How Close Is It?
With pro-life holdout Rep. Stupak reportedly now in support, all bets are that the House will pass a historic health reform bill this evening. Recap the high drama of the health-care vote.
With pro-life holdout Rep. Stupak and other anti-abortion Democrats now pledging their support, all bets are that the House will pass a historic health reform bill this evening. Read the best of today's coverage and see how Obama and Pelosi brought reform this close.
It’s coming down to the wire, but Democratic leaders now predict they have more than the 216 votes needed to pass historic health-care reform this evening. Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) and a half-dozen anti-abortion Democrats have signed on to the bill after working out language for an executive order from Obama that would clarify that taxpayer money would not be used to fund abortions. The House will have three major votes today, the first on the rules of debate, then a vote on the reconciliation package, and a vote on the original Senate bill, expected after 6 p.m.
Stupak Gives In Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI), whose insistence on inserting anti-abortion measures in the bill was a major stumbling block for Democrats, said that a compromise was enough to win his vote—and finally agreed, along with a half-dozen other anti-abortion Democrats, to support the bill. The deal would keep abortion from being voted on on the House floor and instead, the president would issue an executive order applying the Hyde Amendment to the insurance exchanges the bill sets up. The Hyde Amendment prohibits federal money from subsidizing the medical procedure. Rep. Mary Kaptur (D-OH) has chimed in, saying the compromise gets her yes vote. Though some leaders publicly are saying that not all votes have been nailed down, multiple sources tell The New Republic that by the time the vote is called this afternoon, they’ll have 216 yeses.
Pelosi v. Emanuel In the wake of Scott Brown’s Democratic-supermajority-smashing election to the Senate, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel was pushing the president to take a piecemeal approach to reform. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would hear none of it. She dismissed longtime ally Emanuel as an “incrementalist” and derided his scaled-back approach as “Kiddie Care.” Pelosi was showing she has no intention of compromising, and Obama followed her approach shortly thereafter.
Pelosi Talks Tough to Obama “We’re in the majority,” Pelosi told the president in a series of “impassioned” conversations, The New York Times reports. “We’ll never have a better majority in your presidency in numbers than we’ve got right now. We can make this work.” If she and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid were going to take a risk on the legislation, she wanted the president to do so, too.
• Sean Wilentz: Nancy Pelosi, Heroine of the Hour• The 11 Heroes of Health-Care Reform• Read What Is (and Isn’t) in the Bill• Big Fat Story: How to Still Stop Health CareObama’s hours-long televised bipartisan health-care summit was a risk, but proved to be a strategic success. It took attention away from Congress and shifted it to the White House, giving Pelosi some breathing room to work hesitant members. After the Massachusetts setback, Obama encouraged advisers to keep pushing for bold action. “We are this close to the summit of the mountain,” the president told staffers in January. “We need to try one more time.”
A Key Vote Goes Missing Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) threw a wrench into the vote-whipping efforts of Democrats Saturday: She disappeared. Sanchez cast her last vote Friday night and then flew to Florida for a fundraiser, missing all seven recorded votes on Saturday. She’s now listed by leaders as a no vote—despite being one of the more liberal members of Congress, and one of the safer Democrats heading into this fall’s elections. The Orange County Democrat told her local paper this week that the Senate version of the legislation was a “bad bill.” Obama called Sanchez Friday, and leaders have been working hard on her in recent days. A source told Roll Call that they expect they can get her to switch to a yes vote on the floor, if necessary—if she shows up.
Dems Still Sending Mixed Messages Even in their highly-scripted appearances on Sunday talk shows, Democrats seemed uncertain whether they had the votes to pull it off. On ABC’s This Week, Rep. John Larson said, “We have the votes now—as we speak.” But on another network, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said her Democrats, “don’t have a hard 216 right now,” on Fox News Sunday. Even in their most rosy scenario, Democrats will have a razor-thin margin in passing the bill. The House rules committee worked till midnight Saturday working on last-minute details for the following day’s floor fight. A plan to push through the bill with a procedure called “deem and pass”—meaning no direct vote on the bill—was dropped after GOP outcries. Pelosi refused to allow a separate vote on abortion funding.
Boehner's Desperate Last Stand While battling to switch lawmakers who voted no on earlier versions to vote yes Sunday, Democrats still lost a vote in Rep. Zack Space (D-OH), a yes vote turned no. Space represents a swing district in the eastern part of his state. It’s the first loss for Democrats since Wednesday. "This is not over," fellow Ohioan and House Minority Leader Boehner said. "They do not have the votes yet. We've got to keep working to make sure that they never, ever, ever, ever get the votes to pass this bill." But Boehner also vowed that if the bill does somehow pass, his party would repeal the bill if they captured a majority in the House in the midterm elections.