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Reps. Brian Baird (D-Wash.) and Jason Altmire (D-Pa.), who voted against the House health care reform bill last fall, refused to be pinned down Sunday on their willingness to approve a Senate-passed bill. But they gave Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) reasons to be optimistic that she may be able to pull off passage of a massive reform bill this month.
Appearing on Sunday talk shows to discuss the fate of the bill, Altmire, Baird and Rep. John Adler (D-N.J.) declined to say how they would vote on the Senate measure and a separate budget reconciliation bill designed to address House concerns with the Senate-passed legislation, but Altmire and Baird appeared open to supporting the package.
In order to secure passage of both measures, Pelosi will likely need some of the 39 Democrats who voted against the measure last fall to support the Senate bill. Senate language on abortion funding threatens to rob Pelosi of several anti-abortion votes that she secured in November.
Altmire, on Fox News Sunday, dismissed the idea that he would be flip-flopping on health care if he voted for the Senate measure after voting against the House bill.
Using the word switch implies that this is the same bill. As I outlined, this is a very different finished product than where we were the first time we voted on this in November, Altmire said.
He added, Theres no question in my mind the Senate bill was much stronger than the House bill on cost-containment, and it did away with some of the things in the House bill that I was concerned about.
Speaking on CNNs State of the Union, Baird said he still sees problems with the legislation. But he also hinted that he might vote for the bill because it is better than not having health care reform at all.
My personal struggle, quite frankly, is, could we not do this in a much more elegant, simple, direct, straight-forward way I think we could. I doubt I am going to get a chance to do that, Baird said. So the difficult choice for some of us is to say, This is not the bill I would write by a darn sight but it is certainly better than the status quo. What would we do if we dont have this option, to start from scratch.
Baird said he would vote no on the bill if I think we could come up with a better solution. But he added, To just say health care reform goes down and therefore nothing ever happens, that would be a tragedy.
Later in the program, Baird seemed to take ownership of the bill, explaining that he has a friend with kidney cancer who is seeking a job that will provide him health coverage despite his preexisting condition. Our Democratic bill would try to correct that, Baird said, even though I think it is much more complex than I would have favored.
Baird, who is not running for re-election, said he would not simply take one for the team and vote for the bill if Democratic leaders asked him to.
Meanwhile, Adler appeared a tougher sell.