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Democrats Plan Vote on Health Bill This Week

WASHINGTON (CN) - Democratic House leader have announced their plan to hold a pivotal vote on health care this week. After weeks of hinting about the use of reconciliation, Democrats appear poised to use the simple majority vote to try to push through the long-debated legislation.

Democrats said Friday that the House first would vote on the Senate health bill, already approved by a super-majority of senators. President Obama would then sign the bill into law before the two houses could negotiate changes in a separate package.

The changes would be subject to the reconciliation procedure, which requires a simple majority vote in the Senate.

Passing the Senate bill in full requires a leap of faith by House members. Senators have said they can't use reconciliation until the bill being amended has been signed into law.

Obama has called on lawmakers to hold a final vote on health reform after a year of sometimes vicious debate on the floors, emotional protests and rowdy town-hall meetings. Success on the health front could give momentum to other items on his agenda, such as the sizeable climate and finance reform bills.

The White House said Obama delayed his trip to Australia and Indonesia to make press Congress to push through the health reforms.

Democrats shifted their approach after the health bills that passed in the House and Senate stalled during negotiations to combine them. Democrats have been planning how to finish the job and have chosen reconciliation over the objections of the minority.

All but one Republican voted against the health care bill.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid notified Republicans in a letter on Thursday that he planned to use the reconciliation process. He said Republicans "have spent the past year mischaracterizing the health reform bill and misleading the public" with "repeatedly debunked myths and outright lies."

Reid said Republican tactics to delay the health care bill "are rooted less in substantive policy concerns and more in a partisan desire to discredit Democrats, bolster Republicans, and protect the status quo on behalf of the insurance industry."

"We will finish the job," Reid said, noting that the legislation was already passed by a super-majority in the Senate and by a majority in the House.

Reid ended his letter by noting that the vast majority of bills passed using reconciliation were developed by a Republican Congress and signed into law by a Republican president, and he pointed specifically to a bill cutting taxes for the wealthy.

"Given this history, one might conclude that Republicans believe a majority vote is sufficient to increase the deficit and benefit the super-rich, but not to reduce the deficit and benefit the middle class," Reid wrote. "Alternatively, perhaps Republicans believe a majority vote is appropriate only when Republicans are in the majority. Either way, we disagree."

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