Feb. 11, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Challenges Mount for Health Care Passage

Members of leadership reached out to the Michigan Democrat over the weekend, according to a Democratic aide — a sign of the difficulty they face in getting the votes for the bill. But cutting a deal with Stupak could alienate supporters of abortion rights who have vowed to oppose any bill with Stupak-like language included.

The $1.2 trillion House bill passed on a 220-215 vote with Stupak’s support. But Democrats have already lost a vote with the resignation of former Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.). And moderating the Stupak language would likely mean losing the support of the sole Republican to vote for the package, Rep. Anh “Joseph” Cao (La.), leaving the majority no margin at all. Democrats are also concerned they could lose a couple of votes because any bill will not include a public insurance option, which numerous liberals threatened had to be included to get their votes, and because possibly a few Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus are angry at a ban on illegal immigrants buying insurance plans with their own money through new exchanges.

Just two members of the Progressive Caucus voted against the House bill — Reps. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.) and Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio). Massa issued a statement last month titled “Still can’t vote for it,” calling the lack of a public option a “deathblow.”

Leaders would have to make up the difference by winning over support largely from a group of fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats who voted against the bill the first time out. Many of them, such as sophomore Rep. Jason Altmire (D-Pa.) or retiring lawmakers like Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.), have said in recent weeks that they prefer aspects of the Senate bill and will consider whatever measure ends up coming to the floor, but they have not committed to voting for anything.

Some told leadership that they wanted to support a final health care bill, but have continued to face enormous pressure back in their districts to oppose it. Nevertheless, senior Democratic aides believe they will be able to find the votes they need among this group, in part by appealing to the call of history. “Every person in the Democratic Caucus got into politics to deliver health care to people,” one said. “They may represent districts where it’s harder to defend, but when the chips are down and this is the vote that you’re going to be remembered for, I think a lot of people are going to find a way to get to ‘Yes.’”

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