Working Every Last Angle

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March 12, 2010 7:16 a.m.

As we get down to crunch time on the big health care vote in the House, we’re closely tracking which members who voted yes on the earlier House version of the bill are changing their votes to no on the Senate version of the bill. But as you probably well know, crunch time is also when a lot of deals are cut and congressman feel they have the most leverage. So you see a lot of gamesmanship going on.

Take the case of Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL). He voted for the original House bill. But as I mentioned earlier, he was on Hardball last night and said he would vote against the Senate bill bill because of the immigration provisions. That prompted some of our readers to call Gutierrez’s office today, and they got a pretty different answer about what Gutierrez’s position really is:TPM Reader CP:

I called the Congressman’s office to express my extreme disappointment. I don’t think you should put him down as a no yet. His aide said the bill is still being put together and when it is complete he’ll review and make a final decision. This may be posturing.

TPM Reader JG:

I am a constituent of Rep. Gutierrez. I just called his DC office and their current line is that he expressed serious reservations about the bill, but has yet to decide how he will vote. My bet is that he will be a Yes after a meeting at the White House.

TPM Reader BD:

Gutierrez is my rep. I heard about his ‘waffling’ and gave his local office a call to voice my support for passing HCR with the senate bill. I then asked, ‘does he support the senate bill?’, the staffer said ‘yes’, and I pushed further, ‘is he going to vote YES on the senate bill?’ and again the staffer said ‘yes’.

While all that was going on, we called his office, too, and they gave us an official statement:

At this time, I am a ‘no’ vote on health care. It’s no secret that I have been critical of proposals that would exclude our nation’s hardworking immigrants from the health care exchange, and I would find it extremely difficult if not impossible to vote for any measure that denies undocumented workers health care purchased with their own dollars.

It doesn’t take too much scrutiny to see a lot of wiggle room there: “At this time” and “extremely difficult if not impossible” are not absolutes by any stretch. So we’ll have to keep a close eye on Gutierrez, but my gut is he may be one of the less common cases where what he’s telling his constituents is closer to the truth of the matter than what he’s saying for mass media consumption.

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