HEADLINES -- March 19, 2010 at 9:23 AM ET
Friday: Health Care Vote Likely Sunday; Diplomats Condemn Israeli Settlement
Congressional Republicans gather in Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday for a bicameral strategy meeting on health care. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.)
March Madness is in full swing this weekend, but a true buzzer beater might be on the House floor Sunday, when what is likely the Democrats' last best chance to pass health care reform comes to a vote.
Friday will be a day of heavy lobbying by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., will be especially busy, as he scrambles to see if his party has the 216 votes needed to pass the bill.
Speaking on PBS's Charlie Rose show Thursday night, Clyburn said his efforts were helped by the Congressional Budget Office's report showing that the $940 billion bill would trim the deficit by $138 billion over the first ten years.
"I really...believe that the people who were very leery about what this would do to the country's debt and deficit are very pleased with this," Clyburn said.
President Barack Obama will hold a rally for the bill at 11:30 Friday morning at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. And while Republicans are still looking to squash the legislation, they are also plotting strategies to nullify the bill in the event it passes.
Democrats have momentum heading into Sunday, says Politico's Chris Frates, "But all that mo' doesn't diminish the fact that Democrats still don't have the votes."
The Washington Post's Ezra Klein writes, "The question people generally ask about the final health-care reform vote is, 'Won't it be politically difficult for many House Democrats to vote yes?' But with the release of the CBO report, I'd flip that question a bit: Won't it be substantively difficult for many House Democrats to vote no?"
Paul Krugman makes his case for reform in a New York Times op-ed this morning, arguing, "[W]hat is on the table, ready to go, is legislation that is fiscally responsible, takes major steps toward dealing with rising health care costs, and would make us a better, fairer, more decent nation."
Peggy Noonan counters in the Wall Street Journal: "I wonder at what point the administration will realize it wasn't worth it -- worth the discord, worth the diminution in popularity and prestige, worth the deepening of the great divide."
"It's hard to exaggerate the stakes for the Obama presidency in the health care debate," says NPR's Mara Liasson. "If the bill fails, he will be severely weakened. He will have failed to deliver his signature initiative and his Democratic Party will look incapable of governing."
If the legislation passes, Slate's Timothy Noah thinks that while it "falls short of what health care reform could have been -- it's no masterpiece -- but it's better than it almost was, and it lays a workable and long-overdue foundation for health policy in the United States that, I predict, will eventually win support even from the Republican Party."
Mideast Quartet Calls on Israel to Stop Settlement Activities
The so-called Quartet of Middle East peace mediators has condemned Israel's plans to build 1,600 homes in East Jerusalem and called for a halt to all settlement activity.
Speaking for the quartet -- the United States, European Union, United Nations and Russia -- U.N. General Secretary Ban Ki-moon told foreign ministers in Moscow, "The Quartet urges the government of Israel to freeze all settlement activity, including natural growth, dismantle outposts erected since March 2001 and to refrain from demolitions and evictions in East Jerusalem."
The international diplomats also called on Israel and the Palestinians to return to peace talks with a goal of creating an independent Palestinian state within two years.
Flooding Hits the Midwest
Residents in Fargo, N.D., are bracing for heavy flooding as the rising Red River is expected to crest at 38 to 39 feet this weekend. Levees are in place, but at this point, "It's down to waiting, walking and watching," reports the Grand Forks Herald.