*Rank-and-file Democrats in Congress remain wary of health care legislation in spite of President Barack Obama’s closing argument for overhauling the system, well aware that success is far from assured and political perils abound.

“I think he has succeeded in prying open a window of opportunity, but it’s a very narrow window,” said first-term Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va. “And he and the leadership here had better clamber through that narrow window while they can.”

In a speech Wednesday at the White House, Obama called on lawmakers to end a year of legislative struggle and angry public debate and enact legislation ushering in near-universal health coverage for the first time in the country’s history. He called for an “up-or-down vote” within weeks under rules denying Republicans the ability to block the bill with a filibuster.

“At stake right now is not just our ability to solve this problem, but our ability to solve any problem,” the president said. “And so I ask Congress to finish its work, and I look forward to signing this reform into law.”

Appearing before a select audience, many of them wearing white medical coats, Obama firmly rejected calls from Republicans to draft new legislation from scratch.

“I don’t see how another year of negotiations would help,” he said. “I believe the United States Congress owes the American people a final vote.”

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