Hoyer shoots down Larson's vote count, Clyburn's timeline

After shooting down GOP arguments against a rule to “deem” the Senate healthcare bill passed without a roll-call vote, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) took a moment to shoot down the optimism of one of his fellow leaders about the Democrats' whip count.

Toward the end of his weekly press conference on Tuesday, Hoyer was asked about competing whip counts from James Clyburn (S.C.), the Democratic whip, and Caucus Chairman John Larson (Conn.).

On Monday night, Larson emerged from a caucus meeting to declare that he believed “the votes are there” for healthcare.

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“There’s tremendous anticipation, and certainly a lot of anxiety, but I believe we have the votes and that we will get this bill done this week,” Larson, the fourth-ranking House Democrat, said.

But Larson’s statement immediately made him the highest-ranking optimist in the Democratic ranks.

Over the weekend, Clyburn said that Democrats are still short votes, by his count. In a Tuesday interview with McClatchy Newspapers, Clyburn said that he “thinks” he’ll get 216 votes. But in that interview Clyburn also said that he “wouldn’t bet” on the House actually taking the healthcare vote prior to the Easter recess, let alone by Sunday.

So whose vote count is right?

“The whip is responsible for counting the votes,” Hoyer said. “And I will defer to Mr. Clyburn’s judgment on that issue.

“We’re working on the votes” was all Hoyer would say when asked if he thought Democrats had 216 yes votes.

At the same time, Hoyer said that his “expectation is that we will do healthcare reform later in the week,” seeming to reject Clyburn’s pessimism while embracing the optimism of Larson about the “when” question.

As the majority leader, Hoyer controls the legislative calendar and schedule.

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