A constantly-evolving headcount

A CONSTANTLY-EVOLVING HEADCOUNT…. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) raised more than a few eyebrows this week when he said he just couldn’t support the Democratic health care reform package. He argued that restrictions on undocumented immigrants buying into health care exchanges were punitive and harsh, and Gutierrez’s remarks were strong enough that CNN counted him as a “no” vote among House Dems.

But as we’re likely to see more than once in the very near future, those who’ve voiced one position or another may end up in a different place. Today, for example, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus announced its unanimous support, which means Gutierrez, his threats notwithstanding, will also back the final package.

But Gutierrez voted for reform in November. What about moving votes from “no” to “yes”? Yesterday, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) became the first to make the switch. Today, Rep. Bart Gordon, a Blue Dog Democrat from Tennessee, became the second.

In a statement Gordon’s office issued this afternoon, the center-right Dem explained:

“In November, I said I hoped the Senate and House could work out the difference and produce a bill I could support — one that takes responsible steps to make health care more affordable for our economy and for our families and small businesses. If I and each of my 534 colleagues in Congress had been able to write our own health reform packages, we would be looking at 535 different bills today. In the end, the question I’m faced with is this: will this reform be better for Middle Tennessee than the status quo? I think it will. That’s why I believe passing meaningful health care reform is essential and why I have made my decision to help ensure health care is affordable for Middle Tennesseans today and for generations to come.”

While Gutierrez coming around is a welcome development, it was largely expected. Gordon’s switch, however, is even more significant. The center-right Tennessean is retiring, and doesn’t have to worry about re-election, but for a leading Blue Dog who voted against reform to come around not only gives the leadership a little more wiggle room, it also sends a clear signal to the rest of the caucus.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.