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Senate Dem 59   GOP 41  
House Dem 253   GOP 178  

2010 Senate Races (colors are from 2004 races for the time being)
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PW logo Hypocrisy is Another Parliamentary Procedure Enthusiasm Gap Widens
Boxer Lead Just Single Digits Democrats Must Sell the Bill to Voters
Pelosi Says Process Decision Not Yet Made Flip a Coin on Thompson Bid

News from the Votemaster            

Forty Representatives Are Considered Swing Votes on Health Insurance     Permalink

With the Democrats determined to pass the health-insurance bill this week or at the latest, next week, both sides have pulled out all stops. Speaker Nancy Pelosi is desperately trying to round up 216 votes (because 4 House seats are currently vacant) and it is becoming man-to-man (or man-to-woman or woman-to-woman) fighting over every vote. The NY Times has a great chart listing who's who. There are 193 Democrats likely to vote yes and 178 Republicans and 20 Democrats likely to vote no, with 40 votes still in play. The chart lists the Representatives, how they voted on the first bill, how the voted on the Stupak abortion amendment, who won their district in 2008, and how much reelection pressure they are under.

Parliamentary Maneuvers Being Considered in the House     Permalink

Before a bill comes to the House floor, the Rules Committee decides how it will be handled, including such matters as how long debate will be, whether amendments will be allowed, etc. The procedure that needs to be followed now on the health-insurance bill is to have the House approve the Senate bill and then approve a second ("sidecar") bill that would resolve differences between the Senate and House bills. However, many Democratic representatives don't want to have a staight-up-or-down vote on the Senate bill for fear of being attacked in November on some of its more ghastly provisions, like the Cornhusker Kickback (to get Sen. Ben Nelson's vote) or the Louisiana Purchase (to get Sen. Mary Landrieu's vote). The fact that earmarks like these have been extremely common in all bills for 200 years doesn't seem to be much of a defense so the Democrats have concocted a solution to avoid a straight vote on the Senate bill. Instead they would package the Senate bill and the changes to it in a single package and then vote on the combined package in which the the bill making the changes deems the Senate bill to have already passed. The Republicans are calling this the "Slaughter Solution"--after the chairwoman of the House Rules Committee, Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY), who thought of it and are acting like it is irresponsible and undemocratic. What they are glossing over is that this procedure, known as a self-executing bill, was first used in 1933 and was used 36 times in the 2005-6 Republican-controlled House.

What is interesting is that most of the Republicans' arguments now are about process, not content. They don't like the idea of a straight-up-or-down vote in the Senate (which is what budget reconciliation forces) while at the same time demanding a straight up-or-down vote in the House. There are the usual comments about this bill being the start of socialism (which clearly it is not since veterans were given government medical care starting in 1917 and Medicare socialized insurance for seniors in 1965) but it is clearly beginning to dawn on opponents of the bill that at this point the Democrats are going to fight to the death to get this bill through in one form or another. Thus their desperate attempts to stop it at all costs. For both sides, Armageddon is here and now.

Obama Aide Threatens to Primary Herseth Sandlin     Permalink

The fact that the Democrats are getting serious is indicated by a litte-noted news item about one of President Obama's closest political aides, Steve Hildebrand, a native of South Dakota. Hildebrand has threatened to primary Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-SD), a Blue Dog, if she votes against the health-insurance bill. When a close aide to the President starts threatening Democrats with reprisals for crossing him on this bill, you know we are in the end game. Of course, there is no way on earth that Hildebrand would actually carry out the threat because then the Republicans would capture the seat--the main reason Herseth Sandlin won in the first place is not because she is a Democrat but because her grandfather was once governor of the state. Still, chastising her in public does send a message to other wavering Democrats that if they vote against the bill, they are going to have to deal with an angry President for another three years or more. It is generally not known, but true, that members of the administration and Congress often communicate with each other via the press, as in this case.

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-- The Votemaster