Health Care Debate to Start Later This Week

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) says the House is headed for a debate and vote on the 1,990-page health care reform by “either Friday or Saturday.”

Hoyer said that it was his intention to “have that bill on the floor later this week.” He also signaled that he would give Republicans a chance to offer their alternative health care reform bill as an amendment to the measure.

The House Democratic leadership team is now drilling down on what’s called a “manager’s amendment.” A manager’s amendment contains the final tweaks and alterations to legislation before it hits the House floor. Hoyer said he was “hopeful” the manager’s amendment would be ready by the end of the day. The release of the manager’s amendment would then trigger a clock that would count down to the earliest time Democrats could put the health care bill on the floor.

House Democrats have vowed to wait 72 hours between posting of manager’s amendment online and the launch of the health care debate.

“We’re still working on it,” Hoyer said of the manager’s amendment. “We’re making sure the i’s are dotted the t’s are crossed.”

One of the most nettlesome issues facing Democrats revolves around an abortion dispute. Some moderate, anti-abortion lawmakers want certain assurances that health care dollars, nor health care plans purchased with federal subsidies, could be used to pay for abortions. It’s currently against federal law to pay for most abortions with federal money.

House sources tell FOX that Democrats could allay fears about abortion during a procedural vote that serves as a gateway to move the health care bill to the House floor. Some anti-abortion Democrats have threatened to vote against that procedural maneuver. A nay vote could keep the health care bill off the floor unless the demands of the anti-abortion lawmakers are met.