For the past few days it seems like I’ve been looking at the whip counts on the upcoming healthcare vote every few minutes to see what changes there have been. It’s getting tiresome. The democrats need 216 votes to pass the bill in the House and they currently hold 256 seats. That means they can pass this bill – or any old bill at all – without so much as one single republican vote. Many have called the republicans the “party of no” or labeled them “obstructionists” simply because they are standing on principle – as though they should simply roll over and vote for things they don’t believe in just to be conciliatory. Those labels purposely miss the very point that democrats don’t need a single republican vote to pass legislation in the House of Representatives.
So why has the Senate healthcare bill not passed the House yet? It’s because – and only because – Speaker Pelosi has not been able to rally enough support within her own caucus to pass it. Period. Some democrats object that the bill doesn’t go far enough to the left – it isn’t progressive enough for them – so they want to scrap it and start over. Some democrats know that this bill is a poison pill that will almost certainly cost them their reelection in November. Some democrats, a group of about a dozen pro-life dems led by Rep. Bart Stupak (MI), would normally support the legislation but oppose it because they don’t want to vote for a bill that will allow federal funding of abortions. This last group is probably the most stalwart of them all and has been the most difficult for Madam Pelosi to corral.
At the end of the day I know that if it weren’t for the abortion language, the Stupak group would support the bill and it would have already passed and been signed into law. They have been under tremendous pressure to cave on the principle of life upon which ground they have firmly based their opposition. When asked what these last couple weeks have been like, Rep. Stupak said it has been “a living hell.” I can only imagine the pressure he has been under as the president and other party leaders have twisted his arm and tried to bully him into supporting the this legislation. The pressure must be tremendous. And yet, on the issue of life, Rep. Stupak has held firm and stood his ground. I respect that very much.
I work for a republican member of Congress. I have never in my life voted for a democrat or donated money to a democrat campaign. If Rep. Stupak holds his ground, and if his coalition successfully blocks this bill from passing the House, I will walk down to his office in the Rayburn House Office Building to shake his hand and I will mail in donations to his reelection campaign for both the primary and general elections.
That is change I can believe in.