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The House Health Reform Vote

Amidst general pleasure over the House´s passage of health reform legislation Saturday night, there´s also progressive angst over two issues: the narrowness of the vote, which leaves little or no margin for error when the conference committee report comes up, and the passage of the Stupak Amendment, which goes much further than previous House or Senate bills in restricting the ability of consumers to purchase abortion coverage in the new exchanges.

The first concern is probably overwrought. Speaker Pelosi clearly whipped her vote, and gave a free pass to vulnerable Democrats to vote "no." Since the final version is likely to be less subject to conservative attack than the House bill, Pelosi should be able to hold all 219 Democrats and perhaps add a few.

The Stupak Amendment is more problematic, since 64 Democrats voted for it. But given the arcane nature of the differences between Stupak and earlier anti-abortion provisions, it's unclear that any Democrats who voted for the House bill would vote against the conference report with a slightly less obnixious anti-abortion provision.

In any event, we should take a deep breath right now and appreciate the historic nature of the House vote, which didn't look that secure until right before it occurred. Aside from its substantive importance, the vote should prove helpful in diverting the news media from ludicrous overinterpretation of the NJ and VA gubernatorial results.