One more push: Democrats ready health bill strategy 

House and Senate Democrats this week are plowing forward with a sweeping health care reform bill, having apparently closed the chapter on negotiating with Republicans less than a week after a bipartisan health care summit.

President Obama is expected on Wednesday to make an announcement about bypassing GOP and moderate Democratic opposition in the Senate by attempting to push the bill through with just 51 votes rather than the usual 60. His spokesman told reporters the president "believes that an up or down vote is necessary."

Last week, Obama instructed Democrats and Republicans to see if they could work something out on health care, asking them, "is there enough serious effort that in a month's time or a few weeks' time or six weeks' time we could actually resolve something?"

But Democrats have moved on, convinced that Republicans are unwilling to work with them in any meaningful way on their version of reform and they have concluded that some of their bill includes Republican ideas and is thus bipartisan.

Since leaving the seven-hour session, there has been no invitation to talk about health care extended by the Democratic leadership.

"They have not reached out to us about setting up such a meeting," said Michael Steel, spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is instead focused on rounding up the 217 votes that would be needed to pass the Senate version of health care legislation in the House.

According to Democratic leadership aides, the House is expected to vote first on the Senate bill before the two chambers vote on legislation that would add about $200 billion in changes.

But it will be hard for Pelosi to round up the votes, especially in the face of waning support from the public.

On Monday, investor Warren Buffett joined the list of those who do not like the Democratic plan.

The billionaire investor called on Democrats to scrap their current health care plan and start from scratch.

Buffet made the remarks on CNBC. He said it would be better to have a complete health care reform do-over because the proposal now on the table does not do enough to control health care costs, which was the original goal of reform.

Buffett instead advised Obama to take a new plan on the road and sell it to the public in the same manner the Democrats are pushing their jobs agenda.

"Just show this chart of what's been happening and say this is the tapeworm that's eating at American competitiveness," Buffett said in the interview. "And I would say that one way or another, we're going to attack costs, costs, costs, just like they talk about jobs, jobs, jobs."

Buffett urged Obama to strip the bill of the special deals cut for states including Buffett's home state of Nebraska, which would have unparalleled federal reimbursement for Medicaid, and Florida, whose 800,000 seniors would have been spared some of the cuts to Medicare.

sferrechio@washingtonexaminer.com

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