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House Health Care Vote Could Be Delayed Past Saturday

BY Lea Winerman  November 6, 2009 at 6:05 PM EST

House Rules Committee meets Nov. 6; Getty Images

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., told reporters Friday morning that the final vote could be delayed until Sunday or Monday while leaders line up votes. He said that Democrats were still short of the 218 votes they needed to pass the bill, but “we’re very close.”

Later Friday afternoon, Pelosi said she is still planning for a Saturday evening vote. Asked whether she had enough votes, she said “We’ll see when we get to the floor,” according to the Washington Post.

There are 258 Democrats in the House, so leaders could afford to lose 40 of their votes and still pass the bill. Republicans are united in opposition against the measure.

The House Rules Committee, whichsets the framework forHouse debates, was meeting Friday afternoon. Rules committee spokesman Vincent Morris said the session could last late into the night. Committee chairman Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., said Friday that 50 amendments have been filed to the bill, and that floor debate could take up to five hours.

Democrats are still working to assuage the concerns of more conservative members of their party over the bill’s $1.2 trillion price tag, as well as the hot-button issues of immigration and abortion.

One of those conservative Democrats, Rep. Frank Kratovil of Indiana, told the Associated Press he plans to vote against the bill because it does not do enough to control costs.

“At this time there is not much point in lobbying me,” he said. “I am a ‘no.”‘

Pelosi introduced the 1,990-page measure last week, and introduced a 42-page “manager’s amendment” with slight revisions on Tuesday.

The legislation would require nearly all Americans to purchase health insurance, and would require employers with payrolls over $500,000 to provide it. Americans not covered by employer-sponsored insurance could purchase insurance through a new marketplace called an exchange, which would include a public insurance option. The legislation also includes new insurance industry regulations, prohibit insurers from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions and from setting caps on benefits.

On the controversial issue of abortion, the bill would allow plans offered through the exchanges to cover abortion services. But the plans would be required to ensure that the abortion services were paid for with customers’ premiums rather than federal subsidies.

Conservative Democrats opposed to abortion say that that guarantee is not strong enough. Democratic leaders are considering a compromise proposal by Rep. Brad Ellsworth of Indiana that would require the public insurance plan to hire private contractors to provide abortion services.