House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC) gave cross signals Friday afternoon as to whether or not he had enough votes to pass a major climate change and energy bill.
"We aren't there yet," said Clyburn, the chief Democratic vote counter.
But a few minutes later, Clyburn announced that he had "218-217 votes."
If that's the case, Clyburn would be precisely on the threshold of the number of necessary votes required to approve the measure. There are currently 434 members in the House with one vacancy.
With all members voting, 218 votes would be enough. 217 would be a tie. All tie votes in the House lose.
"I'm as optimistic about this as I was on the budget," Clyburn said, noting he scored 233 votes for that package.
Still, Clyburn left lingering doubts about the vote count.
"If at first you don't succeed, try, try again," Clyburn said. "That's what we did with the TARP."
"TARP" is the $700 billion Troubled Assets Relief Program which Congress adopted last fall. The first vote failed in the House and the stock market tanked in synchronicity with the vote.
The Senate then adopted the bill. A few days later, the House approved the program.
Many moderate and even some liberal Democrats are concerned about the bill. Moderates worry about how the bill could drive up the cost of energy bill. Liberals argue the environmental controls aren't strict enough.
Republicans seemed to be giddy at the Democrats consternation.
"Either way, it's a win-win for us," said a senior Republican aide. "Either she (House Speaker Nancy Pelosi) doesn't have the votes and she has egg on her face or it passes and we let our friends across the street do their job."
The "friends across the street" line refers to the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee (NRCC). It's prepping to firebomb moderate and conservative Democrats from swing districts who back the bill with TV ads and attack campaigns.
A final vote is expected late Friday afternoon.