House whip count -- the votes just aren't there
The House Dem leadership has conducted its preliminary whip count and has tallied up less than 200 likely Yes votes in support of a health care reform bill with a robust public option, well short of the 218 needed for passage, according to an internal whip count document I’ve obtained.
The document — compiled by the office of House leader James Clyburn — was distributed privately at a meeting between Clyburn and House progressives today where the fate of the public option was the subject of some contentious debate, with liberals demanding that House leaders push harder to win over votes.
Clyburn spokesperson Kristie Greco would only say: “We currently do not have the votes for a robust public option.”
Health care reformers are eagerly awaiting the House vote count numbers on the robust public option — which would reimburse providers at Medicare rates plus five percent — because a House bill with a strong public option would increase the of leverage House leaders in upcoming conference negotiations with Senate leaders over the final bill. The exact count has been hotly debated in political circles since last week.
Clyburn told the assembled members at the meeting that the leadership does not have the votes to pass the robust public option, according to a House progressive familiar with the meeting. That sparked aggressive pushback from liberals, who argued that leadership — and the White House — should be working harder to win over the remaining votes the bill needs.
The document shows that 47 House Dems are committed No votes, and eight are Leaning No, for a total of 55. That means of 256 House Dems, just under 200 remain, and a dozen of those are listed as undecided. The bill needs 218 votes for passage.
House progressives argue that the document should light a fire under Dem leaders. One House progressive tells me he’s convinced that most of the undecideds, and a number of the No votes, can be won over with the right mix of pressure and incentives — which only the House leadership and the White House can provide.
Naturally we expect some serious arm-twisting in the background. And yes, we're sure there will be the incentive talk to those who are too squishy for Pelosi, Hoyer, et al. It appears that the majority of these Democrats that are either opposed to the public option, or those that are undecided, are part of the Blue Dogs who got an earful from constituents over the August recess. The likely reason why they're afraid to jump on board is that they firmly believe their constituents would hold true to their word to make these Democrats join the unemployment rolls. That being, they'll lose their seat.
This is good news for the majority of the nation. The latest from Rasmussen shows that only 45% of people polled want to see this get passed. The other 55% thinks it's a bad idea. As this debate has dragged on the Democrats have slowly lost not only the momentum, but they're losing support for this.
They bungled it from the get-go by not making this open and transparent to the public, and by voting on bills that don't technically exist. NONE of these bills are on paper, so to speak. The debate has been raging over what has been proposed to be in the final legislation. The recently passed idea from the Senate Finance Committee is just now starting to take shape, and Harry Reid is trying to rush it to the floor before it's finished. And Reid has his own headaches in the Senate with Lieberman vowing to side with a filibuster if the Senate version has the public option and pressure mounting on Ben Nelson, Blanche Lincoln, and Mary Landrieu to join the GOP in opposing the bill, denying Reid his cloture vote. (And despite what Evan Bayh has said a cloture vote and a floor vote are inherently different votes.
It looks like we are finally seeing light at the end of the tunnel, and that this will again fail to make it through the Congress. If that happens, we expect Barry will dispatch Rahm Emanuel to twist arms and break knees, figuratively speaking of course, to jumpstart the process all over again. So while we can breathe a sigh of relief for the moment, this fight is far from over. Call the Congress, ask for your reps and senators, and tell them you're opposed to this naked power grab over the health care industry -- 202-224-3121. (Hugh Hewitt has a list of those that are vulnerable in the Senate. Call them.)