|With time and tempers short, everyone playing hardball in the drive to pass President Barack Obama's massive health care legislation by the weekend.
Business groups are spending $1 million a day to depict the bill as a job killer in television ads in the home districts of 26 wavering House Democrats. A new ad barrage from supporters of the legislation went up Tuesday in 11 districts, some overlapping. And unions are threatening some of those registry clean software lawmakers to come through for Obama - or pay the price in the fall elections.
Obama has summoned members to the White House one by one for private, face-to-face persuasion, and also met larger groups. White House aides said he plans at least one more public health care event this week, including remarks in Fairfax, Va., on Friday. Diverse administration resources are being employed: Even the Navy secretary is in the game.
"We here in Congress are giving a new meaning to March madness," Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, an opponent of the legislation, said Tuesday.
At stake is a bill that would cover some 30 million uninsured people, end insurance practices such as denying coverage to those with a pre-existing conditions, require almost all Americans to get coverage by law and try to slow the cost of medical care nationwide. The comprehensive legislation could affect nearly every American, from those undergoing annual clean registry checkups to people facing major surgery.
Activists on both ends of the political spectrum are energized. Tea party volunteers, who rallied Tuesday in Washington, are planning to flood congressional offices with e-mails opposing the legislation as a step toward socialism. And some on the political left have joined in calling for the bill's defeat because it leaves out a federal insurance option.
The sought-after Democrats - mainly moderates, but also a few liberals - are mostly trying to stay out of sight. They include 37 who voted against the bill last year and a smaller number who are having second thoughts after supporting it the first time. Walking briskly, lawmakers duck in and out of the House chamber during votes, avoiding eye contact with reporters.
Moderate Rep. Mike McMahon, D-N.Y., is feeling the push and pull. Elected with strong labor support two years ago, he voted against the bill in November, pleasing constituents registry fix in his Republican-leaning district on Staten Island who saw it as a government power grab.
Last week, McMahon received a visit from Mike Fishman, president of the Service Employees International Union's local 32BJ. The blunt message: If you can't support health care reform, we can't support you.
The union is threatening to switch its allegiance if he votes against the bill. "Everyone will be looking very, very closely at this vote," Fishman's spokesman, Matthew Nerzig, said with understatement.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, who voted against windows registry clean the House bill last year because he wants a larger government role in health care, has been lobbied hard by Obama to vote "yes" this time. Kucinich scheduled a news conference for Wednesday to announce how he will vote.
At the White House on Tuesday, Obama met with health care executives, including Sister Carol Keehan, head of the Catholic Health Association. In a break with other abortion opponents, the Catholic hospitals are advocating for the bill.
"We think the bill as written now meets the test of no federal funding for registry repair abortion," Keehan said in an interview. She's letting anti-abortion Democrats know her position announced over the weekend.
White House aides said Obama and senior advisers are making clear to lawmakers that they will not be left standing alone in a difficult election year if they cast a tough vote for health care overhaul. The aides spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private meetings.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is trying to keep wavering lawmakers in line, meeting with them individually and in groups. She has summoned female Democrats to her office for a meeting Wednesday morning.
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