Bart Stupak and the congressional leaders are in a complicated mating dance. In a bold courting move this morning leadership sources leaked that the Michigan Democrat was a Yea. Not so quick, replied Stupak’s office. Coyly, he said, he’s still in talks and reviewing the executive order. Word back from leadership sources is that Rep. John Dingell, the dean of the House and the Michigan delegation, is working on bringing Stupak around and that they’re “on the fine print” of a deal. Stupak, a Dingell protege, was in tears when Dingell lost his House Energy and Commerce gavel to Henry Waxman last year. Health care reform has been Dingell’s top priority during his 54 years in office and, in fact, the House bill was named for him. If Stupak does finally vote for the bill, it’ll be thanks to Dingell’s persuasion.
Meanwhile, the protesters are outside and inside the chamber. Some protesters have been encouraging their brethren to sign up for tours of the chamber and whilst there stand up and disrupt proceedings. Thus far two have and were promptly arrested. The first time a man shouted, “Kill the bill,” prompting cheers from some Republicans. Democrats were immediately outraged, citing the sanctity of chamber decorum. “It’s dangerous to be encouraging these people inside the chamber,” Rep. Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat, told reporters afterwards. “It’s outrageous and appalling.” Soon after Rep. Mike Pence, the No. 3 House Republican, emerged from the chamber saying the protesters’ removal was “appropriate,” and “we will observe the decorum of the chamber throughout the day.” The chants of the hundreds of protesters below could be heard from the Speaker’s Lobby off the House floor and giddy GOP members took advantage of the House’s Eva Peron-style balcony to wave to protesters and hold up their own hand-drawn “Kill the bill” signs, provoking roaring responses below.