By Bob Cusack - 03/21/10 10:54 AM EDT
A Democrat who has long committed to opposing healthcare reform
legislation has advised his fellow defectors that they should vote no
early on Sunday and then immediately leave the House chamber.
Otherwise, Rep. Gene Taylor (D-Miss.) told The Hill, they will be treated "like a piñata."
The tactics of House leaders during what is billed as a 15-minute vote are important. It is likely that some firm no votes on the Democratic side will vote right away while others, at the request of House leaders, will wait to register their no until the tally reaches the magic number of 216. Once it does, politically vulnerable Democrats will likely cast their no votes.
But if getting to 216 is a problem, Democratic leaders may lean on these members to change their minds.
In 2003, then-Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) asked then-Rep. Butch Otter (R-Idaho) to vote yes on the Medicare drug bill that was a focal point of President George W. Bush's domestic agenda.
Otter said he would vote no, but promised Hastert he would not leave the House chamber until the vote was over.
But the vote was a fiasco for Hastert and other GOP leaders. The 15-minute vote extended for nearly three hours. After Otter and Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) talked to Bush, they changed their votes and the bill passed.
At the time, House Republican leaders assigned "doormen" to make sure GOP members who voted no would stay in the House until the votes were secured. Some were able to quickly vote no, but the tactic of keeping Otter and Franks around was key to the passage of the bill.
It is unclear if Democratic leaders will attempt to keep defectors from going home after they cast their vote.
One built-in advantage for Democrats is that there will be two votes -- one on the Senate-passed measure and one on the fixes to that bill.
There is little-to-no hope for Democratic leaders to persuade Taylor, but there are likely other Democratic no votes that could be pressured to do an about-face.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has suggested in recent days that unlike the Republicans in 2003, she will not look to create votes on the floor, saying the roll call will happen when Democrats have the votes.
However, The Hill's whip list suggests that the vote will be very tight. Democrats can only afford 37 defections if every member votes.