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Majority Hunts for Final Votes

Late last week, Obama summoned Rep. Scott Murphy (D-N.Y.) to the White House to discuss what it would take for his support on the bill. A spokesman for Murphy, who voted “no” on the House health care bill last fall, said Monday that he will remain undecided until he sees final legislation.

Murphy “spoke to the president about a number of issues including health care, and outlined a number of ways he thinks the bill should be improved,” Murphy spokesman Josh Schwerin said Monday.

Obama also talked health care with Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), who also voted against the House health care bill, during a flight to Kucinich’s district on Monday, where Obama gave a speech on the need for reform.

Shortly after arriving, Kucinich only smiled when asked about their conversation, according to a White House pool report. The Ohio Democrat declined to comment on whether he was reconsidering his vote and said he was “looking forward to hearing what [Obama] has to say.”

But Kucinich’s vote became the focus of Obama’s speech at one point when an audience member shouted, “Vote yes!” as Obama pointed out that Kucinich was at the event. “Did you hear that, Dennis? Go on, say that again,” Obama said to the audience member, who repeated his call to vote for the bill.

The president put the focus on Kucinich again later when, amid cheers, he said he told the lawmaker during their flight, “You know what? It's been such a long time since we made government on the side of ordinary working folks, where we did something for them that relieves some of their struggles ... that just gave them a little bit of a better chance to live out their American dream."

Like many others, Rep. Michael Arcuri (D-N.Y.), a member of the Rules Committee who had signaled he might vote against the package, is waiting on a chance to read the final bill. But that didn’t stop Pelosi from giving him the personal treatment late last week in her office. As he left, Pelosi had him up against the wall of her hallway in an intense conversation.

But Arcuri, whose vote could prove critical, said immediately afterward that his position had not changed, and he is still undecided.

Bracketing the one-on-one conversations under the Dome is a full-scale pressure campaign by both supporters and opponents of the package to make their last appeals. Labor unions and business groups are flooding the airwaves with ads. And liberal groups such as MoveOn.org are raising campaign cash to aid primary challengers to Democrats who vote against the bill, while opponents like the Catholic bishops restated their strong objections to the Senate-passed approach to abortion.

Senate Democratic leaders, meanwhile, are feeling fairly confident about their ability to pass the reconciliation bill, even if they are facing resistance from some Senators nervous about publicly declaring their support before House passage.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) can lose up to nine Democrats and still reach the requisite 51 votes for passage, with a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Joseph Biden, who serves as Senate President.

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