The stakes are high for President Barack Obama this weekend as his plan for health care reform faces a crucial vote in the House of Representatives.

Health care reform, Barack Obama, Congress, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, House of Representatives, Senate, Russell Redman, Congressional Budget Office

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Obama health care reform plan faces critical vote

March 19th, 2010

WASHINGTON – The stakes are high for President Barack Obama this weekend as his plan for health care reform faces a crucial vote in the House of Representatives.

The president cancelled a trip to Indonesia and Australia to stay in Washington to make a final push for support of his and the Democrats' proposal to overhaul the $2.5 trillion U.S. health care industry. The House is slated to hold a final vote on the measure Sunday afternoon.

Republicans have been unified in their opposition to the plan, while some Democrats who had been on the fence or opposed to the legislation have begun leaning closer to supporting it. To pass the bill, Democrats – who hold a majority in both congressional chambers — are employing a strategy in which the House approves the Senate-passed version of the legislation and then okays final changes, which then go back to the Senate for approval before Obama can sign the measure into law.

Health care reform is the top item on Obama's domestic agenda, and if his plan fails to get through Congress the political fallout could be far-reaching.

That scenario, for instance, could hamper his ability to pass other major legislation down the road as well as cost Democrats seats in the congressional midterm elections — as was the case in 1994 after Bill Clinton's health reform push failed. Perhaps worse, angry voters might view Obama's administration as a failure because of its inability to push through a major initiative after a year of rancorous political debate.

Earlier this week, the health reform package got a boost when the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the plan would cost the nation $940 billion over 10 years yet would trim the federal deficit by $138 billion. One of the key Republican arguments against the legislation was that it was too expensive and would inflate the already ballooning deficit.

The public's support of Obama's health care reform package has been iffy, even though Americans have expressed a clear desire to lower health care costs and improve the health care system.

A public opinion poll released this week by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce showed that voters in 10 key congressional districts mostly oppose the health care legislation now being discussed in Congress.

Nearly 56% of all respondents surveyed said they oppose the current health reform plan, while about 33% said they support it. The rest said they didn't know if they were for or against the legislation.

A clear majority of voters participating in the poll, which was conducted earlier this month, indicated they believe the health reform plan will have a big financial impact. Almost 60% of voters across the 10 districts think the reforms being discussed will hike their health care costs, while more than 69% believe the measures will raise their taxes. Approximately 67% of voters agreed that any new taxes or fees charged to health care companies will get passed on to them and boost their health care costs.

In addition, nearly 71% of respondents think the health reforms being discussed will increase the federal deficit and will expand government control over health care.

The survey also showed that voters understand the gravity of the health care reform issue. Across all the districts polled, 29.1% agreed with the statement, "Congress is close to passing a health care reform bill now, and these opportunities are rare. Congress needs to pass the current bill so we can finally get real reform."

Meanwhile, over 63% of respondents agreed with the following view: "Getting health care reform right is important, and Congress needs to start over on a bipartisan bill that would be less expensive and focus on controlling costs, rather than passing the current bill."

The survey, conducted March 8 to 10 by Ayres, McHenry & Associates, polled voters in a total of 10 congressional districts in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia.

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