Commentary Magazine


Hard to Find the Final Votes

We are down to handfuls of House Democrats who will decide the fate of ObamaCare. One usually expects in these situations that House leaders have enough enticements and threats to garner the last few votes. But in this case, we’re talking about members in swing districts, the ones most at risk in November and the most wary of the Pelosi-Obama-Reid call to pass the liberals’ decades-old pipe dream of national health care. As John Fund notes, some of the usual tactics fall on deaf ears:

New York Democrat Mike McMahon was visited by a top SEIU official and told that he won’t get union funding if he votes “no.” Indeed, union representatives hinted they might look for a primary challenger or third-party candidate to run in his Staten Island district.

Such threats may not be as effective as liberal interest groups hope. Mr. McMahon’s district voted for John McCain last year and Democrats know any last-minute primary challenger to Mr. McMahon would likely lose to a Republican in the fall, even if he or she succeeded in toppling the incumbent in the Democratic primary. Threats by and SEIU against many incumbents are also less than believable simply because the filing deadline to mount primary challenges has already passed for more than 40% of House seats. Meanwhile, the debate over health care has dragged on so long that many Democratic members are now clearly more worried about the impact on general election voters than on the party faithful.

So for now, the various Democratic whip counts look to be short of a majority and perilously close to the maximum number of defections. After all, the Democratic leadership is short on both substantive (do any wavering Democrats believe it’s deficit neutral?) and political arguments (these are the members with many Republicans and angry independents ready to pounce). This isn’t to say Pelosi can’t get there, but it sure is proving harder than many imagined when this all began. But then again, the bill is much worse than many imagined.