The House Republican whip team just held a conference call in which they said that the Democrats have 206 yes votes for the health care bill. They need 216 to pass it. There are currently 51 Democrats who are said to be undecided and the leadership can afford to lose 37 Democrats in all, which sounds like a pretty tough road for opponents of the bill (without the Stupak language on abortion, all Republicans are expected to vote no).
Chief Deputy Republican Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) nevertheless said he felt this week had hurt Democratic vote-getting efforts somewhat. He argued that the Slaughter rule did not sit well with some wobbling Democrats and “will make the American people very angry” if the leadership actually tries to go through with it (McCarthy seemed to suggest they won’t). McCarthy said that usually when you talk about process, you lose but “this year, I think process does matter.” He said that the Scott Brown victory suggested that voters wanted the Democratic leadership to be more responsive than they have been during the health care debate.
Rep. Parker Griffith (R-Ala.), a recent party-switcher from the Democratic Party, talked about some of the things the Democrats will do to whip their members. Griffith said they will “know your demographics,” “know how much cash you have on hand,” “know how popular Obama is and Pelosi is in your district,” and know if you want a “road project,” “medical school,” or “have a severe Medicaid shortage that needs to be shored up.” Griffith said that as a physician and former Democrat, “I saw firsthand that the Republicans had many good ideas that were ignored.”
UPDATE: Congressman McCarthy’s communications director emailed to clarify that the Republicans based this number on a count by the liberal blog Firedoglake, which is likely to have better contact with the Democrats’ whip team than they do. Firedoglake currently counts 191 confirmed yes votes, 206 confirmed no votes, and a 205-209 tally with leaners included.
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