TPM News

In somewhat dramatic fashion, Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI)--a leader of pro-life House Democrat--has indefinitely postponed a press conference that had been scheduled for 11 this morning, as House leadership seeks a solution to a dilemma over abortion language that's threatening to paralyze, or even kill, health care reform.

Some background here. Stupak, and perhaps 10 other Democrats, are unhappy with the Senate health care bill's language, which they believe expands federal funding for abortions, and they're threatening to switch their votes from yes to no unless they get some sort of deal.

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Several members of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus emerged--very unhappy--from a meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi late Friday evening. The meeting lasted about half an hour, and most attendees were extremely tight-lipped when they left. But the gist is this: Pelosi is still trying to figure out how to assuage pro-life Democrats, who want the health care bill to contain tighter restrictions on funding abortions, and pro-choice members do not like the options before them.

Pelosi is weighing her option with respect to the remaining pro-life holdouts--led by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI)--who are threatening to oppose the health care bill over its abortion language. One of the options floated a few weeks ago would've given Stupak et al a vote on a stand-alone piece of abortion legislation.

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Political memos from Congressional Republicans and Democrats get obtained and posted by the press every single day, but a curious PDF file instructing "Democratic health and communications staff" to avoid discussing the details of the cost of health care reform rocked Washington today. Is it a fake? A mistake?

We still don't know who wrote the memo. But we know that a Republican lobbyist (and maybe more than one) sent it to several political reporters today. Based on numerous interviews with Congressional aides, the 2-page PDF, complete with a handwritten note identifying one bit as "important," starting hitting email inboxes around noon.


TPMDC dug deeper into the kerfuffle after Democrats accused Republicans of an elaborate plot to try and derail health care reform in the final hours before the expected vote Sunday in the House.

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Yesterday, it was clear House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had built real momentum for passing health care reform this Sunday--but she was also dealing with a tricky landscape. She hadn't converted enough health care skeptics in her caucus to make up for the fact that several anti-abortion members are threatening to bolt over the Senate bill's abortion language, she was facing revolt from two separate members who were expected to vote for the final package, and the remaining holdouts were never going to be easy pickups.

Today that all changed.

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This afternoon, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs announced in an email that President Obama " held 64 meetings or phone calls with Members of Congress on health insurance reform."

Gibbs even sent around a photo, seen at left, of Obama making one of those calls while en route to George Mason University today for what could be his last health care reform rally.

It seems the White House is already staking a claim on the credit for health care reform, a signal that the administration is pretty sure the bill will pass this weekend.

Top aides to House Democratic leaders issued a statement decrying Republicans who sent out a memo that they claimed was written by Democrats.

In an email, Speaker Nancy Pelosi spokesman Nadeam Elshami and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer spokeswoman Stephanie Lundberg said Republicans - who earlier dismissed questions about the memo's legitimacy - will "do anything" to stop health care from passing on Sunday.

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Another one: Rep. Suzanne Kosmas (D-FL), who voted no in November, has announced that she will vote for health care reform.

In an interview with the Orlando Sentinel, Kosmas cited the CBO scores as part of her reason for switching. She also said the final legislation does more for small businesses than the first House bill.

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