Sunday, December 6, 2009

Tea Leaves, Weekend Edition

Three contested votes in the Senate over the weekend (plus a unanimous Kerry amendment). I'll get right to it. Saturday was the Johanns amendment (on Medicare again), defeated 53-41. Today we had the Lincoln amendment (a populist measure against insurance executive pay) that fell just short of the 60 votes needed, "losing" 56-42 , and the Ensign med mal amendment, which was crushed 66-32.

Johanns Dems: Bayh, Lincoln, Ben Nelson, Webb
Johanns GOP: None

Lincoln Dems: Bingaman, Carper, Conrad, Lieberman
Lincoln GOP: Snowe

Ensign Dems: Hagan, Kohl, Lieberman, Lincoln, Warner
Ensign GOP: Bennett, Chambliss, Cochran, Collins, Crapo, Graham, Hatch, Johanns, LeMieux, Risch, Shelby, Wicker

I don't know why a dozen Republicans defected on Ensign; I suspect it's because it was too moderate of an amendment, but that's a guess.

After seven days of work on the bill, the Senate has taken eight contested votes on amendments (plus the straight party line vote on cloture on the motion to proceed). On these eight votes, the defectors are:

Ben Nelson (6 times)
Webb (4)
Lincoln, Lieberman (3)
Bayh, Carper, Conrad, Warner (2)
Bingaman, Feingold, Hagan, Kohl, Landrieu, McKaskill, Mark Udall (1)

Collins, Snowe (2)
Bennett, Chambliss, Cochran, Crapo, Graham, Hatch, Johanns, LeMieux, Risch, Shelby, Vitter, Wicker (1)

That's just, of course, a simple count. Some of the amendments are more important than others -- I'd say the two really important votes were the McCain and Johanns amendments. And only the Mikulski and possibly the Lincoln amendments (and the initial cloture vote) were really very close, so on the rest Senators could position themselves wherever they wanted without worrying about affecting the outcome, so we don't know what would have happened had their votes mattered. On med mal, many Senators have cast votes in the past, so that may have constrained them today, again especially since the vote wasn't remotely close.

After a week, what all of this says is exactly what we knew after the Finance Committee vote: the Democrats are pretty much united in support of getting a bill, even though they disagree on the details -- and they are joined by, at best, two Republicans who appear to perhaps want a bill.

Another big week starts tomorrow, perhaps with the long-awaited abortion showdown.

At this point, the odds of a bill eventually passing must be well north of 90%. For those of us who have followed politics for a while, it's really pretty amazing that this is actually going to happen.

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