Where things stand

WHERE THINGS STAND…. Last night, House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) was asked whether his caucus has the 216 votes it needs to pass health care reform. He said he believes so. This morning, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) was asked the same question. He said he doesn’t think so, but was confident about success “by Sunday.”

Watching this process unfold is not for the faint of heart.

I’m deeply skeptical of this, but the New York Times reported this morning that the leadership is so confident about securing a majority, the Speaker’s office is now in the process of trying to figure out which vulnerable Dems to give passes to.

Yes, the 11th-hour vote tallying is under way at a brisk pace in offices from Capitol Hill to the West Wing, with Ms. Pelosi and her lieutenants keeping hour-by-hour tabs on wavering Democrats.

But as the week inches along, with momentum steadily building to a Sunday vote, the party leaders are also beginning to decide which politically endangered lawmakers will be given absolution to vote no. […]

There are, of course, very few votes to spare. Yet there are some. And even most Republican leaders concede that the mystery is not so much whether Democrats will reach the magic number of 216, but rather whose names will be included as yes votes in the final count.

That’s about the most optimistic assessment for reform supporters I’ve seen, which is probably why I find it so hard to believe.

The good news for proponents is that there are now three Dems who voted against reform in November who are going to support the bill. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), who announced his switch on Wednesday, was first, and two more — Tennessee Blue Dog Bart Gordon and Colorado’s Betsy Markey — made the same switch yesterday afternoon. Illinois’ Luis Gutierrez and Ohio’s Charlie Wilson, who were threatening to switch from “yes” to “no,” both said they’d vote to pass reform, too.

But the news was not all good. New York’s Michael Arcuri, in a rather shocking display of cowardice, declared on his website that he would oppose the bill he supported in November. Illinois’ Daniel Lipinski signaled his intention to follow Bart Stupak’s lead. Ohio’s Zack Space is leaning “no,” despite supporting reform in the past, and in a head-scratcher, Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts, a member of Speaker Pelosi’s whip team, declared that the reform bill isn’t liberal enough for him, and declared his opposition.

And, of course, Bart Stupak is still Bart Stupak.

Expect a busy day.