Counting Votes

There is no shortage of opinions out there on the likelihood of House passage of the Senate version of the health care bill (let’s ignore the “Slaughter solution” for the moment), but I wanted to think it through myself, and so I figured that I’d share my thoughts.  Here’s how I see the vote shaping up. 

If everyone but Gao were to vote the same way as last time, the bill would pass 216-215.  Of course, not everyone will vote on the Senate bill the way they did on the previous House bill.

To start off with, Bart Stupak is a definite “no” vote, and he had claimed to have a gang of twelve who voted for the bill last time but wouldn’t unless abortions are excluded from the plan.  However, Stupak admitted last night to National Review that Pelosi has already peeled off “one or two” of his pro-life Dems.  I do not believe that Stupak will stand alone, but his gang will probably be reduced to him and six others, by the time their arms are twisted enough.

Stupak and his six voting “no” would then put the bill losing at 209-222.  That would mean that, to pass the bill, Pelosi would need to persuade seven Democrats out of the 38 who voted “no” last time to switch and vote for the Senate bill.  It will be hard, but I think she can do this.  For starters, three are retiring and they probably want to be lobbyists or ambassadors at some future point in their lives.  Dennis Kucinich voted “no” last time, and continues to vehemently insist that he will vote “no” unless there is a “robust” public option added to the bill, but I find it hard to believe that he ultimately wants to go down in history as the deciding vote to kill Obamacare.  A couple of previously nervous Democrats who voted “no” have managed to escape a serious election challenge and their states’ filing deadlines have passed.  Finally, Pelosi probably had another two or three votes in her back pocket last time that she ultimately didn’t need and can now insist upon getting.

But if these numbers ultimately prove correct, Pelosi would also have to prevent any “yes” votes last time (other than Stupak’s gang) from switching to “no.”  That will be extremely difficult, as the bill is much more unpopular now and members realize that their careers are on the line.  Besides the seven votes I have down as switching on abortion, there are currently 63 Demcrats who voted “yes” last time who are currently publicly undecided.  Most of them just want to sit down with the President and be wooed with promises of future goodies, but some of them are publicly leaning “no” or even declaring that they plan to vote “no”, and Pelosi can’t lose a single one of them without switching another “no” vote to “yes”, making her math very, very difficult.

So why is Pelosi so cheerfully optimistic?  Because suicide bombers don’t blow themselves up without the promise of the 72 virgins afterwards.  The only way she has a chance is to convince her Democratic colleagues that the bill is going to pass, and the media are cheerleading her on of course, so they aren’t reporting how far behind she is in her vote count, because very few Democrats in tough districts want to vote “yes” on this bill, only to see it fail.  That’s the worst of both worlds for them.

Bottom line:  Pelosi has yet to publicly switch a single vote.  I don’t see any momentum building for her, only rah-rah pretensions.  It’s likely going to come down to one or two votes, but I still think the bill will fail.

UPDATE 3-14, 5:35 PM:  Maybe this is a better way to illustrate the incredible mountain that Pelosi faces right now.  All Republicans are voting “no,” so if 38 Democrats vote “no”, then the bill is defeated.  Right now, there are 35 Democrats who have said they are voting “no” or are leaning “no.”  There are 73 Democrats still publicly undecided.  If Pelosi loses 3 out of that undecided 73, the bill will fail.  Many of those 73 are making very negative statements about the bill and have strong reasons to vote “no”.  For the life of me, I cannot understand how the bill is trading at 64% on Intrade right now.  Sure, she can trade a lot of horses to get close, but I don’t see the bill getting across the finish line.



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