[Posted by Karl]
Given the good analyses from Jay Cost and David Dayen (and the inferior efforts of the establishment media), I have not seen a need to do a “whip count” on the ObamaCare vote the Democrats want to have on Friday or Saturday. Moreover — as Jay notes — the public statements of Congressmen almost always leave wiggle room to be bought off or sufficiently threatened by the top Democrats.
However, these informal analyses are useful as a frame for looking at the actual whipping. Dayen sharply noted that Maj. Whip James Clyburn said yesterday that they have “been working this thing all weekend,” and even named names of those he hopes to flip: Reps. Jason Altmire of Pennsylvania, Brian Baird of Washington state, John Boccieri of Ohio and Bart Gordon of Tennessee. With the exception of Altmire, both Cost and Dayen classed these members in the most persuadable category. So that weekend of work by Clyburn and his deputies made little to no progress. But with the most likely “yes” to “no” flips coming from the core of the Stupak pro-life bloc — perhaps as few as six — Clyburn may not have much work to do.
As a keystone Stater, Cost probably knows Altmire’s district better than Dayen. The fact that the NRCC has stopped targeting Altmire’s vote is troubling, but the NRCC’s assessment of others — e.g., Luis Gutierrez as a “no” — suggests their assessments are imperfect). [Correction: Contra Dayen, the NRCC is still targeting Altmire. Thanks to Jay for making me double-check that.] Baird and Gordon are retiring (As is Bart Tanner, who at last report intended to remain a “no” vote.) Also (fwiw) Nate Silver is skeptical about Boccieri flipping. If Altmire and Boccieri are not already silently onboard with Clyburn, it might be tough for the leadership to get traction on the final, crucial votes.
I tend to agree with Silver on the state of play today:
It seems to me that there are sort of two equilbiria: either essentially all of the non-Stupak yes votes hold, in which case health care passes very narrowly (perhaps with exactly 216 votes) — or the floodgates open, there are a few key defections about half-way into the roll call, and anybody with a grievance deserts the bill, in which case all of the sudden it might struggle to get 200 votes. (Of course, Pelosi doesn’t have to hold a vote, and would probably want to avoid such an embarrassing outcome — but it’s not out of the question that she could push the measure to the floor not knowing the result, and that things could totally unravel during the roll call.)
If I was forced to bet, I would bet on Pelosi. If she can get within two or three votes, she and Pres. Obama can wield the “you don’t want to be the Democrat who killed ObamaCare” club, because members will not know as much as the leadership about the whip count. And she may be able to get that close with the backroom deals that will get inserted when the bill goes to the Rules Committee without adequate time for discovery by the public. Then again, Rep. David Dreier, ranking Republican on the House Rules Committee, says the Dems are still 10 votes short, and that number might be growing, so what do I know?
Bonus coverage: Not even Dayen noticed this from Clyburn:
Clyburn expressed doubt that the House would vote by Thursday. He said lawmakers might have to stay in Washington right up to Easter Sunday, wrangling over their differences, and he wasn’t certain the showdown vote would take place by then.
“The chances are good, but I wouldn’t bet on it,” he said.
That is out of step with Pelosi, who told reporters and bloggers today:
“Time is important for us here, because this city is the city of the perishable and every special interest group out there who doesn’t want this to pass–including the entire Republican party–benefits from any delay,” Pelosi told those in attendance. “Delay is our enemy.”
And it’s out of step with Pres. Obama. The White House originally floated a March 18 deadline for the House vote on the Senate bill. After House leaders essentially dismissed that deadline, Pres. Obama delayed his overseas trip to impose an artificial deadline. My working assumption has been that Pres. Obama — and now Pelosi — very much want to pass the bill before members get a chance to go home and take heat from their constituents. Clyburn, the guy tasked with rounding up the votes, seems to suggest they might delay the Easter recess to keep members in town — which (even as a threat) might also suggest where the Democrats are on their whip count.