Monday, March 15, 2010

Watching Health Care Week

OK, we've reached the week that's supposed to end with votes on health care reform.  Lots of rumors and speculation and reporting out there...if you don't want to obsess about this but do want to know what's going on, what counts as important information, and what doesn't? 

To review: there are probably about fifty House Democrats who want the bill(s) to pass, but without their vote, and the Democratic leadership (I'm going to call them "Pelosi" but it's really the House leadership and the White House) need a lot of them to vote yes.  Many of them have already said -- and most of the rest know, and a few of them fear -- that they will vote yes if they need to, but otherwise they're going to vote no.  So what's actually happening is mostly a coordination problem, and much of it will be hard for outsiders to see.

The big thing to look for is whether they keep to the timetable or not.  If Pelosi says something is going to happen on Tuesday and then comes back and says it won't happen until Thursday, they may be having problems.

The biggest positive sign that might be visible from the outside, apart from keeping the timetable, is commitments to vote yes.  I wouldn't pay much attention to commitments to vote no; that's essentially the default bargaining position.  But anyone who is in the swing position (wants the bill to pass, wants to vote no) who commits to a yes is almost certainly going to be a yes.

And that's pretty much it.  They're apt to get very close to the vote, and possibly even into the vote, before they know exactly which Members are going to get them to a majority.  What Pelosi is dealing with is a list of fifty or so people, each of whom she understands to be (whatever they say) with her if she needs them, and each of which is probably saying (in one way or another): don't make me do it.  Put me at the bottom of your list.  And she has to gauge who is bluffing and who isn't, who she wants to protect from the effects of a no vote and who she doesn't, who really ranks where on that list.

For those who want to follow it more obsessively, David Dayen seems to have the best whip count out there, Greg Sargent and TPM are great resources for the latest developments, and Ezra Klein and Jonathan Cohn remain the place to go for reporting and analysis of both procedure and, especially, substance (for those who want to know what the details of the patch bill actually mean for how reform would work, that's where I'd go).   I suspect I'll post on it a bit this week, too.

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