A bipartisan House coalition voted Saturday to prohibit coverage of abortions in a new government-run health care plan that Democrats would establish to compete with private insurers.
The 240-194 vote on an amendment by Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., was a blow to liberals, who would have allowed the Obama administration and its successors to decide whether abortions would be covered by the government plan. Sixty-four Democrats joined 176 Republicans in favor of the prohibition.
Stupak's measure also would bar anyone getting federal health subsidies from purchasing private insurance polices that included abortion coverage.
"Let us stand together on principle — no public funding for abortions, no public funding for insurance policies that pay for abortions," Stupak urged fellow lawmakers before the vote.
President Barack Obama is traveling to Capitol Hill on Saturday to try to close the sale on his signature health care overhaul, facing a make-or-break vote in the House certain to be seen as a test of his presidency.
Obama scheduled a late-morning visit with House Democrats convening a rare Saturday session on legislation to remake the U.S. health care system, extending coverage to tens of millions now uninsured and banning insurance company practices such as denial of coverage based on pre-existing medical problems.
Late Friday, House Democrats cleared an abortion-related impasse blocking a vote and officials expressed optimism they had finally lined up the support needed to pass Obama's signature issue.
House Democrats are scrambling to secure enough support to pass President Barack Obama's historic health overhaul initiative, working to soothe last-minute concerns from rank-and-file Democrats ahead of a make-or-break vote.
Voting is set for Saturday on the 10-year, $1.2 trillion legislation that embraces Obama's goals of extending health coverage to tens of millions of uninsured Americans and putting tough new restrictions on insurance companies.
Obama was set to make a personal appeal to the Democratic rank and file in a visit Friday to Capitol Hill. That was called off late Thursday after the shootings at Fort Hood, Texas, and rescheduled for Saturday.
House Democratic leaders are offering a $1.2 trillion, 10-year health overhaul bill that expands coverage to millions of Americans. House Republicans have unveiled their alternative, after months of criticizing the Democrats' approach.
In the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is finalizing legislation merging the work of two committees and making other changes.
Here are details on the three bills. The Senate bill has not yet been made public, so some specifics are unknown.
The House Democratic bill (Affordable Health Care for America Act):
WHO'S COVERED: About 96 percent of legal residents under age 65 — compared with 83 percent now. About one-third of the remaining 18 million people under age 65 left uninsured would be illegal immigrants.
Congress is one vote away from sending the president legislation that continues aid to more than a million jobless people and extends tax breaks to hundreds of thousands of prospective homebuyers and struggling businesses.
The legislation, recognizing the lingering distresses of the recession, passed the Senate Wednesday on a 98-0 vote and could come up in the House as early as Thursday, sending it to President Barack Obama for his signature.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said the bill was "vital to Americans who have lost their jobs as a result of the deepest recession in over three-quarters of a century."
Just a few unsolved problems — and one final sales job — stand between House Democratic leaders and a landmark vote on President Barack Obama's promised remake of the nation's health care system.
Unfortunately for the Democrats, the unresolved issues are among the most vexing out there: abortion and immigration.
And although they're confident they'll succeed, Democratic leaders have yet to nail down the votes they'll need to pass their sweeping bill. They're aiming for floor action to begin as early as Friday and finish before Veterans Day, Nov. 11.
Or, as Majority Leader Steny Hoyer put it when asked when the House would take up the health care bill, "Friday or Saturday or Monday or Tuesday."
"We want to make sure it's correct," Hoyer, D-Md., told reporters Monday.
The health care bill headed for a vote in the House this week costs $1.2 trillion or more over a decade, according to numerous Democratic officials and figures contained in an analysis by congressional budget experts, far higher than the $900 billion cited by President Barack Obama as a price tag for his reform plan.
While the Congressional Budget Office has put the cost of expanding coverage in the legislation at roughly $1 trillion, Democrats added billions more on higher spending for public health, a reinsurance program to hold down retiree health costs, payments for preventive services and more.
Republicans say the Democrats' proposal to overhaul health care is far too complicated, intrusive and expensive and are urging several steps they claim would bring down costs while not greatly expanding government involvement.
House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, outlined a health care alternative in the GOP's weekly radio and Internet address Saturday. It comes as the Democrats' health care proposals are gaining momentum in Congress and Republicans are scrambling for support to try to block it.
The health care overhaul bill produced by House Democrats would impose an array of new taxes, fees and government mandates on major players in the health industry, including insurers, doctors and drugs and medical devices makers.
In most cases, the pain has been meted out with an eye toward raising the money needed to finance President Barack Obama's plan for reshaping the health system but also with careful regard for gaining the votes that will be needed to pass a final bill.
It's alive. The Medicare end-of-life planning provision that 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin said was tantamount to "death panels" for seniors is staying in the latest Democratic health care bill unveiled Thursday.
The provision allows Medicare to pay for voluntary counseling to help beneficiaries deal with the complex and painful decisions families face when a loved one is approaching death.