Republican Eric Cantor says Pelosi doesn’t have the votes for health care

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor doesn’t believe the buzz in Washington that Democrats will successfully use reconciliation to ram health care reform through Congress.

“House Democrats are farther away from securing the votes to pass a government health care bill today than they have ever been,” Cantor, Virginia Republican, said in a memo to the Republican caucus Wednesday morning.

Cantor says House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “will not be able to muster the votes needed to pass a Senate reconciliation bill in the House.”

He estimates that House Democrats will likely only be able to attract 202 votes out of the 255-member caucus, 15 votes below the 217-vote threshold they need to pass the bill.

Cantor blames weak anti-abortion language in the president’s health care proposal, as well as public sentiment as expressed in polling and the election results in the Massachusetts Senate special election.

But a House Democratic leadership aide responded Wednesday to Cantor, saying he was “assuming the president’s proposal is a final bill.”

“On the contrary, it’s a starting point for discussion on Thursday and could change. We don’t know how members will vote until we have a final bill,” the aide said.

On the abortion issue, here are the key lawmakers who voted for the House bill in November that Cantor says will not vote for the president’s proposal:

1. Cao, Anh (LA)
2. Costello, Jerry (IL)
3. Dahlkemper, Kathy (PA)
4. Donnelly, Joe (IN)
5. Driehaus, Steve (OH)
6. Ellsworth, Brad (IN)
7. Kaptur, Marcy (OH)
8. Kildee, Dale (MI)
9. Lipinski, Dan (IL)
10. Oberstar, Jim (MN)
11. Stupak, Bart (MI)
12. Wilson, Charlie (OH)

But Cantor’s count turns out to be low, according to Stupak, who has been the ringleader for pro-life House Democrats. Stupak said on Fox News Wednesday morning that there are 15 to 20 Democrats who will vote against the president’s proposal, because of abortion language but also because of the tax on high-cost plans.

The Democratic leadership aide, however, said that “the Catholic community is divided on the Senate abortion language, so its uncertain how some House members would vote.”

Cantor also highlighted House Democrats in states where reconciliation’s 51-vote threshold may give Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, the flexibility to allow senators in those states to vote against the bill.

1. Donnelly, Joe (IN)*
2. Ellsworth, Brad (IN)*
3. Hill, Baron (IN)
4. Mollohan, Allan (WV)
5. Pomeroy, Earl (ND)
6. Rahall, Nick (WV

On this one, the Democratic aide disagreed with Cantor’s logic.

“It’s not logical for a member from a marginal district who voted for the House bill to switch their vote and stand against a more moderate bill that will be signed into law as a landmark piece of legislation,” the aide said.

Cantor estimates that three House Democrats who are retiring – Brian Baird of Washington, John Tanner of Tennessee, Bart Gordon of Tennessee – will be likely to change their no votes to yes votes.

*UPDATE: Cantor double-counted Donnelly and Ellsworth, which would move his number to 204.