ABC News’ Rick Klein reports: Despite signs of Democratic momentum in the push to pass health care reform — and a generally positive estimate released today on costs — Republican leaders remain confident that they can block final passage of a bill. On ABC’s “Top Line” today, Rep. Mike Pence, the chairman of the House Republican Conference, said Republicans stand a good chance of blocking Democrats from using the procedural mechanism they want to employ to pass health care in the House. Beyond that, Pence said, Democratic leaders still lack the 216 votes they need to pass health care reform this weekend. “They don’t have the votes right now — I mean that’s pretty clear,” said Pence, R-Ind. “The posturing and the posing I think, notwithstanding, I like our chances. If they want to have a showdown on the House floor this weekend, let’s bring it, because you about can’t get a phone line through on the floor here. It’s just unbelievable the outpouring of opposition to this, particularly in the districts that they need.” Republicans today are seeking a vote on a measure that would forbid Democrats from using the so-called “deem and pass” procedure that would allow the House to avoid a direct vote on the Senate-passed bill. “The president said an up-or-down vote was good enough for the American people in the Senate, but apparently it’s not good enough for the American people in the House of Representatives,” Pence said. “They’re going to use this extraordinary measure to give Democrats a chance to say they never voted for this discredited Senate healthcare bill by deeming it in the ‘Slaughter House rule,’ and you know, we think the American people deserve better, we think we can do better. And frankly, you know, it’s further evidence — this kind of desperate twisting of the rules of the House and the Senate into a pretzel really are evidence that they don’t have the votes, they can’t pass the Senate bill on the floor “And I like our chances for this weekend,” he continued. “I really believe the American people are rising up, letting their voice be heard.” Pence conceded that Republicans used similar procedures when they were in power, but never for bills of this magnitude and importance, he said. “I’ll stipulate that our guys … used deeming back when they were raising the budget ceiling, and I think it was wrong that they used it in that way,” Pence said. “But the very idea that you would pass landmark legislation that will transform one-sixth of the American economy without requiring members of the House of Representatives to stand up and be counted in a plain, upright, up-or-down vote, I think is unconscionable. And I think the American people are rejecting it more by the hour.” Though Pence voted for measures using the procedure when Republicans controlled Congress, he said he questions whether such moves are constitutional. “I wonder about the constitutionality of it,” Pence said. “But I’m not a constitutional scholar. I know there’s competing ideas on all this. I’m just telling you I don’t know whether it’s constitutional or not, I just know it’s wrong.” He said he does not believe the Congressional Budget Office’s preliminary estimate of the health care bill’s costs, particularly the estimate that the bill would shave $132 billion off of the federal budget deficit over 10 years. “I won’t concede that at all,” he said. “How do you spend a trillion dollars and reduce the deficit? We passed the deficit reduction act, we cut $40 billion out of the deficit a couple of years back. You know, we can get spending under control, but you can’t get spending under control while you’re growing government.” Pence, who’s widely mentioned as a potential 2012 presidential candidate, said he still hopes to make a speaking engagement tomorrow in Manchester, N.H., but said the House floor schedule “is really in flux right now.” “I hope to be able to go up there and rally Republican forces, as I’m going to do in couple of weeks in Florida, as I’ve done all over the country,” he said. “Look, I have no plans to run for president. My focus is exclusively on winning back a majority of the House of Representatives for the American people and serving the people of Indiana, it really is. Watch the interview with Rep. Mike Pence HERE.
We also checked in with Politico’s Jonathan Martin on the latest in the push for health care reform — plus some March Madness picks. (Hint: Rock… Chalk…) Watch the “Top Line” segment with Jonathan Martin HERE.