Critical Condition

Three Reasons Why Obamacare Isn’t Likely to Pass

If Obamacare’s opponents keep up the pressure on wavering House Democrats, victory is within our grasp. Obamacare faces three major hurdles to passage. You might reasonably assume that these are as follows: It’s a colossally bad bill; it’s an extremely unpopular bill; and members of Congress — despite what President Obama apparently thinks — do care about getting reelected. While you’d be right on all three counts, I’m talking about more specific hurdles related to the concrete numbers in the House.


Things have changed.  The Democrats need every member of their caucus who voted “yes” last time to vote “yes” again — or, for every defection, they need to convert a prior “no” vote to their side. They don’t have a single vote to spare. 


Yet a lot has changed since the previous House vote. When House Democrats voted before, they were voting on their own bill, not a Senate bill filled with infamous kickbacks and other provisions that differ from what House members wanted. They were voting on a bill that contained the Stupak Amendment to preserve the longstanding tradition of protecting taxpayers from having their money spent on abortions. And they were voting back when Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat looked to be safely in Democratic hands. All of this has changed.


They need two-thirds of our 40.  Andy Wickersham and I have listed the 40 Democrats we think are the most key to passage or defeat. Assuming that all other Democratic members vote the same way as last time — and that all Republicans vote “no” (as they will) — the Democrats need 27 of these 40 to vote “yes” in order to pass the bill. This is a high bar when you consider that 35 of these 40 reside in Republican territory — many of them solidly so — and 24 supported the Stupak Amendment. 


Early returns aren’t good for Obamacare supporters. The Hill currently lists only one of these 40 as leaning “yes” (Rep. Vic Snyder (D., Ark.)) and ten — five prior “yes” votes, five prior “no” votes — as leaning “no”: Reps. Michael Arcuri (D., N.Y.), Joe Donnelly (D., Ind.), Bark Stupak (D., Mich.), Marion Berry (D., Ark.), and Steve Driehaus (D., Ohio) among the prior “yes” votes; and Mike Ross (D., Ark.), John Adler (D., N.J.), John Barrow (D., Ga.), Larry Kissel (D., N.C.), and Michael McMahon (D., N.Y.) among the prior “no” votes.

Other Democrats are more likely to swing against Obamacare than for it.  Beyond these 40, the Democrats are far more likely to lose additional members who voted “yes” last time than they are to convert additional members who previously voted “no.” Many other Democrats beyond our 40 still reside in highly contentious districts, and a couple even oppose Obamacare from the (even more extreme) left. The Hill currently lists four Democrats from outside of our 40, who voted “yes” last time, as currently leaning “no.” Conversely, of the 24 Democrats outside of our 40 who voted “no” last time, The Hill lists none as currently leaning “yes” and lists 22 as leaning “no.” 


These 24 reps reside in solidly red districts. Of them, the one representing the least Republican-leaning district is Rep. Jason Altmire (D., Pa.), whose district has nevertheless supported Republican presidential candidates by an average of nine percentage points over the last three elections. Altmire also voted “yes” on Stupak, and he also represents a district where a whopping 60 percent of seniors are enrolled in Medicare Advantage — about three times the national average. Medicare Advantage benefits would be cut by $2,100 per enrollee per year under Obamacare (but, thanks to “Gator Aid,” not in South Florida). According to The Hill, Altmire is one of the two undecided members among these 24, along with Rep. Bart Gordon (D., Tenn.). 


So, overall, how are President Obama and Speaker Pelosi doing? If members vote how The Hill projects they would as of now, the Democratic leadership would have a won-lost record of 1 and 10 so far among our 40 key members. They need to go 27 and 13 overall, so they would have to go 26 and 3 the rest of the way. But since four other members (from outside of our 40) who previously voted “yes” are also leaning “no,” the Democratic leadership would therefore have to go a perfect 29 and 0 among the rest of our 40 — and also convert one other member from The Hill’s “no” list back to “yes.” 


Obamacare is on the ropes. Let’s keep contacting key Democratic members and deliver the knockout blow.

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