Dems don't have votes to pass House health bill

Democratic leaders were hoping to have a final vote Saturday evening, but that may not happen now

Published November 6, 2009 7:54PM (EST)

House Democratic leaders had hoped to have a final vote on their version of healthcare reform legislation Saturday evening. Now it looks as if the vote could be pushed back a day or more, and for the simplest of reasons: They don't yet have the votes to pass it.

It takes 218 "ayes" to pass a bill in the House, and the Democratic caucus has 258 members. But they won't get any help from their Republican colleagues, and there's a pretty decent number of Democrats who aren't ready to vote for the bill.

The big stumbling blocks remaining are the issues of coverage for abortion and for illegal immigrants. One other potential obstacle was removed on Friday when Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-Ny.Y., agreed to drop an amendment he'd planned to offer that would have turned the bill into one that created a single-payer system. House progressives had demanded at least a vote on the amendment -- which wouldn't have passed anyway -- but they won't get it now.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer is preemptively blaming any delay on Republican stalling tactics, but that's a stretch, at the very least. The GOP may employ some of those tactics when the House does prepare for the vote, but the thing holding it up right now is a lack of Democratic votes.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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Healthcare Reform Steny Hoyer D-md. U.s. House Of Representatives