Ortiz, Cuellar On Board; Health Care Bill Set to Pass

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Hard to believe, but after decades of failure, it looks like we’ll soon have comprehensive health care reform in this country.

That’s partly thanks to Congressmen Henry Cuellar and Solomon Ortiz. The two South Texas Democrats have committed to supporting the health care reform bill in today’s key votes in the U.S. House.

On Friday, I wrote that Ortiz and Cuellar were among the two dozen Democrats who remained undecided—with Democrats still short of the votes needed for passage—despite representing areas with some of the highest rates of uninsured residents in the country. About one in three South Texans lack health insurance.

But the Dallas Morning News reports this morning that Cuellar and Ortiz will vote for the health care bill today. Both lawmakers said in statements late on Saturday that the bill’s treatment of abortion was a big factor in their decisions, according to the Morning News, and both became satisfied with the abortion language in the bill.

Meanwhile, the White House and Democratic leaders announced a deal this morning with anti-abortion Democrat Bart Stupak of Michigan. Stupak—who authored an infamous anti-abortion amendment when the bill passed the House the first time—has reportedly agreed to support the legislation. In exchange, the president will issue an executive order declaring that the reform bill is not intended to allow federal funding of abortions. That maintains current law.

Read the Washington Post story about the deal here.

With support from these last holdouts, Democrats appear to have more than enough support to pass the bill. The final votes are scheduled for later this evening.

It now seems the largest health care overhaul in a generation—a bill that will provide health coverage for 30 million uninsured Americans (and millions of Texans)—will soon be on the president’s desk.

Dave Mann has been with the Observer since 2003. Before that, he worked as a reporter in Fort Worth and Washington, D.C. He was born and raised in Philadelphia. He thinks border collies are the world’s greatest dogs, and believes in the nourishing powers of pickup basketball.