Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, the GOP deputy whip, just held a conference call with bloggers. Here's what he said. The Republicans estimate that Pelosi has 205 Yes votes, while there are 205 No votes. That leaves about 21 votes up for grabs. Pelosi can lose 37 Democrats and still pass Obamacare into law. Based on rules and precedent and what's happening on the floor, the Republicans estimate that the earliest a health care vote could be held would be late Saturday or early Sunday.
McCarthy also said the Democrats have been pushed backward over the last 24 hours. Forget Kucinich. The reaction to the Slaughter Solution has been horrible for Pelosi and her team. Bart Stupak is holding his ground, even if some of his bloc may peel off in the end. And there's still no final reconciliation language and thus no CBO score for the bill. The Democrats are playing with the numbers in order to earn a deficit-neutral score. Meanwhile, the Capitol Hill switch board has been flooded with calls for and against the legislation.
Rep. Parker Griffith of Alabama, who switched to the GOP in December, shed some light on how the Democratic whip operation works. Griffith said the whip team, when it calls or visits an undecided congressman, knows everything about him. They know the demographics of his district, his popularity, his most recent margin of victory, how safe his seat is, how popular the president and Pelosi are in his state, whether his state has a Medicaid shortfall, and whether he's been wanting money for a new road or bike path or medical school in his district. They come ready to deal. The one thing the whip team can't guarantee? A congressman's reelection.