Do Dems Have the Votes for Health Care?

Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., the House Majority Whip (left), and Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., the DCCC Chair, on "Face the Nation" Sunday, March 21, 2010.
Updated 11:50 a.m. ET

With the House vote on health care only hours away, the question on everyone's minds is whether Democrats have the 216 votes needed to pass the bill.

"We're going to get the votes to go over the top," Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), said on CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday morning.

Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), the House Majority Whip who is in charge of counting the votes for the Democrats, was confident about the vote but did not reveal how many votes Democrats still needed, telling host Bob Schieffer that he was "not going to talk about that 216 number until such time as we get to the floor."

"We do believe that the issues that are of concern to people, you know, like racial disparities in health care, we have been talking about that but it's been regional disparities that has caused us the problem in this health care bill. We are trying to make sure that we reconcile those differences in such a way that every state, every community feels that they are in fact getting the just return on their investment," he said. "So these issues have caused us to really be very, very careful as we move to the final vote."

Van Hollen talked about the momentum Democrats have been claiming as the vote comes closer.

"What we've seen is in our recent weeks and months as our members have gone back to their districts and talked with their constituents, they're getting the very clear signal that the status quo is unacceptable," he said. "We have a system where the health insurance industry continues to increase premiums by huge amounts, turn down constituents for coverage based on pre-existing conditions, have fine print in health care policies to deny access to care when people need it the most and that the status quo is just unacceptable. That has built this consensus to get this done."

The latest CBS News count of the votes shows that Democrats are still a few votes short, with several Democrats still undecided, at least publicly.

The Hunt for Health Care Votes: Democrats to Watch
Obama to House: Health Care Reform is in Your Hands Special Report: Health Care

Earlier on Sunday, other key Democrats also weighed in on whether they had the votes needed to pass the bill.

While House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer predicted victory, he also admitted that Democrats were still a few votes short. He told NBC's "Meet the Press" that some Democratic representatives were "still looking at it and trying to make up their minds."

Rep. John Larson, the chairman of the House Democratic caucus, was more confident in an interview on ABC News' "The Week," saying "We have the votes now as we speak."

As the vote nears, Clyburn also gave an update on key negotiations involving the issue of abortion in the bill, which has kept several Democrats from expressing support for the bill, most notably Rep. Bart Stupak of Michigan. While House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said yesterday there would be no separate vote on a bill to address those concerns, there are discussions with the White House for President Obama to issue an executive order.

"I don't think it's quite settled yet, but I think it will be by late afternoon," Clyburn said. "Stupak and I spent a lot of time together last evening. I've seen him on one of the networks saying we are very, very close. I think we'll be there by the time that we vote. I fully expect that we'll get the votes that are necessary."

Van Hollen, the chairman of the Democrats' congressional campaign committee, also addressed concerns that this vote will hurt Democratic candidates in the fall midterm elections.

"Once we pass this bill, everyone will see right away that all those horror stories are not going to come true," he said. "The world is not going to come to the end. It's not going to be Armageddon. There won't be the death panels. They'll begin to see the benefits. We'll be closing the donut hole so seniors have more help for their prescription drugs. We're going to make sure there are lifetime limits on out of pocket costs. There are a lot of benefits that people will see. They'll see a lot of the hysteria and the fear mongering was just not true."

On another note, Clyburn also addressed an incident yesterday where protestors against the bill on Capitol Hill yelled racial epithets aimed at black House members.

"The last time I saw anything like that was back in 1960," he said. "I celebrated a week ago the 50th anniversary of the march in Orangeburg, the so-called Orangeburg Seven of which I was one. Two others, three of us, got together with some students last Monday to talk those experiences. We were telling those students how this kind of stuff was behind us. I suspect that I might have to modify some of that after yesterday."

More Coverage of the Health Care Reform Debate:

CBS Sunday Morning: Obama's Bill of Health
Rep.: Protesters Yelled Racial Slurs
Schedule for House Health Care Vote
House Dems Abandon "Slaughter Solution" for Health Bill
Obama Has Given 54 Speeches on Health Care
Obama Deploys Personal Presidential Touch
Dem Health Care Bill Pegged at $940B Over 10 Years

Details of the Bill:

What's in Health Care Bill? Take a Dose
Health Care Special Deals: What's Left In?
Dems Include Student Aid Reform Package in Bill
Health Care Bill Extends Tax to Investments
Read the Text (PDF): Complete Senate Bill | Reconciliation Measure