Saturday, March 6, 2010

Last Minute Failures?

At this point, the main basis I have for believing the health care reform bill will pass (here's my latest while I was at the Dish...for perspective, here's Jonathan clubber Chait's view, and here's Nate Silver's take)  is that I would be shocked if Barack Obama, Rahm Emanuel, Nancy Pelosi, and Henry Waxman moved things to this stage without knowing they could get the votes.  We're talking about some very skilled pols, here. 

I can't think of any historical precedent for a failure this large in a House vote -- a major policy with the full support of the president and the majority party leadership that got this close without winning.  The two most notable floor defeats that I remember are the first vote on TARP in fall 2008, and the vote (if I recall correctly) on the rule on the Bush deficit reduction package in 1990.  In both cases, radical Republicans defected from a bipartisan agreement, in both cases between majority Democrats and a Republican president.  And in both cases the policy eventually passed.

Another thing that can happen is a bill getting pulled from the floor after a killer amendment is adopted, either because the leadership no longer supports the bill or because the bill no longer has the votes.  I can't think of examples from memory, but that does happen. 

Neither of those is relevant to this case.  What we need are either cases in which a bill gets pulled from the floor at the last minute, or cases in which a bill just goes down to defeat on a floor vote.  I tend to think both, especially the latter, are rare, and at any rate I'm not thinking of any cases off the top of my head, but I'm sure there are some.  Anyone have examples?


  1. An anti-example: the Medicare prescription drug benefit bill would have been defeated if Republican leadership didn't keep the vote open for three hours and bribe/bully members of their caucus.

  2. Good point.

    I think the evidence points to a high-risk play on the part of Pelosi & Obama.

    If Pelosi had the votes she would have already taken the vote. Therefore she doesn't have the votes; she thinks she can get the votes.

    As a skilled pol Obama must agree or he wouldn't have stuck his neck out so far. The fact he had to do the summit theatrics indicates Pelosi does not yet have the votes.

    My suspicion is that a number of House Democrats would really prefer that HCR quietly die, but Pelosi belives enough of them will vote yes if a vote is called. There are two groups who are pressurable this way, the far left (does Kucinich really want to be the no vote that defeated HCR) and the Stupak group (do they want to be the no vote that defeats HCR over what is really a minor difference?).

    In the end Pelosi's strongest card is that the Democratic Party has stood for HCR for decades and this vote is going to be razor close. Who wants to be a no vote if it fails by one vote?

    A very high risk play, and the stakes could not be higher.

  3. The vote on Fast Track Trade Authority for Clinton was pulled from the floor at the last minute in 1997 b/c Gingrich didn't have the votes. But here divided government was a problem, even though the GOP leadership was supportive of the bill while Gephardt wasn't.

  4. I don't know but I don't see how they will get around Stupak's lies and anti-abortion blackmail either. I can only hope.

  5. As dissatisfied as some of the lefties are with the current form of the bill, I wouldn't be surprised if a few of them failed to support it. Anthony Wiener, for instance, is popular enough in New York State that he isn't entirely beholden to the national party, and he has been rather vocal in his desire for, if not a public plan, at least significant government oversight. He may be able to get away with voting his conscience on this one. Then again, I haven't really been following the HRC vote maneuvering all that closely.

  6. I remember that the Patient's Bill of Rights was about to pass Congress and be grudgingly signed by Bush, when at the last minute the White House was able to kill the deal in the House by inviting one of its co-sponsors over for lunch. Seriously, that's all it took. He left the meeting and said he was going to propose a new bill. The whole thing died immediately.

  7. Again, divided government (and that actually played a causal role), but the most famous one I can remember is the rule vote on Reagan's budget.

  8. Anon 12:01,

    I don't remember the details on that, but it sounds from your description like something the WH was against, so it doesn't fit.

    Matt --

    You mean Bush's budget (1990, raising taxes) not Reagan, right?

    Anon 8:40

    On Fast Track, good call, although it was hardly as much of a presidential priority as health care is now, and as you say divided gov't was a major factor.

  9. You have a very high view of these pols. I don't see that myself, but you may be correct.

    There has never been a new bill that results in a massive transformation of American life that has been pushed through without any votes to spare, very strong opposition in Washington from both parties and - especially - a majority of the public opposed.

    There is no precedent for it.

    If the Dems do achieve what they want and succeed in slamming this through, they will certainly pay a very high price in November.

    I am fascinated by their single-minded obsession with this one topic that has replaced the economy, unemployment, foreclosures, international relations and everything else. Nothing else seems to matter for them.

    It is very strange. I don't remember hearing about this obsession during the campaign. They never talk about the economy or jobs.

  10. "I don't remember hearing about this obsession during the campaign."

    Wow! Nice post you had there, shame that it was engulfed by flames.

  11. I strongly believe that Obamacare is going to fail and in a very disappointing way to those few people that actually support it. Yes more people will get insurance but it's not certain that there will be an increase in health care being paid for. Since there will be no visible limitations to cost it can be expected that a raise in out of pocket expenses, co-pays, and deductions will happen. Sure the uninsured will be covered and recieve the benifits of that, but what about the people who are already insured? Are there any benifts for you? Not in the near or far future. What you get are higher taxes and premium rates....aren't you glad you were responsible and got insured before hand?!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Who links to my website?