Pelosi tells vulnerable Dems to take one for the team on Obamacare 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says vulnerable Democrats in Congress need to be willing to sacrifice their own political futures for the sake of passing the party's health care plan.

But Republicans say they plan to use the majority party's insistence on the unpopular package to win races this fall and then repeal the package if Pelosi and her team can actually pass it.

With nearly 50 Democratic House candidates in highly competitive races, Pelosi has yet to come up with the 217 votes needed to pass the $1 trillion health care bill President Obama has proposed.

Making the talk show rounds Sunday, Pelosi sent a message to the dozens of vulnerable Democratic lawmakers who are reluctant to vote for the plan.

"We're not here just to self-perpetuate our service in Congress," Pelosi said on ABC's "This Week." "We're here to do the job for the American people."

Republicans, though, warned that the Democrats are putting their majority in peril, particularly if the legislation is passed in the Senate using budget reconciliation, a parliamentary maneuver that would require just 51 votes, rather than the traditional 60.

Support for the health care bill has continued to wane in public opinion polls, with more people wanting Congress to avoid using reconciliation and to start over on a new bill.

"If they ram through this bill using reconciliation, they will lose their majority in Congress in November," House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, R-Va., said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Pelosi will have the toughest time convincing moderate Democrats, some of whom hint they could vote against the plan even though they voted for the more liberal House version that passed by just three votes in November.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., appearing on "This Week," defined the political risk for Democrats.

"For the next three months, Washington will be consumed with the Democrats trying to jam ... through in a very messy procedure an unpopular health care bill," Alexander said. "And then for the rest of the year, we're going to be involved in a campaign to repeal it."

Pelosi signaled that the Senate would have to take the first, painful step toward passage. She said she is waiting for a new bill that reflects the changes to the Senate plan outlined by President Obama before his health summit last week.

"When we have the bill, we'll see what the Senate can do, and then the House will act upon that," Pelosi said.

Pelosi's comments could signify a potential rift with her Senate counterparts who want her chamber to first pass its version of the president's plan. Both chambers would then vote on a second bill with the changes desired by the House. The Senate would use the 51-vote reconciliation tactic to clear the second bill in its chamber.

Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., last week declared health care "dead" unless the House passed the Senate bill first.

sferrechio@washingtonexaminer.com

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