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March 19, 2010 at 6:35 AM

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Baird gets pressured on health vote -- from Olympia

Posted by Kyung M.Song

WASHINGTON -- First he received the presidential squeeze. Now Rep. Brian Baird is getting pressured to support the upcoming vote in the House on the health-care bill from the other Washington.

In a letter sent to Baird on Thursday (PDF), two top lawmakers from Olympia urged the Vancouver Democrat not to waste a chance to fix health care and to bail out busted state budgets.

"We cannot afford to wait before making fundamental changes to our health care system," wrote Sen. Karen Keiser and Rep. Eileen Cody. "The opportunity is not coming our way again soon. Washington State needs the assistance that federal reform will bring in controlling the increasing fiscal impact of health care."

Keiser is the chair of the Senate Health and Long Term Care Committee; Cody chairs the House Health and Wellness Committee.

Their letter arrived two days after Baird had his first-ever audience with a president in his 12 years in Congress, as President Obama met with a group of wavering House Democrats in the White House.

Baird voted against the House's reform bill in November. But he's now reconsidering whether to vote yea on the amended version of the Senate bill which, if the House passes it, Obama would sign into law.

When I called Keiser about her letter, she said she and Cody sent it only because they were unable to reach Baird by phone.But another fence-sitting member of the state's congressional delegation, Rep. Adam Smith, D-Tacoma, didn't get a letter. Keiser said that's because she spoke with Smith a couple of weeks ago.

Keiser declined to say whether she managed to persuade Smith, saying that it was a private conversation.

Baird's spokesman Adam Hudson said he could not confirm that Baird has read the Keiser/Cody missive.

"However, Congressman Baird does welcome input from all perspectives," Hudson said.

Also on Thursday, Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Lake Stevens, announced that he planned to vote for the bill Sunday. As recently as the day before, Larsen's spokeswoman said he was only "leaning" to a yes vote.

But the new analysis by the Congressional Budget Office showing that reforms would reduce the federal budget by $1.2 trillion in 20 years convinced Larsen that "this bill is fiscally responsible."

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