Following the Senate’s big news yesterday on the public option, some House progressives have been feeling bullish about the chances for the strong version of the public plan, as I reported yesterday. But they aren’t quite there yet. After a House Democratic caucus meeting this morning, Representative Raul Grijalva said that the House had between 206 and 210 votes to support the strong version of the public option, which would reimburse providers based on Medicare plus 5 percent. “It’s still being contemplated,” he told me this afternoon. The whip count means the strong option is still at least eight votes short of the 218 it needs for passage, in the best case scenario.
“The resistance point is the Blue Dogs, of course,” said Grijalva, co-chair of the House Progressive Caucus, though he added that it wasn’t clear why all of the hold-outs were opposed to the strong option--whether they would, in fact, vote for the weaker version of the public option based on negotiated reimbursement rates, or whether they were opposed to the public option altogether.
That being said, Grijalva maintained that the House would have its bill finalized “in the next few days,” confirming reports that the legislation would be out this week--and he said that Democrats shouldn’t need to make any more concessions to get the votes the strong option needs. Senate Majority leader Harry Reid has already indicated that the Senate’s opt-out option will be based on negotiated rates. Which means that it’s now or never for liberals to put Medicare-linked rates on the final negotiating table.
Update: Greg Sargent just posted an internal document showing that a preliminary whip count tallied less than 200 votes for the strong public option. But Adam Sarvana, Grijalva's communications director, said the list "isn't definitive" and that the Congressman had more detailed information about some of the swing votes' views. "Three or four of the Leaning No's will come over. Of the No's, we will have four more of them," Sarvana said, adding that Grijalva believed all of the undecideds "except for one" would come over. That would bring the total to about 207.
Suzy Khimm is a senior editor at The New Republic.