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February 24, 2010

"This Is a Career Ending Vote:" Reconciliation Tough in Senate, But Even Tougher in House
Update: 15-20 Votes Shy?

I feel a little better having read this.

I keep wondering if the reconciliation threat is genuine or kabuki for the we-need-a-win hyperpartisan superfans in the nutroots -- who view this as basically nothing but a sporting event in which their quarterback hero Barack Obama needs a comeback.

This article suggests it's the latter. Many Democrats truly want reconciliation -- but not, hopefully, enough for a majority in either house.

Worth reading in full.

In Monday's blueprint, the president made the decision -- certainly audacious and perhaps foolhardy -- to press for the comprehensive, near-trillion-dollar package. Getting there would require two steps. The Senate, using the majority-vote process of reconciliation, would tweak the measure as suggested by the president. The House would pass both the tweaks and the underlying Senate bill.

The arithmetic of this approach is unforgiving. Even before the shock of losing the Massachusetts Senate seat, there was no margin for error in either house. Now the politics in both chambers have become that much harder.

The House wants the Senate to lead, for a change. For parliamentary reasons, this is unlikely. But no matter what the order, getting even 50 Senate votes will be a challenge. Some Democrats are reluctant to take this divisive step. Assuming enough can be brought along, Republicans will be able, even under reconciliation rules, to bring the Senate to a virtual standstill.

That would be the easy part.

In the House, the only way to cobble together a majority will be to secure votes from moderate Democrats who balked at passing the bill the first time around. These are the lawmakers who are most rattled by the Massachusetts vote -- with good reason. For a Democratic House member in a swing district, the politics counsel against voting yes. "This is a career-ending vote," one Democrat told me -- and this was a lawmaker who voted for the original bill.

Specifics on the House follows. Only 220 votes passed the bill originally, and due to resignations, deaths, and defections, five votes from that tally have been lost. Five or more votes will be lost with Joe Stupak, who calls the Senate bill's abortion language "unacceptable." There are hard-core liberals who voted against the bill initially -- for not going far enough -- who might be induced to vote for it since their boyfriend Captain Wonderful so desperately needs to give his socialist agenda some momentum, but not enough.

Leaving it to the Blue Dogs -- two of whom are retiring and may be persuaded to stick it royally to their constituents of several decades on the way out. But what about the rest?

I think triangulation comes into play -- some of these guys are going to figure out they need to triangulate against Obama if they want to stay in office.

Update: At least 15 down, according to Stupak and Cantor.

NBC's official "First Read" blog -- which last week indulged in a bit of hero-worhip by screaming at Democrats to just do what Captain Wonderful wants, so Democrats could win in 2010 or something -- continues cheerleading for Obama, but Allah calls that stupid:

NBC is keeping hope alive, noting that Blue Dogs who voted no on the House bill last time because it had a public option and raised taxes may be wooed by Obama’s more “moderate bill.” But that assumes that (a) no progressives will walk away from Obama because he didn’t include a public option, and (b) that the political risk to Blue Dogs in voting yes now is the same as, or even less than, the risk they faced when voting on Pelosi’s bill in November, which of course is insane. In fact, Jason Altmire, one of the Blue Dogs whom NBC cites as a potential flip, told the AP that he’s highly skeptical that there are enough votes to pass anything. The nightmare for The One is that any Democrat, left or center, who’s eager to find an excuse to not vote for this thing can find something in the compromise bill to latch onto as a “dealbreaker.” And that being so, given the current political climate, why would anyone think Pelosi’s likely to get more people flipping yes than flipping no?

One thing that worries me, as it worried me before, is that once Democrats realize they are doomed in November no matter what they do, they might decide they might as well stick it to the American public as hard as they can.

The other thing that worries me is this: It wouldn't necessarily be crazy to do just that. You might say, "But that will doom Democrats!" Well, maybe, but bear in mind here they are looking at several bad options, all which lead to results which differ merely on degree of calamity.

Pushing this through against the public's wishes is a horrible option -- but then, so is keeping this issue live on the table every day, every week, with the public continuing to fear the Democrats will push it through, and the liberal base screaming in anger they haven't pushed it through yet.

Given that, they might desire it's better to at least end this as a live issue and take the damage they're destined to take and at least move on to their next unpopular initiative.

As I've said before, this is a wedge issue that divides their liberals from the independents, and they need both to win elections. They're going to lose one group. And they're going to choose to lose the independents, because while independents vote, liberals vote more and do something independents don't -- donate to campaigns.

As horrible as pushing this through against strong public opposition is, I can make the case to myself that this is the least-bad option for Democrats.

I hope I'm wrong on that, or at least they don't see it that way.






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