The Health Care Superbowl Begins


As we settle into what is almost certainly the final weekend for health care reform—call it the Health Care Superbowl—and it's still not clear whether or not it will actually pass. For most of the day Friday, it appeared that Democrats were on a clear path to pick up enough votes to pass health care reform—picking up a series of holdouts who were presumed to be tough gets. But Friday night, after rumors began to circulate that Nancy Pelosi had cut a deal with Rep. Bart Stupak's pro-life faction, pro-choice Democrats began to object. And, after a series of meetings with Pelosi, they suggested that any deal with Stupak could cause them to withdraw their support for the reform bill.

Which leaves Pelosi in something of a tough spot. According to The Hill, she's now indicating that "there [won't] be any votes on side issues on healthcare legislation, including abortion." And Stupak indefinitely postponed a planned 11 a.m. press conference in which he was expected to announce that he had agreed to some sort of deal. Reports indicate that Democratic leadership may be trying to bring Stupak's faction on board with an executive order prohibiting federal funding from being used on abortion, but the National Right to Life Committee, the crucial interest group on the issue, has reportedly rejected this as insufficient.

Where does that leave the vote count? Nate Silver says it looks like she's still down by a handful. He thinks that the final votes are gettable, but isn't convinced that passage is a certainty:

That she has 216 potential yes votes, however, doesn't mean she'll actually get them. This is a very complicated bargaining process. The greatest risk, perhaps, is that the negotiations start to break down on multiple levels—i.e. she's having headaches with some members over Stupak, with others over deem-and-pass, with still others (like Pete DeFazio) over Medicaid equity, etc. If that happens, there could be a sort of "run on the bank" as wavering Democrats seek to distance themselves from the legislation.

Meanwhile, it looks like the "deem-and-pass" procedural strategy (also known as the Slaughter Solution) by which House Democrats had hoped to avoid a direct vote on the Senate health care bill is now off the table.

All of which is to say that the situation is still very fluid and no one really knows for sure how it's going to play out. For those who really want to stay on top of things, the best bet is probably Twitter. I'll be updating irregularly throughout the day, but I also recommend the American Spectator's Philip Klein, Cato's Michael Cannon, The Hill's Jeffrey Young, and The Daily Caller's Jon Ward.  

Other assorted notes:

  • There are somewhere between 2,000 and 25,000 protesters rallying against passage of the bill on the Hill.
  • The CBO has yet to release a score for manager's amendment. So much for Pelosi's promise that we'd have 72 hours to look over the CBO's reports!

(Second photo via Mollie Hemingway.)

Update: NRO is now reporting that, after having his proposed deal rejected, Stupak is "finished with Pelosi." Remains to be seen whether the rest of his faction feels the same.

Update 2: The Hill reports that Stupak's pro-life faction has been reduced from a dozen to a half dozen.