Well, as Glenn Reynolds likes to say, they told me that if I voted for John McCain, we’d get nothing but backroom deals on Capitol Hill … and they were right! Faced with caucus members who aren’t responding to the normal arm-twisting, Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer abruptly canceled scheduled committee hearings to call the party leadership into closed-door conference to plot strategy and tactics. That left Fox News with no one to discuss the events except Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), who also covered the Eric Massa controversy:

Apparently, the White House is trying to put an end to the very dealmaking Pelosi has decided to push in her off-line meetings — and Democrats resent Obama’s “grandstanding” on clean government principles:

The White House is pushing to strip out a number of “sweetheart” deals in the Senate bill as Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that Democrats are unlikely to make the March 18 deadline set by President Obama for passage, an indication the House speaker doesn’t have the votes to pass it. …

Pelosi had ordered committee chairmen to postpone their hearings Thursday so lawmakers could finish backroom negotiations.

Democratic leaders insisted a deal is near, despite several unanswered questions, whether it’s expanding Medicaid or Medicare, tax-funded abortion service, special kickbacks for resistant lawmakers or the untallied costs.

Obama already has moved to eliminate a couple of special deals in the Senate bill that turned off voters when they became public, including extra Medicaid funding for Nebraska — derided by critics as the “cornhusker kickback” and Medicare coverage for residents of Libby, Mont., who suffer from asbestos-related illnesses because of a now-closed mining operation.

“Not helpful” is how one senior congressional Democratic aide called the effort.

“This is totally not necessary,” the aide said. “We’re trying to put together a bill, while they’re just exposing more sausage-making.”

“I mean, give me a break,” the aide continued. “This is just grandstanding. We’re trying to put together a bill, while the White House plays to the good government crowd.”

Gee, would that be the same “open, honest government” that Obama, Reid, and Pelosi pledged in the 2008 campaign? Glad to hear Democrats confirm that they were just “grandstanding” at that time. We had already surmised it, of course, but it’s good to get confirmation.

Pelosi has insisted that she has the votes to pass it, but the sudden dive behind closed doors suggests otherwise. If they had the votes, they’d produce the bill and schedule the roll-call vote.