MSNBC and C-SPAN are reporting that Michigan Democrat Bart Stupak will vote for the bill, bringing along at least half a dozen votes with him. Apparently, an executive order on abortion that the White House had been negotiating with Stupak is what pushed him over the edge. Stupak, a pro-life Democrat, nearly derailed the passage of health care reform through the House in November when he and more than a dozen pro-life Democrats refused to vote for the bill unless stringent language barring the use of federal funds to subsidize abortions be included. Stupak had said that the Senate’s language did not go far enough to appease him.
Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson of Connecticut said this morning that Dems now have the 216 votes to pass health care reform this evening. The House convenes at 1pm. The Speaker’s office is saying that final passage probably won’t occur until 9:30pm tonight. That could potentially stretch later as Minority Leader John Boehner has threatened to use leadership floor privileges — which grant him unlimited time to talk (during the global warming debate he worried Dems that he might filibuster when he launched into an hour-long speech against the bill) — to read the entire 2,300-page bill. If that happens Dems say they’ll reconvene tomorrow to pass the bill rather than stretching the session too late into the night.
Meanwhile, large crowds remained gathered outside the House — both supporters and detractors of the bill (though the detractors are much louder, their chants of “Kill the Bill” could be heard from the Senate side). These crowds got really ugly yesterday shouting the N-word at Civil Rights legend John Lewis as he walked by and “Faggot” at Rep. Barney Frank, one of only a handful of openly gay members of Congress. Also today on the mall in front of Congress thousands of pro-immigration protesters are gathering, adding extra headaches for the Capitol Police. But, as one officer cheerfully noted to me on my way into the building, at least the weather’s nice. Indeed, it’s 80 degrees and gloriously sunny. Too bad I’ll be spending the whole afternoon in the chilly marble corridors of the House (yes, I expect enormous crocodile tears of pity). More to come as the afternoon unfolds.