Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 2, 2010

THE CIRCUITOUS ROAD TO 216.... Everyone close to the debate over health care reform is asking the same question: will Pelosi get the votes or not? It's very likely we won't know for sure until the vote is very near -- you'll recall, in November, that the outcome was in doubt the morning the bill was headed to the floor -- but head counts have quickly become an exciting new parlor game for the whole family.

By most scenarios, reform will need some Democrats who voted against reform in November to rejoin the majority on the final bill. The Associated Press worked the phones yesterday and found nine Dems who "have not ruled out switching their 'no' votes to 'yes.'"

The House version of health care passed 220-215 in November, with 39 Democrats voting against it. Since then, defections, resignations and a death have taken away yes votes.

With four House seats now vacant, Pelosi would need 216 votes to approve the Senate-passed version, which replaces the jettisoned House bill. That's exactly the number she has now if no other members switch their votes.

In interviews with the AP, at least nine of the 39 Democrats -- or their spokesmen -- either declined to state their positions or said they were undecided about the revised legislation, making them likely targets for intense wooing by Pelosi and Obama. Three of them -- Brian Baird of Washington, Bart Gordon of Tennessee and John Tanner of Tennessee -- are not seeking re-election this fall.

The others are Rick Boucher of Virginia, Suzanne Kosmas of Florida, Frank Kratovil of Maryland, Michael McMahon of New York, Scott Murphy of New York and Glenn Nye of Virginia.

This is not to say that there are only nine "nay" votes open to supporting the final package -- some offices did not respond to AP inquiries -- but these are the Dems who are at least open to persuasion.

Of course, "not ruling out" support is hardly the same thing as "support." In the end, all of these nine may decide to vote with Republicans to kill the bill; we just don't know. But the fact that there are still votes in play suggests reform stands a fighting chance -- and having these lawmakers acknowledge on the record that they're willing to consider the bill lets Democratic leaders know who to reach out to first.

We also don't know, by the way, how may Dems, if any, who voted for the bill in November will get cold feet and reverse course now. Based on arithmetic, the number of supporters who switch will have to be outnumbered by the number of opponents who switch, or getting to 216 will be impossible.

Regardless, the process is starting to heat up again. President Obama's roadmap, which will be presented tomorrow, will have an opportunity to make an enormous difference on the outcome.

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (13)

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What I fear is that of Pelosi realizes that she doesn't have the votes and never will, then she will never hold the vote. If HRC goes down in flames, I at least want to know who killed it.

Posted by: tom on March 2, 2010 at 8:05 AM | PERMALINK

frankly, i'd rather have the tough road in the House than in the Senate. Pelosi has proven to be a better leader on Obama's agenda than either Obama himself or Reid. the only reason I think this still has a chance is because its in Pelosi's hands. My prediction is that she gets her 216.

And then Reid and the Senate find a way to screw it up.

Posted by: zeitgeist on March 2, 2010 at 8:24 AM | PERMALINK

I also trust Pelosi to get the votes, and then I think 51 in the Senate can be done even with Reid at the helm. Actually, it is a complicated procedure and that plays to Reid's strength as a paliamentarian.
We really need to get this done. I'm about to puke from a paralyzing mix of frustration, anger and boredom.

Posted by: slader on March 2, 2010 at 8:36 AM | PERMALINK

After all this, I'd wonder why any Democrats (save the usual suspects) would not support the bill. It's a foundation to be strengthened and added to in future years. It's very far out, but I'm thinking of what Obama could do with healthcare adn a host of other issues if he won a second term, knowing he was on the way out.

Posted by: terraformer on March 2, 2010 at 8:44 AM | PERMALINK

Pelosi can probably scratch artur davis as a yes....he is a black man in Alabama running for gubner and wants to show white conservatives he is 'really" a conservative. Sadly, he does not stand a snow-bal's chance in the furnace of conerting non-dems....as Ron White says...you can't fix stupid!

Posted by: LTC on March 2, 2010 at 8:50 AM | PERMALINK

I'd think Rick Boucher would be persuadable. While he's facing a tough race this fall, I'd have to think he'd have a better argument for re-election if he voted for the bill than if he voted against.

Besides, remember the infamous Wise County health fair? The one where 2000 people who had no other health care were treated in horse stalls in barns? That was in Boucher's district.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on March 2, 2010 at 8:51 AM | PERMALINK

The fact that this is a challenge makes me want to abandon the Democratic Party. If a compromise bill like this is difficult and global warming and financial reform are too difficult, then we have the most pathetic majority ever assembled.

The Republicans were disastrous, but they weren't pathetic.

Posted by: reino on March 2, 2010 at 9:33 AM | PERMALINK

Since I snarked that you need 218 to pass something in the House, cuz I hadn't counted the vacancies: I was wrong, and SB was right.

Posted by: theAmericanist on March 2, 2010 at 9:55 AM | PERMALINK

Put me with Zeitgeist and Slader as thankful it is Pelosi and not the feckless Reid or Obama. Rahm has proven to be a toothless Chihuahua - all yipping and jumping around frightening only small children.

Posted by: Th on March 2, 2010 at 10:07 AM | PERMALINK

And then there are a handful of liberal Dems, like Kucinich who are voting no because the bill is too conservative. I hope they wake up from the fantasy that killing the bill will somehow be good for the country and somehow bring us closer to their dream of single payer and make the tough yes vote. The most liberal members of the House almost never face tough reelections, so they need to bend their principles a little bit, vote yes, then keep working like hell to improve the system. Perhaps the next Congress could add the public option, or lower the Medicare eligibility age, or increase subsidy funding, etc...

Posted by: meander on March 2, 2010 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

progressives have choice:

throw women under the bus to keep the stupak 10, or lose "the bill"

Being that democrats are mostly unprincipled, I'd wager on democrats throwing women under the bus.

Posted by: gak on March 2, 2010 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

On Congress dot org last night, it said letters to Oppose the Health Plan were at 81%. I read a couple and they just continue to repeat the same Republican lies. I sent a Pass the Health Plan letter to my congresman, senators, and president that just said: Pass.The.Damn.Bill.

Posted by: Rachel on March 2, 2010 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't the Stupak contingent a -20 vote swing?

Posted by: Mxyzptlk on March 2, 2010 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK



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