When Republicans talk about tomorrow's vote on the Repeal of the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act, they engage in some magical thinking. A month ago, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton was musing about the possibility for a supermajority House vote for repeal, enough Democratic support to override a veto. There's less of that optimism now. At a press conference to announce hundreds of thousands of petitions in support of repeal, gathered by the web site RepealItNow, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) was guessing at low Democratic support.
"I put a number out there," said King. "Fifteen Democrats. Now, I hope it's more than that. I'm hopeful that as the debate goes on there will be more Democrats that come over to our side on repeal."
A reporter pointed out to King that only 13 current members of the Democratic conference voted against the health care bill in March 2010.
"I didn't actually calculate it that way," he said. "I took a look at what was left of their caucus and picked a number. Apparently your research is more effective than mine."
An hour earlier, Majority Leader Eric Cantor took multiple questions on the legislation and insisted that it had a chance in the Senate. "If Harry Reid is so confident that the members of that body are where he is," he said. then let's see a vote for that body." Later, however, he acknowledged just how hard a full repeal was going to be. "If we are unsuccessful in seeing the Senate take up the repeal bill and the president signing a repeal bill of Obamacare, we will do everything we can to delay and defund implementation of the bill." Cantor chuckled as he contemplated the president signing legislation undoing reforms he'd spent all of his political capital on.
Back to King: I asked him what he made of polling that shows support for health care reform repeal slipping slightly, like an AP poll that shows support for flat-out repeal down 6 points since the election.
"When I look at those numbers, those who are intensively for repeal of ObamaCare outnumber those who intensively support it," said King. It was a long haul debate, and Congress needed to stay on it. That was in line with what many Republicans are saying about this vote being the first step in a lengthy process.