Healthcare reform: Obama to stick close to home to await vote

President Obama postpones next week's trip to Guam, Indonesia, and Australia. He'll stay around to help push a healthcare reform bill to the finish line.

Charles Dharapak/AP
President Barack Obama spoke at the Export-Import Bank's Annual Conference in Washington, Thursday. On Friday Mr. Obama called off a scheduled week-long trip through Guam, Indonesia, and Australia, to help push for healthcare reform.

Have you ever delayed a business trip because some of your associates couldn’t get their act together? Then maybe you know how President Obama feels.

On Friday Mr. Obama called off a scheduled week-long swing through Guam, Indonesia, and Australia previously set to begin March 18. Now he’ll leave on March 21 instead. Probably.

The reason for the change? Congress is still struggling with healthcare reform, the president’s signature domestic issue. Obama wants to stick around to lobby lawmakers and push a healthcare bill over the top.

The worst part for the Obamas is that the rest of the family was going to tag along, and now it won’t be able to.

“The first lady and the girls will not be on the trip,” said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs via Twitter.

That means Malia will have to look up Wayang on the Internet if she wants to write a school report about it, instead of drawing on her own experience. (It’s Indonesian shadow puppet theater.)

Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi emerged from a meeting with the Democratic rank and file saying that she feels “exhilarated” as healthcare reform’s final, final vote approaches.

“Here we are on Friday morning, one day closer to passing historic legislation to make healthcare more affordable [and] more accessible to the American people,” said Speaker Pelosi at a Friday press conference.

(Would it be churlish to point out that her statement could be true even if such a bill is not enacted until 2025?)

As things stand now, the House will first move to pass the healthcare reform bill that has already been approved by the Senate. Then both chambers will move on to a bill of fixes designed to placate House members who don’t like the original Senate bill.

This second bill likely will be considered under reconciliation in the Senate, a process whereby budget-related legislation can be approved by a simple majority, instead of a filibuster-proof 60 votes.

Republicans have tried to divide Democrats by pointing out to House members that once they pass the Senate’s version of healthcare, senators could gavel close their session and go home for Easter, leaving that second bill of fixes behind, unpassed.

Pelosi insisted on Friday that her caucus does not think such a scenario will come to pass, because it will be comparatively easy for Senate Democrats to muster the 50 votes necessary for the reconciliation process.

For the House to proceed “will take a little faith, but what we do always does,” said Pelosi.

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