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Cantor Urges GOP to Whip Democrats Against Health Care Reform

In a last-ditch effort to try to kill health care reform, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) on Wednesday urged GOP Members and party supporters to launch a massive whip operation of Democratic Members to try to turn votes against the legislation.

In a detailed memo to his Conference and “interested parties,— Cantor said his whip team has identified 37 House Democrats who “can be persuaded to vote against a final health care agreement.— The House and Senate are currently working to reconcile differences in two competing health care overhaul bills, with a goal of getting the measure to President Barack Obama in February.

“It will be difficult for any House Democrat who originally opposed the House-passed bill to support anything that resembles the recently passed Senate bill,— Cantor said. “With a finite target list of House Democrats who can make the difference and help us defeat this bill, now is the time to redouble our efforts.—

Cantor reminded recipients of the missive that both chambers passed their versions of the health care reform bill with razor-thin majorities.

He also called attention to the last-minute deals that Democratic leaders had to cut to persuade Members to support the legislation.

“By convincing just three House Members to switch their position and oppose this bill, we can halt this government take-over of our health care system,— Cantor wrote in the memo.

In November, one House Republican joined 219 Democrats in voting for the House health care reform bill, while 39 Democrats bucked their party leadership and voted against it. The bill narrowly passed the House 220-215.

And on Christmas Eve, Senate Democrats passed their bill on a vote of 60-39, with all 60 members of the Conference voting in favor.

Cantor listed several areas where the House and Senate bills differ. He suggested those differences — relating to issues like abortion, Medicare Advantage and the budget — may prompt Democrats to vote against the conference committee report.

With the hope of avoiding a public and potentially damaging family feud, House Democratic leaders were set to meet for the second time Wednesday morning to discuss the health care negotiations with the Senate. Democrats are set to sidestep a formal conference committee and instead “pingpong— the bill between the chambers, a move that allows them to bypass a cloture vote in the Senate and prevent Republicans from forcing politically damaging votes on the House and Senate floors.

Steven T. Dennis contributed to this report.

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