Tuesday, March 9, 2010


I fully agree with Ezra Klein's smart post about counting votes in the House on health care reform.  The statements that Members make to reporters now are apt to be either negotiating signals, or posturing for the district, or otherwise misleading, and so while I suppose I'm glad that some people are collecting those statements, I don't think they're worth much.

What I do think is worthwhile is thinking about the general situation, which remains about the same: there are about fifty Members of the House whose preferred outcome is bill passes, they vote no, and whose second choice outcome is probably to have the bill pass with their support.  See Karen Tumulty for a good reporter's take, or for a more academic (this time from economics) perspective see here.  If in fact this is correct -- and I do believe that it is -- then it brings me back to what I was saying earlier, which is the importance that Pelosi, Waxman, Emanuel, Obama and the rest of the House leadership and White House team.  Which is why, for those of us who believe that Pelosi is a first-rate pol, the chances that health care reform will pass seem fairly high.  Note that this is not a partisan belief; conservative (and bill opponent) Keith Hennessey says: "If there is a path to 216 votes, I am confident the Speaker will find it.  She has a remarkable ability to bend her colleagues to her will."

By the way, that analysis basically assumes that Members are driven by reelection concerns and are indifferent to the actual bill.  Hennessey suspects that their opinion about the bill tilts them against; he says "We know that some Congressional Democrats don’t like this bill as a policy matter."  I'm not sure how he "knows" that, and I suspect he's largely wrong, with the possible exception of the most left-wing Members, who certainly don't like it compared to a single-payer bill but probably prefer it to the status quo.  One can never know what policy preferences truly lie in the hearts of politicians, but health care reform is about as close to a core Democratic issue as exists, and my guess is that politics aside, virtually all House Dems would prefer the bill gets passed.

One more thing, before I leave Hennessey behind.  He's puzzled by Obama's decision to keep moving ahead on health care reform:
Dan Meyer was Speaker Gingrich’s Chief of Staff in the mid-90’s, and later served as the head of Legislative Affairs for President Bush (43).  He and I survived the 95-96 government shutdown conflict between Congressional Republicans and President Clinton.  I worked for Senate Budget Committee Chairman Pete Domenici at the time.  Dan made a comparison the other day.  Imagine, he said, right after the government had reopened in January of 1996, after Republicans had been getting hammered every day for a month, if I had run up to you and said, “I’ve got a great idea!  Let’s shut it down again!”  You’d think I was crazy.
I think Hennessey is sincere in his post.  His suggestions for Republicans (play up substantive problems with the bill that Republicans actually oppose, play down Medicare cuts and process) are in my opinion far smarter than the suggestions Republicans are following.  But he (and Meyer) seem to be a bit cut off from reality here.  The president's approval ratings haven't budged, and the popularity of the bill hasn't budged, for months.  The bill isn't hurting Obama.  This is totally different than the government shutdown, which featured polling that showed real damage to the Republicans. 

And I think that accounts for why I think he's too optimistic (from his point of view) about the fate of the health care bill.


  1. Actually, support for the bill is going up.

    I'm sure Obama's new stump speech will just help even more. He had perfect messaging in Pennsylvania.

    Also check out this:

  2. Good links. from the first article:

    "Why is support rising? My guess is that it's related to Obama's emergence as the primary advocate of reform."

    Exactly. People still like and trust Obama a lot, especially considering the crappy economy. Obama has hitched his wagon to HCR in a way that even low information voters are noticing.


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