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With Louisiana’s Joseph Cao’s return to the fold, it now seems guaranteed that all the 178 Republicans in the House will vote against the Senate’s version of the health-care bill, even with some method (legal or not) invented to try to ensure reconciliation. Which means that the bill fails—215 ayes to 216 nays—if 38 of the 253 Democrats in the House vote against it.

You can take your pick of the dozens of whip counts floating around in the nation’s newspapers, but nearly everyone agrees that the Democrats have locked up 189 votes. (Some members of the Hispanic caucus have criticized the bill for its treatment of illegal immigrants, and a handful of representatives have railed against it from the left, mostly for its lack of a public option. In the end, however, all of them will, I believe, vote for the bill—except for Dennis Kucinich, who is so firmly on record in opposition that he probably can’t back down.)

The political statistician Jay Cost has trawled through the news reports and reasonably suggests that 31 Democrats are on record as very firmly opposed (at least, without the Stupak amendment on abortion, now apparently dead). That leaves a pool of 33 Democrats apparently undecided—of whom Pelosi needs to persuade 27 if the bill is to pass.

The Stupak amendment was necessary to pass the House’s first version of the bill. But the current talks on that amendment have broken down, and the reconciliations will not now include an explicit ban on abortion funding (which was always procedurally questionable to handle with reconciliation, anyway).

This suggests that Pelosi thinks she has something very close to the votes she needs. The coalition Stupak put together is, by his own report, decaying. The bill may well pass.

That’s a curious thing. When the Democrats in the Senate lost the election in Massachusetts, which ended their chances of passing a reconciled bill on a purely one-party vote, most commentators expected a fairly quick decline in congressional support for the bill—since the Democratic members had to be whipped into their first support for an unpopular measure, and now, on the second go, they now had political cover for changing their vote.

But over the weeks since the Massachusetts election, we haven’t seen the expected desertions—one figure jumping, followed by another, followed by a torrent of people jumping ship. The uneasy Democratic majority has hung together—even if means that they must be hanged together, defeated in the next election.

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