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Majority Hunts for Final Votes

So far, Democratic leaders have big question marks next to about six moderate Senators, including Sens. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.), Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Jim Webb (D-Va.). Lincoln and Bayh have said they are likely to vote “no.”

Three others — Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) — are considered probable supporters of reconciliation, but they may require some convincing, sources said. Plus, Pryor may feel the need to vote with Lincoln if she is opposed.

Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) has publicly resisted using the process, but leaders expect he will be a team player in the end.

Leaders are also keeping an eye on Sens. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), as well as Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), who, like Conrad, is not a fan of using reconciliation for passing new programs.

No whip count will be valid until the reconciliation bill is actually written and available for Members’ perusal, one Senate Democratic aide cautioned. Even Senate liberals have said they cannot be counted on as automatic votes until they see the text of the bill.

Still, Pelosi reiterated Monday that she needs some proof that Reid has the votes. House Democrats have been reluctant to sign on to the Senate bill without assurances the changes they’ve demanded will become law.

“I have asked [the Senate] to show me what it is they can show me that I would be able to convince my members to go forward,” Pelosi told a group of liberal bloggers on Monday. “We’re ... willing to trust the Senate that they are able to pass the reconciliation package.”

Senate aides said Pelosi has suggested a several different options for how Reid can prove he has the votes, including producing a letter signed by 51 or more Senators. However, Senate aides said House leaders would prefer that 51 Senators sign on as co-sponsors of the reconciliation bill. The House rationale is that voting against a bill you’ve co-sponsored is more difficult than going back on a letter that has cherry-picked issues to highlight.

Though Senate aides noted no decisions have been made, leaders have repeatedly sought to give their own public assurances.

“We’re in the process of actually contacting every single Democratic Senator,” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press. “When Nancy Pelosi goes before her House Democratic Caucus, it will be with the solid assurance that when reconciliation comes over to the Senate side, we're going to pass it.”

Jennifer Bendery and Emily Pierce contributed to this report.

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