Policy

Counting the Votes For ObamaCare

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Vote count?

As President Obama makes a final attempt to resuscitate his health care reform plan, ABC's Jake Tapper counts the votes:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has signaled to the White House that it's unclear if there are enough votes in the House to pass the Senate bill. The House version passed in November by a vote of 220-215, but since then three "yea" votes have vanished: Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Florida, retired; Rep. John Murtha, D-Penn., passed away; and Rep. Anh "Joseph" Cao, R-Louisiana, has signaled he will not vote for the final bill.

That puts Pelosi in a starting-off point of 217 votes which is a majority of the current 433-member House of Representatives, but is also a tough starting line given the prevailing political winds and the lack of desire of many House Democrats to re-enter this discussion at a time when many Americans want the Capitol to focus on job creation.

Other senior Democrats argue that passing nothing will be a worse option, politically speaking, because Democrats have already been branded with the caricature of the bill.

Pelosi believes passing the bill is "possibly doable," the senior White House official said. "But she may ultimately decide the math is impossible."

The lack of confidence here can't be inspiring for anyone who still hopes the bill will pass, and it shows (as I argued last week), that this week's final push is still more messaging strategy than vote-getting strategy. 

What's more, I think Tapper's vote-count is probably overstated. What he fails to note is that many of the original House votes were contingent on a last-minute addition of strict language barring federal funding for abortions. That language isn't in the Senate bill, and it's not clear that the pro-life Democrats who bought into the original House bill would sign onto any legislation without those provisions. In other words, 217—the bare minimum required to pass the Senate bill—is likely the maximum number of votes Pelosi has, and there's a good chance she doesn't even have that. 

Update: Press releases like this one from the National Right to Life Committee, which says that the White House compromise proposal is even worse than the Senate bill, aren't going to make it any easier to bring pro-life Democrats onboard.