Health Care Whip Count Live Updates: Will Reform Bill Have The Votes?

UPDATE 11:00 AM ET, MARCH 21 -- Today is the day. As Congress gets set for Sunday's historic vote on health care reform, click here to get all the breaking news, tweets, photos, and video, all in one place.


Ahead of this weekend's vote on health care reform, Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives have been engaged in fierce behind-the-scenes lobbying of undecided lawmakers whose support will be crucial to final passage of the bill.

The magic number that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other top Democrats are working toward is 216. On Thursday and Friday her prospects brightened as several fence-sitting lawmakers came out in favor of the bill. Still, there are holdouts and they will be the focus of the Democratic arm-twisting between now and Sunday's vote.

Check here for the Huffington Post's breaking updates of the health care whip count in Congress.

10 votes shy of health care. According to the vote count being kept by the New York Times, Democrats now have 206 declared or strongly expected 'yes' votes for health care reform, leaving them in need of just 10 additional votes to ensure the bill's passage.

Of course, many of the undeclared members of Congress have likely already privately communicated their positions to Democratic leaders. But every member who announces their position publicly gives extra assurance that their vote is solid.

11:45 PM ET -- The vote is set.

The bill has made its way through the House Rules Committee chaired by Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) and is ready for a floor vote Sunday, C-Span reports. Negotiations led by Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Penn.) are expected to continue "deep into the night," according to Politico.

10:30 PM ET -- Loretta Sanchez a question mark.

Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.), the last Member to vote in favor of the House's own health care bill back in November, remains uncommitted on the current reform package, Roll Call reports. This is in part because Sanchez is in Florida fundraising, skipping all seven of Saturday's recorded votes.

Sanchez's seat is in no danger, but she has expressed skepticism that the Senate bill is cost-effective enough. Still, according to Roll Call, Democrats are confident they can get her vote on the floor, as long as she makes it there.

9:34 PM ET -- New CBO numbers make the bill look better.

A just-released report from the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the current version of the health care bill "costs less and saves more," Nancy Pelosi's office said in an e-mail. According to Pelosi's staff, the bill is now estimated to insure 32 million more Americans at a cost of $938 billion, all of which is paid for. The CBO now predicts it will reduce the deficit by $143 billion in its first 10 years and $1.2 trillion over the following decade.

7:00 PM ET -- Obama and Sebelius cut deal on Medicare disparity, lock down wavering votes.

Rep. Peter Defazio and other Oregon House Democrats said in a statement, a draft of which was obtained by HuffPost, that they've hammered out a deal with President Obama and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to subsidize a Medicare reimbursement boost for doctors in states with historically low reimbursement rates. Obama and Sebelius also committed to commission studies that would recommend long-term fixes to the regional disparities, to be implemented by Sebelius, according to the statement.

"We've negotiated hard and finally have reached agreement today which will give Oregon its rightful share, along with 16 other states who are also being discriminated against under the current formula. This is good news for Oregon seniors and is a critical part of this legislation," said Defazio, who had been leading the small bloc of House Democrats threatening to kill health care over the disparity issue.

5:28 PM ET -- Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), the only lawmaker to have ever defeated Barack Obama in an election, said he remains undecided despite being moved by the president's Saturday speech to the Democratic caucus.

"I'm a preacher," Rush told the Huffington Post. "He was very passionate and made a lot of sense. However, I know that in the end of the day, there is a certain percentage of people in my district who right now need to have the provisions that I'm fighting for."

"They promised me there will be those provisions," Rush went on. "I take them at their word that they are working on them. Have they finalized and come to me with any kind of precise provision? No, they haven't. So as a result I am still undecided. Inspired, but undecided."

Rush has been pushing for the House to reinsert language into its bill that would allow for prescription drugs to be provided as a discounted rate to inpatients in "disproportionate share hospitals."

4:30 PM ET -- Stupak anti-abortion bloc down from 12 to 6. The Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call reports:

House Democratic leaders appear to be succeeding in their push to peel off abortion-rights opponents lined up with Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) against a health care overhaul.

Stupak said those standing with him now number about six -- down from the rough dozen he has claimed for weeks. That is likely enough to put the majority within striking distance of the 216 votes they need for passage.

"I don't know if it's enough," Stupak said of those now backing him in demanding stricter language preventing public funding of abortion.

3:55 PM ET -- Obama speaking to House Democrats. Victory within reach, President Barack Obama rallied House Democrats on Saturday for a final health care push, and party leaders appeared confident they had overcome a flare-up over abortion funding restrictions in the legislation.

Building on Democrats' momentum, House leaders decided on a straight up-or-down vote on Obama's top priority and the defining issue of his first year in office, backing off a much-challenged plan to vote on the bill indirectly. With the vote scheduled for Sunday, the battle tilted in Obama's direction as more Democrats disclosed how they would vote.

The president decided to make a final personal appeal with a Saturday afternoon visit to the Capitol. He spoke after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., reassured House rank and file that the Senate will complete the legislation. More than 50 Democratic senators have signed a pledge to do, Reid's spokesman said.

"Is this the single most important step that we have taken on health care since Medicare?" Obama asked lawmakers. "Absolutely."

The legislation, affecting virtually every American and more than a year in the making, would extend coverage to an estimated 32 million uninsured, bar insurers from denying coverage on the basis of existing medical conditions and cut federal deficits by an estimated $138 billion over a decade.

One option on abortion emerged Saturday -- an executive order from Obama -- that would reflect long-standing law barring federal aid for abortions except for cases of rape, incest or when the mother's life is in danger. Party leaders saw that approach as crucial to winning the support of anti-abortion Democrats for the health care bill.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, asked if they were working on an executive order, said simply: "Ask the president."

It was unclear whether the strategy would win support from conservative Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., leader of abortion foes who are opposing the health bill unless tight restrictions are included.

Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., said leaders are closing in on the votes to pass the bill and probably won't need to give Stupak a vote on his language. "That's the likely outcome," he said.

Asked by reporters if she would allow a separate vote on abortion restrictions, Pelosi, D-Calif., seemed to rule it out. "Not on abortion, not on public option, not on single payer, not on anything," she responded. Pelosi met Saturday with three undecided lawmakers who are part of Stupak's group. Eight Democrats joined him Friday co-sponsoring a resolution to "correct" the Senate bill by inserting stronger language.

Pelosi met separately with three anti-abortion Democrats -- Reps. Kathy Dahlkemper and Chris Carney of Pennsylvania, and Steven Driehaus of Ohio. All three had voted in November for Stupak's strict limits on abortion funding.

Stupak's office postponed a news conference the lawmaker had scheduled for Saturday morning. He was later seen on the House floor talking intently with Pelosi.

Along with eight Democrats and one Republican as co-sponsors, Stupak had introduced a resolution Friday that would insert his abortion restrictions as a "correction" to the underlying bill. That would add new complications to the already complex strategy Democrats are pursuing to pass the bill, requiring additional votes on a highly charged issue. Abortion opponents are divided over whether restrictions on taxpayer funding for abortion already in the bill go far enough.

The House Rules Committee worked through the day Saturday to set the terms for the vote. Democratic leaders dropped plans to "deem and pass" the bill with a vote simply on the rule, a procedure used by both parties but one that has been widely criticized for legislation as massive as health care overhaul.

Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said the House would vote on the fix-it companion bill and then the Senate bill. Hoyer said the latter would go to Obama for his signature while the companion bill heads to the Senate. The No. 2 House Democrat said he has seen the letter from Reid indicating he has the necessary votes.

The vote count seemed to be breaking in Obama's favor. (AP)

3:22 PM ET -- House Dem leader: Reid has more than 50 signatures for reconciliation. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said just now that his counterpart in the Senate, Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has presented him and Speaker Nancy Pelosi a letter signed by "more than 50" Senators agreeing to pursue reconciliation fixes to the health care bill.

Asked by the Huffington Post what assurances the House had that the Senate would take up their reconciliation fixes, Hoyer flashed a grin and replied that leadership was quite confident the votes would be there. He then revealed for the first time that a letter had been prepared to assuage nervous House Democrats that at least 51 Senators were committed to passing reconciliation.

Rules Committee Chair Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) earlier quipped that the House would need a "blood oath." Asked on Monday what kind of promise she'd want from the Senate, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi offered: "First-born child. Nothing much."

3:08 PM ET -- House Rules Committee releases text of reconciliation amendment. You can download it from their website HERE.

2:39 PM ET -- Wasserman-Schultz: How the vote tomorrow will work. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz says what will now happen is first a vote on the reconciliation package followed immediately by a vote on the Senate bill. They had wanted to do this all along, she said, but thought they had to do the Senate bill first. The parliamentarian has now ruled it's OK to vote on the 'fixes' to the Senate bill BEFORE actually voting on the Senate bill itself.

2:21 PM ET -- Democrats say no deem and pass. Two Democratic lawmakers tell the Huffington Post that the party will not use the controversial measure known as deem and pass to get health care into law.

Rep. Eliott Engel (D-NY) said the House will vote on the Senate bill first before it considered a separate package of reconciliation changes. Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) confirmed.

2:10 PM ET -- Progressives were ready with public option resolution.

If Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) had agreed to a deal with pro-life Democrat Bart Stupak of Michigan that would have given him a separate floor vote, progressives were ready with their own response: a demand for a floor vote on the public option.

Stupak's legislation would have come in the form of a concurrent resolution "correcting" the Senate health care bill by deleting the current abortion language and inserting his own.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) wanted a similar correction to insert the public insurance option. The resolution will not be introduced because Pelosi has broken off talks with Stupak, and in doing so said that there would be no separate votes on either abortion or the public option.

A copy of the proposed resolution begins: "Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That in the enrollment of the bill H.R. 3590, the Clerk of the House of Representatives shall make the following correction: Add at the end of subtitle D of title I the following new part:" -- followed by 16 pages of legislation that would have created a public option.

2:07 PM ET -- Democrats round up six yes votes so far today for health reform.

Along with Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), Reps. Jim Costa (D-Ca.), Bruce Baley (D-Iowa), Debbie Halvorson (D-Ill.), Baron Hill (D-Ind.) and Bill Owens (D-N.Y.) have all been moved into the yes column.

1:45 PM ET -- Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) will vote for health care reform.

Democrats got a major boost on Saturday when Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) announced he would be voting to support the bill. Connolly's vote had been very much in doubt and his backing gets Speaker Nancy Pelosi one vote closer to the 216 she needs.

"We can choose to set our nation on the path to improving the access to and quality of health care for millions of Americans, young and old, and finally containing the costs of that care, or we can continue the status quo," said Connolly in a statement. "Doing nothing threatens to leave more families without the basic care they need and bankrupt our small businesses, the engine of our economy, as they buckle under the costs of providing insurance for their employees."

Reps. Jim Costa (D-Calif.), Bruce Braley (D-Iowa), and Debbie Halvorson (D-Ill.) are also in the yes column, giving serious momentum to Pelosi. "I believe this reform is necessary and long overdue," said Halvorson in a statement.

1:11 PM ET -- Pelosi open to executive order compromise.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi is open to an executive order clarifying that federal funds cannot be used for abortions.

"I don't know why you all are hung up on this. I'm trying to tell you, it's about the bill," she said. HuffPost asked her about the prospect of an executive order. "An executive order is a different thing. That might be a possibility," she said.

12:58 PM ET -- Rep. DeGette open to executive order compromise on abortion.

The lead pro-choice negotiator in the House said Saturday that she would accept an executive order related to abortion, the latest compromise to be floated to win over pro-life Democrats. "If there was an executive order saying that they weren't going to use federal funds in the bill to pay for abortions that would be fine with me because we've stipulated to that even though we don't like it. It's the compromise we came to way back in July," she said.

12:38 PM ET -- Rep. Diana DeGette says Democrats don't need Stupak.

Rep. Diana DeGette (D-cClo) says that Democrats can pass the bill without Bart Stupak and his allies. DeGette is the leading pro-choice negotiator and a member of the whip team. She said Stupak got no deal. "The speaker has told them there is not going to be a separate vote," she said.

A whip meeting had been scheduled for noon but has been pushed back by floor votes.

12:30 PM ET -- Rep. Defazio meeting with Obama this afternoon

Rep. Peter Defazio (D-Oregon) is meeting with President Obama later Saturday to work out an executive solution to the Medicare disparity issue that has him and a few other members threatening to take down the bill, he told reporters in the Capitol.

12:25 PM ET -- Pelosi says no negotiations with Stupak over abortion language

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told HuffPost Saturday morning, in response to a question about negotiations with Rep. Bart Stupak, that she was moving forward.

"There's no negotiations. We're just proceeding with our vote--getting our votes," she said.

She added that there would be no separate vote on abortion, the public option, or anything else.

12:18 PM ET -- Democrats pick up two more yes votes

Democrats picked up two more yes votes Saturday morning, with Reps. Baron Hill (D-Ind.) and Bill Owens (D-N.Y.) announcing their support. Owens won a 2009 special election in upstate New York on the issue of health care, but had been undecided about his vote on this measure.

The statement from Hill:

"Throughout my congressional tenure, I have heard countless stories of how our current health care system has failed hard-working Hoosier families, and how insurance companies have engaged in unconscionable practices not deployed by any other industry. By voting for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, I'm putting such words into action, and choosing to stand with those that have been shortchanged for far too long.

My concerns about the welfare of my constituents are matched by my concerns about our nation's deficit. This reform version covers more uninsured Americans than the respective House and Senate bills, while also reducing the deficit more effectively. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reported that the revised bill reduces the deficit by one hundred and thirty eight billion dollars during the first ten years of the program, and reduces the deficit by more than one trillion dollars in the second ten years, effectively making it the biggest deficit reduction legislation since 1993.

The health reform legislation, strengthened by the reconciliation bill, finally puts an end to insurance companies denying coverage to the ten thousand Southern Indiana residents with preexisting conditions. And immediately, the bill prohibits insurance companies from dropping people when they get sick, while also eliminating lifetime limits and restrictive annual limits on coverage.

Regarding abortion concerns, I have thoroughly reviewed the language prohibiting federal funding of abortion services and my conscience is clear that both reform bills accomplish the same goal -- no taxpayer funds can be used to pay for elective abortions.

When the roll is called, I will proudly cast my vote in support of a bill that covers thirty-two million Americans, allows all Americans to access a private insurance exchange similar to the one offered to me and my colleagues, stops the abusive practices of insurance companies, and accomplishes those goals in a fiscally-responsible manner."

The statement from Owens:

"To reach a decision on one of the most important choices of my lifetime, I drew on numerous sources in order to gather all the information that I could. I read and studied the Senate legislation, the reconciliation bill, the nonpartisan financial findings from the Congressional Budget Office, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation report on the cost of inaction. I spoke to several representatives of New York State and our immediate community, and met with Congressman Paul Ryan, one of the leading Republican opponents of these bills. I also held numerous meetings with Upstate New Yorkers from every walk of life - from the AARP to working families, from labor unions to tea party members who came to my offices, from small business owners to CEOs of community hospitals. When I could not meet with constituents face-to-face, I held a telephone town hall with 3,700 people, during which a quarter of participants said that health care costs was the top concern, but 44 percent were more concerned with jobs. My staff was available in all five of my offices where thousands of calls were logged. The concerns I heard from constituents demonstrated both the need for health care reform to lower costs and to help our entrepreneurs create jobs.

"The math is sound on this bill. Currently, our nation spends $45 billion each year in uncompensated care alone. It is estimated that premium costs will go up at least another $45 billion, costing our economy at least $90 billion annually. In short, while Americans spend almost $2.5 trillion annually on health care, this legislation makes fiscal sense. For those reasons and many others, I intend to vote in favor of health care reform when it comes before the House of Representatives this Sunday.

"As I said during the decision-making process, I was not swayed by outside opinions, or misinformation campaigns from either side. I gathered all the available facts, and the correct decision was clear. In order to avoid astronomical rises in premiums, to improve our benefits, and to once again put our families - not insurance companies - in charge of their own health care this bill is needed.

"This legislation is necessary to once again return our nation to fiscal health and a robust economy. Should our nation continue down our current unsustainable path, we would be on track to spend one out of every five dollars our country earns on an ineffective health care system. This bill gives us the opportunity to provide health care to most uninsured Americans, and the opportunity to grow jobs in Upstate New York.

"After studying all the facts, I was presented with a simple choice: Do nothing and further burden our families and entrepreneurs, and allow our costs to spiral out of control, or take the first steps to reform our system in a way that will pay for itself and help America pull itself out of the recession.

"I believe this moves our communities and America forward."


6:45 PM ET -- Momentum on Democrats' side for health care vote. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is apparently optimistic about Sunday's vote.

"It's looking good," she said smiling to reporters on Capitol Hill.

Indeed, if all of the remaining undecided Democrats were to vote as they did when health care reform first passed the House in November, the final legislation would pass on Sunday with a handful of votes to spare.

"It's over," declared Larry Sabato, the director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics. The bill "will pass [the] House."


6:30 PM ET -- Vicki Kennedy whipped Stephen Lynch to no avail. Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) one of the few Democrats opposing the bill because it doesn't go far enough, said Friday that he got a call two or three days ago from Ted Kennedy's widow Vicki Kennedy.

"She said Ted had worked at this for quite some time and invoked his name," Lynch told reporters. He regretfully told her he would be opposing the bill, he said. Senate Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) pushed Lynch again today on the House floor. Lynch said he told Hoyer not to waste time on him. He's a firm no.

Rep. Bill Delahunt of Massachusetts said that if Lynch says he's voting no, he's voting no. "He's a man of integrity," said Delahunt.


6:15 PM ET -- Two more for the "yes" column. Rep. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Rep. Scott Murphy (D-NY) will both vote for the bill.

"The vast majority of Americans believe that health care reform is needed. I agree, and after thoroughly reviewing the details of the proposal, I believe it will be far better than the status quo that allows skyrocketing costs to cripple families and small businesses and cause people to lose their care," Peters said, according to the Detroit News. The newspaper reported that Peters was "the last of Michigan's 15 House members to reveal how he'll vote" this weekend.

As for Murphy: "This bill is fundamentally different than the bill we voted on last November," Murphy said, "[it] is not perfect," but he added that he feels "much better" about it, according to the Albany Times Union.

6:00 PM ET -- Cao opens the door after closing it. Hours after he seemed to firmly close the door on supporting health care reform, the one Republican to back the legislation opened the door once more to ultimately voting "yes."

Rep. Joseph Cao (R-La.), who said he was a "firm no" during an interview with CNN on Friday -- citing "insufficient" restrictions on abortion in the legislation being considered -- told the National Review later in the day that he "hopes to reconsider" his position

Cao's hope is that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi can guarantee -- "with certainty" -- that the abortion language will be altered in a separate piece of legislation. Though he also suggested that he is still determining whether he's comfortable with the current language as is.

All of which points to Cao likely crossing the aisle on Sunday provided that he is not the one determining vote. There is no reason for the GOP to demand that he vote "no" (and irk his largely Democratic constituents) if the bill is going to pass anyways. But if he is the difference between passage and failure, the pressure from his Republican colleagues will likely be too tremendous to dismiss.


5:45 PM ET -- The Georgia twosome split their votes. Two Georgia Democratic congressmen are voting in opposite ways on health care reform, local news affiliates report. Neither vote changes the party's calculus in passing the legislation.

Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Georgia), who voted "yes" during the first go-round, will remain in that camp come Sunday, he announced on Friday.

"I'm in a situation where I'm damned if I do and damned if I don't," Bishop said. "And if I'm damned under those circumstances, I want to be damned on [the] side of angels and on the side of right."

Meanwhile, another Blue Dog Democrat, Rep. John Barrow, announced that he will vote "no" on the bill -- the same position he took during the first vote.


5:30 PM ET -- Can you hear me now? White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs just e-mailed reporters word that "since Monday, the President has held 64 meetings or phone calls with Members of Congress on health insurance reform."

Accompanying the email is a photo of Obama making a phone call from the presidential motorcade while on the way to George Mason University to deliver a speech on health care on Friday.

The imagery is persuasive: a president looking cool, calm, business-like as he works the phones. But it also raises the question: what exactly took Obama so long to start the personal diplomacy -- a charge that several lawmakers have leveled at the president. (Sens. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) and Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) both claim to have never heard from the White House about their opposition to a public option for insurance coverage.)


5:15 PM ET -- Florida Dem now a "yes." The Orlando Sentinel reports that Rep. Suzanne Kosmas (D-Fla.) will support the bill. Kosmas was among the group of nearly 40 Democrats who voted against the health care bill last fall.

"I'm going to vote for health care reform," she told the Orlando newspaper. "I know this is not a perfect bill. But in the scheme of things, it provides the best options and the best opportunities for my constituents."


5:10 PM ET -- Indiana Democrat gets behind the bill.
Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D-Ind.) will support health care reform, a spokesman for his office told the Huffington Post on Friday. The Indiana Democrat, despite having supported the bill when it was first considered by the House, was weighing opposition to the legislation because of disagreements with its abortion language. He had been a part of Rep. Bart Stupak's (D-Mich.) noted Gang of 12 holdouts.

But after some party pressure -- and undoubtedly with his forthcoming Senate campaign weighing on his mind -- he decided to remain in the "yes" column.

Here is an excerpt from Ellsworth's statement:

"Like most Americans I was frustrated by this process throughout. Unfortunately many in both parties made snap judgments on whether or not they would support this bill based on politics, not policy. I was sent here to look at all sides of the argument in a thoughtful manner and I knew that the status quo was no longer acceptable. I needed to answer only one question when deciding whether to support this reform: will this bill benefit Hoosiers? Put simply, in my core I know it does."

"There is no issue more important or more personal to every single Hoosier than our health and well-being. My job is to look beyond all the political games, study the bill carefully, and do my best to make the right decision for Indiana."

"After months of meetings and conversations with thousands of Hoosiers, health care experts and pro-life advocates, I am confident supporting health care reform is the right decision for Hoosiers."

4:40 PM ET -- Obama meeting with Dems for last-minute arm-twisting. President Obama will travel to Capitol Hill on Saturday to met with House Democratic lawmakers prior to Sunday's vote.

The meeting, was supposed to have taken place at the White House but was moved to Capitol Hill to accommodate the large number of expected attendees. White House spokesman Reid Cherlin sent the following to reporters just minutes ago;

"Tomorrow's meeting with the House Democratic caucus will be held at 3:00pm in the Cannon Caucus Room."

The president held a similar pre-vote gathering with House Democrats when they first voted on health care legislation back in November.


4:37 PM ET -- Ohio's Kilroy is on board Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy (D-Ohio), who voted for the health care bill last time but was on the fence approaching the second go-round, announced on Friday that she remains supportive of the bill.

"I will vote for the health insurance reform bill that will put our families and small businesses in charge of their health care choices," said the Ohio Democrat. "As many of my constituents know, I live with multiple sclerosis. I understand what millions of Americans with preexisting conditions face, including my constituent who suffers from Parkinson's disease and who was physically harassed by opponents of health insurance reform just this week in front of my office."

Kilroy, who hails from a swing district in Ohio said that the bill was "by no means perfect." But, she added, "it is a big step in the right direction and will save lives. I will not stop fighting for central Ohioans after this vote."

4:25 PM ET -- Pennsylvania Blue Dog isn't convinced. Rep. Jason Altmire (D-Penn.) will oppose the final version of health care reform in the House, a Democratic source tells the Huffington Post. The congressman, a fiscally conservative Blue Dog, was concerned about the bill's cost and its language on abortion.

Altimre did not vote for the bill during the first go-round. So his "no" vote doesn't hurt the party as much as a defection. But the Pennsylvania Democrat had been courted heavily by party leadership, including the White House, for weeks as the vote approached. He was, apparently, unpersuaded.


4:00 PM ET -- Another "yes" flip. Rep. Allen Boyd (D-Fla.) is a yes, after voting no the last time around, the Tallahassee Democrat is reporting. Boyd's flip is a big pick-up for Pelosi. More from the newspaper:

[Boyd] said he studied the revised bill and the Congressional Budget Office report on its costs and benefits. He said "it's not perfect" but that the package meets the four criteria he set forth in a series of 16 meetings across the 2nd Congressional District last summer.

Boyd's flip puts pressure on Suzanne Kosmas (D-Fla.) to follow suit, as Boyd is the Blue Dog Dean of Florida, so to speak. However, if Boyd's vote gives Democrats the number they need, Kosmas could be given a pass. Boyd's seat is much safer than Kosmas, who is a top pick up opportunity for Republicans. She told reporters in the Capitol Friday afternoon that she will make a decision "shortly."


2:50 PM ET -- Perriello is a "yes." Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Va) announced on CNN Friday afternoon that he would vote for the health care bill. More on his decision from the Lynchburg News and Advance on the conditions for his vote in favor of the bill.

2:20 PM ET -- Heath Shuler not budging. North Carolina Democrat Heath Shuler says he is a definite 'no' vote. "I have not waffled one instant. That's coming from people who would like me to waffle," he said, referring to rumors he was reconsidering his position.


2:18 PM ET: Ohio Democrat still not on board. House Democratic leadership and outside groups have not yet been able to convince Rep. Zack Space (D-Ohio) to get on board health care reform, two Democratic sources working on health care tell the Huffington Post.

Space, who previously supported the legislation, announced back in January that he would oppose the Senate's version of reform. Since then, he has been the subject of an intense lobbying campaign, including a discussion with the president on Wednesday.

The arm-twisting, however, has not appeared to pay off. At least not yet, as the union source described the congressman as "being a problem still." Another Democratic official relayed that the White House was in continued conversation with the Ohio Democrat.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka is expected to personally call Space about his position with other union leaders following suit. Local officials are also launching a heightened lobbying effort on Space as well.

Earlier in the day, two of Space's Ohio Democratic colleagues, Reps. Charlie Wilson and John Boccieri, announced that they will support the House's health care reform legislation.


2:00 PM ET: Connecticut Dem adds his support. Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) announced on CNN on Friday afternoon that he would vote in favor of the bill this weekend.

1:45 PM ET: Bobby Rush holding out. President Obama called Rep. Bobby Rush (R-Il) Friday morning to lobby him on health care, Rush told reporters. Rush told the president that a primary objection of his to supporting the bill was the removal of a provision that would extend outpatient discounts on medication to inpatient settings, which would benefit public hospitals.

"It just mysteriously disappeared," Rush said of the previously-agreed-to provision. He said he was told that Big Pharma objected to it.

Rush said he's switched his position from "leaning undecided to very undecided." (Obama assured Rush he was working to fix the language).


1:30 PM ET: Pro-life Democrat getting on board. Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas said he was largely persuaded by arguments that the Senate bill does, in fact, prevent federal funds from paying for abortion.

"I'm almost there," he told reporters on Friday, saying he was swayed by a legal analysis by health care scholar -- and HuffPost blogger -- Timothy Jost. The fact that Rep. Dale Kildee (D-Mich.), Catholic hospitals and nuns backed it also helped convince him.

As a Blue Dog, he said, the CBO numbers were "very impressive."

He said the White House called him the day before yesterday, but he has yet to return the call.

"If I have to talk to him, I'll talk to him," he said. "Whether he's popular or not in my district I won't get into."


1:15 PM ET: Ohio Democrat leaning toward a "yes" vote? The Toledo Blade reports that Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) has indicated she may be thinking about supporting the health care bill.

"I am leaning toward voting for the bill if we can properly deal with the abortion issue and we are fast about that task," Kaptur, an anti-abortion Democrat who voted "yes" on the bill in November, told the Blade.

1:00 PM ET: Defazio may have company. Caucus Chair John Larson (D-Conn.) tells HuffPost that Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA) and Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wisc.) and others -- along with Defazio -- objected to the stripping out of language related to Medicare disparities in the health care bill.

"Several members have expressed concerns," Larson said. We're continuing to meet on that and if we can't fix it because of parliamentary procedure, we believe that there are ways to fix it in other legislation."

Would they buck the party over this?

"I can't speak for them," Larson told HuffPost, "but I know they know how significant and important this historic moment is."


12:25 PM ET: Nevada Dem lends her support.
Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.) released a statement on Friday saying that she would support the health care bill even though it "is not perfect."

"For nearly a year, I have talked with the people of District Three about the need for health care reform," Titus said in the statement. "I have heard horror stories from small business owners who had to lay off workers because of rising health care costs and families that could not get insurance because of a pre-existing condition. While the legislation the House will vote on this weekend is not perfect, it makes critical reforms that provide common sense rules of the road that will give families and small businesses more control over their health care -- not government bureaucrats or insurance company CEOs."

The HuffPost's Ryan Grim reports that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi lobbied Titus hard on the House floor on Thursday, standing over her as the Nevada congresswoman stayed seated. Pelosi repeatedly put her hand on Titus's hand while making her case.

In her statement, Titus pledged to "continue to push for additional reforms" where the legislation -- in her view -- falls short.

A spokesman for Titus, Andrew Stoddard, tells HuffPost that Titus had wanted to speak at a caucus meeting prior to the vote during which she spoke to Pelosi, but the meeting ended while she was still waiting in line. The Speaker approached Titus on the floor, said Stoddard, not to pressure her to vote yes but to ask what she had wanted to say during the meeting. Titus raised questions about the education reform language that had been added to the bill and Pelosi assured her that her concerns would be taken under consideration.

"She wasn't responding to pressure from anyone in Washington," Stoddard said of her subsequent decision to vote yes.


11:55 AM ET: Obama's pitch -- special interests vs. the American public. In a rousing speech before a crowd at a northern Virginia university on Friday, President Obama sent a forceful message to wavering lawmakers.

"I don't know how passing health care will play politically, but i know its right," Obama said.

Then, addressing the cheering crowd at George Mason University, he asked for their help:

"If you believe that its right, then you've got to help me finish this fight," asking them to call lawmakers and apply some pressure of their own.

"We are going to get this done, we are going to make history, we are going to fix health care in America with your help," Obama said as he ended his remarks.


11:30 AM ET: Pelosi weighs in on Defazio's objections. At her press briefing Friday morning, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was asked about Rep. Peter Defazio's objections to the removal of the Medicare disparity fix from the final bill. "We're working on that language," said Pelosi. "I feel comfortable about where we are heading." She said she supports the language that was in the House bill and is working toward restoring it as much as possible.

"We have reached agreement before," she said of the dicey political issue. Defazio said his state receives the fifth lowest Medicare reimbursement rate - some $5,000 per recipient compared to Miami's $16,000.


11:20 AM ET: The White House's Take. White House spokesman Reid Cherlin said it was a "big day" just before President Obama began his remarks at George Mason University in Virginia where he traveled on Friday to make a final push for the health care bill.

11:05 AM ET: Unions cracking down on health care "no" votes. As the Huffington Post has reported, labor unions have been threatening tough consequences for Democratic lawmakers who do not get behind the health care bill, and here's proof: The PlumLine's Greg Sargent reports on Friday that the powerful Service Employees International Union has informed Rep. Michael Arcuri (D-NY) that it is "pulling support for him" over the congressman's refusal to support the bill.

SEIU spokesman Matt Nerzig told Sargent that Jerry Dennis, the president of SEIU local 200 in New York called Arcuri and "told him it'll be very difficult to support him come next election if he's not on this bill," Nerzig said. "The search for alternatives has already begun." In other words, Arcuri can expect that the union will be looking for a primary challenger to run against him.

Politico's Ben Smith reports that the Working Families Party in New York is already "actively recruiting" a candidate to run against Arcuri.


10:45 AM ET: Liberal Dem angry, threatening 'no' vote. Rep. Peter Defazio (D-Ore.) tells HuffPost's Ryan Grim that he currently opposes the health care bill because House leaders removed a measure addressing the geographic imbalance of Medicare spending. Defazio is furious and claims he will oppose the health care bill unless the fix is put it back in (he said he's also angry about stripping the public option). A word of caution though: Defazio often makes noise like this before votes, so he's not a definite 'no' until his vote is cast -- but he was certainly animated.

"Unless they put that back in, I can't support it," Defazio said, referring to the medicare disparity fix. "This is under active discussion. They just decided yesterday morning they're stripping this out. The senate budget committee staff deliberated for 20 minutes and it was out and our leadership was going to accept that. But a number of us involved in the quality health care coalition said that's unacceptable and we're not going to support the bill unless you fix this."

When asked what if the fix violates the Byrd Rule, Defazio responded: "If you can't find language that works you can overrule the parliamentarian...he's just an employee."


10:25 AM ET: Prospects improving for Democrats. Three more Democratic lawmakers -- including to two undecided and one former "no" vote -- have announced, or are expected to announce, on Friday that they would support the latest version of health care reform in the House.

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) said on MSNBC that after changes to the legislation he was now "satisfied that [it] has moved a great deal towards the House bill in terms of compensating [New York] and doing the right thing for health care." (The New York Democrat had backed health care reform when it was first considered by the House back in November but had been coy about supporting it since then.)

Engel was never thought of as a serious threat for defection. But two other lawmakers whose votes were considered up for grabs are now expected to vote "yes" on reform. Rep. Charlie Wilson (D-Ohio), who supported the bill the first go around, will back it again when the vote comes -- as expected -- on Sunday.

"This bill is not perfect, but it is a strong step forward," Wilson said. "I have seen the CBO score and the reconciliation changes for myself. This bill will not add a dime to the deficit. I am confident that the Senate bill will be amended by the reconciliation language and that special deals for certain states, like Nebraska, have been taken out, that affordability for middle class families has been improved and that the harmful excise tax on high cost health plans has been adjusted. For these reasons and for the benefits that this bill will bring to my constituents, I will support the Senate bill with the announced reconciliation changes."

The big get for Democrats, however, is Rep. John Boccieri (D-Ohio). The freshman Democrat had been a member of a group of lawmakers who were threatening to abandon the bill over concerns with its language about abortion financing. Hailing from a district that was won by John McCain during the 2008 election, his seat is considered vulnerable in 2010. But the congressman, who was lobbied heavily on the floor by House leadership on Thursday, announced he was a "yes" vote, despite having opposed the bill the first time around.

"There are to many politicians who are worried about their future instead of the future of the families standing behind me," Boccieri said, with Ohio families draping him in front of the nation's Capitol. "A lot of people ware telling me this decisions could cost me my job... I want my mom to know I am standing up today and doing what I believe in."


Click here for earlier updates on the health care whip count.

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