Democrats defend health care strategy

BY THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Modified: March 17, 2010 at 4:28 am •  Published: March 17, 2010
WASHINGTON — Democrats defended plans to push massive health care legislation through the House without a direct vote and Republicans assailed the strategy Tuesday, as both parties fenced ferociously over the health overhaul end game.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said that no final decision had been made on the complex parliamentary strategy, which would allow House Democrats to pass the Senate’s health care legislation without voting on the bill itself. Instead House members, who dislike the Senate bill, would vote on a rule for debate that would deem the bill passed once a smaller package of fixes also had passed.

Hoyer defended the austere procedure, noting that it had been used in the past by both parties, and more often by Republicans, and that regardless of the approach, the House would be passing the Senate legislation.

"We’re playing it straight,” Hoyer said. "We will vote on it in one form or another.”

The Maryland Democrat also said the public didn’t care about process but about results, and that the approach would result in enactment of President Barack Obama’s legislation to extend coverage to tens of millions of uninsured and create new insurance market protections for many others.

At the White House, press secretary Robert Gibbs refused to say whether Obama supported the maneuver.

With the House aiming to cast the decisive votes by the weekend, Republicans ramped up their attacks, seizing on the approach under consideration in the House to criticize Democrats and try to sow doubts among moderates.