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Implications of the CBO Score on the Whip Count

The release of the CBO numbers kicks off the real whipping in the House on the health care bill, with a vote expected Sunday. Virtually all of the no votes or the remaining holdouts are members of the Blue Dog caucus, and their protestations on cost will be met by the leadership with the CBO scores showing deficit reduction in the 10-year and 20-year budget windows. Steny Hoyer just tweeted that the bill is “the largest deficit reducer in 25 yrs, since Clinton’s 1993 budget, which ushered in the great economy of the 90s.” Because this may appeal to the remaining holdouts, expect a lot of noise about the budget.

The fact that this covers a million more people, by the CBO estimates, could also be attractive to those looking for a rationale to get on the bill.

There are other considerations among the holdouts, of course. Among the biggest is their future electoral viability. Expect a lot of the leadership to pass around this op-ed from Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky, a former one-term Congresswoman from Pennsylvania. She cast the deciding vote on the aforementioned 1993 Clinton budget, and arguably lost her job because of it. And she writes in an op-ed that she’d do it again:

I still remember how, after I voted, Bob Walker jumped up and down on the House floor, yelling “Bye-bye, Marjorie!” I thought, first, that he was probably right. Then, that I would expect better behavior from my kids, much less a member of Congress. And then, that he was a remarkable jumper.

I am your worst-case scenario. And I’d do it all again […]

Simply put, you could be Margolies-Mezvinskied whether you vote with or against President Obama. You will be assailed no matter how you vote this week. And this job isn’t supposed to be easy. So cast the vote that you won’t regret in 18 years.

And there’s also the possibility for advancement inside the caucus, severely hampered by a No vote. Lots of DNC bigwigs, labor unions, etc. are talking about primaries for those who don’t toe the line.

More than anything, some members probably feel they need an excuse to change their vote from No to Yes, and maybe they can find something in the CBO analysis that would offer that.

Speaking as someone who’s followed these numbers closely, I still see a path to victory, but just as easily a path to defeat. Expect a wave of folks to sign on today and tomorrow who already were pretty likely to do so, giving the impression of momentum. If you don’t see that, by the way, don’t expect a vote on Sunday.

UPDATE: And it begins. Adam Smith (D-WA), an “undecided” who was always going to vote for the bill, told MSNBC just now that he’s a likely yes.

UPDATE II: And another: Elliot Engel, again, was always going to be a yes.

Henry Waxman claims that the CBO numbers will “go a long way” with the undecideds.

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David Dayen

David Dayen