By Molly K. Hooper - 03/19/10 08:40 PM EDT
House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said "there's no way” Democrats have the votes to pass the healthcare bill.
The second-ranking House Republican, charged with keeping his own troops in line, said he has been monitoring the Democratic whip count and, according to his tally, they don’t have the 216 needed to pass the bill.
But key Democrats have been working feverishly with a handful of the anti-abortion lawmakers, including Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), who said there may be a way to vote on a resolution to instruct the Senate to include stricter provisions that would bar federal dollars from going to abortions.
That language, which was included over the objections of
abortion-rights advocates in the bill the House passed in November, was not
adopted by the Senate when it came for a vote in December.
Still, a non-binding resolution may provide enough cover to get the votes of 6-to-8 anti-abortion Democrats.
Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), one of Rep. Bart Stupak’s (D-Mich.) gang of staunch opponents of the Senate abortion language, said they are in discussions with senators and House leaders to secure such a commitment.
“There could be some kind of commitment from the other body to act on this later … to ensure that the Senate language does not remain law,” he said.
Rahall said that securing such an agreement could open up six to 10 members, including himself, to voting for the Senate bill and reconciliation language.
One concern for Republicans had been whether the lone GOP lawmaker who voted for the healthcare bill last fall, Rep. Joseph Cao (La.), would do so again.
According to some colleagues who have spoken with the vulnerable Louisiana lawmaker, President Barack Obama has reached out to Cao this week.
Cantor put that concern to rest at the press conference.
"I have spoken to Joseph Cao, as recently as an hour ago, he is a firm no against this bill," Cantor said.
Jared Allen and Jeffrey Young contributed to this article