Senate Accountability

As observed on Open Left and other places we’re seeing an unusual trend of many centrist Senators saying the the Public Option doesn’t have the votes to pass, but few centrist Senators actually saying they’re unconditionally or even generally opposed to the public option.

So are there 50 votes for the Public Option or not? You would think this question will answer itself eventually through the obscure parliamentary tactic known as a floor vote, but I wondered if you’ll ever see that vote.

There are a lot of reasons the reform package is taking so long to move forward and why Senators are being reluctant to come out with their opinions or actually pick an opinion and stick with it. The main reason is that I doubt anybody really knows how this will turn out; they don’t know what can move through reconciliation, they don’t know the vote count as of today, they don’t know how hard the Senate leadership or House of Representatives will push them. But another thing slowing down the process is the desire to provide cover for the no votes, especially if they’ve got enough votes to torpedo the public option.

Reid could, and suspect will, split the bill into two or more parts and let the votes sort out the outcome. But it’s unclear if Reid will call a vote he’ll lose. If does you’d basically have a list of Dem Senators that care more about insurance companies then party loyalty.

You could see a similar pattern occurring on all the major legislative issues. Just as insurance regulation has more support then the public option, renewable energy has more votes then Cap and Trade. Financial interests will pick a particular objectionable (read effective) piece of banking reform and suddenly you’ll find that item is politically unrealistic. And there’s no guarantee you’ll get floor votes on any of “controversial” reform sub-items if the Committees or Senate leadership wants to avoid it.

In each case it’ll be an open question exactly how the process plays out, so they might be forced to call a vote where major party initiatives are in danger of being voted down in public view, but each time they’ll be an incentive make the process as opaque as possible.



2 comments so far

  1. jeremydc on

    “Unclear if Reid will call a vote he’ll lose”

    I think the question is more whether or not Reid will call a vote he wants to lose. Jane Hamsher made a good point today about how Reid may be willing to endanger his seat in order to protect conservadems from having to take a tough vote. And my sense is he is one of those conservadems who would rather be seen as too connected to industry than too liberal.

    If Reid brings the Finance bill to the floor over the HELP bill, I actually hope he loses his seat to a wingnut in spectacular fashion. And he probably will, too.

  2. Chris on

    If Reid brings the Finance bill to the floor over the HELP bill, I actually hope he loses his seat to a wingnut in spectacular fashion. And he probably will, too.

    Firstly he wants to (and think needs to) move parts of both bills. I don’t where things are heading, but you’d think the mandate related penalties would be a total non-starter Dems of all ideological stripes.

    Going back to our question of Carrots and Sticks, why should anyone in tough race in a moderate State or District associate themselves with “liberals”? What are liberals going to do help them get elected? Outside of core areas I think their better off going the corporate route and hoping the money can them.

    Liberal groups just won’t do much to help them if their not in a liberal state. I think this problem was lessened by 50 State strategy, but right now there’s no upside to bold leadership. The progressive infrastructure needs to develop both stronger political capabilities and the responsiveness to moderates trying to work with them.

    As for Reid I think his only play to try triangulate and go to the electorate saying look both sides hate me so I must be going something right. As long there is any chance he’ll remain majority leader his fund raising will be strong, so in his care it’s all about positioning.

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