House Democratic Leaders Twist Arms Of The Rank-And-File; Track Health Reform Vote Tally
Democrats are pressuring fellow members to accept the health care reform legislation and are playing hardball to secure votes for the health reform package.
Politico: "As health care lobbying heats up, some members are getting calls from President Barack Obama, like the three Rep. Jason Altmire (D-Pa.) got in the past two weeks." Altmire is undecided. "Others in the House said the lobbying can be much less friendly. Aides to conservative Democratic lawmakers describe intense pressure tactics, including one who said his office has received calls from donors. Those calls are taken as a thinly veiled threat to withhold future financial support if the member doesn't vote as the donor wishes." Even Democratic National Committee Vice Chairwoman Donna Brazile used her Twitter account to encourage primary challenges to Democrats who vote against health reform (O'Connor and Allen, 3/16).
USA Today: Obama and his aides aren't taking "no" for an answer. "'When the president takes the time to personally reach out, it makes an impact,' says Altmire, 42, from western Pennsylvania, who is undecided on the bill. 'He really made an effort to understand where I was coming from.' The pressure on wavering House Democrats increases by the day as Speaker Nancy Pelosi prepares to call a vote on Obama's health care bill, which would replace legislation already passed by the House and Senate late last year. ... Pelosi's in pursuit of the 216 votes needed for passage: 'I never stop whipping. There's no beginning, there's no middle, and there's no end.'" Others, however, are criticizing the approach. Rep. Jim Costa said White House and Democratic leaders have a "level of hubris" on health reform (Wolf, 3/16).
The Boston Globe: "House leaders said they were continuing to round up votes - signaling that they did not yet have a majority - but asserting they will by the weekend. Abortion remained a potential sticking point. Representative Bart Stupak, a Michigan Democrat, told reporters that he has 12 allies in the House who would vote against the plan if abortion language contained in a Senate-approved measure is not changed" (Viser, 3/17).
The Associated Press: "White House aides said (Obama) plans at least one more public health care event this week, including remarks in Fairfax, Va., on Friday. Diverse administration resources are being employed: Even the Navy secretary is in the game. The sought-after Democrats - mainly moderates, but also a few liberals - are mostly trying to stay out of sight. They include 37 who voted against the bill last year and a smaller number who are having second thoughts after supporting it the first time. Walking briskly, lawmakers duck in and out of the House chamber during votes, avoiding eye contact with reporters" (Alonso-Zaldivar, 3/16).
The Washington Post: Obama convinced a few fence-sitters - at least among the public - with his speech in Ohio earlier this week. "It is difficult to judge, amid one of the most intense political battles in recent memory, whether Obama is moving the needle toward greater acceptance of his health-care ambitions. But his reassurances about Medicare and other issues found support among skeptics in Strongsville" (Slevin, 3/17).
Reuters: "House Democratic Whip James Clyburn, the top Democratic vote-counter in the House, told Fox News that Democrats still do not have the 216 votes needed for passage but he was confident of getting there. 'I do not have 216 commitments yet, though I think we'll get there in time for the vote,' Clyburn said" (Whitesides and Smith, 3/16).