There’s a danger in going by random news accounts from local reporters when it comes to the health care vote to determine whether a member supports or opposes the bill. In putting together my whip count on health care I tried to corroborate these reports with direct contact with Congressional offices, particularly on those “undecided” votes who supported the bill previously. As I said before, with Jim Clyburn not even whipping yet it’s difficult to actually assess the state of these members’ positions.

I just got off the phone with Sarah Hersh, the communications director for Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA). He was quoted in the Morgan Hill Times as opposing the health care bill. However, Hersh told me that his statements were paraphrased and mischaracterized by the reporter.

McNerney certainly has concerns with the Senate proposal, in particular the backroom deals that favored some states over others, and the level of coverage (31 million, down from 36 million in the Senate bill). But McNerney wants to see some fixes, and will hold for language before making a full appraisal of how to vote. When told that the reconciliation fixes under consideration included an elimination of those backroom deals, Hersh said that such changes “would certainly go a long way” toward making the Congressman more comfortable voting for passage. She expected to see “a number of corrections made” in the press about where McNerney stands.

This is why I’m fairly confident in my view of where things stand. You can get a sense, either by how news reports are phrased or the language used when talking to legislative aides, where a member of Congress really stands on the bill. And my assessment of McNerney is that he’ll end up being there at the end. Therefore, he will not go on my whip count list.

By the way, to those dismissive of a whip count project, this episode shows its importance. It forces the decisions into the public sphere and allows for just a smidgen of transparency. Whether you support or oppose health care, you ought to know where people stand.