Boehner Whips Up Opposition as Democrats Drive Toward Health Care Vote

House Minority Leader John Boehner gestures at his weekly news conference with Capitol Hill reporters in Washington March 19. (Reuters Photo)

House Minority Leader John Boehner gestures at his weekly news conference with Capitol Hill reporters in Washington March 19. (Reuters Photo)

With his party in the minority and his least favorite piece of legislation about to come to a critical vote, John Boehner is showing no sign of backing down.

Instead, the Republican leader of the House is coming at Democrats whichever way he can during what may be the final days of the Democrats' health care reform push.

While pursuing a string of mostly symbolic challenges on the floor, his team is colluding with Senate Republicans to figure out a way to trip up the bill if and when it hits the other chamber. 

And Boehner himself is eating up camera time faster than the president, seizing some semblance of a bully pulpit to try to frighten Democrats into having second thoughts. 

"If anyone thinks the American people are going to forget this vote, just watch," Boehner told reporters Friday, before walking away in a somewhat dramatic fashion. 

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He declared the day before that he and his party would do "everything" in their power to "make sure that this bill never, ever, ever passes."

The odds may be stacked against him, but Boehner's trying to prop up his side by playing the role of -- believe it or not -- populist. 

"Republicans can't beat this bill, but the American people can," Boehner said Friday. 

Republicans are planning to make a final push this weekend, with another anti-health care bill rally in the works as Democrats ready a get-out-the-vote push of their own. 

Boehner's counterpart, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, said the hope is that the Senate-approved bill will die in the House, effectively halting health care reform. Plan B is for GOP senators to bring up objections to the subsequent package of changes and make life very difficult for Democrats hoping to finish it off quickly and move on to other issues. 

Ahead of the presumed endgame, Boehner has led Republicans in pursuing moves meant to shame Democrats publicly more than anything. 

Rep. Parker Griffith, R-Ala., who just switched from Democrat to Republican in December, sponsored a resolution Thursday to require Democrats to have a straight up-or-down vote on the Senate's health care bill. The move was in response to plans by House Democrats to use a parliamentary trick to vote simultaneously on the Senate bill and a package of changes -- a move that would "deem" the Senate health care reform bill passed and which Boehner called "just as controversial" as the bill itself. 

The House shot down the resolution by a vote of 222-to-203 -- meaning 28 Democrats broke ranks to side with Republicans. 

That was followed by an attempt by House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, R-Va., to offer a resolution accusing House Democratic leaders of "deceptive behavior" and operating in a "malfeasant manner." The unusually heated language targeted efforts to pass the Senate's health care reform bill by using the controversial parliamentary tactic. 

In response, the House tabled -- or set aside -- the resolution, in effect killing it. But it, too, exposed a split in the Democratic ranks. Ten Democrats voted with Republicans not to table the resolution. 

But while Republicans are nipping at the Democrats' bill, Democrats are trying to claim the enthusiasm factor and win over hold-outs in their caucus. 

Obama, who held a rally Friday in Virginia, plans to hold an 11th-hour meeting with House Democrats on Saturday. 

"I am very excited about the momentum that is developing around the bill," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. "When we bring the bill to the floor, we will have a significant victory for the American people." 

Republicans, though, rolled out the argument Friday that the deficit reductions Democrats are claiming -- $138 billion over the next decade -- are inaccurate, in part because of a potential move to increase Medicare payments to doctors in a separate measure by much more than that. 

"It is clearly false momentum," Cantor said Friday.