How key Democrats voted on health care bill: Pelosi's scorecard
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had the formidable task of persuading 216 Democrats to vote for a Senate health care bill that many did not like. This is how she succeeded – and failed.
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In truth, it was an opportunity, say the Democratic leaders who led the successful effort to pass the bill Sunday.
Before that moment, the entire process had focused on “getting to 60” – crafting a bill that could get 60 votes in the Senate. After a snowy January Tuesday in Massachusetts, however, a new strategy was born:
Pass the Senate bill in the House, then fix it. If passing the fixes meant using the contentious and time-consuming process of reconciliation – which requires only a simple majority – so be it.
“Scott Brown’s election was a turning point,” says House majority whip James Clyburn (D) of South Carolina. “Losing 60 votes [in the Senate] got us to a more realistic place: that the number for health care had to be 50 plus one, not 60.”
“I never thought the things we had to do to get to 60 could produce a good plan that the House would agree to,” he added, citing the now-notorious deals included in the Senate bill to win over holdouts needed to get to 60 votes.
But that first step – getting 216 House Democrats to pass what many thought was an odious Senate health care bill – was a formidable one.
Thirty-seven sitting Democrats had voted against the House version of health care reform in November 2009, and many found the Senate version even more objectionable. With no GOP support, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had almost no room for error.
Here’s a glimpse at how Speaker Pelosi and President Obama worked a diverse caucus to get to Sunday’s 219-to-212 vote victory:
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D) of Ohio
Congressman Kucinich opposed the House bill because its public option was not strong enough. The Senate version is weaker still. But hours of discussion with Mr. Obama – including a trip to Cleveland on Air Force One on March 15 – helped change his mind and shift momentum toward Democrats.
“When I realized I couldn’t get everything I wanted, the choice was: Do you accept the bill as it is or just kill the bill – and with it, any chance of a serious discussion – because people won’t want to go there again,” he said.
Kucinich says that what moved him wasn’t any special deal for Cleveland, but concern for the impact of a defeat of health care to the Obama presidency.
“I saw how he was really putting his presidency on the line,” he added.
On Sunday night, he voted for the bill.
Rep. Bart Stupak (D) of Michigan.
Congressman Stupak said he would oppose the Senate health care bill unless House leaders allowed a stand-alone vote to strengthen language in the Senate bill banning public funding of abortion services.