Gibbs: ‘We’ll Have the Votes’

Posted March 14, 2010 at 9:10am

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Sunday that House Democrats were riding “growing momentum” for health care reform and would have the votes to pass a measure over the next week.

“We’ll have the votes when the House votes in the next week,” Gibbs said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Gibbs added that President Barack Obama was “working as hard” to ensure “technical fixes” are made to the Senate bill as he was on passing the underlying legislation.

House Democratic leaders want to pass the version of health care reform that cleared the Senate with 60 votes last December, along with a package of fixes that might move under the protection of reconciliation.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), appearing on the same show, said House Democrats “need absolute guarantees” that the changes would be passed by the Senate. Some House Democrats are worried they could end up passing the Senate bill and seeing that measure signed into law, while the Senate never actually gets around to passing the fixes.

Van Hollen indicated that discussions continued on what exactly the House would vote on and said timing for the vote depended on the Congressional Budget Office completing its analysis of the legislation.

But House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said there should be a “direct vote” on the Senate bill in the House. He charged that if House Democrats use procedural methods to avoid a vote on the Senate bill, “the American people will be the losers.”

Republicans are eager for a vote in the House on what they see as a deeply unpopular Senate bill and its controversial provisions, such as the Medicaid carveout for Nebraska.

Cantor also stressed that Republicans favor reforming the health care system. “We don’t accept the status quo; we just don’t like this bill,” Cantor said.

On CNN’s “State of the Union,” House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and White House political adviser David Axelrod sparred over the House vote count.

“If [Speaker Nancy Pelosi] had 216 votes, this bill would be long gone,” Boehner said. “And remember, they tried to do this in June and July last year. If they had the votes then, it would be law. They tried to pass it in September, October, November, December, January, February, and guess what? They don’t have the votes.”

Axelrod countered with a shot at the insurance industry, which was a target of the president’s over the past week.

“I think we will have the votes to pass this,” Axelrod said. “Obviously, this is a struggle. … The lobbyists for the insurance industry have landed on Capitol Hill like locusts, and they’re going to be doing everything they can in the next week to muscle people into voting ‘no.’ It’s a struggle, but I think we’re moving in the right direction.”