Factbox: Healthcare overhaul has few final steps
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democrats in the House of Representatives hope to approve President Barack Obama's healthcare overhaul on Sunday, with the Senate putting the finishing touches on the plan next week.
The votes would be the final steps in a nearly year-long process that has consumed the Congress in political brawling and put a dent in Obama's approval ratings.
The House and Senate approved separate healthcare bills late last year, but negotiations to merge them collapsed in January after Democrats lost their crucial 60th vote -- the number needed to overcome Republican procedural hurdles -- in a special Senate election in Massachusetts.
Advocates of the overhaul have rallied for a final push before Congress leaves for a two-week recess around March 26. Here are the last few stages:
* The House plans to meet on Sunday to consider the overhaul in a two-step process. It will vote on the Senate's version of the bill, which, if approved, would become law as soon as Obama signs it.
That bill includes the main elements of the overhaul, including new exchanges where individuals and groups could shop for coverage and imposing new regulations on the insurance industry.
The House will also vote separately on a package of changes to the Senate bill sought by House Democrats. That second bill would go to the 100-member Senate under budget reconciliation rules that allow it to pass by a simple majority, bypassing the need for 60 votes.
* House Democrats are considering using a complicated process to avoid a direct vote on the Senate bill, which is unpopular with many members. Republicans condemn the maneuver.
Under the process, the Senate bill would be considered passed once the House approves the second bill with the changes it seeks.
The rule governing the debate -- and deeming the Senate bill passed once the changes are approved -- will be the first key House vote on Sunday.
* The Senate will take up the second bill next week. Republicans plan to use procedural tactics to challenge many of the provisions under reconciliation rules, which require each provision to have a budgetary impact.
The Senate parliamentarian will be asked to give an opinion on whether the provisions meet those rules. If any are ruled out of order, the entire package must be approved again by the House.
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