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Counting Noses In The House

The question of the day is whether Democrats can get the votes in the House of Representatives to pass health care reform. Jonathan Cohn has a great summary of where things stand, including this quote:

I don’t believe there is an accurate vote count at this time. It is fluid and many members are trying to digest the policy, process, and outcome of this week’s summit before making a final call. Some of those who are contemplating voting for the bill won’t commit to an aye vote without securing something (policy, political or personal) for it in return. That is called using your leverage; some will maximize their use of it. The President and his senior staff will have to be aggressively proactive in this effort, something that he and his Administration is not particularly well known for doing. Having said, while the votes are certainly not there now, the odds for a successful outcome is trending in the right direction.  Also encouraging is that many in the White House understand it is time for an all hands on deck effort. Regardless, if the Congressional Leadership schedules votes, it will be extremely close--as has been every major Democratic or Republican initiative during the last two decades.

You should read his whole item. Meanwhile, Time's Amy Sullivan usefully breaks down the numbers over the abortion issue. The two big questions are: how many Democrats will oppose the bill because it has weaker anti-abortion measures than the Bart Stupak-sponsored language in the original bill, and how many who opposed the original bill because of the public option and millionaires surtax can be lured back because they're now gone?

Here's the breakdown, per Sullivan:

Another 24 members who supported Stupak and the final bill are solidly pro-life. The key question for those in this third group of Democrats is whether they are willing to accept an abortion prohibition that falls short of the Stupak language. No one in the House leadership has polled members on this point to get a head count, but the best guess is that many in this category would be satisfied with the Nelson language. A number of them signed onto a compromise offered last fall by Brad Ellsworth of Indiana — himself a member of this group — that would have strengthened the segregation of subsidies and ensured that no federal dollars could be used to fund elective abortions in the exchange.
The final group of 16 Democrats voted against both the Stupak amendment and against final passage of the House bill. While abortion obviously did not drive their votes in November, these members could be in play if the House votes on a reconciliation bill. Half of this group are freshmen Democrats who opposed the House health bill because of concerns about cost or because they opposed the public option, which is not in the Senate version. The biggest mystery is figuring out which way these Democrats are leaning. But Democratic leaders might find that the slightly more modest reconciliation bill could swing enough of this group to offset any pro-life Democrats who jump ship over the Nelson language.

The basic math is that the Dems need to gain more members from the second group than they lose from the first. It's not that simple, but that's the broad strokes picture.