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Senate GOP Forces Health Care Bill Back To House

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Im Renee Montagne.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

And Im Linda Wertheimer.

The Senate has hit an obstacle in its efforts to finish the job on health care. We already have a new Health Care Law - President Obama signed it on Tuesday -but the House of Representatives had also approved a package of fixes for that legislation. Those fixes are under consideration on the Senate floor, and early today, Senate Republicans forced a change in the measure. Now the House will have to vote on that change.

NPR's congressional correspondent David Welna joins us now to explain.

So, David, first of all, could you just fill us in on how the Republicans force a change?

DAVID WELNA: There are some very special rules that apply to this package of fixes to the Health Care Law, because it's being done under whats known as budget reconciliation. That means it can't be filibustered by Senate Republicans but it also means that everything in this 150-page corrections bill has to have a direct impact on the budget.

Now, the provision that was challenged by Republicans doesnt actually have to do with health care, it has to do with a revision of the federally-backed student loan program, because what - that provision is not in compliance with those budget rules. Senate Democrats recognized that it's going to have to taken out of this larger bill. And because it's being taken out, that means it has to go back to the House.

WERTHEIMER: So what affect does this have on the effort to revise the health care overhaul that became law earlier in the week? Does it put any of that in any kind of jeopardy?

WELNA: Virtually all of the nearly two-dozen reconciliation bills that have been done in the past 30 years in Congress have involved the Senate sending back its reconciliation package to the House for approval once again. So this is nothing that new. And, in fact, there's a lot of confidence, among Democrats, that the House will have no problem approving this package, because the changes in it dont seem to be that substantive.

The package did pass the House on Sunday evening by a vote of 220-211, so they feel like there's a fairly comfortable margin there. And Senate Democrats had expected that there might be glitches like this on procedural grounds, so they're not that worried about it on that front.

WERTHEIMER: So if all goes as the Democrats hope it will, it'll just bounce and go straight, then, to the White House for signature.

WELNA: That's right.

WERTHEIMER: David, the Senate was in session until early this morning. Why are they sitting so late? Whats going on?

WELNA: Well, it's not like they like to stay in session until nearly 3:00 in the morning, normally. But this reconciliation treatment requires that once they introduce amendments - and there are unlimited amendments that Republican can introduce, and they have only been Republican amendments - then they have to vote on them one after another. And they had voted on more than two-dozen of these amendments because an amendment can change a bill, also, and send it back to the House.

Every one of those was knocked down by Senate Democrats and they were virtually all tabled. And there are more amendments still being voted on. And the Senate has to give final passage to this reconciliation bill before it goes back to the House. That is expected today.

But this whole thing could be wrapped up as soon as tonight if the House finishes it. And then you would have both the Health Care Law and the package of amendments to that law going to White House that would change that law, just within a matter of days.

WERTHEIMER: David, something completely different. We've seen reports that some House members have requested additional protection after receiving threats because of their votes on health care.

WELNA: There have been at least 10 House Democrats whove reported incidents involving either threatening phone calls, bricks thrown through the windows of their district headquarters, states' Democratic Parties having threats and vandalism occurring on their premises, as well. About a hundred House Democrats met with the FBI and the Capitol Police yesterday. And some House members requested further protection.

They're going back for a two-week break, now, to their districts, and they are concerned about these attacks continuing.

WERTHEIMER: David, thank you very much.

WELNA: You're quite welcome, Linda.

WERTHEIMER: NPR's congressional correspondent David Welna. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

David Welna is NPR's national security correspondent.
As NPR's senior national correspondent, Linda Wertheimer travels the country and the globe for NPR News, bringing her unique insights and wealth of experience to bear on the day's top news stories.