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White House Challenges Republicans to Use Health Care for 2010 Election

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March 4: House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill (AP).

Expressing an increasing confidence that a massive health care overhaul will pass Congress -- despite dire warnings from Republicans about its impact on Democrats in November -- White House officials on Sunday dared the GOP to bring it on during this fall's 2010 midterm election.

"We're happy to have the 2010 elections be about the achievement of health care reform. That's a debate I think we're obviously comfortable having," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said on "Fox News Sunday."

"Make my day," added senior White House adviser David Axelrod.

"If the Republican Party wants to go out and say to that child who now has insurance or say to that small business that will get tax credits this year ... you know what, we're actually going to take that away from you and we don't think that's such a good idea, I say let's have that fight," Axelrod told ABC'S "This Week." "I'm ready to have that and every member of Congress ought to be willing to have that debate as well."

White House aides and House Democratic leaders have expressed increasing confidence they will get the 216 votes needed in the House to pass a Senate version of a health insurance overhaul that is not exactly what any Democrat wants but is more than no bill at all.

In a possible sign of the swinging momentum, President Obama postponed plans to travel abroad this week in anticipation of a vote that will determine the fate of his signature issue and could indicate his wherewithal for the remainder of his term. 

Republicans have repeatedly warned that a vote for health care would spell disaster for the Democratic Party as majorities of Americans say the current bill needs to be put down and a new version begun.

On Saturday, Republican Leader John Boehner reportedly told Republican activists in Montgomery County, Ohio, that Democrats are going to lose their majority as a result of the vote.

"This is the year. This is the moment," Boehner told the group, according to the Middletown (Ohio) Journal.

Boehner repeated his prediction on Sunday while acknowledging the challenge of reaching that goal.

"I think that -- that we have a chance at winning Republican control of the House," he told CNN. "No question that we're going to get outspent in this election. ... But I can tell you this, we've got more candidates than we've ever had. We've got better candidates than we ever had. We have a better process of helping to grow candidates and grow campaigns than we've ever had." 

"(Senate Minority Leader) Mitch McConnell has been generous, John Boehner, the Republican leaders, in giving advice to Democrats about how perilous this vote is. I wonder what their motivations are in offering us advice about how to strengthen our party," Axelrod mused on the same show.

Acknowledging the constant political calculations being made behind support for or opposition to the bill, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said if Republicans wanted to be "completely irresponsible," they would permit the legislation to be passed and then campaign against it in November. That is something Republican lawmakers are not willing to do because repeal would be an uphill climb. 

But Alexander said he agrees with Obama's remarks that "the health care debate is not just about health care. It's a proxy for the larger issue of the role of government in American lives."

"We think he's right about that," Alexander told CBS' Face the Nation." "I think it's a political kamikaze mission for the Democrats to insist on this."