Obamacare is in trouble in the House. Passage of whatever compromise health care bill is agreed on by White House, Senate, and House negotiators had been taken for granted in the House – until now.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi finds herself in a precarious position. She cannot afford to lose a single Democratic defector. She’s already missing two of the 220 votes for Obamacare in November. Democrat Robert Wexler resigned two weeks ago and Anh (Joseph) Cao, the lone Republican to vote for Obamacare, is expected by Republican leaders to vote no this time.
That leaves Pelosi with 218 votes. If she loses one more vote, the compromise bill could fail. “I believe there is an opportunity to prevent this bill from becoming law,” House Republican whip Eric Cantor said in a memo last week.
Republicans have a target-rich environment of 39 Democrats who voted in favor of Obamacare last year as possible defectors. Republicans will try to persuade as many of them as possible to switch, forcing Pelosi to find new Obamacare backers or see the health care bill die.
The task of persuading potential switchers may not be all that difficult. Obamacare, according to every national survey, is deeply unpopular. Only roughly one-third of Americans favor it. And if Republican Scott Brown wins the special election in Massachusetts next week to succeed the late Teddy Kennedy in the Senate, that will make Democrats all the more leery of bucking public opinion and voting for Obamacare. Brown has made opposition to Obamacare the centerpiece of his campaign.
The 39 possible switchers include 11 pro-life Democrats who voted for Obamacare after a tough anti-abortion amendment was added. The compromise with the Senate bill isn’t likely to have as strong a provision barring the use of public funds to pay for abortions. Thus some of the pro-lifers could defect.
Then there are those in districts with large numbers of seniors enrolled in Medicare Advantage, a program which Obamacare would kill except in Florida and a few other states. The program is enormously popular with seniors.
And more than two dozen Democrats are from states with deep budget shortfalls. ObamaCare would only add to their fiscal problem by requiring states – except Nebraska – to spend more money on Medicaid. This requirement has prompted Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California to drop his support for the bill and call for its defeat.In November, 39 Democrats voted against ObamaCare and no doubt a number of them were on Pelosi’s “walk list” – that is, she gave them permission to vote no. Could she lure some of them to switch back? Not easily, since ObamaCare has become more unpopular since the initial vote and she’d be asking them to make a politically risky vote.
Obamacare isn’t a done deal yet.