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No Vote Came Easy for Pelosi

Bill Clark/Roll Call
Speaker Nancy Pelosi worked every angle of her Caucus to ensure passage of health care reform on Sunday night, personally lobbying nearly every undecided Democrat to get to 219 votes.

Crucial support came from the administration. Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.), one of the last holdouts, said he agreed to back the bill after he got assurances from Education Secretary Arne Duncan, with an assist from Biden, that the White House would help mitigate any job losses from the student loan bill that got attached to the health care measure in the package of fixes. By the time Clinton called him on Sunday, he said, he had already made up his mind.

Even before the votes were cast, the political implications were starting to play out for certain lawmakers. Rep. John Barrow (D-Ga.), whose eastern Georgia district is 44 percent African-American, faced intense pressure throughout the week from the Congressional Black Caucus to back the bill. Some aides said the message delivered to Barrow was clear: If he opposed reform, he could expect to see CBC support for a primary challenger.

Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.), whose North Florida district is near Barrow’s, said she leveled no threats in the three conversations she had with Barrow to urge his support, on behalf of his black constituents. But she said she would no longer travel to Savannah to campaign for him, as she has in past races. “He was very nice in our conversations,” she said, “but nice isn’t what I’m looking for. Members who represent large numbers of African-Americans should be sensitive to the people they represent. Health care is the new civil rights.”

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