Democrats struggle to rally votes as members move in both directions

Democrats struggle to rally votes as members move in both directions

House Democratic leaders struggling to gain the 216 votes they need to win a healthcare vote saw several swing voters move in different directions on Sunday.

Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) announced she’d support the bill, saying she was convinced it would prevent federal funds from being used for abortion services.


Retiring Rep. Brian Baird (D-Wash.) also moved from the undecided column and said he'd vote for the legislation on Sunday.

But Reps. John Tanner (Tenn.) and Lincoln Davis (Tenn.) both announced they would vote against the bill.

CNN and The Plum Line reported that Tanner would vote no. That's a huge loss for Democrats, since Tanner is retiring at the end of the year.

Davis (Tenn.), who voted against the House healthcare bill in November, told The Hill on Sunday that he would "vote the same way" on Sunday.

Those defections increase the importance of securing the votes of Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) and several of his allies, who want tougher langauge in the bill to prevent federal funds from going toward abortion services.

A spokeswoman for Stupak said he remains a no vote and that he still has no deal with the White House on abortion.

Stupak earlier on Sunday had said he was close to a deal with the White House on an executive order that would specify there would be no public funding for abortions in the healthcare bill.

“We are close to getting something done,” Stupak said in an interview with MSNBC.

Stupak and his allies are crucial votes for the Democratic leaders. Without their support, it is unclear whether Democrats can cobble together the 216 votes they need to pass their legislation.

House leaders, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), refused to comment on the reports, though Pelosi expressed confidence Democrats will have enough votes by the end of the day.

“We’re bringing up the bill today, so that should tell you something,” she said.

It is unclear precisely how many Democrats are alligned with Stupak, who has said he has around a dozen supporters.

A whip count kept by The Hill suggests Democrats have more than 200 votes in favor of healthcare. The Hill’s whip count shows 39 Democrats remain as firm no votes or are leaning against the bill. That total includes Stupak and a few other members who could move to the yes column based on the abortion issue.

Democrats can lose no more than 37 members given unified GOP opposition to the legislation.

Nine Democrats remain undecided, according to The Hill’s whip count. They are likely to be the focal point of Democratic whipping efforts on Sunday.

The undecided votes include  Reps. Alan Mollohan (W.Va.), Paul Kanjorski (Pa.) and Loretta Sanchez (Calif.).

Mollohan is in a tough race for reelection, and Kanjorski is also vulnerable. Both voted for the House healthcare measure in November, so no votes would be significant losses for the Democrats.

Sanchez, a liberal California lawmaker, would be an even bigger loss. It’s unclear whether she’ll be at the House for the vote, as she missed all of Saturday’s votes. She’s also been critical of the Senate bill.

The first vote on healthcare reform is expected at around 2:45 p.m. That vote would set the rules for debate.

It would be followed by a vote on the Senate version of the healthcare bill around 7 p.m.

At approximately 7:30 p.m., the House will cast a vote on the GOP motion to recommit. If that fails, the House could proceed to vote on the packages of changes to the Senate bill, known as the reconciliation package.

However, it is likely the vote could be extended until late Sunday night or even Monday morning. Democrats will not move to a final vote until they have secured the necessary 216 votes.

In addition, Republicans plan to do everything they can to extend the schedule.

Rep. Mike Pence (D-Ind.) the chairman of the Republican Conference, said Sunday that they GOP was still trying to convince Democrats on the fence not to support the bill.

This story was updated at 1:56 p.m.