Where’d the Votes Go?

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October 27, 2009 2:37 p.m.

House Democrats have been loud and proud on how robust a public option they were going to pass, but in the last few days, starting with reports in The Hill and Politico last week, there have been rumblings that Nancy Pelosi doesn’t have the votes she thought she had, or at least projected herself as having.Today our old colleague Greg Sargent reports that the latest whip count shows more than 50 potential Democratic defectors on the robust public option — far more than the 38 Dems she can afford to lose and still pass the bill with zero GOP support. That may explain the noises Majority Leader Steny Hoyer was making this morning about a less robust public option being able to garner a lot more votes, suggesting one possible route to a securing a majority.

The big unanswered question is how the Speaker’s original count could have been so far off. While she might have stopped short of explicitly saying she had the necessary votes, that was definitely the impression she was leaving and in any event she was putting the power and prestige of her office behind that effort. You don’t do that unless you have the votes or are extremely confident you can get them. As it looks now, she doesn’t have them and probably won’t get them.

So what happened? It probably wasn’t just one thing, but a combination of things that defied her expectations. If you’re on the Hill and in a position to know, drop us a line. Confidentiality assured.

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