EXCLUSIVE — Rep. John Boehner (R., Ohio), the House minority leader, tells National Review Online that as of late Thursday afternoon, Democratic leadership “still doesn’t have the votes” to pass their health-care bill, and that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) is “prepared to sacrifice her members, and her speakership, so that she can plant the flag of universal health care in the ground.” Boehner says this weekend will be a waiting game — “If the speaker doesn’t have 216 votes locked down, she will not go to the floor. If she’s short, she knows that there is no way she can pick up two or three votes on the floor.” On that same point, he admits that “if this comes to the floor, it’s already over . . . though I still don’t know how she can get there [to 216]. . . . I’d never put myself in this box.”
“The right is mad, the middle is mad, and the left is mad,” Boehner says. “They’ve made a calculation: They know they won’t get the right or middle, so they saying to their members that they need their left, because if they lose the left, their base will sit home. The president is staying in town because he knows the left will kill him if he’s not here to help.”
Boehner adds that Pelosi has “made a big mistake by talking about this gimmicky way to pass this without having a real vote.” President Obama, he says, “has put all of his marbles, literally all of his marbles, on jamming through something the people don’t want” and has “arrogantly misjudged this entire issue from the start.” Here’s why, Boehner says: “The Left sees this as their best opportunity in 50 years to put their stamp on the direction of this country.”
Boehner believes that abortion will be the key complication for on-the-fence Democrats in the final hours. “I’ve always thought that this would be the issue,” he says. “This is public funding for abortion. They know it can’t be fixed. There just aren’t the votes in the Senate.” He says he respects pro-life congressman Bart Stupak (D., Mich.) for holding firm, but cautions that he “never thought that Stupak could hold ten to twelve votes.”
Boehner says there will be major political consequences for pro-life Democrats who break from the Stupak bloc. “Take [Rep.] Steve Driehaus, for example,” he says. “He may be a dead man. He can’t go home to the west side of Cincinnati. The Catholics will run him out of town.”
If Boehner is “lucky enough to become speaker,” he says he plans to work to repair the “damage to the institution” that the health-care debate has caused over the past year. “It will be different,” he pledges. “We’d run this different than how it is run today, and from how my predecessors ran it. We’ve got to make this government smaller and less costly. There are big problems to address. It’s been shocking how people have been paying attention to the process, and we’ve noticed. We’ll repeal this — we’ll put a bill on the floor to take out the Medicare cuts, the tax increases, and the individual mandates.”
A final message for the weekend? “Kill the bill, just kill the bill,” he says. To do that, he says the NRCC is running a “Code Red” project, robocalls are going out, and members are going on local radio shows and hosting telephone town halls — in Democratic districts. “It’s all targeted,” he says.