In Nancy Pelosi's increasingly tense struggle to pass health care reform in the House, every vote is critical. Thanks to Nathan Deal, the Democrats' task is one vote easier.

The Republican congressman from Georgia announced his resignation from the House, effective next Monday. Deal's abrupt departure is widely believed to be a ploy to short-circuit a House Ethics Committee investigation ahead of a campaign for governor. Whatever the reason, the resignation lowers the number of sitting House members to 431, which pushes the threshold for passing health care reform down to 216.

Conservative bloggers immediately erupted, vociferously deriding Deal for bringing 'Obamacare' one step closer to completion. The reaction from the left was more reserved, as liberal bloggers voiced their optimism but cautioned that Pelosi still has a long way to go.

  • Tough to 'Deal' With "Apparently Rep. Nathan Deal (R., Ga.) thinks he can help his gubernatorial campaign by being known as 'the House Republican who helped pass Obamacare,'" hisses the National Review's Jim Geraghty. Fuming at the Democrats being one step closer to health care reform, he throws a parting shot Deal's way. "It's been noted that this resignation cancels an impending House Ethics Committee investigation. Somehow, I doubt this sudden announcement will put that issue to rest."
  • Could Prove Very Costly At RedState, an irate Erick Erickson outlines the many ways Deal's resignation hurts Republicans, not to mention the political process in Georgia. "To bring this all home, it also means the Democrats have one less vote they have to struggle to get to pass health care," he concludes. "Nathan Deal decided to make it all about himself and in the process is making it easier for Democrats to pass Obamacare and harder for Georgia to save money. Well played."
  • Good News, But... Talking Points Memo's Brian Beutler is subdued in his celebration, summing up liberal's health care reform angst in one tortured paragraph.
The four empty seats brings the number of serving House members down to 431. Which means that--if everybody's present and voting, a health care bill can pass the House on a paper-thin 216-215 margin. That may sound like good news for Pelosi--and in some ways it is. But recall that all three of those Democrats--Wexler, Abercrombie, and Murtha--were "yes" votes. She needs two fewer votes than she'd need if the House was fully seated. But she's lost three.
  • Any Progress is Good Progress Though Steve Benen echoes Beutler's sentiments, he mixes a little optimism into his analysis. "The bad news is Pelosi and the Democratic leadership have lost four reform supporters (Wexler, Murtha, Abercrombie, and Joseph Cao, who has said he's changed this mind). The good news is, the margin for error is a little more favorable with the lower 'magic number' for success." In the end, the Washington Monthly blogger can't help but be heartened by Deal's resignation.
Deal's departure gives the Democrats a bit of a hand, and given the challenge, every little bit helps.