Dominos: Democratic Health Care Skeptics Fall Into Line For Reform

Yesterday, it was clear House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had built real momentum for passing health care reform this Sunday–but she was also dealing with a tricky landscape. She hadn’t converted enough health care skeptics in her caucus to make up for the fact that several anti-abortion members are threatening to bolt over the Senate bill’s abortion language, she was facing revolt from two separate members who were expected to vote for the final package, and the remaining holdouts were never going to be easy pickups.

Today that all changed.In the course of the last several hours, four key members who voted against the House health care bill in November joined the reform effort. And moments ago, a high-profile anti-abortion Democrat announced that he could vote for the Senate bill.

This morning, Rep. John Boccieri (D-OH)–a pro-life Dem–offered his support. He was followed by Rep. Allen Boyd (D-FL)–perhaps the most conservative Democrat in the House. Then, Rep. Suzanne Kosmas (D-FL) joined in on the fun. And moments ago, Rep. Scott Murphy (D-NY) declared he’s good to go.

Apart from them, Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D-IN)–a Senate hopeful and a long-time hold out on abortion–said this evening that he will vote for the final package, just as he did on the House bill in November.

Today, though, there were no major defections. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR)–a progressive who often opposes Democrats from the left–is threatening to vote no over the issue of geographic disparities in Medicare reimbursement rates, but he’s negotiating a potential resolution to the problem with the administration and Pelosi herself.

Tomorrow, Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI)–the most adamantly anti-abortion opponent of the Senate bill, who holds sway with several pro-life Dems–will hold a press conference to discuss reform. But his influence is dwindling, and it’s no longer clear that he controls enough votes to sink the effort.

Meanwhile, Republican efforts to kill the bill were thrown off track evening, when they circulated a potentially forged memo, in an attempt to bolster their claim that Democrats are fudging the true cost of health care reform. And major health care reform supporters are currently hammering members threatening to switch their votes from “no” to “yes.” In a letter sent tonight, the AFL-CIO warned Rep. Michael Arcuri (D-NY) that a “no” vote will not be forgotten. “Congressman, we will not be able to explain to the members of our union why you voted against this bill,” the letter reads.

After voting for the House bill in November, the feeling of betrayal will be that much deeper. Our members support elected leaders who understand what it means to work hard to support a family in these tough times. Our members look for elected officials who have the courage to stand up to lies, distortions and political scare tactics. Your vote this Sunday will tell them what kind of elected official you are. Please do not disappoint them or us.

This is still Capitol Hill, though. Things change rapidly. Pelosi’s still probably a commitment or two shy of the magic number, and an unexpected freak out or second thought could still complicate her efforts. But if her tenure as Speaker has proven anything, it’s that she knows how to count votes. And the rollout these past 48 hours suggests she has this one in the bag.

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