Health Reform. It's been going on for a year, but we have yet to see a law. The original House vote, you may recall, was a close 220-215. To remind you all, 218 is required in the full House for a majority and passage. That means Nancy Pelosi only has three votes to spare. However, due to a few retirements and the death of John Murtha (D, PA) plus the now 'nay' vote of Joseph Cao (R, LA), the Speaker is down to 216, maximum. Add to that the number that Bart Stupak has said won't vote for the Obama proposal because of abortion language issues, and it looks as though the House is 10-15 votes from passage.
Timothy Noah at Slate has a great article on the whip count. Others have come up with different numbers (mostly due to Representatives being cagey about their positions), but all seem to point to one common fact: there are not enough votes in the House to pass health care reform in its current state.
Here's a question for any enterprising young Constitutional scholars out there: the Constitution does not require that the House or Senate pass their bills with a simple majority, yes (See U.S. Const. Art. I, Sec. 7 "Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States.")? Note that "which shall have passed" does not say that it must pass with a majority. That makes me think that the requirement for a majority is found in the standing rules of the House and Senate. However--does having fewer people in the House (due to retirements and deaths) lower the passage threshhold? To rephrase it diffrerently: the House, at full capacity, has 435 members, meaning that for 50% +1 vote to be reached and a bill passed, it needs 218 'yeas'. If there are only 430 members of the House, does that suddenly mean that only 216 votes are necessary? Does anyone know the answer to this?
UPDATE: I haven't found the reference, but that's obviously the case. The House, currently, due to members that have resigned/died only needs 216 votes to pass, not 218. I'm still interested in the procedural question, though. Each chamber can make its own rules and determine what it means for a bill to be constitutionally 'passed.' That seems weird. It also means that anyone claiming the filibuster is 'unconstitutional' is batty. And wrong.