Multiple anonymous sources (quite a day for anonymous sources, eh?), are telling the Huffington Post that Harry Reid is only one or two votes shy of reaching cloture on health care bill with some sort of opt-out public option:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is just one or two Senate votes shy of having a filibuster-proof majority in favor of a public option for health insurance coverage with a provision allowing states to opt-out, multiple sources tell the Huffington Post.
The first thing to keep in mind is that whip counts don't exactly work on a vote by vote basis. It is true that the leadership keeps a hard count, but many of the members who are considered solid "yes" votes can switch to undecided at times like these. When they sense the leadership really wants something, switching to "undecided" gives members a chance to negotiate something for their district.
Second, for what it is worth, my best guess based on information I have seen is that Evan Bayh is the "one" vote Reid is short (I feel good about that guess), and Ben Nelson is the "or two" vote that Reid is short (although I feel less sure about that guess). Here is why (more in the extended entry):
Mark Pryor, Joe Lieberman and Mary Landrieu have all said they are leaning against joining a filibuster. It doesn't mean they are solid yes votes for the reason I stated above, but right now they don't appear to be the main obstacles.
Max Baucus and Kent Conrad have never threatened to filibuster, and are highly unlikely to do so given both their leadership positions (committee chairs) and their role in crafting the overall legislation.
Two different sources have given me two different lists, each composed of three Democratic Senators, who are considered direct threats to filibuster. While four names total were provided in those two lists, only Evan Bayh and Ben Nelson appeared on both of the lists. Again, take that for what it is worth, since the situation is in flux, and since both I, and my sources, have been wrong before.
"It's not fair to ask people to facilitate the enactment of policies with which we ultimately disagree," said moderate Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.). "So the closer we get to the end of the process, the more, for me, the process and policy will be one and the same."
That is a direct threat to filibuster, and it is out in the public record. It strongly leads me to believe that Evan Bayh is the "one" vote that Reid is short.
While I don't have nearly the same supporting evidence, I think that Ben Nelson is the "or two." He backed away from the opt-out public option yesterday, after initially making some supportive comments. Granted, he isn't threatening to filibuster in the same way that Bayh is, so Nelson might not be the "or two."
In addition to the very reasonable chance that my speculation here is wrong, it is also quite possible that Reid is actually more than one or two votes away, thus devaluing this entire process. Still, for what it is worth, Evan Bayh and Ben Nelson are my best guesses on the one or two votes needed for the cloture on the opt-out in the Senate.