Holes appear in picture of Democratic confidence

If you’ve been following the health care saga, you know that as of Friday afternoon and Friday night a Democratic triumphalist aura was spreading through the media zone (e.g., this New York Times story) that made passage seem likely and elicited signs of discouragement and resignation in conservative venues. You could hear conservatives across the land thinking, “Is it over, are they going to be able to do it after all?” In this entry are two stories published on Saturday that suggest yet another shift in the wind, and take the edge off the triumphalism.

The first is from The Hill. I’ve bolded the passages with the news that sounds good.

Scrambling for votes, Democrats face uphill climb to pass healthcare reform

By Bob Cusack—03/13/10 12:52 PM ET

House Democratic leaders don’t have the votes to pass healthcare reform. At least not yet.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has expressed confidence that when push comes to shove, healthcare reform will pass Congress. But there will be plenty of pushing in the days ahead.

Pelosi is clearly down in the vote count. Thirty-four House Democrats are either firm no votes or leaning no, according to The Hill’s whip list. Dozens more are undecided.

The list of Democratic members who haven’t committed ranges widely …

If every House member votes and all Republicans reject the bill as expected, Pelosi can only afford 37 Democratic defections. That breakdown of the votes would lead to a 216-215 tally.

Of the 34 no votes/leaning no votes, eight of them backed the House-backed bill in November. Meanwhile, nine Democrats who voted no last fall are publicly on the fence.

Friday’s decision by Democratic leaders to forge ahead without the backing of anti-abortion rights Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) has dealt a blow to the chances the lower chamber can pass a health bill.

Lacking votes last November, Pelosi struck a deal with Stupak and the House measure subsequently passed, 220-215.

On Tuesday, Stupak told the Associated Press that he was “more optimistic” that a deal on the health bill’s provisions on abortion would be reached.

But after days of discussions, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said on Friday such a compromise is unlikely.

Like Pelosi, Hoyer expressed confidence that the votes will be there when the bill hits the floor, which could be within a week.

Stupak has long said he and 11 other members who voted yes the first time will reject the final bill if it does not include strong anti-abortion language.

Yet there are indications that the number of votes Stupak has in his pocket may be closer to a half-dozen.

Earlier this week, Stupak told CQ, “Twelve’s a firm number.”

But in an interview with NRO Online on Friday, Stupak acknowledged that his coalition is cracking: “At this point, there is no doubt that they’ve been able to peel off one or two of my 12 … I’m disappointed in my colleagues who said they’d be with us and now they’re not.”

Stupak said some Democrats “are having their arms twisted, and we’re all getting pounded by our traditional Democratic supporters, like unions.” …

In discussing hard-to-move legislation last year, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said discussions with on-the-fence lawmakers are essential.

“If the votes were there,” Emanuel said at a Christian Science Monitor-sponsored breakfast, “you wouldn’t need to have the meeting, you’d go to a roll call. OK?”

There will be many meetings in the House in the coming days.

To pass a bill, Pelosi and her lieutenants need to convince a slew of Democrats to move from the undecided category to yes. As the no votes have piled up in recent days, it has become more apparent Pelosi may also need to have a few Democrats flip from leaning no to yes.

Pelosi on Friday suggested she wants a bill passed by March 21. At the urging of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Pelosi, President Barack Obama postponed an overseas trip several days so he can help collect votes for the legislation.

Congressional leaders facing a tough vote have historically expressed optimism. And not surprisingly, Pelosi earlier this week suggested she had the votes to pass a bill.

Sources on and off Capitol Hill say the Speaker is playing from behind and needs time to make her case to her caucus. That was part of the reason why House Democratic leaders this week pushed back at the White House for setting a March 18 deadline.

Pelosi is used to winning close votes. In 2007, she moved an Iraq war supplemental through the House that was fiercely opposed by President George W. Bush. She also defied the critics in 2009 by clearing a climate change bill, 219-212. A few months later, the House narrowly passed the health bill.

[end of Hill story]

The second article, from the AP, seems like yet another “Pelosi confidently predicts passage” story, and so seems to contradict the message of the previous story. But I detect signs of a chipping at the edges of Madame’s confidence. The Republicans’ statements that she does not have the votes—though the other day she said she did have them—is making her look lame. And she declines to give reporters the number of firm commitments she has.

Pelosi confident House will pass health care bill

SAN FRANCISCO—House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Saturday she’s confident the House will pass health care legislation and dismissed Republican criticism that she did not have enough votes for the measure.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks during a news
conference Saturday March 13, in San Francisco

“We’re very excited about where we are and will not be deterred by estimates that have no basis in fact,” she said during a dedication of the renamed Lim P. Lee Post Office in San Francisco. The post office was renamed after the nation’s first Chinese-American postmaster. [LA replies: to me, her words sound defensive and insecure rather than supremely confident and boastful, as they did on Friday.]

Pelosi declined to say when House members would vote on a health care bill, or how many votes that she had secured. Although she added that lawmakers were “on the verge of making history.” [LA replies: When the Bolsheviks stormed the Winter Palace and took control of the Russian government, they made history. When Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, he made history. Something making history doesn’t mean it’s good.]

She also dismissed criticism by House GOP leader John Boehner of Ohio that she did not have sufficient votes.

“I’m never dependent on Congressman Boehner’s count. I never have,” she said to a smattering of laughter from the crowd.

House Democratic leaders are pressing for a vote on their bill as early as this coming week….

Posted by Lawrence Auster at March 14, 2010 12:47 AM | Send

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