The votes still are not there for healthcare reform legislation, the House's third-ranking Democrat said Wednesday night.

House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said that Democrats are "not there yet" in terms of getting 218 votes for health reform, contradicting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-Calif.) assertion earlier yesterday that she "definitely" has 218 votes for a bill.

Clyburn professed optimism, but said Democrats hadn't yet achieved a majority for health reform legislation in the House.

"I think we`re very close. We`re getting there," he said during an appearance on MSNBC Wednesday evening. "We`re not there yet, but we`re getting there. I feel pretty good about this."

"Our caucus is in a very good mood," the Democratic whip added. "And I think that the country is demonstrating by all the surveys I've seen that the so-called "public option" is, in fact, gaining support."

The speaker said during an interview on Bloomberg News yesterday that she has 218 votes, and always has.

"We have had, I have said for months, we will have a public option in our legislation," she said. "And we have the votes to do that. And we always have."


The claim comes as the Huffington Post reported Wednesday that Democrats are eight votes shy of being able to pass a bill including the public option, with Pelosi having given House Democrats until this evening to declare how they currently stand on the bill.

As Democrats' whip, Clyburn's primary leadership responsibility is to count Democratic votes for pieces of legislation.

The South Carolina Democrat argued that, at the end of the debate, the House and Senate would be able to pass legislation including something resembling the "Medicare for Everyone" (or "Medicare Part-E") that Democratic lawmakers have been talking up in recent days.

"I think that what we will have is a plan that the president will be pleased with, the American people will be happy to have," he said. "And I do believe it will bring tremendous honor to us in the United States Congress and we need all the help we can get right now."