Many have asked if the progressives in the House will stick together and keep the health care bill from passing if it has mandates but no public option.
My answer is: it depends.
There are probably 8-12 who would like to, but nobody wants to be the final vote to kill it. So, it becomes a function of how many Blue Dog/ConservaDems vote “no.” About two months ago I estimated that the number who think they will lose their seats if they vote for this bill was about 28 or 29, and getting bigger every day. The turnout in the November election panicked them all, and the Parker Griffith defection was the first public sign of that.
Those with well-funded opponents are going to be especially nervous right now. And it’s interesting that they only represent 17 of the 39 “no” votes against the health care bill on the first House vote:
Those who are the most nervous are the ones elected in 2006 (blue) and 2008 (green) on waves of high Democratic turnout, who can’t count on that this time around. The red over the “D” indicates it was a GOP seat before the incumbent took it over.
The Waxman-Markey vote was something of a bellwether, because it shows who wouldn’t flip their vote no matter how much pressure leadership put on them. It’s hard to say who was allowed to vote “no” once they thought they had enough, however, so as not to put the seat at risk.
The last column is the PVI, which shows how Republican- or Democratic-leaning the district is relative to the rest of the country. A negative number indicates that it is strongly Republican, a positive that it’s Democratic. Those with the highest GOP PVI, like Bright and Minnick, are going to be looking for tons of pork to bribe their district, so keep your eye out for handouts that benefit their districts between now and the vote, because that’s what conference is going to be all about: bribing members to vote for the bill with pork. That’s how Rahm has passed everything since NAFTA.
I’m frankly not sure how they hope to hold this thing together, because the one thing members fear more than anything is losing their seats. Rahm never worries about the progressives because they have no financial base and they’re in strong Democratic districts, so they risk a lot less voting for a bailout than those in close seats. This time around, there may be enough progressives who are willing to join with the Blue Dogs and vote against a bill with a mandate, but no public option alternative, to push it over the top (or under the minimum of needed votes, as the case may be).
Eric Massa made the strategic decision to vote “no” on the health care bill the first time around because he satisfied both sides in a Republican-leaning district: liberals and conservatives who thought it was too “corporatist.” The Democrats in the House know that they are looking at a 2010 bloodbath over this vote, and neither progressives nor Blue Dogs will pay a price for voting “no” on a bill that forces Americans to pay almost as much to private corporations as they do in federal income tax, with no public option as an alternative.
Update: If I wasn’t clear, this spells out how progressives in the House get the numbers, and the clout, to control the destiny of the bill. They become in effect the Senate “centrists,” without whose support a bill cannot pass. If they can’t get a public option because Emperor Lieberman will not vote for one, they should demand the withdrawal of the mandate.
For more background on pulling the mandate out, see Jon Walker’s “Best Way To “Fix It Later” Is With No Individual Mandate Now.” If they want to punt on the public option, they should punt on the mandate too.