Will Democrats Sacrifice House Seats for Health Care?

health care

Republicans have been warning Democrats for weeks that heads will roll after Sunday's health care vote. The question may be, however, just whose "heads" are at stake.

There are about three dozen votes in play right now, and just about all of them belong to congressmen who could be left politically vulnerable because of their vote. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is taking this into consideration as she decides which lawmakers to press for a "yes" vote, the New York Times reports.

"There are, of course, very few votes to spare," the Times' Jeff Zeleny reports. "Yet there are some. And even most Republican leaders concede that the mystery is not so much whether Democrats will reach the magic number of 216, but rather whose names will be included as yes votes in the final count."

Democratic Rep. John Boccieri of Ohio acknowledged the political risk involved when he announced this morning he would vote in favor of the bill. Boccieri voted against the House bill last year.

"I'm not worried about the election," he said at a press conference. "I'm worried about doing what's right."

CBS News Capitol Hill Producer Jill Jackson noted in her comprehensive list of votes to watch that the first-term Boccieri was under intense pressure in his relatively conservative district to vote against the bill and even declined an invitation to join President Obama for his recent health care rally in Ohio.

Democratic leaders are seeking out "yes" votes from less vulnerable Democrats, according to the Times, such as Tennessee Rep. Bart Gordon, who is retiring this year. Gordon announced yesterday he will vote for the bill, even though he voted against the House bill.

In spite of all the reported political calculations, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said today on the CBS "Early Show" that the health care vote will not hurt the Democrats in the November midterm elections.

"I'm very confident that when this bill is passed and people review what it will do for them, their families, small businesses, and the deficit reduction, I think they'll say this is a good policy for our country," Hoyer said.

House Minority Leader John Boehner said today that Democratic leaders are misguided if they believe the bill is going to be more popular after it is passed -- or that people will forget about its unpopular elements.

"We will be talking about this for months and months to come," Boehner told reporters. "The American people are going to hear about every payoff, every kick back and every sweetheart deal that comes out."

Meanwhile, if the bill does not pass, it may be President Obama's political capital that suffers. There have been reports that Mr. Obama has suggested to House Democrats that he personally needs their votes, or else his presidency will be weakened. CBS News Chief White House Correspondent Chip Reid questioned the White House about this, but Press Secretary Robert Gibbs dodged the question.

Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich said this week that he was changing his "no" vote to a "yes" vote to help Mr. Obama.

"I have many differences with him on policy," Kucinich said, "but there's something much bigger at stake here for America."

Republicans have pounced on reports that Democrats are considering the political implications of Sunday's vote for the president or any other Democrat.

"This bill isn't about saving the presidency, or saving a politician," Boehner said today. "This bill is about doing the right thing for the American people."

Meanwhile, conservative advocacy groups plan to mobilize conservative voters by exploiting the health care vote. Americans for Prosperity has launched the site NovemberIsComing.com to gather signatures from voters pledging to vote against any representative who votes for the health care bill.

More Coverage of the Health Care Reform Debate:

The Hunt for Health Care Votes: Democrats to Watch
Obama: Health Care Debate is About Country's Character
Obama Deploys Personal Presidential Touch
Dem Health Care Bill Pegged at $940B Over 10 Years
Washington Unplugged: Nancy Cordes on the Final Countdown
Dueling News Conferences
Steny Hoyer: Health Care Vote Won't Cost Us in Nov.
Stupak Wants Separate Abortion Bill or He Won't Support Health Care Bill
Glenn Beck, Steve King: Health Care Bill Vote an Affront to God
CBSNews.com Special Report: Health Care

Details on the Bill:

What's in Health Care Bill? Take a Dose
Health Care Special Deals: What's Left In?
Read the Text (PDF): Complete Senate Bill | Reconciliation Measure

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