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Today in Health Care Reform

The time for talk is over ... until I want to talk again!

11:34 AM, Mar 11, 2010 • By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
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In health care speech number 37, President Obama told his audience in St. Louis, Missouri, yesterday that "the time for talk is over." He's said this before, of course, and it wasn't any truer then than it is now. The talking won't stop until the bill is passed -- and even then, the talking won't stop, because disagreement is far more common than consensus. And even if the GOP doesn't repeal health care reform, it will seek to change the policy and shift it in a consumer-oriented, free-market direction over time.

Today in Health Care Reform

The desire to stop talking reflects a deeper antagonism toward politics. Read George Will's column today: "Progressives are forever longing to replace the governance of people by the administration of things. Because they are entirely public-spirited, progressives volunteer to be the administrators, and to be as disinterested as the dickens."

Obama's new tack of bashing the insurance companies and highlighting Republican obstructionism has led to an uptick in support for health care reform. My guess is Obama's tough language has energized some of the liberals and Democrats who opposed the bill as too moderate in the past. They've returned to the fold. But will that be enough to secure a House vote and ensure passage of the legislation? Rep. Lynn Woolsey, Democrat of California, says "I don't think it's going to change a lot of minds." Who am I to disagree?

The latest whip count is hereMichael Barone does the math:

More than 40 House Democrats represent districts which John McCain carried. Most voted no in November and would presumably be hurt by switching to yes now. Moreover, Mr. Obama's job approval now hovers around 48%, five points lower than his winning percentage in 2008. His approval on health care is even lower.

Another 32 House Democrats represent districts where Mr. Obama won between 50% and 54% of the vote, and where his approval is likely to be running under 50% now. That leaves just 176 House Democrats from districts where Mr. Obama's approval rating is not, to borrow a real-estate term, under water. That's 40 votes less than the 216 needed.

Pelosi also has to deal with the Senate Republicans' vow to oppose reconciliation with all their might. A unified GOP Senate caucus, aligned with more than a few Red State Democratic senators, could derail the attempt to "fix" the Senate bill through budget reconciliation. Which sends a signal to wavering House Democrats that the Senate can't be trusted.

The White House wanted a vote by March 18. But that's probably not going to happen. House members were told yesterday that they can go home today. The leadership wants a vote by the start of Easter Recess. You hear people say that if the vote isn't held by then, health care reform is dead. Not so. It's been called dead before. The gridlock could continue all year long, culminating either on Election Day or right before. As Barone says, Pelosi

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