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Why Emanuel Cleaver Knows The Health Care Bill Is In Trouble

You may think that House Democrats warning that the health care bill is in a lot of trouble reflects nothing more than posturing. Why is Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) saying in the above clip that the bill might go down on the first pass and then return to the House before it passes?

Consider the math.

I hadn’t remembered until CQ reminded me today that Robert Wexler (D-FL) resigned his post at the end of the year to become the head of a Jewish nonprofit group. Wexler was one of the 220 votes in favor of the House bill in November, with 215 opposed. Wexler’s replacement won’t be in place until April, but by then, Neil Abercrombie will have resigned to run for Governor in Hawaii.

With respect to the Stupak amendment, at least two members, Bart Stupak and Republican Joseph Cao (R-LA), are definitely not going to vote for the bill if anything less than their amendment is included. Therefore, without even getting to the other major issues, the House is at 217-217 on the bill. Say Stupak is satisfied; Joseph Cao is NOT a reliable vote on the second pass. At BEST, you have 218 votes, without going into all the other flashpoints. So, any one member can blow up the bill.

Maybe Nancy Pelosi can flip some of the no votes, especially with the more conservative Senate bill being the base, and the public option likely dead. But I have explained repeatedly that those Democrats who voted against the bill the first time around have every political incentive to vote against it again. Heck, the Larry Kissell poll from yesterday is enough to prove to people that voting no is the right political move, although I question both the poll and the logic behind that thinking. My point is that there will not be more than a small handful of no-to-yes flips available.

But there’s a HUGE universe of yes-to-no flips that are at least possible. Anthony Weiner yesterday said he would vote against the Senate bill. There are clearly others out there, like Peter DeFazio. There were 60 members vowing to vote against a bill without a public option. There are 190 members demanding the elimination of the excise tax on high-end insurance plans. Virtually everyone in the Democratic caucus has some problem or other with the bill.

Now maybe all of those problems get ironed out. But even if every single provision does, just with the hardline abortion issue unresolved, you’re at 217-217. Simple math dictates that the bill is seriously threatened.

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David Dayen

David Dayen