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Live updates from Capitol Hill in the race to reform

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Jon Ward
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      Jon Ward

      Jon Ward covers the White House and national politics for The Daily Caller. He covered the last two years of George W. Bush's presidency and the first year of Barack Obama's presidency for The Washington Times. Prior to moving to national politics, Jon worked for the Times' city desk and bureaus in Virginia and Maryland, covering local news and politics, including the D.C. sniper shootings and subsequent trial, before moving to state politics in Maryland. He and his wife have two children and live on Capitol Hill. || <a href="mailto:jw@dailycaller.com">Email Jon</a>

UPDATE 11:22 P.M. – The House has passed the Senate version of health care reform by a vote of 219 to 212, three votes more than was needed.

Sorry for the lack of updates here during debate and passage. I was in the House chamber without internet access. My story is up here and I’ll be updating it for the next hour or so.

UPDATE 10:08 P.M. – The House is nearing the end of debate on the House health bill. House Minority Leader John Boehner will speak, then Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Speaker Nancy Pelosi will speak.

UPDATE 9:01 P.M. – Alex Pappas reports:

Move over Sarah Palin, Dr. Dan Benishek may be the Tea Party’s new hot item.

Benishek, who is a Republican challenging Rep. Bart Stupak for his seat in Michigan, doesn’t appear to even have a campaign Web site except for a Facebook page. Those who want to donate are even told to use the old fashioned way — send a check to a mailing address!

But since Stupak, who of course has been a no vote on health-care over abortion language in the bill, made a deal with Democrats and announced that he and other similarly concerned representatives will vote for the bill, Benishek’s Facebook page has been stormed by new fans from all over the country, offering to donate money to his campaign.

One person wrote on Benishek’s wall that, “After I pay my bills, I don’t have much money left. Especially with my TAXES going up. But I will contribute. DOWN WITH STUPAK!”

The Daily Caller has reached out to Benishek, but he has not yet responded.

UPDATE 8:44 P.M. – The House still has about an hour of debate left, putting a final vote at about 10 p.m. Amazingly, there are about 100 protesters still outside yelling, chanting and singing pretty much non-stop.

About an hour or so ago, I interviewed Jeff Pete Sessions, the man who runs the fund-raising arm for House Republicans, who said the GOP will run this fall on repeal of the health bill.

The story is here. At the bottom of the story is an interesting portion about whether Republicans might be opening themselves to criticisms this fall by voting against reconciliation tonight:

When asked if House Republicans would be susceptible this fall to the charge that they voted to keep things like the much ballyhooed “Cornhusker kickback” and “Louisiana Purchase,” – special deals for specific states – by voting against the reconciliation bill that would take those provisions out, Sessions got testy.

“We’re not going to vote for the bill. We’re not going to vote for the bill!” Sessions said. “That’s up to them to do. They didn’t include our ideas. We’re not in there. No, they’re going to be personally responsible and accountable. But just wait until the Senate doesn’t take those issues out.”

The Daily Caller pressed Sessions for what the Republican counter argument will be.

“Real simple: first, the law was the law. If they ever get it done, fine, you can hold us accountable. But if they don’t ever get that done, that’s a big gamble,” Sessions said. “We know what the law is, and the law will be the Senate bill. And anybody who thinks anything different is just trying to deceive people right now.”

UPDATE 7:09 P.M. – The House is into its debate on the health bill. A final vote should be coming in the next two hours or so.

I interviewed Pete Sessions, Texas Republican and chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, and will have a piece up shortly on how he’s thinking about this fall’s elections in light of today.

In the meantime, the video I took and loaded to YouTube of Pelosi’s walk across to the Capitol earlier today is finally up. It took a long time to process it. I shot it on my phone so quality is negligible, and I’m sorry for how shaky it is at one point. Keep in mind that the outcome at the time I shot this was still in question, even if most people were pretty sure the bill would pass.

YouTube Preview Image

UPDATE 6:08 P.M. – The House is about to begin its two-hour debate on the health care bill itself. It is on the first of two procedural votes right now (Ordering the previous question and then a vote on the Rule), and then it will begin debate. After the two hours, they will vote on the Senate bill and then hold a separate vote on the reconciliation legislation.

By the way, the protesters, while considerably thinned out, continue to shout continuously and are still pretty loud. There’s a few dozen pro-health care demonstrators as well.

UPDATE 5:32 P.M. – Wanted to let the dust settle before I did this. It seems to me that Democrats have at least 218 votes. I know there are other estimates out there. But they began the day with 210 votes, needing 216. There were 16 undecideds, and 8 of them have come out in support of the bill. Here is the list of the Democrats who have said today they support the bill:

BRIAN BAIRD (WA)
KATHLEEN DAHLKEMPER (PA)
STEVE DRIEHAUS (OHIO)
MARCY KAPTUR (OHIO)
ALLAN MOLLOHAN (WV)
EARL POMEROY (ND)
NICK RAHALL (WV)
BART STUPAK (MI)

STILL UNDECIDED
MARION BERRY (ARK)
RICK BOUCHER (VA)
JERRY COSTELLO (IL)
PAUL KANJORSKI (PA)
DANIEL LIPINSKI (IL)
JOE DONNELLY (IND)

Note – The New York Times has Donnelly as a yes. Indiana media says they’re right. The NYT has Dems with 217 votes and six undecideds. By my count that gives Dems 221. Either way, it’s passed.

BREAKING 5:05 P.M. – President Obama will make a statement at the White House following the vote tonight, the White House just announced.

Final vote is expected to come, at this point, probably between 9 and 10 p.m. But it might turn out to be much later.

UPDATE 4:57 P.M. – Alex Pappas reports from the protests:

The crowds here outside the Capitol have both dwindled down and quieted since the news of the Stupak deal was announced. Rep. Michele Bachmann, a hero of the tea party folk, is telling those assembled to vote republican in november so they can repeal health-care, if it goes through tonight as now expected.

One group of protesters — leaving the protest area to rest before coming back — from south Georgia said they are disappointed in Stupak. Claire Thompson said he’s “history” now.

“I can send money to his opponent,” Thompson, holding a “kill the bill” sign, said.

Also, after the Stupak news became known, an unexpected guest joined the conservative activists — the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who briefly waved and smiled to get the attention of several activists, who then booed. Jackson declined to answer questions from The Daily Caller.

Note: Jackson’s son, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., is chairing proceedings inside the House.

BREAKING 4:24 P.M. – Stupak: “This bill is going to go through.”

“I do believe they had the votes even before we decided to support this legislation,” he said.

Meanwhile, House Minority Leader John Boehner, Ohio Republican, just put out a statement declaring that “a ‘yes’ vote on the Democrats’ health care bill is a vote for taxpayer-funded abortions.”

House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) issued the following statement on a potential Executive Order from the White House on abortion:

“The law of the land trumps any Executive Order, which can be reversed or altered at the stroke of a pen by this or any subsequent President without any congressional approval or notice. Moreover, while an Executive Order can direct members of the executive branch, it cannot direct the private sector.

“Because of Roe v. Wade, courts have interpreted the decision as a statutory mandate that the government must provide federal funding for elective abortion in through federal programs. In other words, no Executive Order or regulation can override a statutory mandate unless Congress passes a law that prohibits federal funding from being used in this manner. Legal experts at the US Catholic Conference of Bishops, National Right to Life Committee, Americans United for Life, and Family Research Council have confirmed this view that if the Senate bill is signed into law, it is a statutory mandate for the new health plans to include federal funding of elective abortion. The need for an Executive Order is evidence that this is true, and Congressional Democrats know it. Make no mistake, a ‘yes’ vote on the Democrats’ health care bill is a vote for taxpayer-funded abortions.”

UPDATE 4:17 P.M. – Stupak just indicated that Pelosi has more than the 216 votes she needs to pass the bill.

“We’re well past 216 [votes],” Stupak just said.

Stupak appeared with five other Democrats: Nick Rahall of West Virginia, Allan Mollohan of West Virginia, Kathleen Dahlkemper of Pennsylvania, Steve Driehaus of Ohio, and Marcy Kaptur of Ohio.

All but Kaptur had not yet declared themselves a yes vote. Earl Pomeroy of North Dakota is reported to have declared himself a yes earlier, but I still can’t verify that.