Health Reform Passes!
After 14 months, the Democrats pass their flagship legislation.
Updated Sunday, March 21, 2010, at 11:55 PM
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March 21, 2010, 11:30 p.m.: The House passes the Senate bill, 219-212. Every single Republican and 34 Democrats votes nay. It passes anyway. Reconciliation bill expected to pass by similar margin. Even if it doesn't pass at all, Congress has enacted health care reform. Chance of passage: 100 percent.
March 21, 2010, 4:45 p.m.: Bart Stupak announces that he has reached a deal with the White House: He will support the bill and President Obama will sign an executive order clarifying that taxpayer money will not be used to fund abortions. With the highest-profile Democratic holdout now on board, passage is almost certain later today. Pelosi's strategy to speak softly and carry a giant gavel pays off. Chance of passage: 98 percent.
March 21, 2010, 12:20 p.m.: Zach Space says no, and Loretta Sanchez is leaning no. Both are former yeas. Sanchez could possibly be arm-twisted, but she's in Florida and may not show up for the vote. That increases former yeas-turned-nays to 12 or 13, eight of them Stupak-ites, dropping the ayes from 214 of the necessary 216 to 212 or 213. Sentiment grows that the executive-order deal will have to be made with pro-lifers. Tea-party protesters give the bill an inadvertent assist by calling John Lewis (a hero of the civil rights movement) "nigger" and Barney Frank "faggot." Democratic leaders can say: You really want to be on this team? Chance of passage: 80 percent.
March 20, 2010, 5:45 p.m.: Slaughter strategy is dropped; House will vote separately on Senate bill and reconciliation. Pro-life Carney says yes, dropping out of Stupak caucus and reducing it to eight. That's 214 of the needed 216. Possible Stupak deal: executive order reiterating Senate bill's government-funded-abortion ban and de-linking it from annual Hyde amendment renewal. Vote so close it may not be necessary! Chance of passage: 85 percent.
March 20, 2010, 12:50 p.m.: Kosmas and Murphy join the Democratic nays-turned yeas, who now number seven (others: Kucinich, Gordon, Markey, Boccieri, Boyd). Yeas-turned-nays still number 11 (Cao, Costello, Donnelly, Driehaus, Lipinski, Stupak, Berry, Carney, Rahall, Lynch, Arcuri; all but the last two base opposition on abortion) with a possible 12th (DeFazio) waiting in the wings. That's 213 of the needed 216. Stupak cancels press conference; is his "enrollment corrections" scheme dead? Chance of passage: 80 percent.
March 19, 2010: The yeas-turned-nays lose one (Gutierrez cancels a planned defection over immigration) and gain two (Lynch, whose reasons for switching are incoherent, and Rahall, who declares himself a Stupak-ite), netting to 11. Post-Kucinich pickups from last time's 38 Democratic nays: Gordon, Markey, Boccieri, and Boyd. That's 211 of the needed 216, assuming no further slippage (which we can't). A last-minute possible deal with six Stupak-ites promising a future abortion vote could bring it home. Chance of passage: 80 percent.
March 18, 2010: The Congressional Budget Office says the reconciliation bill, in combination with the Senate bill, will save $138 billion over 10 years and extend coverage to 32 million instead of the previous 31 million. Obama's price controls decoy is gone; the parliamentarian said it failed to meet reconciliation requirements. Chance of passage: 77 percent.
March 17, 2010, 6:12 p.m.: The heads of more than 50 U.S. Catholic women's religious orders endorse Obamacare. "[D]espite false claims to the contrary," the nuns write, "the Senate bill will not provide taxpayer funding for elective abortions." Waxman releases a district-by-district analysis of the bill's benefits. Gordon and Kosmas, both former nays, are starting to look like yeas. That would give Pelosi 210 of the 216 she needs. But where's the damn reconciliation bill?Chance of passage: 75 percent.
March 17, 2010, 11:15 a.m.: Kucinich switches from nay to yea under fierce White House pressure. Not a trend: Kucinich (and now-departed Massa) were the only Democrats to oppose from the left. Possibly a different trend: Obama is channeling LBJ! Kucinich gives Pelosi a likely 208 out of the necessary 216. But a bad CBO score (two days overdue) could still blow it. So could mutiny over the Slaughter strategy. Chance of passage: 65 percent.
March 16, 2010: How many divisions does the pope have? Stalin's famous query acquires a special urgency as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops takes an apparent final stand against Obamacare. The Hill sees the bill losing 10 former yeas. Six (Cao, Costello, Donnelly, Driehaus, Lipinski, and Stupak) are members of the " Stupak 12" and two more ( Berry and Carney) aligned with Stupak this month. The final two are Arcuri, who prefers incremental reform, and Gutierrez, who can't abide the bill's treatment of illegals, leaving 207 votes. David Dayen of Firedoglake says it's 205 with leaners. Pelosi needs 216. Dick Armey thinks she'll get 'em! Chance of passage: 60 percent.
Timothy Noah is a former Slate staffer. His book about income inequality is The Great Divergence.
Chris Wilson is a Slate contributor.
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