How Obama revived his health-care bill

On Friday morning, Altmire e-mailed Emanuel. Despite the party on St. Patrick's Day at the White House, a sit-down with Emanuel, a few more phone calls from the president and three from Cabinet-level officials, Altmire planned to announce that he would vote no.

"Don't do it," Emanuel punched back on his BlackBerry. At 4 p.m., Altmire released his statement and at 7:30 Obama called once more.

"I want to give you something to think about before the vote," the president said gently into the phone. "Picture yourself on Monday morning. You wake up and look at the paper. It's the greatest thing Congress has done in 50 years. And you were on the wrong team."

Saturday. Two days left, and it was time for the closing strategy. Arm twist after arm twist, deal after deal, these last days played out so publicly that at some point amid the news conferences and speeches it started to feel like a compressed, frenetic rehash of the 14-month fight.

Protesters on the Capitol lawn. Rumors of enticements -- a Cabinet post, water access in California, money for NASA. More phone calls, more news conferences, frayed nerves, exhaustion.

At the Capitol, Pelosi was once again dealing with the specter of abortion funding, shuttling from office to office as she locked down the final votes. Not once, but twice, she had done what no other speaker could accomplish.

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