By Molly K. Hooper - 03/22/10 11:58 PM EDT
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was not satisfied.
On Sunday afternoon after she helped strike a deal with Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) on abortion provisions, it appeared that Democrats finally had the votes to pass health reform.
The Speaker stood with Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) on the floor, pen in hand, poring over the large white tally sheet that spelled out how her members planned to vote.
On that paper, the names of the Democratic Caucus were divided by “yes,” “leans yes,” “undecided,” “leans no” and ‘no,” an aide close to the Speaker confirmed.
“It’s all in categories,” Deputy Whip Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) said of the tally sheet on Sunday evening, several feet from a conversation AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka was having with Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), who voted no.
DeLauro served as the point person on the abortion issue, and during a vote on a procedural motion — as Stupak was readying to make his announcement in support of the bill — the two powerful women checked the list repeatedly.
Pelosi and her whip operation wanted to have a margin for error, so while the media focused on the magic number of 216 votes needed for passage, the Speaker was gunning for 217 or higher. If the legislation passed by only one vote, the GOP would have been armed with more ammunition to go after politically vulnerable Democrats this fall who backed the controversial legislation.
Soon after Stupak and other abortion-rights opponents moved into the yes column, there were still a few undecided Democrats.
But when word spread that previously undecided Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.) was a yes, all uncertainty was eliminated.
Pelosi and her team had finally done it. They had the votes.
Republicans throughout the weekend held out hope that the bill would falter, noting that 38 defections would kill the bill. And when Tennessee Democratic Reps. John Tanner and Lincoln Davis said Sunday they were voting no, those GOP hopes soared.
At the time, there were 39 Democrats planning to vote no, with seven others undecided.
However, when GOP members learned that Stupak had scheduled a 4 p.m. press conference on Sunday, they glumly faced the reality that they were going to be on the losing side.
Pelosi is known for being methodical when it comes to pinpointing how her members will vote, and she was seen on the floor during the last few days of floor votes carrying papers in her hand and sitting down to review those breakdowns with her lieutenants.
She also wasn’t shy in getting in members’ faces to persuade them to back the bill.
On Friday, Pelosi met with Rep. Scott Murphy (D-N.Y.) off the House floor. Murphy said immediately after the meeting he was still undecided. A couple hours later, he issued a statement vowing to support the bill.
The pressure to vote yes was intense, Democrats said. Many on-the-fence members got tag-teamed by both Pelosi and President Barack Obama.
Some, like Rep. Tim Holden (D-Pa.), told the president they couldn’t back the bill. Meanwhile, two of Pelosi’s committee chairmen — Reps. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) and Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) — voted no.
Others who voted no on the House bill in November, such as Reps. Suzanne Kosmas (D-Fla.) and Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), met with the president and voted yes on Sunday.
One Democrat who was pressured to vote with leadership explained the whipping operation from his vantage point.
The member, who requested anonymity, said some on the whip team “seem serious, sober, methodical in their thought process, and there’s other people who are a train wreck. Some people whip on policy, some people whip on politics. There’s not really a rule.”
The same lawmaker described an incident on the floor on Saturday, when the threat of losing the Stupak bloc was still very
He overheard a colleague point out to leading abortion-rights Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) that GOP Rep. Chris Smith (N.J.) was engaged in conversation with abortion-rights opponent Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio.)
According to the member, Wasserman Schultz made a beeline toward the two lawmakers to break up the conversation.
Kaptur voted yes, and the bill passed, 219-212.
Breakdown of the House vote on healthcare reform
|10:30 p.m.||0-0||Vote begins|
|10:34 p.m.||170-141||Speaker talking with other female Democrats|
|179-151||Speaker autographs copy of the bill|
|10:35 p.m.||180-154||Female members crowd around Pelosi for photograph|
|10:40 p.m.||190-171||Reps. Chris Van Hollen and Rosa DeLauro hug|
|10:41 p.m.||202-182||Less than six minutes left in the vote|
|10:44 p.m.||214-202||Democrats closely watching vote tally|
|10:44 p.m.||215-202||“One more vote!” Democrats chant|
|10:45 p.m.||216-202||Democrats cheer as passage is assured|
|10:45 p.m.||216-204||Clapping Democrats chant, “Yes we can.”|
|219-210||219-210 With 10 seconds left, Democrats count down to zero|
|219-212||Vote is gaveled to a close by Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.)|
|10:46 p.m.||219-212||All Republicans and 34 Democrats vote no|