[Posted by Karl]
Given all the talk about the fate of Democrats’ government-run health insurance proposal, it is worth taking a moment to look at where vote counts stand in Congress.
In the House, Democrats need the support of at least 15 of 52 Blue Dogs. An IBD survey, combined with news reports, turns up four Blue Dog supporters of the current House bill, and at least 13 Blue Dogs opposed to it. IBD’s list includes Rep. Allen Boyd (D-FL), who says he cannot support the current House bill, even though he was re-elected last year with 62% of the vote in his district. But it also includes nine Representatives who have supported the “public option,” if not the full bill. Given that the “public plan” is one of the most contentious points of the debate, that sounds like 13 of the necessary 15 votes (unless it gets tripped up on tax and budgeting issues, which seems unlikely in the House).
As for the Senate, Open Left’s Chris Bowers and FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver both try to get to 50 votes for the “public option,” but neither can quite get there… yet. Strangely, Silver at one point suggests that it is “far from clear” that 50 is the magic number, but ultimately concludes that the “public option” needs at least 50 votes worth of support overall. Indeed, for procedural reasons, Silver thinks a government-run plan needs the support of a majority of the Senate Finance Committee, but so far seems to have only seven of the 12 votes it will need.
That is not a shock. Kent Conrad (D-ND), the Budget Committee chairman and a key Finance Committee member, reiterated the point over the weekend, much to the chagrin of the HuffPo’s Ryan Grim and at least one peeved (but anonymous) Democratic leadership aide. They may wonder where he is getting his whip count, but they forget that Conrad’s co-op trial balloon was launched in June on behalf of the G-11 — the key Senate powerbrokers on health care. Accordingly, Silver may be right to infer that Conrad’s comments mean that Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus is lukewarm at best on the “public option,” and that swing Senators have said privately that they would prefer a bill without it.
Given the current state of play, the Right may feel encouraged, but those numbers are still too close for comfort. It is no time to take the heat off Congress opposing a government-run insurance plan.