Cantor: 'This health bill can be defeated'

House Minority Whip Eric CantorEric CantorJohn Feehery: GOP: Listen to Reince The Trail 2016: Dems struggle for unity Overnight Regulation: Supreme Court rejects GOP redistricting challenge MORE (R-Va.) proclaimed Wednesday morning after meeting with his conference that "this healthcare bill can be defeated."

The second-ranking House Republican uttered those words as key Democratic leaders met with President Barack ObamaBarack ObamaObama: 'Stop to reflect' on Memorial Day John Bolton slams Obama’s ‘shameful apology tour’ Miss. governor to join lawsuit against Obama transgender policy MORE at the White House in order to salvage what remains of House and Senate negotiations on a final healthcare bill.

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Cantor explained that he had spent an hour Wednesday huddling behind closed doors with members of his own conference, strategizing on how to defeat the president's landmark domestic initiative.

"We’re looking at 37 Democrats who are in districts that are particularly upset and vulnerable to the provisions of this healthcare bill," Cantor said, highlighting the key theme to be pursued: "Are they going to be with the people or are they going to be with Pelosi?"

According to aides that participated in Wednesday morning's GOP conference meeting, Minority Leader John BoehnerJohn BoehnerIn House GOP, Ryan endorsement of Trump seen as inevitable House GOP faces dilemma on spending bills Overnight Finance: Puerto Rico bill clears panel | IRS chief vows to finish term | Bill would require nominees to release tax returns MORE (R-Ohio) told his rank-and-file, "The bottom line is, I believe we can beat this bill. The American people are with us.”

After paying tribute to his longtime aide, Paula Nowakowski, who died suddenly on Saturday night of an apparent heart attack, a devastated BoehnerJohn BoehnerIn House GOP, Ryan endorsement of Trump seen as inevitable House GOP faces dilemma on spending bills Overnight Finance: Puerto Rico bill clears panel | IRS chief vows to finish term | Bill would require nominees to release tax returns MORE honored his former "right-hand" by putting on a brave face and briefing lawmakers on the GOP agenda.

Nowakowski, whom Boehner affectionately described as "tough as nails" and an astute strategist, was focused on Republicans reclaiming majority status in the House with the 2010 midterm elections.

Building on the "better solutions that Republicans offered" last year to "define what we are for" will be part of that effort, Boehner told his colleagues. "Whether it ends up being called a contract or an agenda or something else — [it] would involve members of the conference and our candidates."

Boehner told members that he has asked Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to head this effort in conjunction with the National Republican Congressional Committee, a source in the room told The Hill.