Why Health Care Isn’t A Shoe-In To Pass The House

If you’re a member who voted no after the uproar these plans have caused, how do you vote yes? I mean, really. Those who voted no probably went home and got slapped on the back. Those of us who voted yes got slapped across the head with a two-by-four. — Bart Stupak

One of my all-time favorite quotes is, “There’s many a slip ‘twixt the cup and the lip” and that quote is proving to be true for health care. Sure, the odds are still in favor of it passing — but it’s not a slam dunk at this point.

At the moment, in the House, Nancy Pelosi DOES NOT have the votes to pass it.

Why?

She passed the bill initially by only 3 votes. That 3 vote margin has already been erased. Bart Stupak has said he’s not voting for the bill again because his pro-life amendment was taken out, Republican Joseph Cao has said all along that he refused to be the deciding vote, and Robert Wexler has retired and won’t be replaced until April. Stupak has also said that he has 10-12 other Democrats who will refuse to move forward without the anti-abortion amendment. Does he really have that many committed no votes? It’s very possible that he does given how politically suicidal it can be for a pro-life Democrat to support abortion in a red district.

So, Pelosi will have to convince some of the people who voted no the first time around to switch their votes. Easy, right?

Not so much.

You see, the Democrats who declined to vote for the bill the first time around did so because they were terrified to run for reelection with that vote hanging around their necks. Yet now, the bill is even MORE unpopular. Moreover, sweeteners that have been offered to Democrats to vote for the bill have been turned into a negative because the Republicans have been able to successfully portray them as bribes.

Add to that the complete collapse of Ben Nelson’s polling numbers after supporting the bill and the possibility that Democrats could actually lose what used to be Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat in Massachusetts — and the Democrats who voted “no” the first time are going to have very little incentive to switch to a “yes” vote at this late date — and all that’s assuming that you don’t have any liberal House members defecting because the public option is being removed from the bill or just because it’s so unpopular.

So, while the odds may be in favor of Pelosi being able to get something passed, it’s far from a slam dunk. In fact, it’s entirely possible that this bill will die an inglorious death in the House.

PS: Even if Pelosi gets the bill through, Harry Reid will have to get 60 votes for the same bill in the Senate — which wouldn’t be possible if Scott Brown manages to win and get seated. Even if the Democrats got that far, the bill wouldn’t be a done deal because it’s entirely possible that the Supreme Court may find that it’s unconstitutional for the federal government to force Americans to buy insurance. Although having that provision knocked out wouldn’t invalidate the rest of the bill per se, it would make it completely unworkable. Assuming all those hurdles were cleared, since the bill is wildly unpopular, likely to remain so, and much of it doesn’t go into effect until 2014, Republicans could make repealing the health care bill the central issue and priority for the next two election cycles, during which they could use every trick in the book to get the bill repealed. Long story short: As Winston Churchill once said, “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

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