Ironically, for all of the left’s endless whining about the filibuster, it ain’t the Senate that’s their biggest problem anymore. A simple question for you from Philip Klein, who’s been counting heads in the lower chamber for weeks: Given that they’re starting with only 217 “yes” votes, who’ll be stupid enough among the no’s to flip in favor of what even David Brooks is calling a “fiscal time bomb”?
Of the 39 Democrats who voted against the House health care bill [in November], 31 of them were elected in districts that went for John McCain in 2008, according to a TAS analysis. One of the Democratic “no” votes, Rep. Parker Griffith of Alabama, has subsequently switched parties. Given that a Republican who campaigned on being a vote against the health care bill was just elected to fill the Senate seat once held by Ted Kennedy in a state that went for Obama by 26 points, it’s hard to see why anybody in a McCain district who already voted “no” would decide switch their vote to “yes.”
While Obama won the districts of the remaining eight “no” votes, in six cases, he won by only single digits, making them potentially competitive races this time around. And a closer look at several members who represent these areas are not very encouraging to proponents of Obamacare…
The biggest problem she faces is that President Obama’s proposal maintains the abortion provision in the Senate bill, rejecting Rep. Bart Stupak’s more restrictive language. When the bill passed the House the first time around, 41 Democrats voted for the health care bill only after voting for the Stupak amendment. Any of them could explain switching to a “no” vote on a final bill by citing abortion funding. Stupak himself has said there are at least 10 to 12 Democrats who voted for the bill the first time who would vote against it if it didn’t include his amendment (he reiterated Tuesday morning that the Senate abortion language adopted by Obama was still “unacceptable”). One of his co-sponsors, Rep. Brad Ellsworth, said at the time that he was only able to vote for the bill after the Stupak language was adopted, and he’s now running for Senate in Indiana, where a Rasmussen poll taken last month shows voters oppose the health care legislation by a 23-point margin.
Stupak called Obama’s abortion language “unacceptable” this morning. Assuming he’s not bluffing about those 10 to 12 pro-life Dems, Pelosi now needs roughly a dozen more yeses while not losing a single moderate or progressive, many of whom are doubtless irritated that The One didn’t use his own bill for an eleventh-hour push at the public option. One way Obama could have helped her was by introducing a stripped-down bill instead of the comprehensive leviathan he dropped yesterday — Blue Dog leader Heath Shuler wondered aloud this morning why he didn’t do precisely that — but the White House insists that, because the problems with health-care policy are interlocking, you can’t address one without addressing all of them. Which is awfully conscientious of them, but doesn’t quite jibe with the “we’ll pass anything we can pass to claim a political victory” vibe of the past, oh, six months. An alternative explanation from former Bush economist Keith Hennessey: They know they don’t have the votes and this is all just a blame-shifting exit strategy.
It is possible that we are witnessing uncoordinated Democratic leaders each pursuing their own exit strategy in anticipation of legislative failure:
* The President proposes a “compromise” and blames Republicans for being unreasonable and unconstructive. Legislative failure is the Republicans’ fault, not the President’s.
* Speaker Pelosi continues to press for a two bill strategy in which the House and Senate will pass a new reconciliation bill. If the Senate cannot or will not do so, legislative failure is the Senate’s fault, not the House’s or Speaker Pelosi’s.
* Supported by outside liberals, Leader Reid points out that the House could just take up and pass the Senate-passed bill. Legislative failure is therefore not his fault or the Senate’s.
He tried hard, dreamed big (although not big enough for progressives), and in the end the damned Republicans walked away from his elephantine bill. And the worst part, according to the White House, is that those darned teabaggers never even offered their own counterproposal. Except, er, for this one, which has been posted online since … 2009. Exit question: Does Pelosi have even 200 votes for this thing?
Update: Start twisting those arms, Nancy:
PLAYBOOK FACTS OF LIFE: Top aides tell us there are not currently 50 votes for the plan in the Senate, or 218 in the House. Moderate and endangered lawmakers want the spotlight off comprehensive health reform. Instead, it’s about to take center stage.