It’s getting harder to tell whether Democrats themselves know what’s happening any more. CNN quotes two leading House Democrats saying two different things this morning in its report on the ObamaCare push on the Hill:
Democrats have the 216 votes needed to pass health care reform legislation in the House on Sunday, the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus told CNN.
“This is a historic day and we are happy warriors,” Rep. John Larson, D- Connecticut, told CNN’s “State of the Union.” He added, “We’ve got the votes.”
But the chief deputy whip in the House, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Florida, cautioned, “We don’t have a hard 216 right now.” Schultz made the statement to “Fox News Sunday” just as Larson was speaking to CNN.
Wasserman Schultz added, “I firmly believe we will have 216.”
Meanwhile, not only does it look like liberal Loretta Sanchez is a no, it also looks like she’s MIA:
As their whip efforts narrow to just a handful of Members, House Democratic leaders are facing an unlikely problem vote: Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.).
Sanchez was nowhere to be found on Saturday — she was in Florida on a fundraising jaunt, two Democratic sources said — and while leaders expected her to return for the Sunday vote on final passage, they weren’t assured. What’s more, leaders now list the Orange County Democrat as a “no” vote.
Sanchez’s office did not return a request for comment Saturday evening. She cast her last vote shortly after 6 p.m. Friday and missed all seven recorded votes on Saturday, a review of the record shows.
Democratic hand-wringing about her status — geographically and intentionally — underlines just how tight the margin has become for leaders trying to zero in on 216 votes as the clock ticks down to their appointed deadline. Leaders are still hunting for a winning coalition of votes — and still struggling for a breakthrough abortion fix that will convert three or four holdouts angling for tougher protections against public funding of the procedure.
She may not be the only Democrat to sneak out of DC today, either. Gene Taylor, a Mississippi Democrat voting against the bill, warned his fellow no-voting colleagues to get the hell out of Dodge after casting the vote:
A Democrat who has long committed to opposing healthcare reform legislation has advised his fellow defectors that they should vote no early on Sunday and then immediately leave the House chamber.
Otherwise, Rep. Gene Taylor (D-Miss.) told The Hill, they will be treated “like a piñata.” …
The tactics of House leaders during what is billed as a 15-minute vote are important. It is likely that some firm no votes on the Democratic side will vote right away while others, at the request of House leaders, will wait to register their no until the tally reaches the magic number of 216. Once it does, politically vulnerable Democrats will likely cast their no votes.
But if getting to 216 is a problem, Democratic leaders may lean on these members to change their minds.
That doesn’t sound like a caucus confident of today’s events. I’ll add more updates as the day moves along.
2 p.m.: The House will debate for one hour the rules of debate for the reconciliation bill and the Senate bill.
3 p.m.: The House will vote to end debate and vote on the rules of the debate.
3:15 p.m.: The House will debate the reconciliation package for two hours.
5:15 p.m.: The House will vote on the reconciliation package.
5:30 p.m.: The House will debate for 15 minutes on a Republican substitute and then vote on the substitute.
6 p.m.: The House will vote on the final reconciliation package.
6:15 p.m.: If the reconciliation bill passes, the House will immediately vote on the Senate bill, without debate.
Expect these times to slide. As the debate moves forward and as votes get hard to find, the House may find themselves into the long hours of the night before getting to the end.
Update II: Rep. Glenn Nye (D-VA) is a nay:
Citing potential problems for TRICARE recipients, the cost of the bill, and cuts to children’s hospitals, Congressman Glenn Nye announced this evening that he will vote against adopting the health care proposal under consideration in the House of Representatives.
“Over the past year, I have spoken with countless small business owners, families, medical professionals, and average citizens across Virginia’s 2nd District, and it became very clear that this bill was not the right solution for Virginia’s health care challenges,” said Congressman Nye. “There were many strong points in this bill that I would have been happy to support individually, but the package as a whole had serious problems.”
The original version of legislation in the House had specifically exempted TRICARE from being affected. However, when the final bill language was released on Thursday afternoon, it was revealed that neither the Senate bill nor the reconciliation package contained an exemption for TRICARE.
“Our military families need to be able to count on their health care benefits, and I am not willing to risk negative consequences for our military personnel and their families, particularly at a time when our troops are serving overseas in harm’s way,” said Nye.
Update III: Chris Carney (D-PA) is a yes:
I am voting for this legislation because all Americans should have the same insurance choices enjoyed by members of Congress and their families. If it’s good enough for members of Congress, it is good enough for the people they represent.
Carney represents PA-10, becoming in 2006 the first Democrat to represent that district in 45 years. He won with just 52.9% of the vote in 2008, in a district that John McCain won by nine points. My guess is that Carney won’t be returning to Congress next year, but perhaps he figured he wasn’t coming back anyway. (via HA reader Chip H)
Update IV: Bad news for ObamaCare opponents. Marcy Kaptur, one of Stupak’s bloc of pro-life holdouts, announced that she’s voting yes:
In a big step forward for House Dems, Rep Marcy Kaptur of Ohio, one around a half dozen Stupak holdouts, just confirmed to a local TV station that she’s voting Yes on the Senate bill.
Kaptur made the announcement on WTGV-TV, the ABC affiliate in Toledo, at around 9:50 AM.
The interview is not yet online but I confirmed Kaptur’s quotes with WTGV investigative reporter Zack Ottenstein.
“Yes I will,” Kaptur said, when asked if she’d be supporting the Senate bill. Asked why, she continued:
“We received assurances last night from the administration and Secretary Sebelius that they will work with us to ensure existing law is maintained.”
If she’s the only one to defect, it could still stop Pelosi from getting the votes, but I’d guess that this shows Pelosi has successfully called in her chits.
Update V: Bart Stupak says he’s still trying to cut a deal:
Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) said Sunday morning that he is close to striking a deal with the Obama administration on abortion provisions.
“We are close to getting something done,” Stupak said in an interview with MSNBC. …
The possible deal would focus on an executive order that would specify there would be no public funding for abortions in the healthcare bill.
“We’re close but we’re not there yet,” Stupak said.
Democratic leaders said Sunday they have the votes on healthcare reform, but Stupak said until there is a deal struck, they don’t have the 216 votes they need.
Stupak said “there were eight of us” in the negotiating room, all of them no votes.
Stupak said Saturday that there were “at least six” of his original dozen that were going to oppose the health bill. He said that he was “going to think about” what would need to be included in an executive order to convince him that no federal dollars would go toward funding abortion. Further, Stupak said that he had not talked to the White House about such an executive order.
Sounds like Stupak is sensing defeat and looking for whatever he can get on the way out.
Update VI: Or maybe not; looks like a rumored Stupak presser has been put off … again.