“One here plus one there equals two.” “One here minus one there equals zero.” This is the kind of math House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn will be doing this week in Washington as he keeps an eye on the couple dozen House members not yet committed to voting “yes” for the version of the healthcare reform act bill the Senate has already approved. Although Clyburn has been the focus of a great deal of media attention in the last few days, much of the hyperbole TV political pundits are using to dramatize how crucial Clyburn’s role is in the process is unwarranted.
There is ample evidence to suggest that many of the House members who voted for H.R. 3962, the House version of the healthcare reform bill that was sent to the Senate last November, are very likely to support the Senate version of the bill House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi is planning to put up for a vote, even though there are some important differences between the two bills. According to analysis by David Dayen of FireDogLake.com:
Dayen further breaks down the numbers by assessing which House Democrats who voted “no” for the House bill in November have the potential to be flipped by Clyburn and Company to vote “yes” for the Senate approved bill.
6 members who lean YES:
Jason Altmire, Bart Gordon, Brian Baird, John Boccieri (The Clyburn Four) plus Scott Murphy and Betsy Markey
7 members who are possible YES votes:
Glenn Nye, John Tanner, Suzanne Kosmas, John Adler, Lincoln Davis, Jim Matheson, Harry Teague.
4 members who are less possible YES votes:
Travis Childers, John Barrow, Allen Boyd, Rick Boucher.
What makes Clyburn’s job difficult is the ease with which these lists can and will change due to shifting allegiances and the back room deal making many of these very same members are counting on to gain support for their own pet projects. Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com, a statistician in favor of the bill passing whose projections consistently outperform his competitors, has a view of the proceedings on the Hill thus far that are slightly rosier than Dayen’s count.
For essentially the first time during the health care battle, all of the key Democratic constituencies are lined up behind the bill: the Congressional leadership, the White House, the unions, the non-Naderite activists.
The possibility that the Senate may not actually deliver all the changes promised during the reconciliation process if the bill passes the House has muddied the waters a bit. The uncertainty this adds makes it a little harder for Clyburn and the rest of the House Democrats to invoke the call of history in their efforts to build the momentum necessary to hold a vote likely to yield 216 yeses.