In a move that mirrored the fiery civil rights marches of decades past, House Democrats on Sunday walked hand-in-hand more than 100 yards, from an office building to the Capitol, cutting through scores of angry protesters who chanted “kill the bill” and other taunts.
Tumult continues on Capitol Hill as Dems prepare for votes
By midday, Democrats appeared to have clinched the 216 votes they need to pass a massive package of health reforms, tamping down suspense on a series of votes expected later in the evening.
Asked if she had corralled enough votes, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) strongly hinted she had.
“You'll find out pretty soon, now won't you,” she said. “We're bringing up the bill today, so that should tell you something.”
Republicans, meanwhile, were devising their opposition strategy, which threatened to push out the vote until Monday.
Still, the mood among Democrats, who have been locked in a yearlong struggle to find and keep enough votes to pass reform legislation, were buoyed as a deal between anti-abortion Democrats and the White House was announced.
Late Sunday afternoon, Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) held a news conference announcing his support for the reform package after President Barack Obama's decision to issue an executive order that reaffirms the status quo regarding the ban on federal funds for abortions. At various times the issue kept Stupak and about a dozen other members at bay because of their insistence on stronger firewalls between federal funding and reproductive services.
Amid a second consecutive day of frenzied activity, members of the Democratic Caucus—including some who marched for civil rights in the 1960s and 1970s—took the unusual step of walking from the Cannon House Office Building to the Capitol.
The group included members of the Congressional Black Caucus, a few of whom were heckled with racial slurs on Saturday by anti-reform protesters.
Pelosi, walking in the lead group, held the lengthy gavel used during the historic vote that created the Medicare program in 1965.
A second group of pro-reform protesters were also present.
The House will vote first on a package of so-called “corrections” to a sweeping reform bill that passed the Senate on Dec. 24. Next, the House will quickly follow with a vote on the original Senate bill. The fix-it bill will move under a process known as reconciliation, and includes a number of provisions that amend the Senate's bill. The Senate is expected to take up that fix-it bill in the coming week.
President Barack Obama could sign the original Senate bill as soon as Sunday night or Monday if it passes in the House.
“We're doing this one for the American people,” Pelosi said.
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