Down to the Wire: Reps Spar as Health Care Vote Looms

Rep. John Larson, D-Conn., says Dems have the votes to pass health care reform.

March 21, 2010, 7:21 AM

WASHINGTON, March 21, 2010— -- One of the top Democrats in the House says the Democrats have the votes to pass health care reform -- even though some Democrat members might lose their seats as a result.

"We have the votes. We are going to make history today," Rep. John Larson, D-Conn., the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said today on "This Week."

"President Roosevelt passed Social Security, President Roosevelt passed Medicare, and today, Barack Obama will pass health care reform, demonstrating whose side we are on," Larson told ABC News guest host Jonathan Karl.

Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., the Republican whip, said that "there will be no Republican votes for this bill."

He added that if the bill does end up passing today, "it's because [the Democrats] are using everything in their political power -- and even some things, they shouldn't have -- in their political power, to cut political deals to deliver the votes."

Cantor cited the so-called "Louisiana Purchase" as an example of a sweetheart deal used to get votes in 1803. "If this thing does pass, the American people are going be outraged," Cantor said. "They are scared about this bill."

Larson, the fourth-ranking Democrat in the House, conceded that, as a result of today's vote, it is "quite possible" that some Democrats will lose their seats this November.

"Every time you have a mid-term election, you risk the chance of losing members," he said. "But it isn't about how many members are going to lose their seat ... It's about this moment, it's about the truth, it's every reason why you were elected to come and serve in Congress."

Turning to what the potential ramifications of the bill's passage, Karl asked Rep. Cantor whether he agreed with Minority Leader John Boehner's statement that "this bill will ruin our country." Cantor wouldn't agree with the Ohio congressman's characterization, but he said Americans "are full of fear" about the health care legislation, which is a "bad bill."

Plouffe and Rove Battle It Out Over Health Care Reform

Democratic strategist David Plouffe, who managed Barack Obama's presidential campaign in 2008, predicted health care would be a winning issue for Democrats if the health care bill passed.

"We are going to be much better positioned politically," said Plouffe, appearing exclusively in a lively "This Week" debate with Republican strategist Karl Rove."We had 15 million new voters vote in the 2008 election. These were people who were cynical that their vote really mattered. If we don't pass health care, I think that sends a very depressing message," Plouffe said. But, he insisted, if the bill passes, "it's going to be a very powerful message to them that the vote mattered and they ought to stay involved in politics."

"We will see if they pass this bill," said Karl Rove, who was "the Architect" behind George W. Bush's two successful presidential elections. "I hope they don't. I pray they don't. It will be an economic disaster for the country if they do."

Rove said that the health care bill used "Bernie Madoff-style accounting" and was a "gigantic disaster."

"Karl and the Republicans would be familiar with that," Plouffe retorted. "Under their leadership, they took us from big budget surpluses ... to a $1.3 trillion deficit."

Rove hit back: "Look, you have run up more deficit, before this bill, in the first 20 months and 11 days of your term in office than [what] was done in the entire Bush years!"

"Don't be lecturing us about what you're doing with the profligate spending that started last year with the failed stimulus bill," Rove said, "and continued with your budget increases."

"You will bankrupt the country if this bill passes!" Rove insisted.

Plouffe responded with another jab: "Karl and the Republicans have zero credibility -- about as much credibility as the country of Greece does to talk about fiscal responsibility."

Rove, brandishing a white board with health care cost figures, interrupted: "For God's sake, will you stop throwing around epithets and deal with the facts for once, David!"

Plouffe, rolling his eyes, responded: "Let's put the fanciful chart away ..."

Before he could finish, Rove interrupted: "This is not a fanciful chart, deal with the chart!"

Plouffe Says Obama Will Still Campaign for Dems Who Vote 'No' on Health Care

Plouffe said Democrats were helping to get the country back on track and address big issues such as health care and that "the Republican Party, for the most part, is not lifting an oar to help row us ... " Plouffe said.

"That's bunk!" Rove interjected. "Republicans have offered a positive alternative on health care and you didn't bother to have one meeting between March 5 of 2009 and February 25 of 2010 to discuss how the White House could involve some of those Republican ideas in the bill. Don't give us that bunk," Rove said.

2010 is looking brighter for Democrats than the pundits would have people believe, Plouffe said, and that the president will be out there campaigning not just for Democrats who support the health care bill, but for ones who do not.

"For a variety of reasons -- we've got a tough economy, we've run a lot of races so we've got a lot to defend -- we're going to have a tough election," Plouffe said. "But I think our election outcome in 2010 can be a lot better than a lot of the pundits think by passing health care."

Plouffe said he looked forward to a good debate this fall.

"It's going to be about health care reform, and I think that is a debate we are positioned to win," he said.

Guest host Jonathan Karl pressed Plouffe: Would the president campaign for representatives who voted "no" on health care reform?

"Of course," Plouffe said. "I'm sure he'll be out there helping people who vote 'yes' on this, who vote 'no' on this."

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