This post will be updated through-out the day.
Joe Gandelman at Moderate Voice:
Former President Bill Clinton was reportedly working the phones to maximize Democratic votes on health care reform yesterday — all aimed at today, D Day for the Democratic party and for President Barack Obama.
Why is it D Day? Because unless there is some unexpected twist, by the end of the day (a phrase used literally here, not as a figure of speech) political junkies and Americans will one way or another be thrust upon a new political policy course with some answers
Today’s new and old media stories will (correctly) focus on the horse race aspect of the votes.
The House is expected to take up debate around 2 pm. EST and the day is expected to end around 6 or 7 p.m. with the final of several votes.
But it’s D.Day:
A win will change the narrative for the Democrats and Obama.
And so will a loss.
Kate Pickert at Swampland at Time:
Pelosi seems to be on the cusp of success, with various news media tallies indicating she will have enough votes to declare victory by Sunday evening. Even so, Republican opposition was still in full force all day Saturday with House Minority Leader John Boehner saying passage of the Democratic plan for health reform would constitute “Armageddon” that would “ruin our country.” Republican and Democratic leaders are lined up to duke it out again on the Sunday morning talk shows.
To assure House Democrats worried Senate Democrats might not follow through on passing a package of changes to the Senate bill, Pelosi circulated a letter on Saturday from Senate Majority Harry Reid that pledged in writing to do just that. And an earlier proposal to pass the package of changes without ever formally voting on the Senate bill was reportedly discarded on Saturday. Republicans celebrated what could be viewed as a small victory for them – they had heavily criticized the so-called “deem and pass” strategy as circumventing fair legislative practice. But it’s just as possible that Pelosi figured she could pass the Senate bill without making the vote indirect – meaning that throwing out “deem and pass” was actually a sign of Democratic strength.
Pro-life Democrats who supported language in the original House bill that would have restricted access to abortion still constituted the largest bloc of holdout votes Saturday night. There were rumors late Saturday that Obama would issue an executive order reaffirming that health reform legislation will not provide federal funds for abortion, which could provide some political cover and allow some of these Democrats to vote for the Senate bill. Bart Stupak, the pro-life Democratic congressman who authored the original House abortion language, abruptly canceled a morning press conference on Saturday.
But barring something unforeseen, it seems likely that, by Monday, Democrats will have something to celebrate after so many months of uncertainty.
Rick Klein at ABC at The Note:
It’s down to the wire and one of the top Democrats in the House says the Democrats have the votes to pass health care reform – but that some Democrat members might lose their seats as a result.
“We have the votes. We are going to make history today,” Rep. John Larson D-Conn., the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said today on “This Week”. “President Roosevelt passed Social Security; President Roosevelt passed Medicare; and today, Barack Obama will pass health care reform, demonstrating whose side we are on,” Larson told ABC News’ Jonathan Karl.
Ezra Klein, on Saturday:
The president gave a rousing, rambling speech before the House Democratic Caucus this afternoon. It wasn’t so much a closing argument as it was a summation: of the bill, of the politics, of the moment, of the history, and even of the Democratic Party. When I wrote to the White House’s press folks to ask why they hadn’t send out the prepared remarks, they said there were none. The president was just talking, which explains the loose structure and the raw, emotional feel of the text. Here’s the transcript, one of the final important documents in a long and important debate:
I have the great pleasure of having a really nice library at the White House. And I was tooling through some of the writings of some previous Presidents and I came upon this quote by Abraham Lincoln: “I am not bound to win, but I’m bound to be true. I’m not bound to succeed, but I’m bound to live up to what light I have.”
This debate has been a difficult debate. This process has been a difficult process. And this year has been a difficult year for the American people. When I was sworn in, we were in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression. Eight hundred thousand people per month were losing their jobs. Millions of people were losing their health insurance. And the financial system was on the verge of collapse.
Now, is this bill perfect? Of course not. Will this solve every single problem in our health care system right away? No. There are all kinds of ideas that many of you have that aren’t included in this legislation. I know that there has been discussion, for example, of how we’re going to deal with regional disparities and I know that there was a meeting with Secretary Sebelius to assure that we can continue to try to make sure that we’ve got a system that gives people the best bang for their buck. (Applause.)
So this is not — there are all kinds of things that many of you would like to see that isn’t in this legislation. There are some things I’d like to see that’s not in this legislation. But is this the single most important step that we have taken on health care since Medicare? Absolutely. Is this the most important piece of domestic legislation in terms of giving a break to hardworking middle class families out there since Medicare? Absolutely. Is this a vast improvement over the status quo? Absolutely.
Now, I still know this is a tough vote, though. I know this is a tough vote. I’ve talked to many of you individually. And I have to say that if you honestly believe in your heart of hearts, in your conscience, that this is not an improvement over the status quo; if despite all the information that’s out there that says that without serious reform efforts like this one people’s premiums are going to double over the next five or 10 years, that folks are going to keep on getting letters from their insurance companies saying that their premium just went up 40 or 50 percent; if you think that somehow it’s okay that we have millions of hardworking Americans who can’t get health care and that it’s all right, it’s acceptable, in the wealthiest nation on Earth that there are children with chronic illnesses that can’t get the care that they need — if you think that the system is working for ordinary Americans rather than the insurance companies, then you should vote no on this bill. If you can honestly say that, then you shouldn’t support it. You’re here to represent your constituencies and if you think your constituencies honestly wouldn’t be helped, you shouldn’t vote for this.
But if you agree that the system is not working for ordinary families, if you’ve heard the same stories that I’ve heard everywhere, all across the country, then help us fix this system. Don’t do it for me. Don’t do it for Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid. Do it for all those people out there who are struggling.
Some of you know I get 10 letters a day that I read out of the 40,000 that we receive. Started reading some of the ones that I got this morning. “Dear President Obama, my daughter, a wonderful person, lost her job. She has no health insurance. She had a blood clot in her brain. She’s now disabled, can’t get care.” “Dear President Obama, I don’t yet qualify for Medicare. COBRA is about to run out. I am desperate, don’t know what to do.”
Do it for them. Do it for people who are really scared right now through no fault of their own, who’ve played by the rules, who’ve done all the right things, and have suddenly found out that because of an accident, because of an ailment, they’re about to lose their house; or they can’t provide the help to their kids that they need; or they’re a small business who up until now has always taken pride in providing care for their workers and it turns out that they just can’t afford to do it anymore and they’ve having to make a decision about do I keep providing health insurance for my workers or do I just drop their coverage or do I not hire some people because I simply can’t afford it — it’s all being gobbled up by the insurance companies.
Don’t do it for me. Don’t do it for the Democratic Party. Do it for the American people. They’re the ones who are looking for action right now. (Applause.)
Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo:
Things are getting pretty heated in the Capitol with crowds of anti-Reform/Tea Party activists going through the halls shouting slogans and epithets at Democratic members of Congress.
As our Brian Beutler reports, a few moments ago in the Longworth office building, a group swarmed a very calm looking Henry Waxman, as he got on the elevator, with shouts of “Kill the bill!” “You liar! You crook!”
Not long before, Rep. Barney Frank got an uglier version of the treatment. Just after Frank rounded a corner to leave the building, an older protestor yelled “Barney, you faggot.” The surrounding crowd of protestors then erupted in laughter.
At one point, Capitol police officer threatened to throw a group of protestors out of the building but that only seemed to inflame them more; and apparently none were ejected.
Brian Beutler at Talking Points Memo:
Civil rights hero Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) and fellow Congressional Black Caucus member Andre Carson (D-IN) related a particularly jarring encounter with a large crowd of protesters screaming “kill the bill”… and punctuating their chants with the word “nigger.”
Standing next to Lewis, emerging from a Democratic caucus meeting with President Obama, Carson said people in the crowd yelled, “kill the bill and then the N-word” several times, while he and Lewis were exiting the Cannon House office building.
“People have been just downright mean,” Lewis added.
And that wasn’t an isolated incident. Early this afternoon, standing outside a Democratic whip meeting in the Longworth House office building, I watched Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) make his way out the door, en route to the neighboring Rayburn building. As he rounded the corner toward the exit, wading through a huge crowd of tea partiers and other health care protesters, an elderly white man screamed “Barney, you faggot”–a line that caused dozens of his confederates to erupt in laughter.
After that incident, Capitol police threatened to expel the protesters from the building, but were outnumbered and quickly overwhelmed. Tea party protesters equipped with high-end video cameras were summoned to film the encounter and the officers ultimately relented.
After the caucus meeting, TPMDC’s Evan McMorris-Santoro caught up with Frank, who reflected on the incident.
“I’m disappointed at a unwillingness to be just civil,” Frank said. “[T]he objection to the health care bill has become a proxy for other sentiments.”
“Obviously there are perfectly reasonable people that are against this, but the people out there today on the whole–many of them were hateful and abusive,” Frank added.
The nature of attracting tens of thousands of people from around the country to protest is such that you are bound to attract a disproportionate share of yahoos, reprobates, and slimeballs. Whether the Tea Party movement has more of these than your average anti-war rally or World Trade Organization protest, I don’t know.
But Barney Frank is right on all scores here.
Not only is uncivil conduct “disappointing,” it’s ultimately destructive. (Indeed, while I share common cause on some issues, I’ve been dismissive of the Tea Party movement precisely because of their unfocused anger and rude behavior.) If the Civil Rights protests of the 1960s taught us anything, it was that the quiet dignity of citizens gathered to respectfully demand justice is enormously powerful — especially when it’s juxtaposed against thuggish behavior from the other side.
Movements with significant numbers of incidents like this — whether representative or not — are simply much easier to dismiss.
DOES CLYBURN OWE TEA PARTY PROTESTERS AN APOLOGY? The bogus racism card has been played so often that I no longer find such charges very credible. I’m sure, however, that, true or not, they’ll be played much more loudly than the indisputably true statements about the antiwar movement.
UPDATE: Reader Rob Kleine writes: “All the focus on the anti-Obamacare protests has me wondering: Are there any pro-Obamacare protesters? Or is the Emperor truly w/o clothes?” I think there was an anti-war protest today in DC, too, but if there were pro-Obamacare protesters I haven’t heard about ‘em.
And several readers note a conundrum for the media — since they ignored the anti-ObamaCare protests, it’ll be awkward for them to suddenly start running stories about charges of racism at those nonexistent protests.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Short on hate: “The rally earlier today on the West Lawn in opposition to the health-care legislation before Congress had all the fingerprints of a somewhat organic celebration of democracy. There was a pretty focused message, but mostly displayed on handwritten signs. . . . As I walked around, if it weren’t for the congressmen and some right-wing organization types speaking, one might think people had gathered for an Independence Day celebration. There were smiles and babies and families and goodwill. Now and again I would run into some lone guy responding to a speaker with ‘then we’ll dismantle the government.’ But that guy also got weird looks — and not just from me. I was struck by how few mass-produced signs there were. Many groups might try to take credit for the rally, but concerned Americans are responsible for it.” Lots of pics at the link.
Plus this: “Those gathered today, among many others across the country and in Washington who oppose this ill-conceived legislation from a condescending, patronizing administration — will not be giving up tomorrow. Because Monday is another day. And so is the first Tuesday in November.”
And, by way of contrast, here are some photos from that antiwar rally today in DC. Note the Soviet-nostalgia T-shirt. But guess which one the press will cast as “extremist?”
The Politico, so for those of you avoiding clicks, you’ve been warned:
In the jittery days following Scott Brown’s Senate victory, Nancy Pelosi was eager to resurrect comprehensive health reform. But first, she had to get past longtime ally Rahm Emanuel, who was counseling President Barack Obama to consider a smaller, piecemeal approach. During a mid-February conference call with top House Democrats, Pelosi made it clear she would accept nothing short of a big-bang health care push – dismissing the White House chief of staff as an “incrementalist.”
Pelosi even coined a term to describe Emanuel’s scaled-down approach: “Kiddie Care,” according to a person privy to the call.
Pelosi’s remark was more than just a diss. It sent a clear signal to House leadership that Pelosi wouldn’t compromise – and it coincided with Obama’s own decision to renew his push for an all-encompassing bill after weeks of confusion and discussion.
So… Do you think you’d be seeing puff pieces in Dick Cheney’s personal diary, the Politico, if the bill had failed? And puff pieces about Nancy Pelosi, of all people?
This is what I have never understood about those who voted yes the first time around but were then spooked on purely political matters (and not the actual content of the bill). The Republicans simply are going to oppose you no matter what (as Blanche Lincoln is learning, years of tongue-kisses to the GOP doesn’t amount to a bucket of warm spit), and if the bill passes, the entire narrative changes. For everyone. And the way the teabaggers are playing along, throwing out racial epithets and yelling faggot while screaming about taking matters into their own hands, they are providing the perfect frame for this comeback story.
As an aside, I think when people feel comfortable to talk on record, meaning years from now, I think it is going to turn out that the toughness of Nancy Pelosi and the patience of Obama are what saved his Presidency. She might turn out to be the best partner he has in all of DC, and will probably, depending on what happens, go down as one of the greatest speakers in recent memory. Every time she needs the votes, she gets them.
I don’t know whether Nancy Pelosi has her 216 votes yet, but there’s reason to think she didn’t as of around noon today. That’s when Reps. Driehaus (D., Ohio) and Dahlkemper (D., Penn.), both of the Stupak coalition, met with the Speaker in her office. Apparently, she still needed to win a few more votes from members of that coalition.
Another member of the Stupak group, Dan Lipinski (D-Ill), told The HIll that Stupak still commands more than seven votes against the bill. “There’s still time and they still need votes,” Lipinski said.
The thinking here is that Pelosi will find a way to get what she needs. But the clock is ticking and she may not be there yet.
UPDATE: Jeffrey Anderson at NRO’s Critical Condition blog says Pelosi is still short. He counts 208 leaning in favor, 214 leaning against, and nine undecided. At this point, though, “leaning against” may mean “waiting for an inducement” in some cases.
JOHN adds: This is consistent with what James Hohmann of Politico told us on our radio show this morning, i.e., that as of around 1:00 this afternoon, Pelosi had 206-208 “yes” votes.
UPDATE: Jared Allen at The Hill:
Democrats have reached a deal on an executive order on abortion that could hand them a victory on healthcare.
“Eight or nine” Democrats, including Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), will announce the deal at a 4 p.m. press conference, according to an anti-abortion Democrat.
“We’ve changed [our votes],” said Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-Ohio).
Jonathan Chait at TNR:
Unless something goes awry, it’s game, set, match.
Update: Stupak says “We have an agreement.”
UPDATE #2: Steve Benen:
As you may have heard, the House passed the rule on health care reform.
House Democrats have approved the rule for debate on the healthcare bill, moving them one step closer toward a final vote on the legislation.
The rule was passed 224-206, with 28 Democrats voting against the measure. All Republicans cast “no” votes. A procedural vote on the rules passed by a similar count, 228-202.
The tally is a key test vote for Democrats, who hours earlier were able to bring aboard Rep. Bart Stupak’s (D-Mich.) anti-abortion rights voting bloc by striking a compromise with the White House.
Under House procedure, lawmakers must approve the rules for debate before taking up actual legislation.
The vote allows formal debate to begin on the healthcare bill.
Here’s the roll call; note that 28 Dems voted with Republicans in opposition. It’s the first of the three key votes.
One cannot help but admire Nancy Pelosi’s skill as a legislator. But it’s also pretty worrying. Are we now in a world where there is absolutely no recourse to the tyranny of the majority? Republicans and other opponents of the bill did their job on this; they persuaded the country that they didn’t want this bill. And that mattered basically not at all. If you don’t find that terrifying, let me suggest that you are a Democrat who has not yet contemplated what Republicans might do under similar circumstances. Farewell, social security! Au revoir, Medicare! The reason entitlements are hard to repeal is that the Republicans care about getting re-elected. If they didn’t–if they were willing to undertake this sort of suicide mission–then the legislative lock-in you’re counting on wouldn’t exist.
Oh, wait–suddenly it doesn’t seem quite fair that Republicans could just ignore the will of their constituents that way, does it? Yet I guarantee you that there are a lot of GOP members out there tonight who think that they should get at least one free “Screw You” vote to balance out what the Democrats just did.
If the GOP takes the legislative innovations of the Democrats and decides to use them, please don’t complain that it’s not fair. Someone could get seriously hurt, laughing that hard.