EXCLUSIVE: Biden Says White House Getting Earful from Nervous Lawmakers Over Health Care

Catholic Democrats, who oppose abortion, are among the lawmakers that the vice president's been targeting. Biden said he's assuring them that the principle of the Hyde Amendment, which says that federal dollars should not be used to pay for abortions, is embedded in the bill.

"The principle is intact," Biden said. "And so I'm confident even the bishops, once this bill is passed and see how it operates, are not going to have the concern any longer."

Today, the Congressional Budget Office said that the current House package would cost $940 billion over 10 years but cut the deficit by $138 billion in that time -- numbers the vice president was pleased about.

"I feel optimistic about it, I really do," he said. "We got a great number back from the Congressional Budget Office."

Biden said the CBO's estimate would be key to winning the support of wavering conservative Democrats who had concerns about the costs of the legislation.

"That's great news, and I think that frees up a lot of guys who were going, 'I don't know, I don't know if this is really gonna be saving," Biden said of the fiscally conservative, so-called Blue Dog Democrats. "So I feel good."

Another thing the vice president feels good about is the ability to be proactive in his new gig.

"As a senator, all you get to do is react actually. And as vice president, the president did give me some significant responsibility. And the thing I love about him is he says, 'Joe, do it,' and he never comes back and looks over my shoulder. Just do it, whether it's Iraq or Recovery Act or the Middle-Class Task Force," Biden said. "That's the best part of the job."

Biden: 'He's Accepted Me, Warts and All'

Biden said that's not the only thing he loves about his boss -- adding that he's learned a lot about Obama during their time in the White House.

"The greatest thing about him, the guy's got a backbone of steel," Biden said. "I didn't know it when he was a senator. I watched him. He was smart as hell. He was on my committee for four years. But watching him act under pressure, this is a guy who makes a decision and he moves on. ... The thing I like best, I get to give the advice. He's got to make the decision."

Biden admitted he once may have pondered the difference in age and Senate seniority between himself and candidate Obama, but that's all over now.

And then there's Biden's trademark ebullience and tendency sometimes to say things in ways that can attract unintended headlines.

"He and I are almost the exact same on all the issues," Biden said. "So ideologically, it worked. But I think it took a while for him to, I think, maybe get comfortable with my style. But I think we're there. He's accepted me, warts and all."

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