Does Massa's Claim Fit the Timeline?

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Just to add some fuel to the speculation fire: does Rep. Eric Massa's claim that Democratic leaders forced him out of Congress make sense?

Massa insinuated over the weekend, on his WKPQ radio show, that the allegations against him of sexual harassment, reported to the House Ethics committee, were leaked by Democratic leaders to force him out of Congress in an attempt to pass health care reform, claiming that his was the deciding vote.

But there's a murky timeline involved here.

When news broke last Wednesday that Massa would finish out his term without seeking reelection, that he faced these allegations, and that House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer knew about them, the number of votes needed to pass health care reform was 216.

The next day, that number changed: Thursday afternoon, Republican Rep. Nathan Deal (GA) announced he would postpone his own retirement and stay in Congress long enough to vote "no" on health care. At that point, with another sitting lawmaker available for a vote, the magic number increased to 217.

Only after that point did it become beneficial, in theory, for Democratic leaders to force Massa out. The next day, Friday, Massa said he would resign effective the following Monday (today), and the number went back down to 216, helping Democratic leaders.

Hoyer's office, for its part, disputes Massa's insinuation outright. "That's completely false. There is zero merit to that accusation," spokeswoman Katie Grant said.

And all this, of course, is speculation. It rests on the theory that Massa was actually a deciding vote, and it is unclear whether that's true. There's always some incentive to force out a "no" vote, on the chance that someone else will fall out or in of Congress's ranks, and it's also possible--again, in theory--that Democratic leaders would have thought it possible that Deal would postpone his retirement to vote on health reform. But it wasn't public knowledge that forcing Massa out would help Democrats until after news of the allegations against Massa were leaked to Politico.

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Chris Good is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and a reporter for The Hill.

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