By Bob Cusack and Ian Swanson - 03/19/10 09:15 PM EDT
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Friday leaned on an on-the-fence
Democrat for his vote on healthcare reform while other Democratic
leaders urged their colleagues to support the bill.
Pelosi was seen on the House floor with Rep. Scott Murphy (D-N.Y.), who is undecided on the bill. Approached by The Hill after his discussion with Pelosi, Murphy was tight-lipped. A man walking with Murphy attempted to cut off questions until Murphy signaled he would answer them.
The second-term Democrat said he was still undecided and "reading through [the bill]."
Pressed on whether he committed his vote to the Speaker, Murphy responded, "You've got my statement."
Murphy voted no on the House bill in November. According to the Associated Press, President Barack Obama met with Murphy recently in the Oval Office.
The Pelosi-Murphy meeting is a clear indication that the Speaker needs more votes to get the 216 needed to pass the measure.
During votes on Friday, other Democratic leaders also appeared to be swaying undecided lawmakers. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) engaged in a long discussion with Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), a liberal who has said he will vote against the bill.
Later, Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.) sat on opposite sides of Rep. Chris Carney (D-Pa.), a GOP target who has said he can't vote for a bill "that will publicly fund abortion."
Pelosi and other members of her leadership team expressed confidence Friday that they’ll have the 216 votes on Sunday, and they do appear to have momentum.
They won two critical votes late Friday afternoon when Reps. Brad Ellsworth (D-Ind.) and Allen Boyd (D-Fla.) both said they would support the package.
Ellsworth, who is expected to be the Democratic nominee for the Senate seat now held by Sen. Evan Bayh (Ind.), said assurances from the Catholic Health Association, Catholic Nuns
and pro-life advocates that the Senate healthcare bill would not provide federal subsidies for elective abortions moved him to support it.
"More than that, it invests $250 million in support services for women facing unplanned pregnancies and over a billion dollars to help families afford adoption services. These investments will reduce the number of abortions in America," he said.
Boyd, a Blue Dog Democrat, voted against the House bill last year, and voted against the reconciliation package in committee earlier this week. That was before he had seen the final bill's language, and before it had been scored by the Congressional Budget Office.
The good news was somewhat offset by a piece of bad news for Democrats: Rep. Jason Altmire (D-Pa.) said he would oppose the bill because a majority of his constituents were against it.
That still leaves 36 Democrats as no or likely no votes according to The
Hill’s latest whip count. Pelosi can only afford to lose 37 members of
her party if she is to win a Sunday’s vote.
Forty-five Democrats are undecided, and many could be difficult to sway.
Some remain worried the the Senate healthcare bill would not do enough to stop federal funds from being used for abortion services.
Others dislike the process Pelosi appears set to use to advance legislation through the House. Democrats are set to draft a rule Saturday that would deem the Senate healthcare bill as having been passed. The same rule would include a package of changes to that legislation that the Senate will have to consider.
The process is meant to protect Pelosi’s members from taking a roll call vote on the Senate healthcare bill, which includes special deals worked out by senators for their states.
Many of the Democrats in play are worried about the abortion language and using the controversial “deem and pass” process, particularly in an election year where Democrats could lose dozens of House seats.
Four other Democrats, John
Boccieri (Ohio), Dina Titus (Nev.), Chris Murphy (Conn.) and Charlie
Wilson (Ohio), announced they’d vote in favor of the healthcare package
Boccieri, who voted against the House healthcare bill in November, said while announcing his vote that too many politicians were worried about their political futures. He also said his mother would be proud to see him casting a vote for the bill.
Boccieri represents a district carried in 2008 by GOP Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in the presidential race, and his reelection bid is seen as a toss-up.
Titus said the House bill isn’t perfect, but that it will make a difference in her constituents’ lives.
“While the legislation the House will vote on this weekend is not perfect, it makes critical reforms that provide common-sense rules of the road that will give families and small businesses more control over their health care – not government bureaucrats or insurance company CEOs,” Titus said in a statement.
Titus and Murphy both voted for the healthcare bill in November, though Titus had voted against it in committee. Both are seen as vulnerable in the fall, particularly Titus.
Wilson, in contrast, is favored to win reelection and was seen as a likely yes vote. He made it official on Friday in a statement that credited a favorable Congressional Budget Office score showing the health measure would reduce the budget deficit by $138 billion over the next decade.
Separately, Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) on Friday said six to 10 Democratic votes could be won if the Senate agrees to move tougher language on abortion.
Rahall said that securing such an agreement could open up six to 10
members, including himself, to voting for the Senate bill and
He told the Charleston Daily Mail he will vote no unless abortion language is changed.
Democrats also have a problem with Rep. Pete DeFazio (D-Ore.) and other lawmakers from states where medical providers get paid less under Medicare than in larger states like New York.
DeFazio has said he’ll vote against the healthcare package unless the issue is resolved, and is in talks with White House staff. He and his allies, who have not been named, also have been working with staff in the House and Senate on the issue.
Pelosi said Friday she had a meeting with Democrats from several states with concerns about Medicare funding.
Molly K. Hooper and Jeffrey Young contributed to this story
This story was posted at 4:28 p.m. and updated at 5:35 p.m.