Big news: Altmire to vote no

A true undecided, who voted yes on the Slaughter strategy yesterday and has been one of the most visible fencesitters thanks to his frequent media hits. But what does it mean?

Congressman Jason Altmire will vote against the latest version of health care reform when the U.S. House of Representatives votes on the bill this weekend.

Altmire confirmed that he has decided to vote no in a telephone conversation with KDKA Political Editor Jon Delano.

The McCandless Democrat is expected to post a statement on his website later today.

Paul Ryan says Pelosi’s still short, but my eeyorish heart puts me in the Ace camp on this. I suspect they have around 205 public yeses — 204 to be exact, according to FDL, although the day is young — and maybe another 20 or so private assurances from vulnerable members who’ve told them they’ll vote yes if need be but would like to avoid it. In that case, the question for Pelosi right now is deciding (a) how many yeses she wants in the final roll (probably a few more than 216 so that no one’s accused of having been the deciding vote), (b) which lucky Blue Dogs she’ll cut loose to vote no, and (c) what sort of deals the others will demand to make this kamikaze vote worth their while. If I’m wrong and this is still genuinely up in the air, then Altmire could be huge as a bellwether for the rest of the centrists. If I’m right, then he’s just a lucky Blue Dog whom they didn’t need. And given that another Blue Dog, Allen Boyd, just flipped from no to yes, I’m feeling like I’m right.

“It’s a coin toss,” says Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) to National Review Online. “We were just on the floor going through whip-check. They still aren’t there yet. It’s narrowed down, from what we can tell, to four or five. Obviously, the numbers favor them, if you compare the pool of undecided votes to how many they need to come over. They only need about 50 percent of the remaining undecideds to break their way. On our side, we need seven votes to defeat this. At this point, we’re really only talking about a handful of votes.

The White House told Bloomberg News this morning that they were six votes short, which probably doesn’t include people like Boccieri who were expected to flip. That jibes with what Dick Morris(!) and the Standard are hearing, but lefty Rep. Stephen Lynch (who’s still momentarily a no) is betting that they’ll have the votes by Sunday or else they wouldn’t risk bringing it to the floor. Exit question: Is that true, though? Boehner said the same thing yesterday, that if Pelosi doesn’t think she has the votes, she’ll pull the bill before the vote happens. I’m not so sure, though. If it’s within four or five votes, why not threaten wavering Dems by forcing them to cast a no ballot and thereby earn the left’s eternal fury?

Update: Here’s Boyd’s statement. Not only is he a Blue Dog, he’s co-chair of the caucus. Follow the leader?

“Throughout this entire debate, I have consistently said that responsible healthcare reform will embody four key principles: it will reduce costs, increase access, ensure patient choice, and not add to the federal deficit,” Boyd said in a statement.

“This bill is not perfect, but I believe it meets these four principles of responsible reform by providing the largest middle class tax credits for healthcare in our nation’s history and preserving a patient’s ability to choose their own doctor.”