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Dem Whip: House Vote Could Push Past Easter

1:03 PM, Mar 16, 2010 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
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From James Clyburn himself, whose job it is to count the votes Pelosi says she has:

The House's healthcare vote could be delayed until as late as Easter, House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said Tuesday.

Clyburn, in an interview with McClatchy Newspapers, said it is possible that the House vote on healthcare reform could take place long past the vote Democratic leaders had hoped for this week.

"The chances are good, but I wouldn't bet on it," the third-ranking House Democrat said of whether a healthcare vote could be held by the April 4th holiday.

Whip counts are notoriously built on sand, and Pelosi has been trying to create hers on self-fulfilling prophecy by saying for a week that she has all the votes she needs. But Clyburn's job is to count votes. Shouldn't he sound a bit more optimistic about this if Dems are really to twist all the arms they need to pass health care?

Part of the challenge of getting health-care reform passed once the December '09 deadline passed was to keep creating a sense of urgency and inevitability over and over again. The bipartisan summit did a pretty good job of reforming the process in the wake of Scott Brown's election, and the White House's insistence on a vote this week(ish) has once again created a deadline of sorts.

But how many times can Democrats realistically blow past a deadline and then recreate this sense of legislative urgency? I would have thought they'd hit their limit already. Another trip to their home districts, where opposition to the bill will be much louder than support for it, has the potential to be a death knell. Deafening, active opposition to the bill at home would be the perfect rationale for wavering Dems to refuse, once and for all, to vote "yes," and the final assurance that if they do, they'll be in serious electoral danger. Clyburn's comments seem to open the door to that trip home, where Pelosi's most recent clumsy messaging will have perhaps made voters even more wary of the bill. I refer to Pelosi's, "we have to pass the bill, so you can see what's in it," and health care will "kick open door" to taking the country in a "new direction." (Does anyone else get the sense she's secretly working against the bill?)

Although, at this point, I'm not one to count out the Zombie Bill. Even when it looks its deadest, it still has life.

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