Health Care Bill Held Up by Uncertainty, Mistrust

It was a tumultuous political week in Washington: As Democrats scrambled to push a reconciled health bill through Congress, President Obama postponed a trip to Indonesia in order to stay in town and continue pressing for a vote on the embattled legislation.

On Friday's "Washington Unplugged," CBS News' Chief Political Correspondent Marc Ambinder and CBSNews.com's Stephanie Condon analyzed the latest developments on Capitol Hill with moderator Bob Schieffer.

This morning, Mr. Obama announced that he would delay his trip for three days after it became clear that the House would not be able to meet his March 18th deadline. Schieffer was unequivocal about the motive behind Obama's change of plans: "The bottom line is they don't have the votes" to pass the Senate version of the bill.

"It is almost unprecedented for a president to postpone an overseas trip for a domestic legislative agenda item," noted Ambinder, adding that Mr. Obama would spend the next few days chewing "the ear off recalcitrant house Democrats."

There "is a lot of horse trading going on," Ambinder said. Lawmakers "need to hear specific pledges and promises about what will and won't be included in the sidecar reconciliation package."

"The fundamental dynamic is mistrust between House Democrats and Senate Democrats," added Ambinder.

Schieffer agreed, noting that House members "want some kind of assurance from the senators that indeed they will act on the reconciliation."

The reluctance of lawmakers is also a reflection of the uncertainty surrounding the reconciliation measure, argued Condon. "Everything is up in the air in terms of what is possible procedurally. The parliamentarian will play a big role in saying what the Senate can do and thereby what the House can do," she said.

Yesterday, Senate Republicans claimed that Parliamentarian Alan Frumin had ruled that Congress would not be able tackle a second bill until President Obama signs the current version into law.

However, "this morning the parliamentarian's office is backing away from that interpretation," Ambinder noted.

In spite of the procedural obstacles, Mr. Obama was pushing the health overhaul with a newfound tenacity this week. As Ambinder noted, "the White House has put all their chips in on health care."

Watch Friday's Washington Unplugged above, also featuring Condon on the burgeoning Coffee Party movement and a report on the Congressional Hockey Challenge, a charity event pitting lawmakers against lobbyists.

"Washington Unplugged" appears live on CBSNews.com each weekday at 12:30 p.m. ET. Click here to check out previous episodes.

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