As expected, the House Budget Committee just rubber stamped the "shell" health care bill with a 21 to 16 vote, sending it to the Rules committee, where all of the language will be stripped out and replaced with whatever deals Democrats have been negotiating behind closed doors.
As I wrote yesterday, under the reconciliation rules in last year's budget, any reconciliation bill would have to have been submitted to the Budget Committee by October 15, 2009. It just so happens that earlier versions of health care legislation cleared the Ways and Means and Education and Labor Committees last year. So Democrats just dusted that legislation off, and are using that as the vehicle to begin the reconciliation process.
Two Democrats -- Reps. Allen Boyd and Chet Edwards -- voted against the bill and would have to be considered firm nos at this point. They both voted "no" the first time. But Rep. Marion Berry, who voted "yes" in November and is considered at least a "likely no" in the Hill whip count, voted "yes" at the committee level. Read into it what you will.
Right now, the Budget Committee is going through hours of debate on non-binding "motions to instruct" the Rules Committee being offered by Republicans. No amendments are allowed.
Committee Chairman John Spratt said at the outset that members must wrap up before midnight, "or turn into pumpkins."
UPDATE: Berry later voted for a Republican motion in support of the Stupak abortion language.
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