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Healthcare reform effort grinds slowly in the House

Healthcare reform vote Saturday may be delayed as Democratic leaders work to make sure they have the necessary 218 votes - including more conservative members of their own party.

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Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., left, holds a copy of the health care bill during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, to announce an amendment to the health care bill.

Alex Brandon/AP

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On the eve of a historic healthcare vote, House Democrats are scaling back expectations that the legislation must be wrapped up in the next 24 hours.

“Sunday afternoon we will have available to us, and I’ve also indicated to members that Monday and Tuesday are a possibility,” said House majority leader Steny Hoyer in a conference call with reporters Friday. “My expectation is that we will not need it and we’ll be done tomorrow night.”

Republicans have procedural options to delay the vote and are not tipping their hand on plans to use them. The mood in the House Rules Committee -- Republicans made a final pitch to have amendments considered in debate on the bill -- was not conciliatory.

“Can you show us a single Republican idea that has been included in this bill?” said Rep. Joe Barton (R) of Texas, the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

But the major 11th-hour issue for the Democratic majority isn’t feuds with Republicans, it’s repairing rifts in their own ranks on issues ranging from abortion and illegal immigration to fiscal restraint.

In a bid to rally support, President Obama is planning a Saturday morning visit to Capitol Hill for a “discussion” with the House Democratic caucus.

As many as 40 Democrats are balking at backing the bill without stronger language to ensure that federal funds not be used to pay for abortion services.

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