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Showdown Sunday: healthcare, deficits, arm-twisting and the future of the Democratic Party

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Whip Jim Clyburn and California's George Miller after House passage of the health care bill in November 2009

House Majority Whip James Clyburn pronounced Democratic leaders "absolutely giddy." The Congressional Budget Office  released its "score" of how much President Obama's healthcare bill would cost and the news contained several nuggets of promise for Democrats.

First, the cost tag was less than the $1 trillion they had feared, robbing Republicans of a sound-bite criticism.

Second, Democrats say the CBO projects the bill would cut the deficit by $1.2 trillion over the next two decades, giving Democrats plenty of talking points on the campaign trail. Already, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer is pitching healthcare reform as the biggest deficit reducing opportunity on which any lawmaker will ever have the opportunity to vote.

And finally, the estimate allowed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to unveil the bill Thursday -- starting a 72-hour clock toward a vote at high noon Sunday, part of the Democrats effort at transparency.

"They say a picture is worth 1,000 words," Pelosi said. "A number is worth a lot too. I love numbers."

You could see the joy in her face. These numbers are manna for her maneuvering to get the last few votes, reportedly five, that she needs in the House. As Republicans threaten to derail the process in every way they can, Obama is also engaged, hoping to provide the tipping point. As the showdown nears, individual lawmakers can expect to feel the heat.

And the 40 House members who voted for a stringent anti-abortion amendment last fall will be lobbied hard to swallow the Senate version, which is not as explicit in banning federal funding. The controversy is roiling passions, pitting Catholic bishops, who are urging a no vote, against Catholic nuns, who think it should pass.

Michigan's Bart Stupak knows first-hand the animosity stirred by the issue. The author of the House amendment banning federal funding, Stupak said recently he has been assaulted by angry voters, most of them not even constituents. He calls it "a living hell."

"You get cussed out wherever you go," he said, noting his staff was overwhelmed by more than 1,500 faxes and e-mails, most from outside his district. “All the phones are unplugged at our house," he told The Hill, adding that his wife is "tired of the obscene calls and threats. She won’t watch TV." Noting that some voters have threatened to spit on him, Stupak wondered if public civility would ever return.

Maybe, but probably not this week.

-- Johanna Neuman

Photo: Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), left, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and California Democratic Rep. George Miller during a press conference Nov. 7, 2009 after the House passed healthcare reform. Credit: Associated Press 

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Comments () | Archives (4)

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While I do not in anyway condone the hostility targeted at Rep. Stupak, and in particular am frightened by the attacks on his home phone, He has led a debate founded no where near civility and now he is paying the price for that. By holding 32 million people hostage for the sake of barring Federal Funding paying for a procedure that is 100% legal he has shown his colors and should probably expect a tough primary challenge. Decency begets decency and Bart should expect none....

In response to Matt Browne, Rep Stupak (so far) is helping to save you from tyranny. God help him.

This bill will wage greater war against the most innocent and defenseless of all, the fetus. Government funding will increase abortions. I don't condone hostility towards the fetus.

Obama, on the other hand, has come out against the most disenfranchised person in the world—the embryo. No compassion from this Pres. Twice he voted against providing life giving care to babies who survived an abortion attempt— favoring allowing them to die as a reflection of the mother's original intent. Most people would stop to help an injured infant found along the side of the road. Some have risked their lives to rescue dogs or horses in peril. Not this man.

A baby's little heart begins to beat at the 18th to 25th day from conception. He or she has its own brain waves at 40 days. The little one has fingerprints and fully functioning body systems at 11 to 12 weeks.

Bart Stupak — so far one of the few real, compassionate men (or women) in this sordid affair.

Sam, you are correct. Knowing what people know about now and after taking Psychology specified in human development I know that the vascular system of the "fetus" is developed merely 72 days after conception, therefore the baby does feel the abortion and it is murder. Remember people did not believe the Holocaust was murder when it happened, it was legal. That doesn't mean it was right. Does anyone else see the correlation between Obama's sinking poll numbers and him ramming down this healthcare bill that a vast majority of American's oppose even in the most liberal of polls? Just wondering?

I am so tired of this administrations smoke tricks. You know who's going to get hit with all the taxes and charges and fees and surcharges and anything else the government can think of to sneak money into the government to pay for their supposedly good health care system? WE ARE. I don't mind paying for my families health. but I will be damned to hell if I am willing to pay for some sleazy persons excuse for poor birth control and having us pay for her abortion. No offense people. That's what this is going to turn into. Many illegal aliens will also be getting better health care in a country that didn't think my mother was worth trying to save. She worked all her life and then at exactly 65 years 13 days she died of a cancer that was treatable. So much for retirement. Our president needs to rethink who should be covered.


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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