Cantor: We can flip Democrats on ObamaCare

Via The Corner, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor publicizes a memo bristling with optimism over the coming ping-pong tournament the Democrats will use in an attempt to pass ObamaCare before the State of the Union address.  Cantor makes the same point as I have over the last couple of weeks, which is that the Senate will have to get at least two cloture votes for every ping-pong attempt that comes to the upper chamber, and that any changes in a wildly-unpopular bill will undermine it.  But even before then, Cantor thinks he can get Democrats to oppose it in the House:

In order to pass a final bill, Democrat leaders cannot lose a single vote of the 60 they gained in the Senate, nor more than two of the 220 votes they gained in the House. To get their bill to this point, Democrat leaders have made a series of contradictory commitments and deals, each of which has the possibility of derailing a final bill. On the issue of abortion funding, for example, Senate Democrats have indicated that they cannot agree to the House-passed language, which continues a long-standing prohibition of federal funding of abortions. Meanwhile, many pro-life House Democrats who voted for the final House bill because of the fixed abortion language have indicated that the Senate-passed language is insufficient.

Cantor identifies various Democrats that will have issues with abortion language, but that’s probably only going to be secondary to some of the disparate treatment the states receive in the Senate bill:

While the House and Senate take different approaches to cutting funding for the Medicare Advantage program, Senator Bill Nelson of Florida inserted language in the Senate version of the bill that effectively ensures that seniors in Florida (and potentially a few other areas) will be protected from these cuts. Will these House Members, each of whom has a significant Medicare Advantage population in their district, vote for a final bill that cuts Medicare benefits for the seniors they represent, while seniors in Florida are protected from such cuts?

Eighteen Democrats have 19,000 or more Medicare enrollees in their districts, with percentages using MA going from 21% to 49%.  How will they explain to those constituents that they voted to cut their benefits while protecting the benefits of retirees in Palm, Dade, and Broward Counties in Florida?  Almost half of these Representatives come from Rust Belt states already hurting badly in the recession.

Meanwhile, will House Democrats from states facing enormous budget cuts vote to support Ben Nelson’s 100% subsidy on Medicaid while ObamaCare imposes massive new liabilities on their own states?

The National Conference of State Legislatures sent a letter to Congressional leaders in October asking for 100% funding by the federal government for any Medicaid expansion, stating, “A lesser commitment from the federal government would shift billions of costs to states and would have serious short- and long-term consequences for state budgets.”

Only one state, Nebraska – which is represented by Senator Ben Nelson, who provided the final vote necessary for Senate passage – received 100% federal funding for the cost of the Medicaid expansion. Three other states represented by critical Senate Democrats (Vermont, Massachusetts, and Louisiana) received additional funding, but not the full 100%. Every other state will be forced to finance a larger portion of the cost of the pending health care bill, including the costs of the preferential benefits for these four states.

Thirty states have cut spending for K-12 education for 2010. Will Members from these states support a final bill that requires their state to potentially make even deeper cuts to education in order to fund more of the health care bill than is being asked of states like Nebraska?

Can these issues be problematic enough to flip just two or three more Democrats into opposition?  I suspect that the elimination of the public option may be more of a hurdle with the  House progressives than these — but Cantor’s signal to the NRCC will not go unnoticed.  Any one of these Democrats voting to support a bill with these elements will have to answer these questions on the campaign trail, most likely with them being asked on TV spots flooding their districts.  If these Democrats feel comfortable about voting for them, they won’t feel comfortable facing town-hall events and answering the questions live back home.

Of course, the point of ping-pong in Congress is to change the bill, and some or all of these issues may get changed by the time it gets back to the Senate.  Nelson isn’t likely to vote against cloture to defend the subsidies he says he never requested, but he’s under so much heat at home that any change may give him enough political cover to torpedo the bill on final-vote cloture.  And he may not be alone.  With Dems retiring at a rapid pace, red-state Democrats like Blanche Lincoln and even Evan Bayh may have seen enough of ObamaCare.