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Signs point to a done deal, and the White House says health care reform will soon be the law of the land. But the Democrats are, well, Democrats. The long slog toward passing a final health care bill has been met with potholes and partisan shenanigans. Deadlines came and went.

Confident Democratic leaders say they are nearing the end, and Republicans are resigned to the idea that the bill will pass and that their focus will soon turn toward campaigning against it. But that's not to say it's over yet. From gambling on a favorable ruling from the Senate parliamentarian to last-ditch messaging successes on the Republican side that gums up the expected House vote, there are plenty of potential pitfalls. We've given it some thought, and while these things are unlikely, here are the top five things that could go wrong between now and President Obama penning his signature on a health care bill.

I posed the question to several members today on Capitol Hill, and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) summed it up. I asked, "Could something go wrong in the next week?" Blumenauer lauged: "This is Congress. You answered your own question."

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The U.S. Chamber of Commerce -- already a major force in fighting the Obama administration's big-ticket domestic agenda items -- is set to play an out-sized role in this fall's midterms.

The business lobby plans to spend at least $50 million in a bid to sway around 10 Senate up to 40 House races on behalf of "pro-business" candidates, primarily Republicans, reports the Washington Post. To do so, it has built a grassroots machine, Friends of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, with a member list of 6 million names. The effort is based in part on the much-praised field operation for Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign.

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March 17, 2010: Capitol Hill will join today in nationwide celebrations of St. Patrick's Day, the yearly holiday commemorating Ireland's most famous patron saint. We take a look at pols celebrating the shamrock.

Here, Sen. Ted Kennedy, his wife, Joan Kennedy and their children attend the Chicago St. Patrick's Day Parade on March 17, 1980.


March 17, 1983: President Reagan, then-Speaker of the House Thomas 'Tip' O'Neill and then-House Minority Leader Robert Michel attend a luncheon in honor of St. Patrick's Day on Capitol Hill.


March 17, 1996: Pat Buchanan attends Chicago's south side St. Patrick's Day Parade.


March 17, 2000: President Clinton receives a bowl of shamrocks from Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern on St. Patrick's Day at the White House.


March 17, 2003: Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, then-Governor of New York George Pataki, former Mayor Edward Koch and then-Governor of New Jersey Jim McGreevey attend New York City's 5th Avenue St. Patrick's Day Parade.


March 17, 2005: President George W. Bush and Prime Minister of Ireland Bertie Ahern walk through the U.S. Capitol Rotunda after a St. Patrick's Day Luncheon.


March 17, 2008: Then-Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton waves to supporters as she walks down the Boulevard of the Allies during the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Pittsburgh.


March 17, 2008: Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern presents President George W. Bush with a bowl of shamrocks during a St. Patrick's Day reception in the East Room of the White House.


March 17, 2009: President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Brian Cowen of Ireland attend a St. Patrick's Day lunch hosted by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi in the Rayburn Building, U.S. Capitol, Washington D.C.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

March 17, 2009: The fountain on the North Lawn of the White House runs green in honor of St. Patrick's Day.

Newscom/UPI/Roger L. Wollenberg

A group of Catholic nuns has written a letter, sent to every member of Congress, urging them to pass health care reform. The support is a rare break from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which has publicly opposed the bill over its abortion language.

The nuns, who are the heads of organizations representing a total of 59,000 Catholic sisters, wrote, in part, that the Senate bill will "make historic new investments -- $250 million -- in support of pregnant women. This is the REAL pro-life stance, and we as Catholics are all for it."

Full text of the letter below.

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Rep. Dale Kildee (D-MI), a pro-lifer, has confirmed that he will vote yes on the Senate health care bill.

"I am convinced that the Senate language maintains the Hyde Amendment, which states that no federal money can be used for abortion," Kildee said in a statement. "The Senate bill includes a 'conscience clause' and allows states to ban plans that include abortion."

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One of the key issues bedeviling House Democrats who are still on the fence about health care reform is the unpredictability of the Senate. They wonder whether the Senate will be able to pass a reconciliation bill--making needed changes to the comprehensive health care bill--that hasn't been riddled with holes by Republican procedural bullets.

Today, Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND)--chair of the Senate Budget Committee--didn't provide them much peace of mind.

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In a striking interview on MSNBC this morning, Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ) made, perhaps unintentionally, a strong case for a single-payer health care system.

Speaking with host David Shuster after an announcement by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), a progressive who advocates single-payer, that he would vote for health care, Shadegg argued that Democrats only got Kucinich's vote by "breaking arms." He suggested Kucinich wouldn't readily vote for the bill because it rewards insurance companies.

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Appearing on Don Imus' show on Fox Business today, New York Gov. David Paterson for the first time appeared to deny that he improperly intervened in the domestic violence case of a top aide.

Asked by Imus what happened when he reportedly spoke on the phone with the woman who had accused Paterson aide David Johnson of assaulting her on Halloween last year, Paterson responded in narrow terms (emphasis ours):

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After Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) launched a TV ad proudly declaring that she doesn't work for labor unions, the Arkansas AFL-CIO is hitting back -- attacking Lincoln for taking the union's money for years, only to attack them now.

Lincoln's ad came in response to an attack ad against her by Arkansas For Change, an independent expenditure arm for a group of unions that are supporting her opponent in the Democratic primary, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter.

In a new statement released this afternoon, Arkansas AFL-CIO President Alan Hughes declares that Lincoln is turning into "yet another hypocritical, flip-flopping DC politician." Hughes also says: "Only someone who has become a career politician in Washington DC could spend ten years asking for our support, take hundreds of thousands of dollars from blue collar workers, then turn around and attack us as 'outsiders' because we wouldn't help her this time around."

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President Obama celebrated St. Patrick's Day with a speech at the Friends of Ireland Luncheon on Capitol Hill, underscoring the United States' unique and continuing relationship with Ireland. Here are his complete remarks:

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Please, everybody be seated. To Speaker Pelosi; distinguished members of the House and Senate; Republican Leader Boehner; Majority Leader Steny Hoyer; my outstanding Vice President and his newest chief of staff -- (laughter) -- to Prime Minister Cowen and the entire Irish delegation, as well as the extraordinary leaders from Ireland and Northern Ireland -- it is my privilege to welcome all of you for this wonderful St. Patrick's Day tradition.

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