Democrats Add to Whip Count as Health Care Vote Nears

Posted March 19, 2010 at 5:22pm

House Democrats got some more good news for their landmark health care overhaul on Friday, as three former opponents of the measure declared their intention to support the final package.

The converts include a pair of freshman Democrats — Reps. John Boccieri (Ohio) and Suzanne Kosmas (Fla.) — and Rep. Allen Boyd (D-Fla.), a veteran member of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition.

“My decision has been based from the very beginning on the substance of this policy,” Boyd said in an interview with the Tallahassee Democrat. “It’s been my belief that good policy equals good politics.”

And Democratic vote counters got to cross a couple more supporters off their list of potential flight risks. Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D-Ind.) declared himself satisfied that the measure would prevent public funding of abortions, a key issue for him. “I needed to answer only one question when deciding whether to support this reform: will this bill benefit Hoosiers? Put simply, in my core I know it does,” he said in a statement. And Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Va.), a top target for Republicans in November, said he would once again support reform, pending written assurances from 51 Senators that they will follow through with a package of fixes.

But the Democratic whip effort suffered some setbacks as well. Rep. Jason Altmire (D-Pa.) — the public face of undecided lawmakers after heavy media exposure in recent days — came out against the bill. He opposed the original House bill in November, so his decision won’t require leaders to convert someone else to offset his “no” vote. But he was heavily courted by President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders, and named by House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) as a hoped-for vote switcher.

And with the controversy over abortion continuing to bedevil the final vote count, leaders were also working to tamp down a revolt over regional disparities in Medicare payments that had Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) threatening to vote against the bill. DeFazio accused East Coast Senators of trying to derail the formula fix included in the House bill but not the Senate version.

Democrats need 216 votes to clear the package, with a vote planned for sometime Sunday.