Wednesday, October 28, 2009


A useful story in Politico this morning looks at swing voters Lincoln, Bayh, Landrieu, Nelson, and Pryor. Greg Sargent focuses on Bayh's assertion that procedural and substantive votes are one and the same:

This one will really help maintain unity in the Dem caucus. It’s one thing, after all, to threaten to block efforts by the majority party — your own party — to stage a straight up-or-down majority vote on the bill’s substance. It’s quite another to claim that the initial procedural vote, which requires 60, is not materially different from a straight up-or-down majority vote on the bill’s substance.

Indeed, Bayh’s position is hard to distinguish from that esposed by GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell, who said yesterday that “most Americans” will see a vote for cloture “as a vote on the substance of the bill.” Heck, GOP leaders see Bayh’s quote as so helpful that they just blasted it out to reporters.

For what it's worth, Bayh didn't distinguish in his comments to Politico between a filibuster on the motion to proceed and a filibuster against final passage; Sargent's comments only apply to the former, but Democrats are going to want to separate both types of filibusters from substantive votes. As I said yesterday, I think the case on the merits is a lot stronger for Democrats on the initial cloture vote on the motion to proceed than on cloture on bringing the bill to a final vote -- Bayh's comments reflect the hard truth that those who do vote yes/no on the final cloture vote and then final passage are going to be charged, with good reason, for having supported the bill.

Beyond that question, however, the Politico story is, as I read it, pretty good for the Democrats. Bayh's stated concerns (fiscal responsibility) are the kind that Reid should be able to handle. Nelson continues to sound, to me at least, like someone who isn't looking to be the one who sinks the whole thing, although he'd be crazy not to use his position to extract whatever goodies he wants. I don't think Pryor is really a problem (for 60), and nothing in the story changes that.

The toughest cases, as I read it, are Landrieu and, especially, Lincoln, who is up for reelection this time around. I think there's a good chance that Lincoln is screwed whatever she does. That said, Democrats probably have more to offer her in a post-electoral career than do Republicans, and they'll be trying to convince her that Beck-crazed conservatives are going to be after her no matter how she votes on this one, so she has nothing to lose if she votes for reform. That's especially true since she already voted for the Senate Finance bill in committee, and it will be even more true if she votes for cloture on the motion to proceed.

All told the news following Reid's announcement continues to be quite positive for getting this thing through the Senate. There's still plenty of uncertainty, but if I was forced to bet, I'd guess that Reid has a path to 60.

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