Commentary Magazine


Topic: Democratic whip

Flotsam and Jetsam

No (except from the Obami): “Does anyone think that Iran would be shipping arms to terrorists or building nuclear weapons if it was a democracy?” asks Elliott Abrams.

Predictable (when you nominate Tony Rezko’s banker): “It could be a rough few months ahead for Alexi Giannoulias. A federal judge ruled Wednesday that former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s trial will proceed on June 3, as scheduled. Blagojevich’s team had been seeking a postponement until November, saying they didn’t have enough time to prepare. … But that’s not all Giannoulias will be dealing with. By late April, the Giannoulias family bank must come up with $85 million in order to comply with a federal agreement and keep operating. Giannoulias has already said that he expects the bank to fail.”

Pathetic: “Rounding up the votes for health care has also proven difficult. House Democratic Whip Jim Clyburn told McClatchy Newspapers that final consideration of the bill may not occur until Easter (April 4) or later. He is dealing with dozens of members who refuse to commit to a firm position in hopes their silence will force the leadership to pull the bill and move on to other issues. ‘Just say nothing,’ is how one Democratic staffer explained the strategy being taken by many members. ‘Maybe it will just go away, and we can avoid a tough vote this close to the election.’” Maybe it will just go away? Profiles in courage they aren’t.

Close: According to Byron York, “there are 209 votes against the bill at this moment, leaving opponents seven short of being able to defeat it. By the same count, there are 204 votes for the bill, leaving the Democratic leadership 12 short of being able to pass it. There are 18 votes thought to be undecided.” In other words, seven votes away from Obama’s Waterloo.

Cranky Big Labor bosses descend on the White House: “AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka is headed into a meeting with President Obama this afternoon after the White House and Congressional leaders have begun to discuss a higher-than-expected excise tax on some health care plans, in order to maintain their claim that health care legislation will reduce the deficit, a source involved in health care talks said.” Remember that the overwhelming support of core Democrats in midterm elections is what’s supposed to counteract the tsunami of opposition to ObamaCare. But what if that support is only lukewarm?

Obvious who you want making national-security calls. “Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top commander of American and NATO troops in Afghanistan, contradicted the attorney general on Wednesday when he said that actually, the military still wants to capture Osama bin Laden alive. ‘I think that is something that is understood by everyone,’ he said. But perhaps not by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who on Tuesday told a House subcommittee that the chances of capturing Mr. bin Laden alive were ‘infinitesimal’ and that he would either be killed by the United States or killed by his own people.”

Common, among many observers these days: “Arab world says hopes in Obama are dwindling.”

Picky, picky: “From Maine to Hawaii, Americans send people to Washington, D.C., to be their representatives — to cast votes that represent the will of the people who elected them to do the job. But now, as the House of Representatives moves toward approving one of the most sweeping pieces of domestic legislation in U.S. history, critics are fuming that Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans to usher through a health care bill … without a vote.”

No (except from the Obami): “Does anyone think that Iran would be shipping arms to terrorists or building nuclear weapons if it was a democracy?” asks Elliott Abrams.

Predictable (when you nominate Tony Rezko’s banker): “It could be a rough few months ahead for Alexi Giannoulias. A federal judge ruled Wednesday that former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s trial will proceed on June 3, as scheduled. Blagojevich’s team had been seeking a postponement until November, saying they didn’t have enough time to prepare. … But that’s not all Giannoulias will be dealing with. By late April, the Giannoulias family bank must come up with $85 million in order to comply with a federal agreement and keep operating. Giannoulias has already said that he expects the bank to fail.”

Pathetic: “Rounding up the votes for health care has also proven difficult. House Democratic Whip Jim Clyburn told McClatchy Newspapers that final consideration of the bill may not occur until Easter (April 4) or later. He is dealing with dozens of members who refuse to commit to a firm position in hopes their silence will force the leadership to pull the bill and move on to other issues. ‘Just say nothing,’ is how one Democratic staffer explained the strategy being taken by many members. ‘Maybe it will just go away, and we can avoid a tough vote this close to the election.’” Maybe it will just go away? Profiles in courage they aren’t.

Close: According to Byron York, “there are 209 votes against the bill at this moment, leaving opponents seven short of being able to defeat it. By the same count, there are 204 votes for the bill, leaving the Democratic leadership 12 short of being able to pass it. There are 18 votes thought to be undecided.” In other words, seven votes away from Obama’s Waterloo.

Cranky Big Labor bosses descend on the White House: “AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka is headed into a meeting with President Obama this afternoon after the White House and Congressional leaders have begun to discuss a higher-than-expected excise tax on some health care plans, in order to maintain their claim that health care legislation will reduce the deficit, a source involved in health care talks said.” Remember that the overwhelming support of core Democrats in midterm elections is what’s supposed to counteract the tsunami of opposition to ObamaCare. But what if that support is only lukewarm?

Obvious who you want making national-security calls. “Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top commander of American and NATO troops in Afghanistan, contradicted the attorney general on Wednesday when he said that actually, the military still wants to capture Osama bin Laden alive. ‘I think that is something that is understood by everyone,’ he said. But perhaps not by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who on Tuesday told a House subcommittee that the chances of capturing Mr. bin Laden alive were ‘infinitesimal’ and that he would either be killed by the United States or killed by his own people.”

Common, among many observers these days: “Arab world says hopes in Obama are dwindling.”

Picky, picky: “From Maine to Hawaii, Americans send people to Washington, D.C., to be their representatives — to cast votes that represent the will of the people who elected them to do the job. But now, as the House of Representatives moves toward approving one of the most sweeping pieces of domestic legislation in U.S. history, critics are fuming that Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans to usher through a health care bill … without a vote.”

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Is It Working Yet?

Rasmussen reports: “Republican candidates have now stretched their lead over Democrats to 10 points in the Generic Congressional Ballot, their biggest lead ever in nearly three years of weekly tracking. The GOP has been leading on the ballot for months.” Gosh, might it have something to do with the nonstop focus on a health-care bill the public intensely dislikes? Could it be that talk of passing the measure by not really voting on it is one more insult to the voters’ intelligence and sense of constitutional propriety? Could just be.

Obama keeps telling everyone who will listen that ObamaCare is the salvation of his party. But a vast array of polling data and the skittishness of both Democratic incumbents and challengers suggest that the reality is otherwise. The only question remains is whether Obama and Nancy Pelosi have enough carrots and sticks to prod congressmen into voting (or “deeming and passing” or whatever they call the extra-constitutional process) for a bill no one believes constitutes “reform” and that, as is becoming increasingly obvious, is a political dud.

It may just be that the gears are grinding to a halt. Democratic Whip James Clyburn is saying that this may take until Easter, that he needs 216 votes, and that it’s going to be closer than last time. It seems that the key Democrats needed to reach the 216-count majority are digging in their heels, resisting their plunge over the “precipice.” Unlike the president, they very much want another term.

Rasmussen reports: “Republican candidates have now stretched their lead over Democrats to 10 points in the Generic Congressional Ballot, their biggest lead ever in nearly three years of weekly tracking. The GOP has been leading on the ballot for months.” Gosh, might it have something to do with the nonstop focus on a health-care bill the public intensely dislikes? Could it be that talk of passing the measure by not really voting on it is one more insult to the voters’ intelligence and sense of constitutional propriety? Could just be.

Obama keeps telling everyone who will listen that ObamaCare is the salvation of his party. But a vast array of polling data and the skittishness of both Democratic incumbents and challengers suggest that the reality is otherwise. The only question remains is whether Obama and Nancy Pelosi have enough carrots and sticks to prod congressmen into voting (or “deeming and passing” or whatever they call the extra-constitutional process) for a bill no one believes constitutes “reform” and that, as is becoming increasingly obvious, is a political dud.

It may just be that the gears are grinding to a halt. Democratic Whip James Clyburn is saying that this may take until Easter, that he needs 216 votes, and that it’s going to be closer than last time. It seems that the key Democrats needed to reach the 216-count majority are digging in their heels, resisting their plunge over the “precipice.” Unlike the president, they very much want another term.

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Hard to Find the Final Votes

We are down to handfuls of House Democrats who will decide the fate of ObamaCare. One usually expects in these situations that House leaders have enough enticements and threats to garner the last few votes. But in this case, we’re talking about members in swing districts, the ones most at risk in November and the most wary of the Pelosi-Obama-Reid call to pass the liberals’ decades-old pipe dream of national health care. As John Fund notes, some of the usual tactics fall on deaf ears:

New York Democrat Mike McMahon was visited by a top SEIU official and told that he won’t get union funding if he votes “no.” Indeed, union representatives hinted they might look for a primary challenger or third-party candidate to run in his Staten Island district.

Such threats may not be as effective as liberal interest groups hope. Mr. McMahon’s district voted for John McCain last year and Democrats know any last-minute primary challenger to Mr. McMahon would likely lose to a Republican in the fall, even if he or she succeeded in toppling the incumbent in the Democratic primary. Threats by MoveOn.org and SEIU against many incumbents are also less than believable simply because the filing deadline to mount primary challenges has already passed for more than 40% of House seats. Meanwhile, the debate over health care has dragged on so long that many Democratic members are now clearly more worried about the impact on general election voters than on the party faithful.

So for now, the various Democratic whip counts look to be short of a majority and perilously close to the maximum number of defections. After all, the Democratic leadership is short on both substantive (do any wavering Democrats believe it’s deficit neutral?) and political arguments (these are the members with many Republicans and angry independents ready to pounce). This isn’t to say Pelosi can’t get there, but it sure is proving harder than many imagined when this all began. But then again, the bill is much worse than many imagined.

We are down to handfuls of House Democrats who will decide the fate of ObamaCare. One usually expects in these situations that House leaders have enough enticements and threats to garner the last few votes. But in this case, we’re talking about members in swing districts, the ones most at risk in November and the most wary of the Pelosi-Obama-Reid call to pass the liberals’ decades-old pipe dream of national health care. As John Fund notes, some of the usual tactics fall on deaf ears:

New York Democrat Mike McMahon was visited by a top SEIU official and told that he won’t get union funding if he votes “no.” Indeed, union representatives hinted they might look for a primary challenger or third-party candidate to run in his Staten Island district.

Such threats may not be as effective as liberal interest groups hope. Mr. McMahon’s district voted for John McCain last year and Democrats know any last-minute primary challenger to Mr. McMahon would likely lose to a Republican in the fall, even if he or she succeeded in toppling the incumbent in the Democratic primary. Threats by MoveOn.org and SEIU against many incumbents are also less than believable simply because the filing deadline to mount primary challenges has already passed for more than 40% of House seats. Meanwhile, the debate over health care has dragged on so long that many Democratic members are now clearly more worried about the impact on general election voters than on the party faithful.

So for now, the various Democratic whip counts look to be short of a majority and perilously close to the maximum number of defections. After all, the Democratic leadership is short on both substantive (do any wavering Democrats believe it’s deficit neutral?) and political arguments (these are the members with many Republicans and angry independents ready to pounce). This isn’t to say Pelosi can’t get there, but it sure is proving harder than many imagined when this all began. But then again, the bill is much worse than many imagined.

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