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Tanner and Berry, on the other hand, were nuts that never cracked, despite pressure from the heaviest artillery at the partys disposal, including personal attention from Obama and former President Bill Clinton. Tanner, exiting the Capitol around midnight on Sunday, called the bill he had just voted against vastly improved from the reform proposal he likewise opposed last year. In the end, Tanner, a fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrat, said, I voted my district. Youre supposed to work for the people that hire you. Thats the Blue Dog mantra.
The key to the final margin, of course, was the deal brokered with Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), his band of anti-abortion-rights Democrats and the White House on an executive order that would assure no federal funding of abortion. The abortion brinkmanship came to a head Friday night with talk of a compromise that would grant Stupak another vote on his language on the House floor, but supporters of abortion rights threatened to retaliate, and Pelosi put the kibosh on the idea Saturday morning.
Pelosi began aggressively courting Stupaks group, bringing them into her office Saturday in small groups, hoping to peel them off if Stupak himself refused to cut a deal.
Meanwhile, Stupak said he felt leadership had the votes to pass the bill even without the agreement, but that wasnt guaranteed.
Freshman Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper (D-Pa.) said it was clear that without the executive order, the count was razor thin.
Even after the deal, the Democratic whip effort never stopped. Right up until the final vote, members of the leadership team continued to make runs at Armed Services Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) a hard no Tanner, Berry and others as Pelosi tried to run up the score a bit.
Those Democrats ended up voting against, but Pelosi also won some last-minute converts. She spent a lengthy session on the floor with Rep. Jerry Costello (D-Ill.), who ended up as a surprise yes in the end.
Pelosi had personally courted nearly every wavering Democrat over a period of months, intensifying dramatically in the past week, and the stakes could not have been higher with the fate of the partys top priority, her Speakership and Obamas presidency all hanging in the balance.