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Pelosi still needs more votes

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October 24, 2009

Speaker Nancy Pelosi stepped up the pressure on House Democrats on Friday to support her preferred version of legislation that would require the federal government to sell health insurance in competition with private insurers.

Her action came amid indications that Ms. Pelosi had not locked down the votes for the proposal, the most contentious element in a bill that would provide health insurance to more than 35 million people, at cost of nearly $900 billion over 10 years.

Other provisions of the bill, including enhanced Medicare benefits, could take the total cost over $1 trillion, Democrats said. But they promised to offset the cost and avoid any increase in federal budget deficits.

At a meeting Friday, the chairman of the House Democratic caucus, Representative John B. Larson of Connecticut, called the roll and asked lawmakers to say whether they would vote for a bill including the most liberal, “robust” version of a government insurance plan, similar to Medicare. The results were not definitive because many members were missing and some supported the bill but called for changes. Ms. Pelosi finds herself once again caught between two wings of her caucus: the progressives, who demand a Medicare-like public option, and moderate-to-conservative Democrats, including many from rural areas, where hospitals say they could not survive on Medicare payment rates.

Full Story in The New York Times