Pelosi Still “Way Short” On Votes For Health Care Bill

Daniel Stone and Eleanor Clift does America both a great service and a great disservice with this story about the struggles to pass a health care bill. They rightly explain that Nancy Pelosi doesn’t have the votes to pass the Senate bill, but they fail to explain why that is – if they don’t want to name names, they could certainly use broad classes of legislators to illuminate what’s really going on.

A senior Democratic aide tells NEWSWEEK that Pelosi et al. are “way short.” No one on Capitol Hill will talk firm numbers, in part because numbers are never firm until the vote is called, but this aide says that far too many members say they feel queasy about some part of the Senate language and many would rather see it die than become law […]

This aide says that leadership considers reconciliation, with the House conditioning its support on promised fixes in the Senate, as the much more strategic route than breaking the package into parts, which isn’t ideal because all of the parts are interlocking. Asked what the timetable would be for that, this aide says weeks, not months.

If reconciliation is on the table for making fixes to what House Democrats don’t like about the bill, then there are really only two explanations for Pelosi being way short on votes. One is the sequencing – the idea that the House would want the Senate to go first with sidecar legislation that would fix the problems. The other is that House Democrats who want a health care bill are not the issue, but Blue Dogs and Stupak Dems who have no allegiance to its passage are. And the overwhelming majority of the evidence leans in that direction.

The TPM whip count sheet doesn’t really illuminate this because the wrong questions are being asked to the wrong people. But Bart Stupak has been pretty clear all along, if anyone was bothering to listen:

Just don’t ask him to vote for the Senate’s bill, which includes abortion language that Stupak has called unacceptable. He is the author of more restrictive abortion language adopted by the House.

“Everyone’s talking about Plan B, Plan B is dead,” he said. “We’re not passing the Senate bill, so you best come up with Plan C now.”

Nobody’s really talking about the abortion language as part of any sidecar deal, but pretending that problem doesn’t exist is not a strategy. This means that 10-12 Congresscritters who voted for the bill previously would not do so again. And nobody has yet to find more than one person who publicly or privately will commit to flipping their vote from no to yes. Go ahead, go through the Balloon Juice call reports and find me that person. Here’s what I see:

Altmire – “would have originally voted” for Senate bill but “no longer sure it will come to a vote”
Baird – trending toward no.
Boccieri – “Undecided”
Dahlkemper – likely no over abortion
Kravotil – “on the fence”
Kucinich – No (said so on The Ed Show)
Massa, Eric – voting against it (he voted against the original bill)
Zack Space – No (not enough Stupak?)

There’s just not a lot, outside of Jason Altmire, to take away from that list. Absolutely nobody has shown where the votes that would be needed to pass the Senate bill would come from.

I don’t want to really help leadership out on this point, but you know what would put a lot of pressure on House progressives right now? If they knew that they were determinative to whether health care passed or not. I’m assuming they recognize that they could all agree to vote for the bill tomorrow and it wouldn’t matter, because the votes simply aren’t there. The way that the White House and the Democratic leadership brought pressure to bear on progressives previously is through the inevitability factor. But that doesn’t exist right now, since passage is far from inevitable.

Those who want the bill to pass and are criticizing progressives for standing in the way simply aren’t understanding what’s going on.

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