WASHINGTON — Amid intense lobbying by the Obama administration, House Democratic leaders struggled Friday for the final votes needed to pass sweeping health care legislation, working to ease concerns among Hispanic holdouts and abortion foes.
“We’re very close” to having enough votes to prevail, said Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland, although he added a scheduled Saturday vote could slip by a day or two and sought to pin the blame on possible Republican delaying tactics.
“Nice try, Rep. Hoyer, but you can’t blame Republicans when the fact is you just don’t have the votes,” shot back Antonia Ferrier, spokeswoman for the GOP leader, Rep. John Boehner of Ohio.
Republicans have already announced that all 177 members of the House caucus will vote against the bill, so that means the ball is entirely in the Democrat’s court.
And, apparently, they’re having trouble keeping it in the air:
The Democratic defections are starting to pile up in advance of a vote scheduled for tomorrow on sweeping health reform efforts. (That schedule could slip to Sunday or beyond, if the votes aren’t there.)
According to the National Republican Congressional Committee — which, of course, has an interest in watching this vote particularly closely — 15 House Democrats and counting are saying publicly that they’ll oppose the measure when it reaches a vote.
Democrats can afford only 40 such defections to squeak the bill through. They’d prefer to win with room to spare.
The Democrats who’ve said — either in interviews or press releases — that they’re opposing the bill include: Rep. Travis Childers (Miss.); Rep. John Adler (N.J.); Rep. Walt Minnick (Idaho); Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (S.Dak.); Rep. Suzanne Kosmas (Fla.); Rep. Frank Kratovil (Md.); Rep. Larry Kissell (N.C.); Rep. Bart Gordon (Tenn.); Rep. Dan Boren (Okla.); Rep. Jim Matheson (Utah); Rep. Michael McMahon (N.Y.); Rep. John Tanner (Tenn.); Rep. Brian Baird (Wash.); Rep. Harry Teague (N.M.); and Rep. Collin Peterson (Minn.).
[K}eeping in mind that many members of Congress prefer to announce their intentions with their votes, not press releases — the defections suggest that reaching 218 remains a serious challenge for Democrats on the eve of the vote.
“If this bill is the political winner Nancy Pelosi claims it is, then why are Democrats fighting over who gets to vote against it?” NRCC spokesman Ken Spain said in a statement.
Heh, good question.