Published March 19, 2010
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday appeared to have reached 216, the magic number of votes she needs to pass the Democrats' health care reform bill, after Rep. Suzanne Kosmas, D-Fla., switched to a "yes."
Kosmas was just the latest representative to change positions from last fall, when the House narrowly passed its version of the legislation, and there's still a day and a half remaining before the House can vote on the Senate bill and changes to that bill -- a lifetime in politics in which anything can happen.
The vote count isn't an official tally but represents an estimate by Fox News, based on all the lawmakers who have gone on the record with their position on the new legislation and using as November's House vote as a baseline. There are still "undecided" votes out there, and the "maybes" are being counted as how they voted in November, when health care reform passed by a vote of 220-215.
Under a complex -- and controversial -- procedure the Democrats have devised, a single vote probably will be held to send one bill to Obama for his signature and to ship a second, fix-it measure to the Senate for final passage in the next several days.
Democratic leaders and Obama focused last-minute lobbying efforts on two groups of Democrats, 37 who voted against an earlier bill in the House and 40 who voted for it only after first making sure it would include strict abortion limits that now have been modified.
The constantly changing vote tally on Friday has looked much like fluctuations in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. In one day, Pelosi lost one health care reform supporter but has gained three, according to the estimates. A vote is expected Sunday.
Early Friday, Ohio Rep. John Boccieri, a Democrat, announced that he will switch his vote to yes, temporarily putting Pelosi within one vote of what she will need. Then Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., said he was switching to a "no" vote.
"I'm a no unless they fix this," he said, referring to what he sees as insufficient Medicare spending in rural areas.
DeFazio, who voted for the bill last year, complicated things for Democratic leaders. But he indicated he could still change his mind again.
But then Rep. Allen Boyd, R-Fla., said he's flipping to a "yes" vote, bringing Pelosi back to 215. And Kosmas' vote potentially would give Democratic leaders enough to pass the bill.
Republicans resorted to unusually personal criticism in their struggle against the bill, calling Kosmas a "space cadet" after she announced her position and labeling Pennsylvania Rep. Jason Altmire a "drama queen" for waiting to announce his opposition.
The historic legislation, affecting virtually every American and more than a year in the making, would extend coverage to an estimated 32 million Americans who lack it, forbid insurers to deny coverage on the basis of pre-existing medical conditions and cut federal deficits by an estimated $138 billion over a decade.
Congressional analysts estimate the cost of the two bills combined would be $940 billion over a decade.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.