Healthcare reform: Do House Democrats have the votes to pass it?

For House Democrats to win passage of healthcare reform, 216 lawmakers must vote 'yea.' The vote could come as early as this week.

Jim Young/Reuters/File
The healthcare reform vote could come as early as this week. House Democrats will need 216 votes for it to pass.

Both Democrats and Republicans are digging in for a week that may – or may not – produce a vote in the US House on healthcare reform.

For the House to approve the legislation, 216 lawmakers must vote “yea.”

“I think we will have the votes,” David Axelrod, President Obama’s senior adviser, said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “It’s a struggle, but I believe we’re moving in the right direction.”

But later during the CNN program, House Republican leader John Boehner said there was “bipartisan opposition” to efforts to pass healthcare reform. “I’m doing everything I can to prevent this bill from becoming law,” he said.

Democrats “don’t have the votes,” Representative Boehner also said – an assessment that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi dismissed, according to the Associated Press.

To lobby lawmakers, Mr. Obama will stay close at hand. He postponed a trip to Guam, Indonesia, and Australia that was supposed to begin this coming Thursday.

The key sticking point for some Democratic lawmakers: The bill under consideration is the one already passed by the Senate – and parts of the bill, many lawmakers agree, need to be fixed. But the process of fixing it could come only after passage of the bill, and the effort would be complicated and risky.

The House contains 253 Democrats, but a number of those lawmakers are certain to vote against the bill. In a survey by The Hill, 34 Democrats are judged to be a “firm no,” “leaning no,” or “likely no.” An additional 73 Democrats are categorized as “undecided.”

RealClearPolitics has adopted a different way of projecting the votes. It’s looked back at the House vote last November, when 219 Democrats (and one Republican) approved another version of healthcare reform. Of those 219 lawmakers, according to RealClearPolitics, 19 have suggested that they might now vote “nay.” And eight more might choose “no” because of concerns about how abortion is handled in the legislation. Also in this analysis: Six Democrats who voted no in November are now “persuadable.”

It’s unlikely any Republicans will end up in the “yes” column. But Ray LaHood, secretary of Transportation who previously served as a Republican lawmaker in the House, is urging GOP lawmakers to support the bill. “[M]ost people wouldn't expect me to be an advocate for comprehensive health care reform,” he wrote in a piece published Sunday in the Chicago Tribune. “But the truth is, I believe there is no bigger issue to solve and no better chance to solve it than now.”

Republican Scott Brown, whose election to the Senate earlier this year weakened Democrats’ power in that chamber, criticized the healthcare effort on Saturday. “For more than a year now, we have seen a bitter, destructive, and endless drive to completely transform America’s healthcare system,” he said in the weekly Republican address. “Nothing has distracted the attention and energy of the nation’s capital more than this disastrous detour.”

Although Obama won’t be making an overseas trip this week, he will be leaving Washington on Monday, when he is scheduled to speak on healthcare in Strongsville, Ohio.

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