Progressive Democrats are taking a hard stand on health care reform,
with a majority committing to oppose any health care reform package
that doesn't include a robust public option. On Wednesday, they got an
inadvertent assist by an anonymous leak of their "whip list."
A whip list, which is generally tightly guarded, is used by
congressional leaders to keep track of the private pledges made by
members before a vote. The list is kept private to encourage frank
answers from members so that leadership can gather accurate
The whip list was obtained by Joan McCarter, a DailyKos contributing editor.
It names fifty members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC)
who have firmly pledged to oppose any bill that doesn't meet the
group's standards. Without those fifty votes, Democrats would be unable
to pass the reform effort without Republican support. (Once Judy Chu is
sworn in, there will be 256 Democrats, and one "closet Democrat"; 218 are needed for passage, leaving Democrats 12 votes short.)
Rep. Diane Watson (D-Calif.) is in charge of keeping the whip count
for the CPC. Watson spokeswoman Dorinda White confirmed that the list
is accurate but slightly out of date and that more members have since
confirmed that they'll oppose the bill if it isn't firm enough.
The CPC laid out its requirements in a June statement, demanding a
strong public health care option that is available immediately. See the
Progressives can now argue that the fate of reform depends upon
including a strong public option. Or, alternatively, moving far enough
in the GOP's direction to pick up support from the other side.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said
previously that a bill without a public option "wouldn't have the
votes" in the House -- a diagnosis that appears accurate in light of
the CPC whip list.
Earlier Wednesday, Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), a health care leader in the Senate, said
he'd rather have a good bill than a bipartisan one. "A good bill that
is bipartisan obviously has a chance of not only succeeding but also
being sustained, so there's a value in achieving that bipartisanship,"
he said, adding, "I will not sacrifice a good bill for that. That's not
the goal here."
The House bill, which is being negotiated by three separate
committees, is likely to be more progressive than whatever emerges from
the Senate. The toughest negotiations, then, will be between the House
and the Senate. With progressives swearing not to vote for a weak
compromise between the two chambers, the House has a strengthened hand.
Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), chairman of Ways and Means, one of the
three relevant committees, said on Wednesday that the major fight will
not be compromise among the House panels. "Submerging [the three
committee bills] into one is not nearly going to be as difficult as
bringing the House and Senate together," he said. "That's going to be a
major problem because we are attacking the problem from such a
The blog FireDogLake has been publicly developing
its own whip list, attempting to get members of the CPC on the record
opposing any bill without a robust public option. Activist Mike Stark has been filming the responses of members. They're currently at nine"yes" and 25 "leaning yes."
Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), a key progressive Democrat, has also been quizzing fellow members on tape as to their position on the public plan.
FireDogLake's Jane Hamsher speculates that the list was leaked in response to pressure from the blogosphere.
"They didn't like Mike Stark nailing them on video so they wanted strength in numbers," she said.