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Pelosi's math


Just a quick point of clarification: As Rick Klein (no relation) explains, vacant seats in the House do not necessarily make it hard to pass health-care reform (or any other legislation). As the total number of seated members decreases, so too does the total number of votes needed.

Right now, for instance, there are likely to be 431 serving representatives when the bill comes for a vote (Murtha, Wexler, Abercrombie and Deal will all have left the body and it's likely that none will yet have been replaced). That means Pelosi will need to round up 216 votes for a majority, rather than the 218 votes she'd need in a full House. Three of these seats were held by "yes" votes on the bill, and one by a "no" vote. So the new math is that a majority will require two fewer members, but Pelosi has lost three votes. So compared to when health-care reform first passed the House, she's down one vote.

Correction: I'd had Republican Rep. Nathan Deal mixed up with Creigh Deeds, and so had thought the retirement was a Democrat, which meant all the vacant seats were Democratic. Not so. The text has been corrected.

Photo credit: Melissa Golden/Bloomberg.

By Ezra Klein  |  March 1, 2010; 1:36 PM ET
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Today's resignation was Nathan Deal (R-GA), not Creigh Deeds. They are 3 democrats and 1 republican short, not 4 democrats.

Posted by: ajbajb | March 1, 2010 1:48 PM | Report abuse

unfortunately, not seeking reelection doesn't disqualify you from being a lame duck in this congress. Repiglicans have had almost a 2 to 1 ratio of reps not running again, despite the MSM saying that dems are in trouble because of the "wave" of democratic retirements.

Posted by: srw3 | March 1, 2010 1:57 PM | Report abuse


Now the liberal side of the Democratic party wants to get the Senate bill passed at all costs, even if it means no public option and preservation of the sweetheart deals with pharma.

Posted by: RandomWalk1 | March 1, 2010 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Well, I imagine that they'll be able to pick up a few Dems that voted 'no' the first time around. With the bill not including a public option and being more conservative overall than the original bill they can grab a few that were just on the other side of the fence. Now that they've given the process over a year and shown pretty conclusively that Republicans don't have any interest in bipartisanship they might pick up a couple of the process-oriented folks. And then there's the old arm-twisting, which they may not have been able to do a year ago when it looked like they didn't need a lot of marginal Dems to pass the legislation and there wasn't an election looming that threatened to be worse for the Dems if they fail to pass anything.

On the other hand, they might have a bit of trouble with the progressive caucus not liking the Senate bill and others concerned that the Senate won't pass the rider through reconciliation.

Still, I'm cautiously optimistic about the votes being there. I'm more worried about getting the whole process done before the election gets too close. I'm hoping for the legislation to be done and on President Obama's desk by the end of April. May at the absolute latest.

Posted by: MosBen | March 1, 2010 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Yes, it's Rep. Nathan Deal of Georgia who is resigning. He voted Nay for H.R. 3962 anyway (, so he's not a lost Aye vote.

However, the rumor is that Republican Rep. Anh Cao is expected not to break ranks as he did in November.

So previously the vote was 219 Democrats and 1 Republican in favor. Now it look like they'll have 216 Democrats and 0 Republicans in favor. Just enough to squeak through!

Posted by: billkarwin | March 1, 2010 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Let's not forget the seat which may be vacated by Charles Rangel (D-NY). Another Democratic member also faces expulsion due to ethics violations, so the math (with rounding) might even change a bit more over the next month. Sometimes loosing a few members turns out to be an advantage.

Posted by: rmgregory | March 1, 2010 2:03 PM | Report abuse

I know the filibuster is membership-based...but isn't the general passage of legislation in the House quorum-based? IE, if there's a quorum present, you have to get half the votes of the quorum present, not half the votes of the body?

Am I wrong about this distinction? Or, is it a distinction without a difference given the particular way quorum is actually determined in practice (eg: you showed up for Congress Tuesday, so you count towards the quorum even if you skip a vote on Weds...)

Just thinking that if a lot of these Reps who don't want to vote for the bill could just be convinced to go away and not vote _against_ it...

Posted by: theorajones1 | March 1, 2010 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Ezra (et al.),

What about the Stupak vote(s)? I think abortion may yet be the thing that sinks this, as there seems to be very little willingness on the part of the Senate to adopt the House language, without which, presumably, you lose Stupak and perhaps as many as ten others.

I think the House Democratic caucus is very much further from having the votes than they are currently willing to confront publicly.

Posted by: FrBill1 | March 1, 2010 2:25 PM | Report abuse

Man, I can only imagine the conversations Rep. Anh Cao has had to have over the last 8 months or however many it's been since his vote on HCR.

Posted by: MosBen | March 1, 2010 2:30 PM | Report abuse

Isn't John Linder (R) of Georgia going to retire next week too to run for governor? That will help Democrats as well I think.

Posted by: cassidymullen | March 1, 2010 2:50 PM | Report abuse

It would be nice to have a list that includes

-- the 39 House Democrats who voted against health care in the fall
-- any House Democrats who voted yes in the fall but are not fully committed and might switch their vote to no
-- for each of the Dems on the list, the date on which they are up in the Democratic primaries
-- the name of their primary challenger, or the filing deadline

moveon has already started a nice campaign for Bill Halter who's running against Blanche Lincoln in the primary. We need to make sure that every House Democrat who is unreliable on health care faces a strong primary challenge this year.

Posted by: opinionpieces | March 1, 2010 3:42 PM | Report abuse

With a 79 seat majority in the House, Pelosi is having to "count" the votes. That should tell you how fcucked up the HomoCrats really are!

I mean, can these idiots get anything done? (Except for massive scale corruption)!

Posted by: darkskin1977 | March 1, 2010 4:48 PM | Report abuse

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