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House Swing Voters Need Presssure from Progressives

The big hurdle ahead in enacting health care reform is House approval of the Senate HCR bill, which the Administration hopes to pass by March 18. Says OpenLeft's Chris Bowers, who tracks the House and Senate tallies: "The vote count is not a rosy one right now."

538.com's Nate Silver believes that "the Senate should fairly easily have 50 votes for reconciliation" and agrees that the House vote is the more problematic challenge:

The math on holding those 217 House votes was never very easy for Nancy Pelosi and its not clear that it's gotten any easier. If everyone voted the same way today that they did in November, the bill would pass 217-215. However, two previous yes votes -- Bart Stupak and the Republican Anh "Joseph" Cao -- are almost certainly to be lost, whereas nobody who voted against the bill before has yet affirmed that they'll switch to vote for it. That makes the starting point 215-217 against.

...My head says yes -- Pelosi will squeak this through -- while my gut frankly says no...I'd hesitate to call the bill a favorite to pass.

Bowers has a list of about two dozen House members thought to be possible swing voters, broken down into three categories:

...The 431 current members of the House voted 217-214 in favor of the health reform bill in November. Here are the key switches, and wavering Representatives, so far:

* November "yes" votes presumed to be "no" because of the Stupak bloc (9): Cao (LA-02); Costello (IL-12); Dahlkemper (PA-03); Driehaus (OH-03); Kanjorski (PA-11); Kaptur (OH-09); Murtha (PA-12)[deceased]; Oberstar (MN-08); Ortiz (TX-27); Stupak (MI-01)

* November "no" votes publically wavering now (13): Altmire (PA-04), Baird (WA-03); Boucher (VA-09); Boyd (FL-02); Gordon (TN-06); Kosmas (FL-24); Markey (CO-04); McMahon (NY-13); Minnick (ID-01); S. Murphy (NY-20); Glen Nye (VA-02); Ross (AR-04); Tanner (TN-08)

* November "yes" votes publically wavering now (3): Arcuri (NY-24), Grijalva (AZ-07); Schrader (OR-05)

That's a pretty tight squeeze. The House leadership will need virtually all of the wavering "no" votes from November listed above to vote yes this time around. And the only way to appeal to that group is through the reconciliation fix bill, since the Senate bill must be passed as is in order for President Obama to sign it into law.

Reasons for the March 18 deadline include the President's upcoming international trip and the onset of "March Madness," regarded as a constituent distraction. This will likely be the pivotal vote in enacting a decent health care bill, and we can imagine the lobbying pressure the insurance industry will be putting on these House members in the weeks ahead. Much depends on them hearing from progressive constituents and organizations in impressive numbers.

Toward that end, here's a handy cut-and-pastable list of office phone numbers of the aforenamed House members who might be persuadable HCR swing voters (minus Murtha, who died):

Cao (LA-02): (202) 225-6636

Costello (IL-12): (202) 225-5661

Dahlkemper (PA-03): (202) 225-5406

Driehaus (OH-03): (202) 225-2216

Kanjorski (PA-11): (202) 225-6511

Kaptur (OH-09): (202) 225-4146

Oberstar (MN-08): (202) 225-6211

Ortiz (TX-27): (202) 225-7742

Stupak (MI-01): (202) 225-4735

Altmire (PA-04): (202) 225-2565

Baird (WA-03): (202 225-3536

Boucher (VA-09): (202) 225-3861

Boyd (FL-02): (202) 225-5235

Gordon (TN-06): (202) 225-4231

Kosmas (FL-24): (202) 225-2706

Markey (CO-04): (202) 225-4676

McMahon (NY-13): (202) 225-3371

Minnick (ID-01): (202) 225-6611

S. Murphy (NY-20): (202) 225-5614

Glen Nye (VA-02): (202) 225-4215

Ross (AR-04): (202) 225-3772

Tanner (TN-08): (202) 225-4714

Arcuri (NY-24), (202) 225-3565

Grijalva (AZ-07): (202) 225-2435

Schrader (OR-05): (202) 225-5711

The tally is by no means all-inclusive and should be thought of as a fluid starter list. What is not in doubt is that millions of dollars will be spent on trying to influence their votes during the next two weeks. Hotline's Reid Wilson reports, for example that the fence-sitting Kurt Schrader (D-OR) is already feeling the heat:

...The freshman Dem from just outside Portland is emblematic of the problem House Dems face as they try to whip votes for health care. He's got a challenge from a state senator in a district that has never been as safely Dem as it probably should be, and the NRCC is targeting him, along with 34 of his colleagues, with robo-calls urging voters to give Schrader a ring, and a piece of their mind.

Now, Schrader is indicating his earlier vote in favor of a health care overhaul is no guide to his future actions. His office told The Oregonian earlier this week he has made no commitments to vote for the Senate legislation that has to pass for reconciliation to move forward. Dems will keep a close eye on freshmen and sophomores, who may be most willing to change their votes, all while the GOP does their best to pressure them.

Herein lies the fundamental political calculation for those younger Dems: By voting for the bill a second time, they open themselves to all the grief GOPers will toss their way. But voting against the bill won't make their lives any easier, especially if they voted in favor of it during the first go-round. The GOP will tag any switchers as Kerry-esque flip-floppers, and if Dems have nothing to show for their year of health care work it could be more damaging than defending a flawed or unpopular bill in Nov.

Add to that the damage done to millions of Americans whose health will depend on the House vote. High stakes, indeed.