Kucinich backs healthcare bill

WASHINGTON Wed Mar 17, 2010 2:02pm EDT

U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) waits to leave Andrews Air Force Base after stepping off Air Force One near Washington, March 15, 2010. REUTERS/Jim Young

U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) waits to leave Andrews Air Force Base after stepping off Air Force One near Washington, March 15, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Jim Young

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic Representative Dennis Kucinich, saying he may be the "deciding vote," announced on Wednesday he will back the Senate-passed healthcare bill that President Barack Obama hopes to sign into law.

Kucinich announced his support after Obama, seeking to win final passage of the measure in what is likely to be a razor-close vote, personally urged him to do so during a visit to his home state of Ohio earlier this week.

Kucinich had opposed the earlier House of Representatives version of the bill because it did not have a public health insurance option. The Senate-passed bill does not have one either, but it is seen as the best chance for healthcare reform this year.

At a Capitol Hill news conference, Kucinich said he while he has concerns about the measure -- "it is not the bill I want" -- he will back it in what called a "historic fight" to overhaul the U.S. healthcare system and provide coverage to millions of uninsured Americans.

"The vote will be very close," Kucinich said. "I may be the deciding vote."

Democrats need 216 votes to win House passage.

Kucinich said he decided to vote for the bill following discussions with Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and members of his own family.

(Reporting by John Whitesides; Writing by Thomas Ferraro)