Obama’s health-care plan to live or die with a handful of House Dems

Jon Ward Contributor
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President Obama’s health-care reform will live or die this week, and Democrats on Sunday had not yet nailed down enough votes for passage, but could see a path to doing so.

“We don’t have [the votes] as of this morning,” said House Majority Whip James Clyburn, South Carolina Democrat, on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “I think we have gotten to a place where we do have the way to do it, and I think the members are going to, to vote for this.”

It will take a vote whip for the ages, according to The Daily Caller’s own reporting and an analysis of vote tallies by other news organizations (FireDogLake, The Hill, The Examiner, CNN).

The latest vote count from David Dayen at the liberal FireDogLake on Sunday put the tally at only 191 definite yes votes and 203 definite no votes. That leaves 37 House Democrats as the group that will make the difference.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi needs 216 yes votes to pass a bill, so she will have to nab 20 of the 37.

Pelosi faces two challenges. First, she must keep Democrats who voted for the bill in November from bolting (20 lawmakers are in this category, by Dayen’s count). That alone is big task, because so many moderates are looking at the polls and the political winds and calculating that a vote for this bill will likely cost them their job.

Pelosi’s second challenge is even more difficult. She must convince a number of Democrats – at least five – who voted against the bill the first time to switch and vote for it this time. So far it appears that she has at least six who may do just that.

The six House Democrats who look most likely to switch their votes from no to yes are: Jason Altmire of Pennsylvania, Brian Baird of Pennsylvania, John Boccieri of Ohio, Bart Gordon of Tennessee, Betsy Markey of Colorado and Scott Murphy of New York.

Another five Democrats may also flip from a no to a yes: John Barrow of Georgia, Suzanne Kosmas of Florida, Jim Matheson of Utah, Glenn Nye of Virginia and John Tanner of Tennessee.

Each of these lawmakers has responded to queries by The Daily Caller or other news outlets with comments that were either noncommittal or expressed a desire to vote in favor if possible.

Another group of four House Democrats who voted against the original bill has been harder to nail down, avoiding comment almost entirely: Allen Boyd of Florida, Travis Childers of Mississippi, Lincoln Davis of Tennessee and Harry Teague of New Mexico.

All of this assumes that at least five pro-life Democrats, led by Rep. Bart Stupak of Michigan, vote against the bill. But that group could be as large as 10 or 11, which would increase the number of flips Pelosi needs from five to 10 or 11.

And for every Democrat who voted for it the first time that jumps ship, the number of flips needed goes up by one. If Pelosi has to flip more than 12 original no votes to yes votes, the task may prove to be much for her.

Clyburn said the Democratic leadership, as well as the White House, are putting on the full-court press to pressure lawmakers into supporting the bill.

“We’ve been working this thing all weekend, we’ll be working it going into the week,” he said.

Obama will continue his national campaign-style push for the bill in Cleveland on Monday, where he’ll give his third major speech at a rally outside Washington in the last week.

In Washington, the House Budget Committee will hold a mark-up session with the “reconciliation” legislation that Democrats released late Sunday. The expected result is that the committee will pass the bill forward to the House Rules Committee, where the real changes to the bill will be added on Wednesday.

A vote is currently expected this weekend. Obama has postponed his departure for a trip to Indonesia, Guam and Australia from Thursday to Sunday.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs and David Axelrod, President Obama’s top political adviser, tried to create a sense of inevitability about a bill on the Sunday shows, even as a top House Democrat admitted they still don’t have the votes.

Yet Gibbs predicted on “Fox News Sunday” that Obama’s health-care reform would be “the law of the land” by next weekend.

Axelrod said he was “absolutely confident that we are going to be successful,” on “Meet the Press.”