Just as President Obama thought single-payer holdout Dennis Kucinich had bought in to the Democrats’ health care package, Minnesota’s own Jim Oberstar is now back in doubt.
Oberstar, after reportedly having words with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, appears to have backed off the assurance he gave last weekend, when he said he was “prepared” to vote for health care.
The Iron Range Democrat’s latest utterance to Washington reporters, from a closing elevator door, was “I’m a strong, likely yes vote.”
Since “strong” and “likely” don’t often go together in the same sentence, Hot Dish sought clarification from Oberstar press guy John Schadl.
“He’s not 100 percent in the yes column,” Schadl said Thursday.
According to Schadl, that’s not a change from last week. “He’s precisely where he’s been.”
“Prepared,” to vote yes apparently isn’t a definite yes in the semantics of the Capitol. Much like buying a house, the deal isn’t done ‘till you go to settlement. Oberstar, a Roman Catholic who opposes abortion, has expressed reservations about abortion funding language in the final bill.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is on record strenuously opposing the Senate health care bill, the one that is now before the House. On the other side, a group of nuns and other liberal Catholic theologians has come out arguing that the bill upholds restrictions that have been in federal law for more than 30 years.
“He just needs to see the deal come together in a way that he can vote for it,” Schadl said.
By all accounts, the pressure has been building all week, helped in no small part by a major dust-up over a proposed legislative maneuver that could bypass a direct vote on the Senate bill in the House this weekend.
Bart Stupak, the Michigan Democrat who has encouraged a group of "pro-life" lawmakers like Oberstar to hold out on the abortion issue, says his life has become a “living hell” because of the debate.
If Washington has a pre-existing condition, it might be called Wavering Semantics Syndrome.