Democratic defections come in face of last-minute push

After months of teetering on the fence as to whether to support their party’s healthcare bill, several Democrats have broken out against the reform legislation in racing toward a vote.

Reps. Eric Massa (N.Y.), Frank Kratovil (Md.), Jim Matheson (Utah), Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (S.D.), Larry Kissell (N.C.), Suzanne Kosmas (Fla.), Walt Minnick (Idaho), Harry Teague (N.M.), and Mike McMahon (N.Y.) have all bucked their party’s leadership and announced their opposition to the bill, on which debate began in the House on Saturday.

ADVERTISEMENT
The defections come as a late-night and last-minute push was attempted to attract the votes of uncommitted freshman and moderate Democrats, with the inclusion of an amendment designed to guarantee that federal funds won’t find their way to insurance plans offering abortion coverage.

The move may jeopardize the votes of members who support abortion rights, but it also won the measure the support of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which could win over several key conservative votes.

Despite the efforts of President Barack Obama and House leaders who have worked for months with Blue Dog Democrats to try to find an agreeable common ground that would ensure their support on the healthcare measure, Matheson - the moderate coalition’s chairman - announced his plans on Friday to vote against the bill.

Pulling on all the White House’s clout, Vice President Joe Biden spent the past several days calling moderate Democrats to try to shore up support for the bill, according to Greg Sargent’s blog The Plum Line.

In the remaining hours before the Hosue vote, which could come as soon as Saturday evening, there still remain several Democrats who are undecided, like freshman Rep. Tom Perriello (Va.).

A posting on the liberal website Daily Kos calls on readers to focus on Reps. Michael Arcuri (N.Y.), Brian Baird (Wash.), Melissa Bean (Ill.), F. Allen Boyd (Fla.), Chris Carney (Pa.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Marcy Kaptor (Ohio), Dennis Kucinich (Ohio), Mike McMahon (N.Y.), Scott Murphy, and Glenn Nye (Va.) as key Democrats still on the fence.

Despite the intra-party opposition and indecision, Democrat leaders remain confident that they still possess the 218 votes necessary to pass the $1.2 trillion measure.