With one day to go

WITH ONE DAY TO GO…. The health care reform bill had a pretty good afternoon yesterday. Today may not be as pleasant.

Yesterday, key “yes” votes started falling into place, creating genuine momentum towards success. Late in the afternoon, Rep. Scott Murphy (D-N.Y.), who voted against reform in November, announced he would support the final package, calling it “the most important piece of deficit reduction work that’s been done here in a decade.” Murphy’s decision came around the same time that Rep. Suzanne Kosmas (D-Fla.) made the same “no” to “yes” shift. The two brought the total of previous reform opponent who’ll support the bill to seven.

Also encouraging were announcements from several “yes” votes who’d been threatening to bolt — Brad Ellsworth (D-Ind.), Harry Mitchell (D-Ariz.), Dina Titus (D-Nev.), Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.), and Bob Etheridge (D-N.C.). — all of whom said they’ll vote to pass reform.

So, is reform finally on track? Not quite yet.

There are still a few liberal Dems who voted for reform in November, including Massachusetts’ Stephen Lynch, who intend to vote with right-wing Republicans because they don’t see it as liberal enough. New York’s Michael Arcuri won’t budge, though he can’t coherently explain why. Oregon’s Peter DeFazio is still threatening to side with the GOP unless changes are made to Medicare reimbursement rates.

And then there’s abortion — or more specifically, indirect, circuitous subsidies for abortions — which has nearly killed health care reform several times, and which may yet destroy hopes of success.

Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) still intends to kill the bill, and as of late yesterday, he apparently controlled nine other votes: Arkansas’ Marion Berry, Georgia’s Sanford Bishop, Louisiana’s Anh “Joseph” Cao, Pennsylvania’s Kathy Dahlkemper, Ohio’s Steve Driehaus, Ohio’s Marcy Kaptur, Illinois’ Daniel Lipinski, West Virginia’s Alan Mollohan, and West Virginia’s Nick Rahall.

All 10 voted for reform in November, all are well aware that the restrictions in the Senate bill have satisfied much of the pro-life community, and all are apparently prepared to let the entire initiative fail anyway unless they get their way.

As far as the Democratic leadership is concerned, losing Stupak and a few others is manageable. Losing all 10 puts reform in real peril. And so, as the NYT reports this morning:

House Democratic leaders late Friday were exploring the possibility of a deal with abortion opponents that would clinch the final votes to pass major health care legislation, but they faced stiff resistance from lawmakers who support abortion rights.

It’s unclear exactly what will happen next, and the process may get a little more complicated. Speaker Pelosi would give Stupak a vote on a stand-alone bill, but he realizes it would likely fail, especially in the Senate. Brian Beutler had a good explanation of Stupak’s ransom.

He’s been pushing for a vote on something different, and much more obscure: what’s known as an enrollment corrections bill. The details are complicated, but basically, it’s a rarely used procedural technique that would allow the House and Senate to amend the Senate bill after it’s passed both houses, but before it’s signed into law. Stupak says it only requires 51 votes in the Senate. He also implied that passage of health care reform could be made contingent on the adoption of new, stricter abortion language.

Pelosi’s gambit may be to give Stupak his vote to get him on board, all the while knowing it won’t pass the House or the Senate. But that’s a risk pro-choice members aren’t prepared to see their leadership take.

And that’s key. The leadership may have concluded that reform may not survive if Stupak and his bloc side with Republicans, but if pro-choice Dems decide Pelosi has given Stupak too much, they’ll have the votes to kill the legislation, too.

Expect a busy day.