Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday that Democrats are getting increasingly close to a health care reform vote on the House floor and need to seize the moment.
"I always call Washington the city of the perishable. When you've got the votes, you take the vote," she said, punching her left hand hard with her right, "Because if you think you're going to wait around until you get more of this or that -- you just never know what happens."
Pelosi was interviewed Wednesday afternoon by reporters from the Huffington Post, Washington Post and The Nation magazine. Earlier Wednesday, she had assured reporters that she had the votes to pass the health care overhaul, a prediction she repeated in her later interview.
Conservative Democrats in the Senate have been watching their House counterparts, the Blue Dogs, closely as each side pushes for delay in their respective chambers. The GOP has said that the path to killing the bill runs through August, and that if it can be delayed, it is more likely that it can be taken down.
Pelosi (D-Calif.) said some kind of announcement from the Senate Finance Committee would help with negotiations with the Blue Dogs in the House. "I think that some of the negotiations that are going on now will be facilitated by the Senate doing something, because it removes some questions as to what are they doing? What is it that they are doing? I say that respectfully," she said.
When she was asked if the Senate might take that statement as license for delay, she said that it was meant to be the opposite. "I think that they should take it as more pressure for them to go forward, because this could be a chicken and egg forever. And we're not ever going to be a chicken," she said.
Staying in session through August was an option, she said, if that's what it takes to get the bill done. "My view is we're just about there and that it would be better for us to go before the recess. The idea that we should stay here until it is done is one that I'm okay with. The only thing is, if we're done, and they're not done and they're gone, what is the point? It's interesting to me that people are saying, 'Don't leave until it's done.' I don't know how much more we can do if the Senate is not going to move."
The Senate is scheduled to be in session one week longer than the House. "They could come out with something in the next 24 hours," said Pelosi. "I'd be a little more concerned if it were next Wednesday and they still hadn't shown anything, but they have another week."
Crisis: Nearly Five Million Adults Have Lost Insurance Since Sept. '08
As President Barack Obama prepares to address the nation tonight, a new survey provides a boost to his claim that the health care system is at a perilous place and in need of reform. Since September of last year, nearly five million adults have lost their insurance.
A survey of more than 29,000 individuals in June by Gallup shows that 16 percent of Americans over the age of 18 are currently without health insurance. That number reflects what the survey's authors describe as a "small but measurable uptick in the percentage of uninsured adults."
Indeed, the average number of uninsured adults recorded by Gallup in 2008 was 14.8 percent. In September 2008, the monthly total recorded was at a yearly low of 13.9 percent.
While the difference in percentage may seem small, the aggregate number of additional uninsured is vast.
According to 2007 U.S. Census data, the population of those 18 years or older stood at 228,196,823. By using that figure, in September of 2008, the number of uninsured adults would have totaled approximately 31.7 million. Today, the figure stands at 36.5 million -- meaning that 4.8 million adults have, in less than a year, lost their insurance coverage.
That said, the percentage of uninsured adults stood at 16.6 percent in May 2009, meaning that the situation has improved slightly but still remains dire.
Digging deeper into the numbers, one gets the sense of just how tricky a political situation the health care debate poses for both parties. The demographic that stands to gain the most from an increase in insurance coverage happens to represent the fastest-expanding voting bloc. More than 41 percent of Hispanic Americans are uninsured, Gallup reports, which is by far the largest segment of the U.S. population. The next highest groups are those who make less than $36,000 a year (28.6 percent uninsured) and those aged 18 to 29 (27.6 percent).
It is hard not to see the benefits for the political party that steps up to help resolve the health care problems of millions of Hispanic and young Americans. Just as, conversely, it is conceivable that the party that is blamed for obstructing comprehensive reform could suffer serious consequences at the polls.
It should be noted just how comprehensive the Gallup is in recording this data. Officially titled the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, the study involved conducting at least 1,000 tracking interviews each day and 178,000 since the beginning of the year. The maximum margin of sampling error is plus-or-minus one percentage point.