By Mike Soraghan - 11/05/09 04:41 PM EST
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi predicted Thursday she will have the votes to pass the Democratic healthcare bill by Saturday.
The statement, however, is a tacit acknowledgement that she doesn’t have them yet.
“We will,” Pelosi said, when asked if she had the 218 votes needed to pass the $1.055 trillion bill, designed to extend healthcare to 96 percent of the population and create a government health insurance plan.
Obama will make a final push before the vote by traveling to Capitol Hill on Friday for a meeting with House Democrats, according to a White House aide.
Obama repeatedly has said he expects to sign a bill this year, and he said earlier this week that he is still confident that will happen.
Separately, Democrats won a key endorsement Thursday when the AARP announced its support for the House bill. AARP CEO Barry Rand said the bill would meet the group’s goals of making coverage affordable to younger members while protecting Medicare for seniors.
Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her leadership team are seeking to satisfy anti-abortion rights Democrats, Hispanic lawmakers and centrist Blue Dog Democrats in the final days before the Saturday vote. They’re scrambling to win the 218 votes necessary for passage.
Abortion opponents warn that the bill ends the longstanding ban on taxpayer dollars going to abortion. Hispanics are concerned about the level of documentation that people will have to provide under the plan to receive services. And Blue Dogs are worried that the plan will increase the deficit in future decades.
She also defended a Democratic abortion-rights opponent, Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D-Ind.) who was accused by anti-abortion rights activists of “bayoneting” them when he sought to broker a compromise on the abortion issue.
“His record has been strongly pro-life,” Pelosi said of Ellsworth. “His position on that is respected in the Congress.”
Pelosi also said that no decisions have been made on whether to allow amendments beyond a vote on the Republicans' $61 billion alternative. She also deemed that plan “scandalous” for not seeking to prevent insurance companies from denying coverage to those with "pre-existing" medical conditions.
Republicans have a 12-hour online townhall scheduled Friday to protest the bill, and thousands of conservatives are expected to take part in a “House Call” on healthcare event organized by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.).
Sam Youngman contributed to this story.