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Pelosi Says Party Divisions Won’t Derail Health Bill

Top Congressional leaders stuck to their guns — and their respective party messages — on health care in Sunday morning talk show interviews, with Democrats stressing urgency and assuring that legislation will pass Congress by the end of the year and Republicans warning that the rush to reform could cripple the economy. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) dismissed the notion that divisions within the Democratic Party over a heath care bill — specifically the public option — would derail passage of the legislation. “When I take this bill to the floor, it will win,— Pelosi told CNN’s John King during an interview that aired Sunday morning. She also brushed aside questions about a potential political backlash in 2010, the first opportunity voters will have to weigh in on Congressional Democrats’ support of President Barack Obama’s agenda. The last time a Democratic-controlled House, Senate and White House grappled with health care was in 1993. A bill did not pass and Republicans picked up 54 House seats and eight Senate seats the next year.“I don’t need to remind you, that the health care bill did not pass at that time. … The American people want us to perform,— Pelosi said. “They need this. This is urgent.—Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Democrats needed to start over with “a genuine bipartisan approach— to health care because of the vast opposition to the current plan moving through the House. “The only thing bipartisan so far is the opposition to it,— McConnell said, appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union— with John King. While House Democrats scramble to push their bill through before the August recess, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said last week that the Senate would not see a bill on the floor before Congress leaves for a month. Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), a member of the Senate Finance Committee, told George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week— that they had no intention of trying to rush through the process of crafting a bill that could get Republican votes. “We are going to finish when we are finished,— he said when asked whether the committee would release a bill before Congress adjourns. “There are not the votes for Democrats to do this just on our side of the aisle. It’s so important that we get this right and that it’s sustainable.— Appearing on “Fox News Sunday,— Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) agreed that it is unlikely that the Finance panel, on which he sits, would produce a bill before the August recess. He said that is a good thing because it would allow Senators to go back home and get important feedback from constituents.“The American people need to speak to this, and if they do I think we’ll make much wiser decisions,— Kyl said.He stressed that Republicans are not responsible for holding up negotiations and getting a bill done, pointing to the fact that Democrats have wide majorities in the House and the Senate and that if Democrats had party unity they could pass a bill.Kyl was asked whether he agreed with recent comments by Sens. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and James Inhofe (R-Okla.) that frame Republican efforts to delay reform as blatant political maneuvering that will help the party’s prospects in 2010 and beyond. “If we’re able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo. It will break him,— DeMint said recently.“I don’t agree with that kind of language,— Kyl said. He reiterated that Republicans’ message is about slowing down Democrats’ rush to action and the need to get it right, but he said the politics of health reform shouldn’t be the focus of the rhetoric.“Both sides talk about the politics of this issue. I don’t think we should be focused on that,— Kyl said.Lauren W. Whittington contributed to this report.