Aug. 21 absentee ballot for overseas voters

Senate Dem 60   GOP 40  
House Dem 257   GOP 178  

Map of the 2010 Senate Races
Downloadable polling data
Previous report
Next report

strong Dem Strong Dem
weak Dem Weak Dem
barely Dem Barely Dem
tied Exactly tied
barely GOP Barely GOP
weak GOP Weak GOP
strong GOP Strong GOP
Map algorithm explained
Senate polls today: (None) RSS
Dem pickups (vs. 2004): PA GOP pickups (vs. 2004): (None) PDA

PW logo August Recess Continued Bachmann TV
Republicans Bunched Up in 2012 Match Up Grayson Leads Potential Rivals in Kentucky
Ritter Faces Tough Re-Election in Colorado Quote of the Day

News from the Votemaster

Health Care Bill's Public Option Still Popular     Permalink

The "public option"--a government run health insurance plan people could choose if they are unhappy with commercial alternatives--remains quite popular according to a new SurveyUSA poll. In this poll, 58% of the respondents say it is extremely important to have this choice and another 19% say it is quite important. In contrast, 7% say it not important and 15% say it is not at all important. Clearly, the much-publicized town hall meetings this month have not moved public opinion very much. Interestingly, the number are pretty much the same among all demographic groups. Men, women, whites, blacks, college graduates, noncollege graduates, young people, old people, etc. feel pretty much the same way, with huge majorities favoring a public option.

Pelosi Says She Can't Pass a Bill Without a Public Option     Permalink

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she can't pass a health reform bill without a public option in it. Of course, Pelosi herself supports such an option so her words probably don't have a lot of meaning. She is just trying to gain support for her ideas. If the 52 conservative Blue Dog Democrats in the House were to stick together and she were faced with the choice between a bill without a public option or no bill at all, who knows what she would do--other than try to peel off 13 of them to get 218 votes.

Two-Bill Scenario Gaining Credibility     Permalink

One possible scenario that is becoming more plausible by the day is that the House will pass a health insurance reform bill that includes a public option and the Senate will pass one without a public option. At that point the bills go to a conference committee made up of members from both chambers to try to hammer out a compromise. If the leaders were Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) it could get very messy since the two really don't see eye to eye. One option that Democratic leaders are starting to seriously consider is that the conference committee split the bill into two parts. Bill 1 would contain the portions that all Senate Democrats agree on, such as a law prohibiting insurance companies from discriminating against people with preexisting conditions, a ban on annual and lifetime caps on reimbursement, and an individual mandate to buy health insurance. Such a bill could probably get the 60 votes to invoke cloture and pass via the normal procedure. A handful of Republicans might even vote for it, such as the two senators from Maine and perhaps one or two of the retiring senators who are now free to vote their conscience.

Bill 2 would contain the controversial material, such as the public option and the financing. Possible ways of financing health care for people who can't afford it include a surtax on the rich, limiting the tax exemption on expensive employer-supplied health plans, a tax on sugary soft drinks, and other things. All of these taxes have strong enemies. This second bill would use the reconciliation process, which cannot be filibustered and requires the votes of only 50 senators and Vice President Joe Biden to pass.

Going this route would anger the Republicans beyond belief, even when they were reminded that reconciliation was how George Bush got his tax cuts through the Senate. The reconciliation process has some disadvantages though. It is only supposed to be used for budgetary issues. This provision was added by Sen. Robert Byrd when the procedure was established and the process of vetting a bill to see if it contains only budgetary items (and not new policy) is known as giving the bill a Byrd bath. The Byrd bath is performed by the Senate parliamentarian. However, the Senate can overrule him by majority vote. The current parliamentarian is a man named Alan Frumin who was hired in 2001 after the Republican-controlled Senate fired the previous parliamentarian, Robert Dove, because it didn't like some of his rulings. If the Democrats didn't like Frumin's rulings, they could fire him, too, and replace him with someone more amenable to their views.

Another problem with reconciliation is that anything passed that way expires in 5 years and has to be renewed then. Who knows what Congress will look like in 2014, or who will be President then? Still, this two-bill strategy is looming larger as it becomes clear that a bipartisan deal in the Senate is increasingly unlikely.

Kennedy Wants to Change Massachusetts Law for Filling Senate Vacancies     Permalink

The Democrats' hopes of getting the health bill through the Senate relies on having the 60 votes to invoke cloture on at least part of the legislation. While they do have 60 votes now (including independents Bernie Sanders, a sure vote, and Joe Lieberman, a likely vote), they may not when the bills are actually being voted on. Two senators are seriously ill. Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) is 91 and in failing health, although he has appeared in the Senate several times in the past months and voted on bills. If he should die, Gov. Joe Manchin (D-WV) would instantly replace him with another Democrat, possibly Manchin himself. So this vote is safe for the Democrats, unless Byrd falls into a coma and is unable to vote or even resign.

The other iffy vote is that of Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) who has crusaded for health care reform his entire life. He certainly won't miss voting if he is at all able to do so. However, he skipped the funeral of his sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, last week, something that was undoubtedly very painful to him. But apparently he just wasn't up to it. Whether he could be flown to the Senate and be able to cast a vote depends on his health in the next two months. As an aside, it is worth noting that when the civil rights bill came up for a cloture vote in 1964, Sen. Clair Engle (D-CA), who, like Kennedy, was suffering from a brain tumor, was unable to speak, so he pointed to his eye to signify "aye." Kennedy could do the same, if need be.

However, the situation is more complicated should Kennedy die before the bill comes to a vote (or the reconciliation bill comes to a vote). In 2004, the Massachusetts legislature, which is dominated by Democrats, was nervous about Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) appointing a Republican to the Senate in the event John Kerry were to be elected President. So they passed a law over his veto stripping the governor of the ability to appoint senators to vacancies and instead requiring a special election within 5 months. But having Kennedy's seat vacant for 5 months would be a disaster for the Democrats, so Kennedy himself is now calling for the legislature to change the law again, allowing the governor, currently Democrat Deval Patrick, to make a temporary appointment until the special election was held. As a safeguard against a possible Republican governor making a future appointment, the law could require consent of the state Senate, a body the Democrats are well entrenched in.

Senate Committees Report Fundraising     Permalink

Both the Democratic and Republican senatorial committees have reported their July fundraising amounts. The Republicans raised slightly more than the Democrats and now have a net worth about half a million dollars more than the Democrats. That is actually pretty good considering they have little power and little ability to give goodies to their donors. Typically, the party with the most power raises the most money.

Committee July fundraising Cash on hand Debt Net
DSCC $2.1 million $7.2 million $3.3 million $3.9 million
NRSC $2.8 million $4.4 million $0 $4.4 million

Potential Kissell Challengers Decline to Run     Permalink

As many political junkies remember, in 2006 Larry Kissell (D), a totally unknown high school teacher decided on a lark to run for Congress against a well-entrenched multimillionaire textile heir, Robin Hayes (R). in NC-08. Despite getting no help at all from the DCCC on his fool's errand, he came within 329 votes of winning. He ran again in 2008 and this time, with a lot of help from the DCCC, he defeated Hayes, getting 55% of the vote. Now both Hayes and Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, Kissell's biggest worries in 2010, seem unlikely to challenge Kissell in 2010. As a fairly conservative incumbent in an R+2 district without a top-tier opponent, Kissell is likely to survive.

If you like this Website, tell your friends. You can also share by clicking this button  

-- The Votemaster