Green Room

The Hill’s “Whip Count” on ObamaCare – as of Today

posted at 2:16 pm on March 13, 2010 by

The Hill newspaper is published daily in the nation’s capital while Congress is in session, which is unfortunately true right now. They’ve been publishing a daily (or so) whip-count; that is, the Democratic and Republican leaders tell the Hill how many votes they think they have, and the paper makes the final judgment (presumably after talking to some of the waverers).

In the count published today, here’s how we stand:

  • All 178 Republicans will vote Nay.
  • 34 of the Democrats are firm, leaning, or likely Nays; this includes eight Democrats who voted Yea the last time around in November.
  • 147 Democrats are firm, leaning, or likely Yeas.
  • The remaining 72 Democrats are “undecided.”

That puts the current count at 147 Yea, 212 Nay, with 72 toss-ups. Note that a majority is currently 216, since there are only 431 members of the House right now.

To put it in a nuthouse, Republicans must get 4 of those toss-up Dems to vote Nay, while the Democrats must get 69 of the toss-up Dems to vote Yea.

It should be obvious now why Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%) has not yet called the vote: The risk is too great that the Nay-sayers will get their 4 before the Yes-men get their 69. And she won’t call the vote until the whip-count shows better odds for ObamaCare than against it.

Now I expect the great majority of those toss-up Dems will eventually vote for ObamaCare; but if they lose only 4 out of the 72 (6%) it goes down. Bear in mind that when the current Congress ends — probably sometime in late November or December — any legislation passed in one or both chambers but not signed into law dies.

The new Congress would have to start all over again with ObamaCare (if it’s still controlled by Democrats); the new House cannot simply pass the previous Senate’s bill and send it to President Barack H. Obama for signature.

As a more practical matter, the closer we edge to the November 2nd elections, the greater the pressure on the toss-up Dems to vote Nay, since that is the way most of their constituents want them to vote.

Note to Democratic readers: The congressional elections for your party will be held on Wednesday, November 3rd. On that date, please vote early and vote often!

I would guess that the window will firmly shut in late May or early June; after that — with one dangerous exception — ObamaCare cannot be enacted, for reasons of politics.

The one dangerous exception is the putative “lame-duck” period of the second session of the 111th Congress… the short interval after the elections but before the 112th Congress is seated on January 3rd (per the Twentieth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution).

During those two months, every representative in the House already knows whether he has been reelected, and the Senate bill is still in effect.

A defeated Democrat has nothing to lose by voting for ObamaCare. If enough of those currently leaning towards Nay are defeated, they may, in a fit of vindictive revenge against the constituents who fired them, vote in as perverse a manner as possible. (Though of course, it’s unlikely the reconciliation side of the package could also be enacted during that period.)

This is the most likely time for ObamaCare to be enacted, since it would then have virtually no consequences on its supporters: Many of the Democrats voting for it will have already been defeated; and for those from moderate districts who were nevertheless reelected, a December vote gives them the maximal “memory-lapse” time before facing voters again in 2012.

I’m quite concerned about that interval; has the GOP given it much thought?

Cross-posted on Big Lizards

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Call to Action [Kathryn Jean Lopez]

Catholic bishops’ are asking pastors to distribute this at Sunday Masses. It begins:

“As long-time advocates of health care reform, the U.S. Catholic bishops continue to make the moral case that genuine health care reform must protect the life, dignity, consciences and health of all, especially the poor and vulnerable. Health care reform should provide access to affordable and quality health care for all, and not advance a pro-abortion agenda in our country. Genuine health care reform is being blocked by those who insist on reversing widely supported policies against federal funding of abortion and plans which include abortion, not by those working simply to preserve these longstanding protections.”

That can’t be music to our “Thank God” for government-funding abortion Speaker and believers in a “God-given right” to abortion I’ve encountered among anti-Stupak activists on the Hill.

The Knight of Columbus and National Right to Life Committee are also getting to work.

Wethal on March 13, 2010 at 2:25 PM

It will never happen, but I wish there was a law that NO legislation can be introduced or passed (even if it has been debated on) after an election and prior to an inauguration if control passes from one party to another. That would prevent a lame-duck congress from pulling a revenge move.

If they do try pulling a revenge move like this I am sure there will be hell to pay and it won’t be in the voting booth.

JohnTheBuilder on March 13, 2010 at 2:42 PM

This is one of those Green Room posts that should have been front-paged ASAP.

We’re all desperate for anything that even hints toward good news, and this is about as good as it’s gonna get.

RachDubya on March 13, 2010 at 2:46 PM

34 ‘leaning’ or likely no votes…too much uncertainty there.
Pelosi can only afford to lose 4 of 72 undecided; that seems possible

Reid and Pelosi both look much more optimistic in the last few days, so I’m thinking this bull is going to pass. Pelosi will not allow a vote until she knows it’s gonna pass, so…when the speaker calls for a vote…..

Skandia Recluse on March 13, 2010 at 3:16 PM

I’m quite concerned about that interval; has the GOP given it much thought?

Congratulations! One of the first novel thoughts on this whole thing that I’ve seen in months, I think.

You could imagine several scenarios, depending on the character of the mid-term campaigns and results. For instance, if it’s an interstellar blowout, the Dems losing 50+ seats in the house and 10 or more in the Senate, it becomes really hard to imagine the lame ducks standing up against the expressed will of the people. 60 against millions and millions? The will of a the majority is a powerful, palpable thing. It seems to fill the very air we breathe. It’s one reason the Founders were so concerned about blocking its excesses – because once gathered and focused, no institution can long withstand it.

The 50+ lame ducks would have to think about their lives and futures. And anything they did would be even more fragile. It would be even more difficult to resist effective repeal by hook or by crook. But I think the non-lame ducks – surviving Dems in the Senate and House, plus the Prez – would keep things from reaching that point.

But still fun to think about. If the anti-Dem wave has crested too soon, or if other events intrude, and the Dems easily retain their majorities, then all bets are off… but lame duck enaction of a massive and controversial bill that couldn’t be enacted earlier in the year still seems unlikely. After narrowly avoiding political execution, they’d be unlikely to do the crime again so soon. They may be compulsive criminals, but they’re not (mostly) psychopaths.

CK MacLeod on March 13, 2010 at 3:34 PM

They may be compulsive criminals, but they’re not (mostly) psychopaths.

Don’t bet on it. Some researcher did a study a while back — sorry, I can’t give you the source — and came up with the dismaying result that professional politicians have a personality profile strikingly similar to those of serial killers.

Take that for what it’s worth.

hachiban on March 13, 2010 at 4:15 PM

I have to admit, I’ve worried about that “lame duck” interval, as well. Something to keep in the back of our minds, but there’s enough to worry about between now and mid-October already….

TeresainFortWorth on March 13, 2010 at 5:25 PM

Of course, we could always remind any lame-duckers about Ben Nelson’s treatment – if they’re getting ready to go home for good, they might be less likely to anger the very people they will be rejoining….

TeresainFortWorth on March 13, 2010 at 5:27 PM

This is the most likely time for ObamaCare to be enacted, since it would then have virtually no consequences on its supporters

It’s one thing to get hurt in the mid-terms, passing ObamaCare in a lame-duck session would ensure the extinction of the Democrats in 2012.

ajackson on March 13, 2010 at 8:27 PM

i don’t worry about the lame duck session any more than i worry about reconciliation. they are non-factors.

pelosi will get the SEnate bill passed or not. yes or no. and she will never ever go back to the senate for reconciliation–anyone that believes she will is stupid.

and yall feel free to remind me if i turn out to be wrong.

kelley in virginia on March 15, 2010 at 1:47 PM