White House Denies Massa Was Pushed Out Over Health Care Vote

The White House on Tuesday denied assertions by former Rep. Eric Massa that he was pushed out of office because he voted no on health care.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs noted that Massa has cited different reasons for stepping down, from his health -- a recurrence of cancer -- to using salty language, to being forced out by Democrats because of his opposition to health care legislation.

"I don't why I'd give any weight to what he said on the fourth day, or the previous three," Gibbs said. "The notion the White House had anything to do with the series of events...as I said this morning was silly and ridiculous."

Watch former New York Democratic Rep. Eric Massa on Glenn Beck Tuesday at 5 p.m. ET.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer called Massa's allegation "absurd."

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"Absolutely untrue," Hoyer said. "Definitively untrue."

Massa on Monday resigned his seat in the House after a male staffer accused him of sexual harassment. The former New York Democrat in turn alleged that Democratic leaders conspired to force him out of office so they would have an easier time approving the health care reform bill.

In a radio interview Sunday, Massa described himself as the "deciding vote" on health care.

Massa was one of 39 House Democrats who voted no on the legislation last November. The House Democratic leadership has been courting nearly all of its members who opposed the bill in an effort to flip them to vote yes in the next round.

"There was (not) any relationship between actions and the health care bill. Period," Hoyer, D-Md., said.

There are varying schools of thought as to how Massa's departure could help or hinder efforts to approve the health care bill. With Massa's resignation, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi now needs only 216 yes votes to pass the package, rather than 218.

The House okayed the original health bill 220-215. But three other lawmakers who voted yes on the plan are no longer in Congress. Former Pennsyvania Rep. John Murtha died in February. And former Democratic Reps. Robert Wexler of Florida and Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii have both resigned.

However, with Massa gone Pelosi now only has 37 Democratic no votes to potentially switch rather than 39. Rep. Parker Griffith of Alabama voted no in November as a Democrat. But switched his party affiliation to Republican in December.

Also, when it comes to health care, it may have been advantageous to keep Massa in the House. Three Democrats who voted no are retiring: Democratic Reps. John Tanner and Bart Gordon of Tennessee and Brian Baird of Washington.

It's thought that at least one if not all of those lawmakers could vote yes since they are retiring and are not risking losing re-election.

Massa originally announced his intention to retire at the end of this term. Some Capitol Hill insiders speculate that lawmakers could have persuaded Massa to vote yes had he stayed in the House without having to worry about his re-election prospects.

Massa accused Hoyer of not telling the truth when explaining how the sexual harassment charges were referred to the Ethics Committee.

"Steny Hoyer has never said a single word to me at all, not ever, not once. Not a word. This is a lie. It's a blatant false statement," he said.

But during a session with reporters, Hoyer reiterated that he never spoke with Massa about the alleged ethics violations, and signaled his staff spoke with Massa's staff.

"I didn't lie," Hoyer said. "But he's right. I didn't talk to him."