Thursday, December 31, 2009

Breaking Down The House Whip Count On Health Care’s Final Passage

By FireDogLake's David Dayen FDL

FDL Action is calling progressive House members to see if they’ll still hold to their written vow not to vote for a health care bill without a public option. You can see the real-time results of the call reports here.

The strategy for Nancy Pelosi appears to be to allow as many progressives as possible to vote against the final bill, hoping to pick up some Blue Dogs and more conservative Democrats with the framework of the Senate bill. So how is that process unfolding?

So far, we don’t know much. TPM is tracking the 39 House Democrats who voted against the health care bill the first time around. Of those, Bobby Bright (D-AL) has already stated that he’s still a no. The final bill will be less progressive-friendly than the bill which originally passed the House, so the two members who claimed to have voted against the House bill because it didn’t go far enough, Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) and Eric Massa (D-NY), can be reasonably expected to vote no again. And Mike McIntyre (D-NC) actually spoke at the “prayercast” put on by right-wingers to stop the health care bill, so I think we can put him down as a no as well.

So that’s four definite no’s. What about everyone else?

The reason I think most Blue Dogs in conservative districts will stay with their no votes is that they face the same basic political pressures. Dan Boren (D-OK) is a good example. This article describes him “fighting to keep his seat” in Congress by voting against practically every item in the Democratic agenda. Flipping on the health care bill at this stage would be completely out of character. Here’s another example of a Democratic Blue Dog and his Republican challenger sniping over how much they hate the health care bill:

(Republican challenger Josh) First also took aim at what he called a lack of leadership on Holden’s part. Although Holden voted against the House health care reform bill, First said Holden did not do enough to influence others to defeat the bill, such as hold town hall meetings.

The “no” vote was ultimately inconsequential, First said, because the bill had enough support to pass and his vote was not needed.

“It was election-year conversion. It was symbolic. It was meant to hoodwink the constituents in his district,” First said. “Tim Holden is a phony.”

Holden took issue with the accusation of political calculation, and pointed to an interview with Times-Shamrock Newspapers two days before the health care vote in which he announced his intention to vote against the legislation.

“If it was so inconsequential, why was the AFL-CIO just picketing me on Monday of this week for my vote against it?” Holden said, referring to a demonstration at his Pottsville office calling for him to rethink his health care vote.

Can anyone see Holden changing his vote at this stage?

This is not to say that no Blue Dogs will flip. Jason Altmire (D-PA) is openly talking about looking at that possibility, and Jim Matheson (D-UT) is talking up the Senate’s excise tax.

Still, while lots of House Blue Dogs say they’re keeping an open mind on the final vote, nothing has changed on the political landscape where the same people continually worried about challenges from their right and habitually unwilling to take stands on Democratic priorities and principles would suddenly change their worldviews. I would be surprised if more than a handful changed their vote. Which means that Speaker Pelosi will have a difficult job getting to 218, no matter what comes out of the conference committee.

UPDATE: John Boccieri (D-OH) looks like a no as well, given his comments at a meeting with constituents in his district.