House GOP Whip Count: Dems Lack Votes On Health Care

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor's (R-VA) office forwarded a count this afternoon of 44 moderate Democrats who have shown reservations, in some form or another, about the House health reform bill--the implication being that the White House's reform push is between a rock and a hard place: if either those 44 moderates, or the 60 liberals who have threatened to block reform without a public option, votes en masse against the bill, it wouldn't pass.

If it doesn't have a public option, the liberals could vote it down; but, as it stands, it's too liberal for 44 moderates.

Which sounds terrible for health care reform's supporters--but it's not as bad as it sounds.

A handful of Reps on the GOP's list, like Jason Altmire (PA), Earl Pomeroy (ND), and Dina Titus (NV), voted against parts of the bill in their respective committees, which doesn't really count as a referendum on the bill as a whole. Blue Dog Rep. John Tanner (TN), simply said Democrats should "take a deep breath and go at this thing incrementally."

All of those lawmakers could vote against the House bill when it comes down to it...or they could vote for it. Moderates know that the House bill, H.R. 3200, probably won't be the final product of the health reform push. The Senate Finance Committee will likely produce a bill that's less liberal, and that will probably be closer to what lands on Obama's desk, if anything does. That might entice them to vote for H.R. 3200, knowing the Senate will pass something else, and the two will get tailored slightly more to moderates' liking by a conference committee, which would reconcile the versions passed by the two chambers.

And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has built a reputation as a disciplined party leader, able to corral her disparate caucus. Some of the newer representatives, especially, may be more prone to falling in line than veteran Blue Dogs.

So the GOP has a list of 44 moderate Democrats who've voiced reservations, in some form or another, to the House bill. The House has to pass something, otherwise nothing will get done. The questions facing Democratic leaders now are: how strong are those reservations, and how can some kind of bill navigate the rocky waters between skeptical moderates and the outright demand for a public option made by an equally formidable, and more organized, group of liberals.