Nancy Pelosi is now claiming that if the vote were taken today, she'd have enough support from House Democrats to pass health reform. But according to The Daily Caller's Jon Ward, that's news to Rep. George Miller, a close Pelosi ally who responded "I don't know, I don't know" when asked to verify her statement. Indeed, according to Ward, even Pelosi's own staff won't confirm it.
It probably also comes as a surprise to liberal New York Rep. Anthony Weiner, who said on Monday that the votes don't yet exist, and to Missouri Democratic Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, who put the yes-count at only 201 votes earlier this week. Moreover, it doesn't jibe with the reports coming out today that House Democrats have told the White House to stop giving them deadlines, thankyouverymuch—that they'll turn in their homework pass health care reform when they're good and ready, and not any time before.
So what's actually going on? Well, it's possible that sometime in the last 24 hours or so, Pelosi actually secured enough votes to pass the bill. But given that the House hasn't even actually started an official whip count yet, I'm going to guess that this isn't the case.
Instead, it's more likely that she's worried about the ongoing bad press about the vote count and trying to build some momentum. As Keith Hennessey explains, in order to have the best chance of passing the bill, Democratic leaders need to publicly express as much confidence as they can get away with:
Public signs of optimism from the President, his team, and Democratic Congressional leaders tell us little. We don't know if they actually think they will have the votes, or if they are asserting that to try to make it true. Imagine the impact if Speaker Pelosi were to tell the press "We might not succeed." Doing so would further embolden those marginal Members she is trying to convince to vote aye. They are telling us they think they will succeed, but they have to say this whether or not it's true.
The same is almost certainly true with the vote count. With all the unofficial whip counts being passed around suggesting that it will take a miracle—or at least a Papal declaration—to pass the bill, confidence in its eventual passage has been tough to build. So this statement is almost certainly Pelosi attempting to counter the story that the votes aren't there. Moreover, with a final CBO score and legislative language not yet available (both of which will be crucial to helping wavering moderates make their decision), it's a relatively low-risk claim: Pelosi says she could produce the votes today—a day on which, rather conveniently, no vote is realistically possible.