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Today in Health Care Reform

The countdown begins.

9:22 AM, Mar 15, 2010 • By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
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President Obama travels to Ohio today to hold another campaign-style rally for health care reform.

Today in Health Care Reform

Portrait of Doctor Gachet

Van Gogh

The House Democratic whip said yesterday he does not have the 216 votes necessary to pass the Senate health bill. In order to get there, he, Nancy Pelosi, and Steny Hoyer must flip some of the 39 House Democrats who voted No on the House bill last November to Yes. The latest whip count is here.

You'll note that not a single Democrat who voted No in November is counted under the "Lean Yes" or "Firm Yes" column. Meanwhile, there are 35 "Lean Nos" and "Firm Nos," and 72 "Undecided" members. The maximum number of Democratic defections is 37. The health care bill can be defeated.

The White House message operation is projecting confidence about a final vote. House leaders are considering inserting the student-loan overhaul into the reconciliation vehicle to sweeten the deal. Sorry, but this sort of Febreze politics won't be enough to cover up a health care bill that the public opposes.

The House has to vote on a bill that includes the Cornhusker Kickback, Louisiana Purchase, Gator Aid, and excludes the Stupak amendment, while trusting the Senate -- the United States Senate -- to "fix" all these and other problems once the bill is passed. No wonder Red State Democrats are reluctant to vote Yes. USA Today runs down a few of the undecided House Democrats. Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway has a new survey of swing-districts showing opposition to the bill.

Conventional wisdom says "process" has dominated the health care reform debate. Once House Democrats swallow their pride and vote Yes, this argument goes, "substance" will come to the fore and Democrats will reap the benefit. I happen to think that Democrats have maneuvered themselves into a box where not passing Obamacare will lead to a 1994-like spiral of recrimination and weakness and defeat. But that doesn't mean they won't pay a price if the bill passes.

That's because the public opposes the overall substance of this bill. They agree with Robert Samuelson that "Obama's proposal is the illusion of 'reform,' not the real thing." They fear that Sarah Palin  will turn out to be right when she says that "government health care will not reduce the cost of medical care; it will simply refuse to pay it. And who will get left behind when they have to ration care to save money?" And they pay attention when Paul Ryan writes that

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