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With passage of sweeping health care reform finally in view, House Democratic leaders are launching an all-out assault to win over the final pockets of resistance within their rank and file.
The marketing campaign is reaching full tilt even before leaders unveil the final package and finish taking the temperature of the Caucus on it. And the offensive already has all the hallmarks of a historic effort with President Barack Obama delivering a campaign-style stem-winder on Monday to make a final public pitch for his plan, while House Democratic leadership began the more tedious work of privately buttonholing wavering lawmakers.
The strategy so far appears to combine a call for party loyalty with an argument for the measure on its merits while publicly creating a sense of inevitability around its passage. And leaders are also pursuing targeted carrot-and-stick appeals to the self-interests of Members nervous about their re-election prospects. Its conversations about your future around this place and, with the White House, about what youre going to get in terms of political support, one senior Democratic aide said.
But the path to the 216 votes that House Democrats need to muster for a package of fixes that would likely simultaneously green-light the Senate-passed bill remained unclear. The issue of abortion is still fracturing the Caucus, with a handful of lawmakers pledging to vote against the measure for language they say doesnt go far enough in restricting taxpayer funding of the procedure and others threatening to oppose it because they believe the same provision too tightly limits access. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) a Chief Deputy Whip and leading abortion-rights supporter still needs to review the Senate-passed approach to determine whether it passes muster, said her chief of staff, Lisa Cohen. She signaled if the Colorado Democrat decides it goes further than current law in denying access to abortions, she will oppose the bill and rally other abortion-rights supporters to do the same unless leaders pledge to address their concerns later.
But Pelosi on Monday reiterated that abortion and immigration language another hot-button issue thats divided Members cannot be changed in a reconciliation bill, and she said that she is not considering offering future votes on abortion or immigration in return for Members support.
What we are talking about here is passing this bill. ... Its not about abortion, its not about immigration, she said. If you believe that the law of the land is no federal funding for abortions, theres none in this bill. If you believe that there should be no expansion or diminishment of abortion rights, thats what this bill does.
The only reason therefore to oppose the bill is that you do not support health care reform.
Obama is doing his part to aid in the Democratic whipping effort this week, even delaying a trip to Asia from March 18 to March 21 to stay behind and help bring wavering House lawmakers on board with the bill.
A Democratic official said to expect Obama to come to the Hill later this week, likely just before the House moves to vote. In the meantime, the official said, Obama likely will be calling and meeting one-on-one with Democratic fence-sitters about how to vote.