The speaker has even said that she believes we have to pass this bill so people can find out what's in it. The logic here is Washington knows better than the people. All of this at a time that Washington is borrowing 43 cents out of every dollar it spends, adding to our national debt, mortgaging our children's future. And this $2.4 trillion bill will steal even more money from our children's future at a time when this administration and Congress are poised to run up a debt more than any administration combined.

It doesn't have to be this way. We could have easily found a positive bipartisan agreement on common sense health care reforms that reduced the costs, increase competition and increase access to all raising the debt. Today is a legacy vote for members of this peoples' House and I urge my colleagues to start over and craft the bill to solve the problem.

SPEAKER: The gentleman yields back his time. The gentleman from South Carolina.

BLITZER: All right, we'll continue to watch what's happening as they're getting ready to wrap up this debate. Nancy Pelosi still will speak. John Boehner the Republican leader will speak. They will then have the roll call. And our coverage will continue after this.


BLITZER: Democratic Congressman James Clyburn of South Carolina, the number three Democrat in the House is now speaking.

REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC), MAJORITY WHIP: ... of the 21st century. And tonight we will take a significant step to move our country forward. I yield back the balance of my time.

SPEAKER: The gentleman yields back his time. The gentleman from Michigan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, at this time, for just the purposes of the unanimous consent request, I yield to the gentleman from Pennsylvania.

SPEAKER: The gentleman is recognized.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you Mr. Speaker. I seek unanimous consent to revise and extend my remarks in opposition to this flawed health care bill.

SPEAKER: Without objection, so ordered.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And at this time Mr. Speaker, I yield two minutes to the distinguished gentlewoman from Washington state, Ms. McMorris Rodgers.

SPEAKER: The gentle lady is recognized for two minutes.

REP. CATHY McMORRIS RODGERS, (R) WASHINGTON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I know that some of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle are still undecided and I sincerely urge you to vote no. This is the wrong bill at the wrong time. At a time when 15 million Americans are out of work, it's the wrong time to hit small businesses with more taxes and more requirements.

But the time when premiums are surging for working families, it's the wrong time to pass a bill that everyone acknowledges is actually going to increase premiums. At a time that we have a $3.8 trillion budget, 40 percent of it is deficit spending, 40 percent of it is on the credit card, it's the wrong time to pass a new massive government spending program. And at the time when Americans are losing trust in Congress, it's the wrong time to strike backroom deals and pass a bill over the will of the people.

Everybody in this body acknowledges the need for real health care reform, but this health care reform will make things worse, not better for the people we serve. We should not let the hunger to do something, anything, trick us into passing a bill that will cripple free enterprise and permanently diminish the freedom of the American individual.

Today I'm reminded of a quote by President Ford -- a government that's big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take it all away. This is a time for courage and clear thinking. I urge my friends on the other side of the aisle to join in standing with the American people and vote against this bill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentle lady yields back her time.

The gentleman from South Carolina?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, I yield two minutes to the gentle lady from Pennsylvania, Mrs. Schwarz.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentle lady is recognized for two minutes.

REP. ALLYSON SCHWARTZ, (D) PENNSYLVANIA: Thank you. Health care reform represents the largest deficit reduction measure in nearly a generation, while controlling the rising cost of health care for families and businesses and improving access to and quality of coverage for 95 percent of Americans.

This plan strengthens coverage and health care for all Americans, including provisions that I have fought hard for -- prohibiting insurance companies from excluding coverage for preexisting conditions for children and adults, prohibiting insurers for dropping coverage when you get sick or placing annual or lifetime limits on benefits.

Ensuring that all insurance policies use plain, easy to understand language so that consumers know what they're buying can honestly compare their choices, allowing young dulls up to the age of 26 to stay on their parents' policies, offering tax credits to small businesses so they can afford to provide insurance coverage for their employees.

Eliminating co-payments for preventive care for seniors and closing the Medicare prescription drug benefit coverage doughnut hole, making sure we close that doughnut hole, promoting the important education and research missions of our national's teaching hospitals and academic medical centers which train the next generation of doctors and nurses.

Focusing on primary care by ensuring that Americans, particularly those with chronic diseases, have access to ongoing primary care, investing in American innovation and technology by creating new incentives for the development of new cures and treatments, and incentivizing collaboration among health providers through new payment reforms that promote high quality, efficient delivery of care.

These provisions and others in health care reform ensure new consumer rights and protections for those with insurance, contains costs for families, for businesses, and for our nation, and it extends affordable, meaningful coverage to 32 million Americans.

Health care reform is vital to the health of Americans and the health of our economy. The status quo is unacceptable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gentle lady's time is expired.

SCHWARTZ: I urge a yes vote.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentleman from Michigan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

For the purpose of unanimous consent request, I yield to the gentleman from California.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentleman is recognized.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, I ask the unanimous consent to revise and extend my remarks in opposition to this flawed health bill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Without objection, so ordered.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, I yield three minutes to the distinguished gentlemen woman from West Virginia, Ms. Capito.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentle lady is recognized for two minutes.


For a moment, let's think of this bill as a blanket, a blanket of health care legislation that may be draped across America and its population in the coming years.

Unfortunately, this blanket is woven not from all hands working together, but is the handy work of strong arm political deal-making, and perhaps most disheartening, a resistance to listen to the American people.

It's cloth has been cut behind closed doors and it's color is tinged by partisan hands. It's too short in some areas and too long in others, woven to cover the winners and leave out the losers.

Once this blanket of legislation is laid out, those that huddle beneath it will find it does not provide the real health care reform they need for their families. In fact, it will be a wall of government between them and their doctor.

The huge holes will not protect the cold wind of job loss, new taxes, government bureaucracy, and increased health care costs. And though we hear of coming patches in the future, in all likelihood they will be of the same flimsy fabric of broken promises.

All of America will feel the weight of this uncomfortable burden. The real cost of the $2.2 trillion bill will only increase in the future. States like mine, West Virginia, will feel the weight in huge budget shortfalls caused by millions of dollars in unfunded mandates. States must balance their budgets and will be forced --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentleman is correct. The House is not in order. The House will be in order. Gentle lady will continue.

CAPITO: States must balance their budgets and be forced to absorb the massive increase in Medicaid spending demanded by this bill.

But the full burden will be paid by those who enjoyed this beautiful spring day playing outside in backyards across America. Little do they know as they play, we are in the cusp of burdening them with generational debt.

The speaker and her team will drape this legislation across the citizens, ignoring the pleads against it, and America will, again, shake its head in disbelief and ask how Washington can turn a deaf ear and be so disconnected from the American people.

If we stand here in obedience to our purpose and the Congress will be an effective representation of the people of the United States, we should stop this unfortunate endeavor, take a step back, and listen.

Listen to the heartbeat of America, the beat that yearns for true health care reform, the beat that asks for bipartisan government committed to solving America's problems, the beat that asks that we put America's families first. America deserves this, America deserves to be heard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gentle lady yields her time.

The gentleman from South Carolina?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Chairman, I yield two minutes to the gentleman from Florida.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentleman is recognized for two minutes. Without objection, so ordered.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend Mr. Spratt from South Carolina.

Mr. Speaker, ladies and gentleman, I heard a wise man once say that you never saw a great country with an uneducated and unhealthy population. We're headed there -- 67,000 uninsured in the congressional district that I represent will be helped by this bill.

We all know the statistics about the spiraling costs of insurance and the ever-increasing percentage of uninsureds in our own districts and across this nation. We all agree this is an unsustainable path. I have heard you say it many times.

So I ask you, how high do these numbers have to go before we act?

BLITZER: We're going to continue to watch what's happening on the floor of the House of Representatives. They're getting ready to wrap this up.

But we will be hearing from the two leaders, the speaker, the minority leader, they'll be speaking, Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner. And then the roll call will begin, history will unfold.

Our coverage will continue after this.


BLITZER: We're watching what's happening on the floor of House of Representatives right now. They're continuing the debate. They're continuing their arguments for and against health care reform as envisioned by the Democrats.

The leaders are still getting ready for their summation, their closing arguments, then there will be the roll call. Sanjay Gupta is here, our chief medical correspondent, together with the best political team on television.

There's lots of confusion about Medicare right now, because this legislation is supposed to take, what, a half a trillion dollars in Medicare spending over the next ten years, $50 billion a year, and use it for something to pay for the health insurance for the uninsured.

And I'm getting a lot of e-mails from seniors out there who were worried about their beloved Medicare. What's going to happen to their Medicare?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It depends on who you ask. Obviously the people who are supporters of this say that $50 billion is coming out of inefficiencies that exist within Medicare, fraud which exists in Medicare, which is real. These are real cases.

I heard a case the other day of a group of people in Florida billing Medicare to the tune of about $80 million over a period of several years on behalf of several doctors who hadn't been living for ten years. So this is the type of fraud that's going on. It's real. So some of that will help.

But obviously there's a concern that will some people's benefits also go away with Medicare. John brought up an interesting point earlier -- this whole idea the way the physicians are reimbursed.

Since the Balanced Budget Amendment back in 1997, there was an idea that Medicare is going to grow in terms of the costs to keep up with inflation. But for health care providers' salaries, they wanted to tie that more to the economy. So there's this complicated formula called the SGR.

Things were fine as long as the economy was doing fine. But as the economy started to take a downturn, there was a concern that these reimbursements to physicians would drop off. So every year this happened Congress has essentially stopped the cuts so physicians' salaries could stay the same.

But as part of the Senate bill, those cuts are in place, 21 percent reduction in physicians' salaries, which is why you're saving $200 billion over ten years. If Congress gets in and waves those cuts off again over the next several years, there goes your deficit, as John mentioned.

JOHN KING, HOST, "JOHN KING, USA": And the flip side of it is, if they don't, a lot o doctors are saying, and there has been a trend in the past few years, they'll just drop out of the program, they'll stop taking those patient, which then would challenge the whole goal of it which is to expand accessibility, to get more people into the system.

So there's a tug-of-war. And some of it is very legitimate policy debate the Dr. Gupta refers to, and some of it, of course, is politics. GLORIA BORGER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: There's also a difference with the way the states get reimbursed for Medicare. There are lots of inequities because some states are much better at doing more with less, and some states use a lot more care and get reimbursed at higher rates. And that's a real problem for members of Congress.

KING: In the bill -- remember early on, we had all of these graphics, and you'd show, you know, a patient in Medicare and McAllen, Texas and the costs are so much higher than a patient that goes to the Cleveland Clinic here or out in Colorado there.

And there was all this talk about wellness and preventive care and trying to bring, not equal everywhere, but try to bring the coverage roughly in line so you don't have these huge regional disparities. Did that go by the wayside?

GUPTA: I don't know if they broken it down by states like that. They've obviously invested a lot more in the things they think that will cut down Medicare costs across the board.

But you're absolutely right, for the same outcome, even better outcomes in Hawaii, for example, $5,000 per Medicare patient as opposed to $16,000 per Medicare patient in Florida. So it was clear that there are huge disparities.

Part of that is demographics, that the patients are going to be sicker or not take as good care of themselves in certain places. But that's significant. That's 300 percent.

BLITZER: I know you've looked to this because Medicare is critically important to so many millions and millions of seniors who are watching us right now.

And they're wondering -- I don't know if we have a good answer -- as much as fraud and abuse there might be in terms of how much money is being wasted in Medicare, if you're going to take $500 billion and reduce that in the projected growth of Medicare over the next ten years, won't that affect seniors? Logically speaking, you are taking half a trillion dollars away from Medicare, that's going to have an impact.

BRAZILE: Wolf, I was on the Web site, because there's an excellent fact sheet on how this impacts people who are currently on Medicare.

The bottom line is the system as it currently exists is broken. What the White House and the Congress and CBO scored basically shows that this bill will not only reduce the fraud and inefficiencies in the system, will streamline the process so that long term, we have a strong adequate Medicare system that will provide seniors with the coverage they need.

It also in the short run -- in the short term will close the so- called doughnut hole, this -- you know, when seniors go out there and buy their prescription medicine, right now they -- if they reach a certain point, they don't the money to cover it. It will give them an immediate $250 to cover their prescription medicine.

And to John's point about the so-called physician's reimbursement, the $200 million correction that's needed, what Speaker Pelosi and others have said is, yes, we've got to address this because we don't want the doctors to stop treating Medicare and Medicaid patients. But they also said, John, that they will find a way to pay for it.

That's the difference with all of the things that the Democrats are proposing is that everything that we proposed, it's paid for.

BLITZER: I want David Gergen to weigh in on this as well. David, you've been listening to this discussion. The plan calls for cutting $500 billion in the projected rate of growth of Medicare over the next ten years? What's going to be the practical impact of that on seniors?

GERGEN: All of this Medicare debate has been stirring up opponents of the bill. A few points. First of all, when the bill started, the doctor fix which is $200 billion, will cost us $200 billion over ten years was included in the original plans for health care reform.

They took it out so that it wouldn't -- they wouldn't have that $200 billion cost in the bill. The way they got to a surplus over ten years was by taking that doctor fix out of there.

Now, there is a suspicion that --

BLITZER: David, I'm going to have you hold your thought. David, hold your thought for a moment, because Eric Cantor, the number two Republican in the House is speaking. I want to hear what he has to say.

REP. ERIC CANTOR, (R) MINORITY WHIP: The majority of Americans don't care for it either. Sadly, Mr. Speaker, the only bipartisanship we've seen surrounding this overhaul has been in opposition to it.

And there's a reason for that. Health care is a very personal issue. And this overhaul will impact every man, woman, and child in this country. It will even affect future generations that have not yet been born.

Mr. Speaker, this overhaul will have a huge impact on our parents, our spouses, and our kids. This is something that they'll be paying for the rest of their lives.

And for too long, Mr. Speaker, the majority in this body and the president of the United States have refused to listen to the American people.

So, Mr. Speaker, I have a message for those Americans. We hear you. We hear you loud and clear --

(APPLAUSE) -- because we believe this government must stop spending money that it doesn't have. And this $1 trillion overhaul will do the opposite.

We believe that this government must stop piling debt upon our children and grandchildren, and this $1 trillion overhaul will do the opposite.

We believe that this government must stop raising taxes on small businesses and families. And, Mr. Speaker, this $1 trillion overhaul will do the opposite.

We believe that America is the land of innovation and that government must stop crippling job creators and entrepreneurs with oppressive mandates and taxes. And this $1 trillion overhaul will do the opposite.

Mr. Speaker, we believe that in America, our government must not force those who fundamentally object to abortion to have to pay for it.


And this $1 trillion overhaul does the opposite.

And we believe in building upon what works in our current health care, Mr. Speaker, so that doctors in America can continue to provide the best care in the world. And this $1 trillion overhaul does the opposite.

And, Mr. Speaker, we believe that families and patients should have the freedom and the right to choose the doctors they want. And this $1 trillion overhaul will begin to take that freedom away.

Mr. Speaker, if there's one thing that the American people have learned over the past year is that we are truly at a critical time in this country. We are at a crossroads.

This $1 trillion health care overhaul before us today has caused a lot of fear and uncertainty. It's the latest part of an agenda that is being forced upon the American people that attempts to seize more control over the economy and our lives.

The choices we make on deficit spending, higher taxes, energy security, and health care, they're all important. They're important because they will all determine what kind of country we want to be.

And Mr. Speaker, the choice before us is very clear. The choice is whether we want to become a country that is unrecognizable or one that will fulfill the American dream --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentleman's time has expired.

CANTOR: I ask for 20 more seconds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I yield to the gentleman 30 more seconds. CANTOR: Or one that will fulfill the American dream so that we remain the most secure, most prosperous, freest country in the history world. Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues today to listen to the people and vote no against this legislation.

And I yield back.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentleman from South Carolina?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, for purposes of a unanimous consent of request, I yield to Mr. Akron of New York.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I rise in enthusiastic support of this historically important bill, ask unanimous consent to revise and extend my remarks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Without objection, the gentleman will be charged.

The gentleman from South Carolina?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For purposes of another unanimous consent request, I yield to the gentle lady of California.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Speaker, I request unanimous consent to revise and extend my remarks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Without objection.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For purposes of unanimous consent request, I yield to Mr. Dreihouse (ph) from Ohio.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I ask unanimous consent to advise and extend my remarks in support of this health care legislation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Without objection.


The gentleman from South Carolina?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, I now yield one minute to the gentle lady from South Carolina, Ms. McCollum.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentlewoman is recognized for one minute and the House will be in order.

REP. BETTY MCCOLLUM, (D) MINNESOTA: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, beyond the walls of this capitol there are millions of Americans who can't afford health insurance, and they live in fear of getting sick. Millions more are discriminated against by insurance companies because they have preexisting medical conditions. In my own life, as a child and as an adult, I've lived without health insurance. A dear, dear niece of mine has a preexisting condition. That makes her uninsurable.

Passing health insurance reform is not a political game, it's personal. It's about real people's lives. When we pass this bill, we will save lives, families will be protected, millions of Americans will no longer live in fear.

Today, I will vote to end discrimination against people with preexisting conditions. Today, I will vote to extend health care to 32 million Americans. And when this bill becomes law, health care security will finally become a reality for the American people.

Mr. Speaker, I yield back.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentleman from Michigan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At this time, I reserve -- I believe that the gentleman has more --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have one more speaker before -- we have one more speaker before the speaker. And we anticipate Mr. Boehner speaking before the speaker.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, yes. At this time, I will yield to the gentleman from California for the purposes of a unanimous consent request.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, because of the confusion over its legal effect, I ask unanimous consent that the text of President Obama's executive order referring to abortion funding, that it be considered as a freestanding amendment to the text of HR-3590 and we be allowed to vote on it separately.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The chair cannot entertain such a request unless it's been cleared.

Gentleman from Michigan?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, parliamentary inquiry? Parliamentary inquiry?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gentleman will state his parliamentary inquiry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, is such unanimous consent request -- is it, in fact in order under the rules of the House?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The speaker has indicated that request for these matters must be cleared. The chair is not obligated to instruct members on the rules of the House.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, with respect, may I make a further inquiry, Mr. Speaker?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentleman may inquire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would that request, if it were cleared, be considered germane to the bill under consideration?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do not respond to hypotheticals.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, additional parliamentary inquiry?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentleman may proceed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I am informed that it must be cleared, do I understand that to mean it must be cleared by the speaker or the majority leader?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Leaderships on both sides must clear these matters. I'm sure the gentleman knows that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thank the speaker.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentleman from Michigan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, how much time is remaining?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentleman from Michigan has three and one quarter minutes remaining. And the gentleman from South Carolina has four minutes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, for purposes of a unanimous consent of request, I lead to the gentle lady from Ohio, Ms. Capito.

CAPITO: I thank the gentleman for yielding and ask unanimous consent to insert in the record remarks the support affordable health insurance for all Americans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Without objection.

BLITZER: All right, they're continuing some final discussion before the speaker of the House, the Republican leader, John Boehner, before they make their final statements before the House floor. We'll continue our coverage right after this.


BLITZER: It's approaching 10:00 p.m. here on the east coast. This debate is getting ready to wrap up. We're waiting to hear from the Republican leader, the minority leader of the House, John Boehner. He will speak, make the case against the Democrats' version of health care reform.

And then the speaker, Nancy Pelosi, she will be the final speaker going into the roll call. The roll call will then last for about 15 minutes. It will be electronic. And then we will see whether or not the Democrats have the 216 votes necessary. By almost all accounts, they do. They won the support of several Democrats who oppose abortion, including Bart Stupak, and that will be enough by all accounts to get this health care legislation passed.

And once that is passed, the separate reconciliation bill, the changes in the Senate version, the fixes, as they call it, that will be voted on. That will pass as well. That will be sent to the Senate this evening.

We'll wrap up here in Washington with the president of the United States. He will be speaking in the East Room of the White House.