Kucinich's Wednesday announcement could be defining moment for health reform

After being lobbied by President Barack Obama, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) is poised to announce his position on healthcare reform on Wednesday morning.

The Ohio congressman's announcement at a 10 a.m. press conference on Capitol Hill will either be a huge boost, or a significant blow, to Obama's effort to overhaul the nation's healthcare system.

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The liberal Kucinich voted no on the 2009 House healthcare bill and has lambasted the measure that is expected to hit the House floor soon.

That hasn't stopped Obama from urging Kucinich on at least a couple of occasions to reconsider. Kucinich and other Democrats met with Obama at the White House earlier this month, but afterward, Kucinich said he was still a no.

This week, Obama publicly called on Kucinich to back the bill during a speech in Ohio. He also gave the lawmaker a ride on Air Force One.

If Kucinich is now a yes, it will provide some political cover for other skeptical progressives in the House. The about switch would also generate momentum because Kucinich would be the first no vote last November to publicly commit to voting yes on the final measure.

If Kucinich sticks with his no vote, there will be questions about Obama's ability to persuade on-the-fence legislators and other Democrats may be emboldened to reject the bill.

Should he reverse fields, Kucinich will need to explain some of his recent statements. The 2008 presidential candidate wrote an op-ed in the Cleveland on Sunday that claimed the pending bill is a giveaway to the insurance industry.

Other statements he has made this month in print and on television follow:

* "[The House bill] had a severely public option and the employee-retirement waiver had been stripped...I could not support it. The version of the bill that passed the Senate was even worse."

* "This bill doesn't change the fact that the insurance companies are going to keep socking it to the consumer."

* "...This  bill privatizes healthcare,  [has no] public option...and doesn't protect states that want to create a single payer system."

* "I haven't been convinced yet that this bill is the solution. And as a matter of fact, I think it's a step in the wrong direction because it's a step toward privatization."

* "I cannot be intimidated by those who are trying to force this insurance industry givewaway down our throats."

* "The insurance companies are the problem and we're giving them a version of a bailout."