Obama Delays Asia Trip as HC Vote Looms

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WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama has postponed his trip to Asia for a second time to focus on health care reform, even as members of Congress prepare for what may be the biggest vote they will ever cast.

Obama's trip has been delayed until June so he can stay in Washington for now, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Thursday.

As House Democrats press forward on the president's $940 billion health care plan, the pieces are falling into place for a vote that could take place as early as Sunday.

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"Passage of health care reform is of paramount importance and the president is determined to see this battle through," Gibbs said.

One Vote Closer

Democratic leaders got closer to their 216-vote goal on Wednesday when Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, said he would vote 'yes' on the legislation.

The Ohio Democrat opposed the bill when the House voted on it last year, but has now switched sides on the issue.

"Something is better than nothing," Kucinich said. "That is what I kept hearing from my constituents."

No one is sure just how many votes the Democrats still need. Some estimates say they may only need as few as four votes, but CBN News has been told that count could be as high as 14 votes.

Although freshman Sen. Scott Murphy, D-N.Y., has been personally courted by the president to vote yes, he's still on the fence.

"I'm waiting to see the language that the president puts forward," Murphy said. "I'm going to take a look at it and review it."

Details of how the House plans to fix the Senate bill are still largely a secret.

Virginia AG Threatens to Sue

Meanwhile, Republicans lawmakers, who remain united in opposition to the bill, continue to criticize Democrats for considering passing the bill through a "deem and pass" procedural move. 

Such a move would "deem" the Senate bill "passed" without forcing lawmakers to cast a direct vote on the substance that many don't like.

"This bill doesn't do what they say it does, and they don't want the American people to know," Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., said.

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli wrote House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Wednesday telling her Virginia will sue if the Senate bill is "deemed" passed without a vote on the substance.

"To be validly enacted, the Senate bill would have to be accepted by the House in a form that is word-for-word identical," Cuccinelli wrote. "Should you employ the "deem and pass" tactic, you expose any act which may pass to yet another constitutional challenge."

Idaho's governor became the first to sign such a measure, promising to sue the federal government if its citizens are required to buy health insurance.

Thirty-seven other states are also planning similar bills.

Obama Remains Confident of Bill's Passage

In an interview with Fox News, Obama said he's confident his bill will pass. He said even if "deem and pass" is used, a 'yes' vote is still in favor of health care reform and a 'no' vote is against it.

"At the end of the day, what people are going to be able to say is that this legislation is going to be providing help to small businesses and individuals, across the board, in an even-handed way, and providing people relief from a status quo that's just not working," the president said.

Meanwhile, CBN News has learned Pelosi may be willing to compromise on abortion funding.

Pro-life Democrats want more assurances that tax dollars won't be used to fund abortions. Strengthening the language could buy her more votes.

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CBN News
Jennifer Wishon

Jennifer Wishon

CBN News White House Correspondent

Jennifer Wishon is the White House correspondent for CBN News based in the network’s Washington, D.C. Bureau.  Before taking over the White House beat, Jennifer covered Capitol Hill and other national news, from the economy to the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Follow Jennifer on Twitter @JenniferWishon and "like" her at Facebook.com/JennWishon.