Getting to 216

Portrayed as the most important week in Barack Obama’s presidency thus far, with “the fate of his presidency” hinging on the up-coming health reform vote in the House, the big question remains: Does Nancy Pelosi have the votes?

Part A of that answer is “no she doesn’t”, but part B is “she’ll get there soon.”

Several “no” votes have already pledged that they’ll vote “yes” the next time around. The most prominent shift so far: Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-OH). Appearing on “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” on March 8, Kucinich stated that “without a robust public option that covers enough people to make a tangible market impact, it’s not worth making any effort to woo his vote” [paraphrased]. With that said, the wooing began, and after a one on one with the President, Kucinich stated on March 17 that:

This is a defining moment for whether or not we’ll have any opportunity to move off square one on the issue of health care. And so even though I don’t like the bill, I’ve made a decision to support it in the hopes that we can move towards a more comprehensive approach once this legislation is done.

While Kucinich has swallowed some pride and moved a few steps to the center (while at the same time getting a lot of press attention, some face time with the President and a demonstration of his political importance), the key opponents to the Senate bill remain on the right side of the political spectrum within the Democratic Caucus. Abortion opponents – led by Representative Bart Stupak (D-MI) – have pledged to oppose the Senate bill because it doesn’t, in their view, go as far as it should (i.e. the House bill). Stupak originally had about a dozen votes behind him, but he recently lost one of them when Representative James Oberstar (D-MN) stated that he would vote yes. Does this signal the beginning of the end of Stupak’s no-bloc, or are the ones remaining intent on sticking with the position on abortion originally advocated by the Catholic leadership?

In the end, the most important question isn’t “Does Nancy Pelosi have the votes?”, but “Who wants to be the single vote standing in the way of health reform?”

“Yae” or “nay”, Democrats running for re-election in November will have to deal with the bill no matter what. They either have to run with it, or run from it. It’s not yet clear which option is the best one.

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