Monday, March 15, 2010

Obama makes one last push on health care

WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Barack Obama launched an impassioned week-long closing campaign on Monday to drive his historic health reforms through Congress at a pivotal moment that may help define his presidency.

Obama left the White House for Ohio and an appearance designed to crank up pressure on lawmakers likely to face a knife-edge vote this week on reform aspirations that have eluded Democratic presidents for decades.

In a speech in Strongsville, Mr. Obama was expected to highlight the plight of a woman who survived cancer, but had to cancel her health insurance when her premiums rose and is now back in hospital after a relapse, fighting for her life.

Intense politicking on health care meanwhile speeded up on Capitol Hill with a key committee expected to consider final legislation and Democratic leaders intensifying their search for votes.

Mr. Obama's allies must piece together a 216-vote majority in the House of Representatives amid fierce Republican counter-pressure on wavering Democrats who fear a career-ending vote in a volatile election year.

The White House however predicted the House votes would be rounded up, and that Mr. Obama would be on the cusp of a legacy-building victory by the end of the week.

"I think the House will have passed the Senate bill a week from today," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said on CBS television's "Face the Nation" on Sunday.

But a senior House Democrat, James Clyburn, told NBC's "Meet the Press" that Democratic leaders in the House did not yet have the votes to move the bill as part of a complicated legislative maneuver also involving the Senate.

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