WASHINGTON–House Democrats today picked up two key votes needed to push healthcare reform legislation through the Congress.

At the same time, House and Senate Republicans said they will hold a rare joint meeting Thursday as part of their efforts to defeat the health reform measure. A vote on legislation that mostly resembles the bill passed by the Senate on Christmas Eve is expected as early as Friday in the House.

Meanwhile, in an op-ed piece in The Baltimore Sun, Edward Miller, CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine and dean of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, said his institution supports passage of the bill.

“We believe that a vote for passage will finally bring us closer to the reality of expanding coverage to 30 million people Americans presently without insurance,” he said.

“We are at a point at which the inequities and injustices of a system that leaves tens of millions of Americans without health insurance are no longer acceptable,” Miller said.

These types of inequities that led to the founding of Johns Hopkins Hospital, today and our decision today mirrors the mission bequeathed to us more than a century ago,” he added.

In one key switch, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, said he will vote for healthcare legislation.

Rep. Kucinich, a liberal, had opposed the bill because it did not contain a public option.

And, in another key switch, Rep. Dale Kildee, D-Mich., a strong opponent of abortion, said that he was satisfied with the provisions in the Senate-passed health care bill that seek to limit the use of federal money for insurance coverage of abortion, and that he would vote for the bill.

Rep. Kildee is a key ally of Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., who is leading the fight for strong anti-abortion language in the bill, and has said he has as many as 42 House Democrats who might oppose the bill because the anti-abortion provisions weren’t strong enough.

Rep. Kucinich was personally lobbied by President Obama, most recently during Obama’s visit to the lawmaker’s district Monday.

While Rep. Kucinich said the bill is flawed and that he continues to favor a public option, he added, “We have to be very careful that the potential of President Obama’s presidency not be destroyed by this debate.”

In his comments, Rep. Kucinich said he was not promised anything in exchange for his vote.

He also declined to speculate as to whether his decision will persuade other House supporters of the public option to back the bill, which does not contain a public option. Moreover, he said he didn’t know if his decision will influence other liberals to back the bill.

Liberal labor groups are also airing ads in the districts of key congressmen in an effort to win support for the bill.

On the other side, the Chamber of Commerce is targeting 30 Democrats in swing districts as part of an effort to defeat the bill.

And, according to Washington political trade press outlets, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association of American, Washington, is spending at least $6 million on pro-reform ads in 38 congressional districts.

The White House has indicated that re-election assistance such as presidential visits and fund-raisers will be prioritized for lawmakers who support the bill, according to reports in various publications.