Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Last Tea Leaves, For Now

I think close observation of voting on amendments has reached the point of severely diminishing marginal utility. Unless something changes, amendment voting has shown mostly that Lincoln and Landrieu are voting as if they anticipate supporting the bill in the end; so is Joe Lieberman, but I consider him so unpredictable that it's hard to learn much from his votes; and Ben Nelson, Snowe, and (perhaps) Collins are voting in ways that would be consistent with either an eventual no vote or an eventual yes vote. The logic is that it makes no sense to vote with the Dems on the amendments but with the GOP on final passage -- Senators doing that let themselves in for all the hits (you voted against Medicare!) from the right and the left. Voting with the Republicans on the amendments but for the bill on final passage does make sense; it leads to an explanation that the Senator did all he or she could to remove the worst bits, but still found enough good to support it in the end.

Anyway, just a little cleaning up. Today's McCain amdendment, on Medicare again, was voted down 42-57, with just the Benator and Webb (again!) crossing over. I assume that Webb has assured Democratic leaders that he's going to vote for the bill; there certainly hasn't been any press coverage indicating his vote is uncertain, even though he's the second-most-likely defector after Nelson.

The Nelson abortion amendment wasn't a tea leaf vote -- Senators couldn't choose to vote on that based on their intentions towards the bill, but instead were constrained by abortion politics. Of course, the results mattered (54-45 to table it), because this one was in at least a little doubt and affected the future of the bill. But it wasn't a tea leaf vote.

It does turn out, and as far as I know this was the first abortion vote this year in the Senate, that Ted Kaufman -- the Biden family's place-holder in the Senate -- is pro-life. Apparently he's Catholic, not Jewish, and at any rate that was his vote. Huh. In response, I'll just mention that Kaufman is a dead ringer for the "liberal guy" in the reprehensible Mallard Fillmore comic strip.

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