Politics & Government

Idaho congressmen to vote against health care bill

WASHINGTON — Both of Idaho's congressmen will vote against the health care overhaul bill coming before the House of Representatives as early as Saturday.

Like most — if not all — Republicans, Rep. Mike Simpson said Thursday he will be voting against the legislation. Rep. Walt Minnick, a Democrat whose vote is highly sought by top House leaders in his party, said Friday that he, too, will vote "no" on the bill.

"It's a very difficult vote for me because I really want to vote for health care reform, but it has to be done right," Minnick said, adding that all the top House Democrats have spoken to him about his vote.

Democrats are scrambling to pull together the 218 votes they need to pass the legislation — they hold 258 seats, but conservative Blue Dog Democrats like Minnick have proven difficult to corral. But other Democrats have raised concerns about aspects of the legislation, including whether it allows coverage of abortions or allows illegal immigrants access to insurance coverage.

The 10-year, $1.2 trillion House version would extend health insurance coverage to 36 million people. The bill creates a government-run health insurance plan, or public option, that would compete with private insurers. It prohibits insurers from denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions, and also would set up a marketplace — known as an exchange — that allows consumers to shop for coverage.

Both Simpson and Minnick have long said they won't vote for a bill that includes a public option, and Minnick said Friday he also is concerned the bill doesn't do enough to control costs. But Minnick said Friday he hopes that the Senate version of the bill, which is considered a more moderate bill, will be meshed together with the House version into something he can support.

The legislation’s top proponent, President Barack Obama, is expected Saturday to visit the Capitol to lobby Democrats in person to vote for the bill. The House, originally expected to vote on the bill late Saturday, could push its vote into the first part of next week.