President Obama is asking the House to pass the Senate health reform bill by March 18th:
The White House hopes to win House approval of the Senate's healthcare bill by March Madness.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Thursday the White House hopes to see the House approve the healthcare bill by March 18, the first day of the NCAA college basketball tournament and just before President Barack Obama leaves the country on an international trip.
In order for this deadline to be met, the House Rules committee would have to pass the Senate health reform bill on March 17th. The House would then debate and vote on the bill the next day, which President Obama could then sign before leaving the country.
Greg Sargent is reporting that Speaker Pelosi's office is refusing to endorse this timetable. Still, at least expect an attempt to be made to meet it. If the House does not pass the Senate health reform bill before President Obama leaves the country, the entire process falls apart and is delayed by at least another two weeks. Since that might be the death of the entire process, the House now has a two week deadline to find the votes to pass the bill.
After the House passes the Senate health reform bill, the next step would be to pass the "fix" to that bill in reconciliation. The Senate would then take up that bill, pass it, and President Obama would sign it just before Latin Easter (which this year is on Sunday, April 4th).
David Waldman is correct that the Senate could act first. However, the orders have been given now, and it won't happen. The House will pass the Senate bill, and then pass the fix, before the Senate acts. Or, at least, they will attempt to pass the Senate bill and the fix.
The vote count is not a rosy one right now. The 431 current members of the House voted 217-214 in favor of the health reform bill in November. Here are the key switches, and wavering Representatives, so far:
That's a pretty tight squeeze. The House leadership will need virtually all of the wavering "no" votes from November listed above to vote yes this time around. And the only way to appeal to that group is through the reconciliation fix bill, since the Senate bill must be passed as is in order for President Obama to sign it into law.