Forty Representatives Are Considered Swing Votes on Health Insurance
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
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
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
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
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.
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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