The Democrats’ New Map
posted at 5:42 am on February 28, 2010 by Dafydd ab Hugh
Or, why I am not convinced that either Pelosi or Reid has the votes
The New York Times, of all venues, sculpts the slope the Democrats must scale to summit Mount Reconciliation:
Of the 219 Democrats who initially voted in favor of the House measure, roughly 40 did so in part because it contained the so-called Stupak amendment, intended to discourage insurers from covering abortion….
An additional 39, like Mr. Kratovil, are fiscal conservatives who voted no the first time around. Ms. Pelosi is hoping that she can get some to switch those no votes to yes in favor of Mr. Obama’s less expensive measure.
Let’s run some numbers, shall we?
The House version of ObamaCare — the Affordable Health Care for America Act (H.R. 3962) — passed on November 7th last year in a vote of 220-215. Ordinarily, 218 Yeas are required to pass a bill in the House; but since that vote, three representatives have left Congress, one of them horizontally. With only 432 current members, the magic number for a majority is 217 (216 is only 50%, which is not a majority).
The three who left are all Democrats who voted for the House version of ObamaCare the first time around: retirees Robert Wexler (FL) and Neil Abercrombie (HI), and John Murtha (PA), who left feet first this month. In addition, Rep. Ahn “Joseph” Cao (R-LA, not yet rated), the only Republican to vote for the bill, has since repudiated that vote and says he will certainly vote against the Senate/reconciliation version of ObamaCare when that comes up for a vote. So Pelosi starts with only 216 of the necessary 217 votes.
We know for certain that unless the Senate agrees in advance to the Stupak Amendment, which bans any and all federal funding of abortion (and even funding of insurance carriers who pay for abortions), Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI, 90%) will also vote against it; he has too much “face” bound up in that prohibition to overlook it. I consider it virtually impossible that the Senate would agree to a Stupak Amendment, so that drops the number of Yeas to 215.
Thus the real question is this: Can Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%) bully enough Democratic former Nays to switch to Yeas so that the total will be two higher than the number of Yeas who switch to Nays? In other words, if 20 of the 40 Stupakers vote Nay on the Senate version, then Pelosi must scrounge up 22 representatives who voted Nay last time to vote Yea instead. Otherwise, she has less than the 217 needed.
Looking ahead, it’s hard to see why any representative who voted against ObamaCare before will be persuaded to vote for it this time: The cost differential between the House and Senate plans is negligible; the Senate version doesn’t include the “government option,” which the House Democrats liked; and in the meantime, voters have made their disgust with the government takeover of health care clear and vivid.
Scott Brown’s election to the Massachusetts Senate seat formerly held by Ted Kennedy scared the bejesus out of many representatives, especially those who represent districts that went to John McCain in the 2008 presidential election; many will try to innoculate themselves from the consequences of the last vote by turning thumbs down on ObamaCare this time.
The only real hope Pelosi has is with those Democrats who voted against the bill last year, but who have decided not to run for reelection this year. However, at the moment, there are only three: Reps. John Tanner (D-TN, 89%), Bart Gordon (D-TN, 89%), and Brian Baird (D-WA, 80%). Even if all of them switch, that brings the total only to 218; if two or more representatives flip the other way, from Yea to Nay — two out of the 40 who only voted for the bill because of the Stupak amendment, for example — then Pelosi falls short.
My back of the thumbnail estimate is that at least 20 of the 40 Stupakers vote Nay, while only two of the lame-duck Democrats go the other way (Tanner has already said he will not switch to Yea); that would land the Squeaker into a 200-232 deficit. An AP article confirms this:
In fact, Democrats following the legislation say House Democratic support for the legislation has sunk to 200 votes or less in recent weeks, following the stunning GOP victory in last month’s special Massachusetts Senate election and the bill’s modest showing in polls.
Where “modest showing” has the tendentious redefinition of “catastrophic collapse.” I would guess another five Democratic Yeas vote Nay when it becomes clear the votes aren’t there anyway; why go down with a sinking ship?
It’s hardly any better on the Senate side, where they must pass the “reconciliation” changes to the Senate bill that (they hope!) will keep some Democratic House members from desperately dog-paddling towards the shore. Majority Leader Harry “Pinky” Reid (D-Caesar’s Palace, 70%) is not doing very well, despite only needing a simple majority to pass the package:
Under the Democrats’ tentative plans, the House would pass the health care bill approved in December by the Senate, and both chambers would approve a separate package of changes using a parliamentary device known as budget reconciliation.
The tactic is intended to avoid a Republican filibuster, but in the Senate, the majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, faces challenges if he tries to use it. He is having trouble persuading a majority of his caucus to go along.
Despite their gigantic majorities in both chambers, despite a still-personally popular Democratic president who has made this his make-or-break issue, Pelosi, Reid, and the Democratic leadership still can’t seem to round up enough Yeas to spit in the voters’ faces. Funny, isn’t it?
The calculus is fairly simple; AP quotes a couple of members of the House Democratic caucus explaining the problem:
“People who voted ‘yes’ would love a second bite at the apple to vote ‘no’ this time, because they went home and got an unpleasant experience” because of their votes, said Rep. Jason Altmire, a moderate Democrat from Pennsylvania. “On the other hand,” he added, “I don’t know anybody who voted ‘no’ who regrets it….”
Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., said he chatted at the House gym Friday morning with fellow conservative Democrats and found that Obama’s session had produced no new momentum.
“I don’t think it made a nickel’s worth of difference,” he said, adding, “It’s fair to say the trend is going against the bill.”
I don’t believe that Scott Brown’s victory alone redrew the Democrats’ electoral map; but it definitely shone a spotlight upon it… and any Democrat who plans to run for reelection ignores it at his political peril.
Cross-posted on Big Lizards…