New York Democratic Rep. Eric Massa walked out of Congress and straight into the scandal spotlight this week, offering a laundry list of reasons for resigning as he made the rounds on evening talk shows. When CNN's Larry King asked, "Why did you resign - health, ethics, Democratic leadership, what?" his response was "All of the above." Amid questions about cancer and "groping" male staffers, Massa repeated his assertion that he was pushed out by the Democratic leadership to improve the party's odds of passing health care reform - an allegation House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer calls "absurd."
Regardless of whether he was pushed out or not, Massa's departure changes the dynamics in the House by reducing the number of votes needed for a majority. And if it comes down to one or two votes, he says, "You'd better believe it makes a difference."
Fact Check: Could Eric Massa's resignation from Congress be the key to passing health care reform?
- Massa was one of 39 Democrats who voted against the health care reform bill when it passed the House in November by a 220-215 vote. His exit eliminates one of the "no" votes Speaker Nancy Pelosi faces as she seeks enough votes to pass the Senate version of the bill. And by all accounts, the vote will be close. Three others who supported the plan are no longer in Congress. Rep. John Murtha, D-Pennsylvania, died in February, and Democrats Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii and Robert Wexler of Florida have resigned. And another Democrat, Rep. Parker Griffith of Alabama, switched parties and is now a Republican.
- Massa told King that "once I'm gone, literally it becomes a 215 vote. And it's going to pass by one, maybe two votes. And when you get that close, where it's that calculated about who gets a pass and who doesn't, you'd better believe it makes a difference."
- Massa's resignation from the House on Monday leaves four vacant seats, reducing the current number of representatives to 431. Half that number is 215.5, so a bill now needs 216 votes to pass, assuming all members vote. Massa's figure of 215 may have mistakenly factored in Rep. Nathan Deal, a Georgia Republican who announced he was quitting, then decided to stay through
the health care vote. Before Massa left, a bill needed 217 votes to pass.
- Without Massa, there are 253 Democrats remaining in the house, 37 of whom who voted against the House bill. If 37 of them also voted against the Senate bill and all other Democrats voted yes, there would be 216 "yes" votes, just enough to pass.
- If Massa had not resigned, Democrats would have 254 members, 38 of whom voted against the House bill. If all 38 voted against the Senate bill, and all the other Democrats voted for it, there would be 216 "yes" votes, one shy of the 217 needed to pass.
Massa's exit definitely helps the pro-health care vote by removing a likely "no" vote and lowering the number of votes needed to pass a bill from 217 to 216. And if all House Republicans voted "no," and all remaining Democrats who voted "no" in November did so again, and the rest of the Democrats voted "yes," Massa's departure could end up being the key to passage. But that's only one of many possible scenarios, and there are plenty of other votes in play - especially since there is still no official language for members to consider.
- CNN's Craig Broffman and Robert Yoon contributed to this Fact Check.
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