House Democrats Begin Counting Votes for Health Care Reform

In the best indication yet that House Democrats are close to pushing a major health care reform bill to the floor in the next couple of weeks, they have begun "whipping" the vote.

But they're not yet calling it a whipping or a head count to corral votes for legislation.  

Instead, Democratic leaders are just conducting a "survey," a senior House leadership aide told Fox News.

House Democratic leaders are consulting with their membership to figure out where they stand on the health care reform bill -- conversations that will help provide a metric to leaders about how to tweak the bill to ensure it has enough votes to cross the finish line.

Veteran Rep. Jose Serrano, D-N.Y., said the start of the nose-counting process means Democratic leaders sense the votes could be in hand soon.

"There seems to be an understanding that we're getting close to something," Serrano said. "It's not whipping in the traditional sense."

Rep. Steve Driehaus, D-Ohio, is a freshman and one of the most-vulnerable Democrats facing re-election next year. Republicans are sure to make an issue of his vote on health care reform. But Driehaus said no Democratic leaders have talked to him yet.

"Don't worry. They're whipping. I have no doubt that I'll be whipped," Driehaus said.

But Driehaus said he didn't think the leadership would go overboard to pressure lawmakers who face tough races next year to vote "yes" on health care reform.

"Being whipped and being pressured are two different things," Driehaus said.

Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y. is helping with the "survey." He joked with reporters about the tactics he's using to determine where lawmakers stand.

"On some people, I'm doing a Vulcan mind-meld," Weiner quipped. "Someā€¦I'm getting completely inebriated," Weiner said with a laugh.

But many lawmakers have no idea whether the leadership has even reached out to them yet.

"To my knowledge? No," Rep. David Wu, D-Ore., said when asked whether he had been whipped. He noted that there are lots of methods the congressional leadership uses to assess where a lawmaker stands on an issue.

"You don't know how many reporting channels they have," he said.

But the best person to ask about the process is House Majority Whip, er, "Surveyor" Jim Clyburn, D-S.C.

"My survey's going very good," Clyburn said.