Two undecided Florida House Democrats now say they'll vote for health care bill

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Labeled "Gator-Aid" by critics such as Karl Rove, Nelson said he wanted to grandfather in those who get extra benefits from Medicare Advantage.  It joined "The Cornhusker Kickback" and "The Louisiana Purchase" as punching bags for Republicans and other critics who said that the proverbial deal making (frequently invoked as "sausage making") to get the required number of Senators to back the bill late last year was particularly odious, and many Americans agreed (the Cornhusker kickback has been booted from the current bill which would have given Nebraska added federal Medicaid assistance), but the Associated Press reports that many of those add-ons that benefit individual states are still in the legislation, including:

—Retains $300 million in extra Medicaid aid for Louisiana, which had helped win support for the Senate health bill from Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. The state is still struggling to recover from Hurricane Katrina.

—Keeps $100 million included in the Senate bill that is expected to go for a public hospital in Connecticut sought by Dodd, who is retiring.

—Preserves language won by Baucus permitting many of the 2,900 residents of Libby, Mont., to qualify for Medicare benefits. Some of them have asbestos-related diseases from a now-shuttered mine.

—Provides an additional $8.5 billion over the next decade for 11 states and the District of Columbia to help them pay for the more generous Medicaid assistance they have been providing low-income residents. These states are Arizona, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin.

—Maintains a Senate-approved provision giving extra money for hospitals and doctors in North and South Dakota, Montana and Wyoming.

You can go all over the Web today to read commentary pro and con about the pending legislation, but how about the editorial boards of our local papers, the St. Petersburg Times and the Tampa Tribune?  What are they saying?

The Times uses information from an analysis released yesterday by the House Energy and Commerce Committee to tout the benefits to the constituents of local Republicans like Bill  Young, Ginny Brown-Waite and Gus Bilirakis, who all will no doubt vote against the bill come Sunday:

• In the 10th District represented by Republican C.W. Bill Young of Indian Shores, up to 18,000 small businesses in Pinellas could qualify for tax credits covering up to half the cost of providing health insurance. Yet Young is proud of his opposition to reform.

• In the 9th District represented by Republican Gus Bilirakis of Palm Harbor, some 78,000 residents in North Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough counties who are uninsured would get coverage. Yet Bilirakis remains opposed to reform.

• In the 5th District represented by Republican Ginny Brown-Waite of Brooksville, the 22,600 Medicare recipients who hit the prescription drug doughnut hole would see that hole closed over the next decade. Yet Brown-Waite remains a vocal critic of reform.

Meanwhile, over at Mother Trib, in an editorial called Just Don't Do It, the editors ask:

Why do it this way? Why do it now, when there is so much opposition and no Republican support? Why are Rep. Kathy Castor and Sen. Bill Nelson willing to plunge ahead on a vote with uncertain consequence to the national pocketbook?

We look forward to observing the activities from Washington over the weekend.

As we write this at 9:00 a.m. on Friday, Florida Democratic Representatives Allen Boyd and Suzanne Kosmas remain uncommitted on the health care bill that House members are scheduled to vote on Sunday.  Though not called out by name, they are part of the undecideds, or as Politico refers to them today, The Drama Queen Caucus.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will be no doubt checking in with those members today, as she keeps working it to get to the magical 216 votes needed to pass one of the most controversial pieces of domestic legislation in a generation.

When asked if she was whipping madly to round up the votes, Madame Speaker said yesterday "every vote is a heavy lift," and it has been for many narrow votes in the House of Representatives in the past year.

Still unclear is if Pelosi will try to pass the House bill through "Deem and and Pass," which explained in a very user friendly way this morning by Vanity Fair's Todd Purham.

Meanwhile, Florida U.S. Democratic Senator Bill Nelson is staying mum after reports surfaced that a provision that would spare cuts to 800,000 Medicare Advantage recipients in Florida was being stripped from the bill - one of the Congressional add-ons that seemed to turn the stomachs of many Americans back in December as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid did what he could to finagle 60 votes out of his chamber.

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