Commentary Magazine


Topic: Roll Call

Sic Transit Joe Lieberman

Monday’s report in Roll Call about Linda McMahon’s interest in another crack at a U.S. Senate seat has broader implications than whether she will be on the Republican ticket in Connecticut in 2012. While the professional-wrestling mogul hasn’t made any public statements about a future candidacy, it is assumed that her scheduling of an appointment with National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman John Cornyn of Texas means she is laying the groundwork for 2012.

Cornyn will probably encourage McMahon to run again, since Senate candidates who are prepared to loan their campaigns nearly $50 million, as McMahon did this year in her loss to Dick Blumenthal, don’t grow on trees. While her final vote total of 43 percent in what was otherwise a year of Republican victories wasn’t terribly impressive, the GOP has to hope that in another two years, more Connecticut voters will see her as a serious politician rather than as the former ring mistress of a televised freak show.

Deep-blue Connecticut remains, as they say, “the land of steady habits,” which means that whether or not McMahon runs, her Democratic opponent will be favored. But the big loser here is not any one of the obscure Connecticut Republicans who might otherwise be inclined to run in 2012. Rather, it is the man who currently sits in the seat that McMahon covets: Joe Lieberman.

Lieberman hasn’t said whether he will run for a fifth term in 2012, but a McMahon run means his prospects for re-election have now shifted from unfavorable to highly unlikely. In 2006, Lieberman overcame his defeat in the Democratic primary at the hands of anti-war candidate Ned Lamont by cruising to victory in November. But the formula for that victory as an independent was one that cannot be repeated. In 2006, the majority of Democratic voters rejected Lieberman again in the general election. But he won because of large majorities among independents and Republicans. That was made possible only because the Republicans, anticipating that Lieberman would be the Democratic candidate, nominated a nonentity who wound up getting less than 10 percent of the vote.

Six years later, Lieberman knows he would have no chance in a Democratic primary, since most of those Democrats who backed him in the past still hold his support for Republican John McCain in the 2008 presidential election against him. Virtually any Democrat could beat him. And he is still too much of a liberal on domestic policy to have a chance to win a Republican primary should he choose to try that route. That leaves him with the option of a straightforward run as an independent. But while Connecticut has a tradition of backing party-jumping mavericks in statewide races, the only way he can win is if he is able to claim, as he did in 2006, the lion’s share of Republican ballots. A McMahon candidacy will mean a well-funded and serious GOP candidate who is conservative enough to retain the loyalty of most of that party’s voters in November. That means Lieberman has no reasonable scenario for victory in 2012.

This makes it all but certain that the Congress that convenes in January will be the last in which Lieberman will sit. If so, it will be yet another indication that the Scoop Jackson Democrat — liberals on domestic policy and hawks on foreign policy — is truly extinct. Lieberman will, of course, be remembered as the man who came within a few hanging chads of being elected the first Jewish vice president of the United States. But his real legacy will be the fact that he was willing to risk his career for the sake of principle as he bucked his party’s loyalists by faithfully supporting the war against Islamist terrorists in Iraq.

Monday’s report in Roll Call about Linda McMahon’s interest in another crack at a U.S. Senate seat has broader implications than whether she will be on the Republican ticket in Connecticut in 2012. While the professional-wrestling mogul hasn’t made any public statements about a future candidacy, it is assumed that her scheduling of an appointment with National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman John Cornyn of Texas means she is laying the groundwork for 2012.

Cornyn will probably encourage McMahon to run again, since Senate candidates who are prepared to loan their campaigns nearly $50 million, as McMahon did this year in her loss to Dick Blumenthal, don’t grow on trees. While her final vote total of 43 percent in what was otherwise a year of Republican victories wasn’t terribly impressive, the GOP has to hope that in another two years, more Connecticut voters will see her as a serious politician rather than as the former ring mistress of a televised freak show.

Deep-blue Connecticut remains, as they say, “the land of steady habits,” which means that whether or not McMahon runs, her Democratic opponent will be favored. But the big loser here is not any one of the obscure Connecticut Republicans who might otherwise be inclined to run in 2012. Rather, it is the man who currently sits in the seat that McMahon covets: Joe Lieberman.

Lieberman hasn’t said whether he will run for a fifth term in 2012, but a McMahon run means his prospects for re-election have now shifted from unfavorable to highly unlikely. In 2006, Lieberman overcame his defeat in the Democratic primary at the hands of anti-war candidate Ned Lamont by cruising to victory in November. But the formula for that victory as an independent was one that cannot be repeated. In 2006, the majority of Democratic voters rejected Lieberman again in the general election. But he won because of large majorities among independents and Republicans. That was made possible only because the Republicans, anticipating that Lieberman would be the Democratic candidate, nominated a nonentity who wound up getting less than 10 percent of the vote.

Six years later, Lieberman knows he would have no chance in a Democratic primary, since most of those Democrats who backed him in the past still hold his support for Republican John McCain in the 2008 presidential election against him. Virtually any Democrat could beat him. And he is still too much of a liberal on domestic policy to have a chance to win a Republican primary should he choose to try that route. That leaves him with the option of a straightforward run as an independent. But while Connecticut has a tradition of backing party-jumping mavericks in statewide races, the only way he can win is if he is able to claim, as he did in 2006, the lion’s share of Republican ballots. A McMahon candidacy will mean a well-funded and serious GOP candidate who is conservative enough to retain the loyalty of most of that party’s voters in November. That means Lieberman has no reasonable scenario for victory in 2012.

This makes it all but certain that the Congress that convenes in January will be the last in which Lieberman will sit. If so, it will be yet another indication that the Scoop Jackson Democrat — liberals on domestic policy and hawks on foreign policy — is truly extinct. Lieberman will, of course, be remembered as the man who came within a few hanging chads of being elected the first Jewish vice president of the United States. But his real legacy will be the fact that he was willing to risk his career for the sake of principle as he bucked his party’s loyalists by faithfully supporting the war against Islamist terrorists in Iraq.

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“I’m Going to Take Off”

That’s what Barack Obama said on Friday when he ceded the podium in the White House briefing room to Bill Clinton. In the New York Post today, I analyze this rather singular moment:

The event gobsmacked the political class. On Twitter, ABC News political director Amy E. Walter wrote, “Obama just ceded the podium to Clinton. This. Is. Awesome.” Christina Bellantoni of the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call used the same punctuation trope: “This is Un. Real.”

Washington froze in wonder at this momentary trip into the past. The sheer strangeness of the sight of Clinton alone at that podium crystallized the sense that the American political system (or more specifically, the Democratic party) had spun out of control over the course of the week.

You can read the whole thing here.

That’s what Barack Obama said on Friday when he ceded the podium in the White House briefing room to Bill Clinton. In the New York Post today, I analyze this rather singular moment:

The event gobsmacked the political class. On Twitter, ABC News political director Amy E. Walter wrote, “Obama just ceded the podium to Clinton. This. Is. Awesome.” Christina Bellantoni of the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call used the same punctuation trope: “This is Un. Real.”

Washington froze in wonder at this momentary trip into the past. The sheer strangeness of the sight of Clinton alone at that podium crystallized the sense that the American political system (or more specifically, the Democratic party) had spun out of control over the course of the week.

You can read the whole thing here.

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This Is What Happens When You Get Engulfed by a Wave

Today on Capitol Hill, the Democratic Party appears to have gone somewhat insane. The House Democratic Caucus voted to oppose the tax-cut deal struck between Barack Obama and Senate Republicans; it’s a non-binding vote, but an embarrassing one for the president. It’s not nuts — the bill is obviously problematic for liberals — but its practical political effect is negligible, and it seems more like a tantrum than anything else. Roll Call even reports that someone at the meeting shouted “—- the president”; imagine if such a thing had been reported out of a Republican caucus meeting.

In the Senate, a complicated procedural maneuver to pass the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” failed, apparently due to as-yet incomprehensible machinations by Majority Leader Harry Reid, who had some deal struck with moderate Republican Susan Collins that he decided to renege on and hold a vote anyway. Nobody understood what was happening, the vote (not to repeal, but to end debate)  failed, and Collins voted with Reid anyway.

There was more chaos relating to other legislation as well. Meanwhile, Obama press spokesman Robert Gibbs told Democrats that if they have better ideas, they should make like The Price Is Right and “come on down.”

The machinery of the Democratic Party in Washington is in desperate need of overhaul. The November 2 tsunami shorted everything out.

Today on Capitol Hill, the Democratic Party appears to have gone somewhat insane. The House Democratic Caucus voted to oppose the tax-cut deal struck between Barack Obama and Senate Republicans; it’s a non-binding vote, but an embarrassing one for the president. It’s not nuts — the bill is obviously problematic for liberals — but its practical political effect is negligible, and it seems more like a tantrum than anything else. Roll Call even reports that someone at the meeting shouted “—- the president”; imagine if such a thing had been reported out of a Republican caucus meeting.

In the Senate, a complicated procedural maneuver to pass the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” failed, apparently due to as-yet incomprehensible machinations by Majority Leader Harry Reid, who had some deal struck with moderate Republican Susan Collins that he decided to renege on and hold a vote anyway. Nobody understood what was happening, the vote (not to repeal, but to end debate)  failed, and Collins voted with Reid anyway.

There was more chaos relating to other legislation as well. Meanwhile, Obama press spokesman Robert Gibbs told Democrats that if they have better ideas, they should make like The Price Is Right and “come on down.”

The machinery of the Democratic Party in Washington is in desperate need of overhaul. The November 2 tsunami shorted everything out.

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Boxing In the Democrats

It wasn’t a good day for House Minority Leader John Boehner. As the Wall Street Journal editors explain, he smudged up a clear and effective distinction between the parties on the Bush tax cuts, leaving his members dazed:

Republicans scrambled yesterday to regain their footing, with House Minority Whip Eric Cantor returning to the winning GOP argument that any tax hike on “working families, small-business people and investors” is a “non-starter.” We hope so. As for Mr. Boehner, this stumble on the easy issue of taxation in the best GOP year since 1994 makes us wonder if he’s ready for prime time.

Fortunately, House Republicans didn’t compound their leader’s error. To the contrary, they moved swiftly to box in their Democratic colleagues in advance of the midterm elections. Roll Call reports:

The top Republicans on three House committees on Monday called on their Democratic counterparts to clear committee agendas immediately and begin work on a bipartisan bill to create jobs by freezing spending and cutting taxes.

In their letter to the chairmen of the Ways and Means, Appropriations and Budget Committees, Ranking Members Dave Camp (Mich.), Jerry Lewis (Calif.) and Paul Ryan (Wis.) proposed the House work to enact a two–point plan to extend the Bush tax cuts for two years and freeze non-security discretionary spending at 2008 levels.

It’s smart politics — which Democrats are brave enough to vote no or to stall? — and smart policy. What’s interesting is that both Camp and Ryan, two of the sharpest reform-minded congressmen in the Republican caucus (both of whom made a good impression at the health-care summit), are leading the charge. They have figured out that this is no time to be a squish. Elections, after all, are about choices, and this move presents voters with a stark one.

It wasn’t a good day for House Minority Leader John Boehner. As the Wall Street Journal editors explain, he smudged up a clear and effective distinction between the parties on the Bush tax cuts, leaving his members dazed:

Republicans scrambled yesterday to regain their footing, with House Minority Whip Eric Cantor returning to the winning GOP argument that any tax hike on “working families, small-business people and investors” is a “non-starter.” We hope so. As for Mr. Boehner, this stumble on the easy issue of taxation in the best GOP year since 1994 makes us wonder if he’s ready for prime time.

Fortunately, House Republicans didn’t compound their leader’s error. To the contrary, they moved swiftly to box in their Democratic colleagues in advance of the midterm elections. Roll Call reports:

The top Republicans on three House committees on Monday called on their Democratic counterparts to clear committee agendas immediately and begin work on a bipartisan bill to create jobs by freezing spending and cutting taxes.

In their letter to the chairmen of the Ways and Means, Appropriations and Budget Committees, Ranking Members Dave Camp (Mich.), Jerry Lewis (Calif.) and Paul Ryan (Wis.) proposed the House work to enact a two–point plan to extend the Bush tax cuts for two years and freeze non-security discretionary spending at 2008 levels.

It’s smart politics — which Democrats are brave enough to vote no or to stall? — and smart policy. What’s interesting is that both Camp and Ryan, two of the sharpest reform-minded congressmen in the Republican caucus (both of whom made a good impression at the health-care summit), are leading the charge. They have figured out that this is no time to be a squish. Elections, after all, are about choices, and this move presents voters with a stark one.

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So Goes California?

For years, Republicans considered New Jersey and California elections to be the Lucy of politics — always tempting with the football but inevitably pulling it away at the last moment. But then came Chris Christie’s win in the Garden State. And now Meg Whitman is leading Jerry Brown in the gubernatorial polls, and Barbara Boxer, perhaps the liberal whom Republicans most love to mock, could finally get booted.

Emily Cadei of Roll Call reports:

Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer of California has been the subject of any number of unflattering portrayals by Republican detractors over the past few months: a talkative blimp, an “obnoxious left-wing ideologue,” and “bitterly partisan,” to name a few. The barrage of criticism, which took on a new level of intensity with the state Republicans’ convention the weekend of March 12, appears to be taking its toll on the three-term senator.

To reflect polls showing a tightening general election race and California voters’ particularly sour mood about the direction of their state and the country, CQ Politics is changing its race rating from “Likely Democratic” to the increasingly competitive “Leans Democratic.”

Two polls conducted in March showed Boxer’s lead over two potential Republican challengers narrowing to a virtual tie. One of those two surveys, the Field Poll, had Boxer leading by double digits as recently as January.

In any other election year, it would seem inconceivable, but California has been the petri dish for the failure of liberal government, and the voters are in an ornery mood. And Republicans argue that if New Jersey and Massachusetts can go Republican, why not California? The Republicans have a dog fight in their primary. (Obama’s assault on Israel probably hasn’t helped Tom Campbell any whose record on Israel is of considerable relevance.) And Californians are more supportive of ObamaCare than many other Americans. But the race is indisputably competitive, and that in and of itself is important. The Senate race will consume Democratic resources that otherwise could be used to help candidates in traditionally more competitive states. It is further evidence that in the Obama era, there are very few “safe” Democratic seats.

For years, Republicans considered New Jersey and California elections to be the Lucy of politics — always tempting with the football but inevitably pulling it away at the last moment. But then came Chris Christie’s win in the Garden State. And now Meg Whitman is leading Jerry Brown in the gubernatorial polls, and Barbara Boxer, perhaps the liberal whom Republicans most love to mock, could finally get booted.

Emily Cadei of Roll Call reports:

Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer of California has been the subject of any number of unflattering portrayals by Republican detractors over the past few months: a talkative blimp, an “obnoxious left-wing ideologue,” and “bitterly partisan,” to name a few. The barrage of criticism, which took on a new level of intensity with the state Republicans’ convention the weekend of March 12, appears to be taking its toll on the three-term senator.

To reflect polls showing a tightening general election race and California voters’ particularly sour mood about the direction of their state and the country, CQ Politics is changing its race rating from “Likely Democratic” to the increasingly competitive “Leans Democratic.”

Two polls conducted in March showed Boxer’s lead over two potential Republican challengers narrowing to a virtual tie. One of those two surveys, the Field Poll, had Boxer leading by double digits as recently as January.

In any other election year, it would seem inconceivable, but California has been the petri dish for the failure of liberal government, and the voters are in an ornery mood. And Republicans argue that if New Jersey and Massachusetts can go Republican, why not California? The Republicans have a dog fight in their primary. (Obama’s assault on Israel probably hasn’t helped Tom Campbell any whose record on Israel is of considerable relevance.) And Californians are more supportive of ObamaCare than many other Americans. But the race is indisputably competitive, and that in and of itself is important. The Senate race will consume Democratic resources that otherwise could be used to help candidates in traditionally more competitive states. It is further evidence that in the Obama era, there are very few “safe” Democratic seats.

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The Civil War

The media and liberal punditocracy has been searching for a civil war on the Right. Tea Party protestors vs. the GOP! Marco Rubio vs. Charlie Crist! But the divide isn’t really as significant as the Left would hope, and the primary fights on the GOP side, far from being a bloodbath, look rather tame (and in Florida, one-sided). There really is a fight breaking out — but it’s in the Democratic Party. Politico reports:

With Arkansas Lt. Gov. Bill Halter’s announcement Monday that he will run against Sen. Blanche Lincoln, Senate Democrats now have three colleagues facing serious primary challenges from candidates embracing distinctly anti-Washington platforms at a time when Democrats control the White House and both chambers of Congress…. In Pennsylvania, where Rep. Joe Sestak is battling White House-backed Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter, Sestak has criticized the party establishment for supporting a party-switcher and for focusing too much on the political calculus of adding another Democratic Senate vote.

“The Real Arlen Specter has been a longtime Republican for 45 years and has spent the past 29 years in Washington, D.C.,” reads a website Sestak’s campaign launched, titled “The Real Arlen Specter.”

In Colorado, former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, who is challenging appointed Sen. Michael Bennet, has gone so far as to denounce his own party for failing to denounce backroom deal making in health care reform negotiations. In New York, former Tennessee Rep. Harold Ford Jr. branded Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand a “parakeet” for party higher-ups before announcing Monday he wasn’t running.

Rather civil war-like, I would say. And then there is the fight over reconciliation, if we ever get that far. Roll Call reports: “Knowledgeable Senate Democratic aides have warned for weeks of the difficulty of drafting a complex health care reform bill under reconciliation rules. The challenge is to construct legislation that can satisfy Democrats, withstand Republican resistance and pass muster with the Senate Parliamentarian.” But the leadership is pressing on, despite the objections of prominent Democrats like Sen. Kent Conrad.

In the short term, the primary challengers on the Left will likely jerk the besieged Democrats even further Leftward in an effort to survive their primaries. But that then leaves the playing field wide open for Republican contenders to appeal to the Center-Right majority, the very voters inflamed by the Obami’s extremist agenda.

It is the very tale the Left was pushing, but in reverse. Now it is the Democrats, beset by internal divides and ideological extremism, who are heading for a smash-up.  It is what Obama has wrought, not so long after he promised to bring us into a great post-partisan era. It seems he has instead stirred up quite a fight, in his own party no less.

The media and liberal punditocracy has been searching for a civil war on the Right. Tea Party protestors vs. the GOP! Marco Rubio vs. Charlie Crist! But the divide isn’t really as significant as the Left would hope, and the primary fights on the GOP side, far from being a bloodbath, look rather tame (and in Florida, one-sided). There really is a fight breaking out — but it’s in the Democratic Party. Politico reports:

With Arkansas Lt. Gov. Bill Halter’s announcement Monday that he will run against Sen. Blanche Lincoln, Senate Democrats now have three colleagues facing serious primary challenges from candidates embracing distinctly anti-Washington platforms at a time when Democrats control the White House and both chambers of Congress…. In Pennsylvania, where Rep. Joe Sestak is battling White House-backed Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter, Sestak has criticized the party establishment for supporting a party-switcher and for focusing too much on the political calculus of adding another Democratic Senate vote.

“The Real Arlen Specter has been a longtime Republican for 45 years and has spent the past 29 years in Washington, D.C.,” reads a website Sestak’s campaign launched, titled “The Real Arlen Specter.”

In Colorado, former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, who is challenging appointed Sen. Michael Bennet, has gone so far as to denounce his own party for failing to denounce backroom deal making in health care reform negotiations. In New York, former Tennessee Rep. Harold Ford Jr. branded Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand a “parakeet” for party higher-ups before announcing Monday he wasn’t running.

Rather civil war-like, I would say. And then there is the fight over reconciliation, if we ever get that far. Roll Call reports: “Knowledgeable Senate Democratic aides have warned for weeks of the difficulty of drafting a complex health care reform bill under reconciliation rules. The challenge is to construct legislation that can satisfy Democrats, withstand Republican resistance and pass muster with the Senate Parliamentarian.” But the leadership is pressing on, despite the objections of prominent Democrats like Sen. Kent Conrad.

In the short term, the primary challengers on the Left will likely jerk the besieged Democrats even further Leftward in an effort to survive their primaries. But that then leaves the playing field wide open for Republican contenders to appeal to the Center-Right majority, the very voters inflamed by the Obami’s extremist agenda.

It is the very tale the Left was pushing, but in reverse. Now it is the Democrats, beset by internal divides and ideological extremism, who are heading for a smash-up.  It is what Obama has wrought, not so long after he promised to bring us into a great post-partisan era. It seems he has instead stirred up quite a fight, in his own party no less.

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Breaking the Cynicism Meter

Republicans have long suspected that the Obama health-care summit is a setup. After all, the first ground rule seems to be: “I get ObamaCare.” But sometimes even the Democrats outdo themselves in the cynicism department. Roll Call reports:

Senate Democrats say they see no need to abandon the idea of using reconciliation to pass health care reform this year just because President Barack Obama has scheduled a bipartisan summit next week to try to break the impasse on Capitol Hill. . .Given the unified GOP opposition to their health care effort, Senate Democrats argued just before departing for the Presidents Day recess that Obama’s summit is no reason to shelve reconciliation as a potential strategy. The tactic would allow Democrats pass certain aspects of health care reform with just 51 votes.

“I think it should be constantly pursued,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said Thursday when asked whether Democrats should take a break from drafting a reconciliation bill until after Obama’s summit.

“I think the Republicans are pretty committed to the notion that obstructing everything that President Obama would like to accomplish is very key to their base and their political success,” Whitehouse added. “I don’t see them departing from that strategy.”

Nevertheless, there is reason to believe they lack the votes to utilize reconciliation. (“Some moderate Senate Democrats have already announced their opposition to a reconciliation bill regardless of what is in it.”) And that is before we get to the merits. It isn’t at all clear that, post-Scott Brown, there are votes for what’s in ObamaCare (e.g., massive tax hikes, $500 billion in cuts to Medicare with no real reform element, forcing people to buy health-care plans they don’t want from Big Insurance). Wouldn’t Ben Nelson and Blanche Lincoln (and maybe others as well) jump at the chance to return to the good graces of voters whom they have enraged?

Then on the House side, we hear that Nancy Pelosi may be 100 votes short of a majority to pass ObamaCare. As Michael Barone explains:

So you, as a Democratic member with potentially serious opposition, do the political caucus. If you vote for the Senate bill, you’re voting for something that has 35% support nationwide and probably a little less than that in your district. You will have voted for the Cornhusker Hustle and the Louisiana Purchase. Your Republican opponent will ask why you voted for something that gave taxpayers in Nebraska and Louisiana better treatment than the people you represent (there are no Democratic House members running for reelection in those two states: Nebraska has only Republican House members and the single Louisiana House Democrat is running for the Senate). The only protection you have against this is the assurance that the Senate parliamentarian and scared incumbent senators will come through for you, and that Harry Reid will pursue a steady course.

So your response to the leadership is either, I gotta think about this, or, Hell no. The House Democratic leadership’s problem is that it cannot credibly promise that the Senate will keep its part of the bargain.

So the bottom line: it is hard to believe Obama is operating in good faith. But that’s OK with conservatives, independents, and the two-thirds of us who don’t want a government takeover of health care. Obama still doesn’t have the votes, and those lawmakers who see their careers passing before their eyes probably don’t even want a vote on it. Obama has done enough damage to their re-election prospects already.

Republicans have long suspected that the Obama health-care summit is a setup. After all, the first ground rule seems to be: “I get ObamaCare.” But sometimes even the Democrats outdo themselves in the cynicism department. Roll Call reports:

Senate Democrats say they see no need to abandon the idea of using reconciliation to pass health care reform this year just because President Barack Obama has scheduled a bipartisan summit next week to try to break the impasse on Capitol Hill. . .Given the unified GOP opposition to their health care effort, Senate Democrats argued just before departing for the Presidents Day recess that Obama’s summit is no reason to shelve reconciliation as a potential strategy. The tactic would allow Democrats pass certain aspects of health care reform with just 51 votes.

“I think it should be constantly pursued,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said Thursday when asked whether Democrats should take a break from drafting a reconciliation bill until after Obama’s summit.

“I think the Republicans are pretty committed to the notion that obstructing everything that President Obama would like to accomplish is very key to their base and their political success,” Whitehouse added. “I don’t see them departing from that strategy.”

Nevertheless, there is reason to believe they lack the votes to utilize reconciliation. (“Some moderate Senate Democrats have already announced their opposition to a reconciliation bill regardless of what is in it.”) And that is before we get to the merits. It isn’t at all clear that, post-Scott Brown, there are votes for what’s in ObamaCare (e.g., massive tax hikes, $500 billion in cuts to Medicare with no real reform element, forcing people to buy health-care plans they don’t want from Big Insurance). Wouldn’t Ben Nelson and Blanche Lincoln (and maybe others as well) jump at the chance to return to the good graces of voters whom they have enraged?

Then on the House side, we hear that Nancy Pelosi may be 100 votes short of a majority to pass ObamaCare. As Michael Barone explains:

So you, as a Democratic member with potentially serious opposition, do the political caucus. If you vote for the Senate bill, you’re voting for something that has 35% support nationwide and probably a little less than that in your district. You will have voted for the Cornhusker Hustle and the Louisiana Purchase. Your Republican opponent will ask why you voted for something that gave taxpayers in Nebraska and Louisiana better treatment than the people you represent (there are no Democratic House members running for reelection in those two states: Nebraska has only Republican House members and the single Louisiana House Democrat is running for the Senate). The only protection you have against this is the assurance that the Senate parliamentarian and scared incumbent senators will come through for you, and that Harry Reid will pursue a steady course.

So your response to the leadership is either, I gotta think about this, or, Hell no. The House Democratic leadership’s problem is that it cannot credibly promise that the Senate will keep its part of the bargain.

So the bottom line: it is hard to believe Obama is operating in good faith. But that’s OK with conservatives, independents, and the two-thirds of us who don’t want a government takeover of health care. Obama still doesn’t have the votes, and those lawmakers who see their careers passing before their eyes probably don’t even want a vote on it. Obama has done enough damage to their re-election prospects already.

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Broadening the Playing Field

The biggest political game this year will be estimating the number of Democratic losses in the House and Senate. “According to the Rothenberg Political Report, there are 61 competitive House seats in the country, including 47 Democratic seats and 14 Republican seats. According to CQ-Roll Call, the playing field is wider (102 seats) but similarly proportional (70 Democratic seats and 32 Republican seats).” Republicans are trying to get at least 80 seats in play, thereby substantially increasing their chances of taking back the House (something virtually no one a year ago imagined was a realistic possibility). Rothenberg Political Report explains:

Republicans are still a long way from getting 80 seats into play and recapturing the majority is not yet in sight. But even though Congressional campaign committees can’t create a wave election, strategists can put candidates in place to take advantage of one. On Jan. 17, 2006, there were 42 seats in play, including 31 Republican-held seats and 11 Democratic-held seats, according to the Rothenberg Political Report. As the sentiment continued to shift against Bush and the Republicans, the playing field broadened and tilted further into GOP territory.

That is why with each retirement in their ranks and every party switch, Democrats become increasingly nervous. The broader the playing field, the greater the danger of the House slipping from their control. And then, of course, Democrats might really do themselves in. They might pass a massive tax hike or scare seniors with deep Medicare cuts, for example. Nah — they couldn’t be that politically dense, could they? Oh yes, indeed. In that regard, Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid — in their Ahab-like obsession with snaring a politically toxic health-care bill — are the best allies the GOP has in broadening that playing field.

The biggest political game this year will be estimating the number of Democratic losses in the House and Senate. “According to the Rothenberg Political Report, there are 61 competitive House seats in the country, including 47 Democratic seats and 14 Republican seats. According to CQ-Roll Call, the playing field is wider (102 seats) but similarly proportional (70 Democratic seats and 32 Republican seats).” Republicans are trying to get at least 80 seats in play, thereby substantially increasing their chances of taking back the House (something virtually no one a year ago imagined was a realistic possibility). Rothenberg Political Report explains:

Republicans are still a long way from getting 80 seats into play and recapturing the majority is not yet in sight. But even though Congressional campaign committees can’t create a wave election, strategists can put candidates in place to take advantage of one. On Jan. 17, 2006, there were 42 seats in play, including 31 Republican-held seats and 11 Democratic-held seats, according to the Rothenberg Political Report. As the sentiment continued to shift against Bush and the Republicans, the playing field broadened and tilted further into GOP territory.

That is why with each retirement in their ranks and every party switch, Democrats become increasingly nervous. The broader the playing field, the greater the danger of the House slipping from their control. And then, of course, Democrats might really do themselves in. They might pass a massive tax hike or scare seniors with deep Medicare cuts, for example. Nah — they couldn’t be that politically dense, could they? Oh yes, indeed. In that regard, Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid — in their Ahab-like obsession with snaring a politically toxic health-care bill — are the best allies the GOP has in broadening that playing field.

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Reid Panics

Harry Reid must be one nervous pol. He concocted a half-baked deal to rescue ObamaCare, spun to the media that there was a “deal” among moderate senators, and is now watching health care — and possibly his career — go up in smoke. Roll Call reports:

Sen. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) formally notified Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Sunday afternoon that he would filibuster the health care reform bill if it includes a Medicare “buy-in” provision.

Lieberman’s position came as a surprise to Reid, considering the self-described Independent Democrat was among the first people Reid spoke to about the Medicare provision when it was discussed by a Democratic group of centrists and liberals attempting to craft a compromise that could secure the votes of all 60 Members of the Democratic Conference. At the time, Lieberman “voiced support” for the plan, according to a Senate Democratic leadership aide.

Lieberman spokesman Marshall Wittmann strongly disputed the leadership aide’s account.

“The suggestion by an anonymous ‘aide’ that Senator Lieberman ever supported the Medicare buy in proposal is absolutely and totally false. The fact that the ‘aide’ won’t identify him/herself is a testimony that they are telling a deliberate falsehood or he/she is completely confused,” Wittmann said.

It’s rather apparent that the “Senate aide” — almost certainly a Reid aide — is telling a tall tale. Almost as soon as the “deal” was announced, Lieberman voiced his concern about the funding of the plan and his ongoing opposition to any public option. Reid is plainly trying to box Lieberman in, suggesting that the senator from Connecticut and others had bought into a deal, when in fact none existed. And the gambit, like the Medicare buy-in itself, is harebrained and has in effect forced Lieberman to come out in flat opposition to any Medicare “deal.” Note the word “ever.” Lieberman, we now know, never supported Reid’s non-deal on Medicare.

Moreover, one has to marvel at the blind quote (likely from that same office): “It’s all coming down to one guy who’s prepared to vote against the interests of children and families in Connecticut who need health care reform.” No, it seems that Sen. Ben Nelson is opposed to it too. And I suspect that there are many Red State senators who aren’t on board either. But Reid’s fake agreement is evaporating before his eyes, so he’s looking for someone to blame.

Indeed, Reid’s office is now out spinning the New York Times‘s take, which declares Lieberman’s opposition to be “a surprise.” To whom exactly? Once again, unnamed aides say they thought they had a deal. Oh really? What about Lieberman’s statement last week explicitly withholding judgment? Once again, Reid’s ploy is obvious — try to keep the finger in the dam, try to prevent others who never agreed to the Medicare buy-in scam from letting the cat out of the bag, and try to maintain the appearance of momentum. But really, other senators know there was no deal, and they’re hardly going to pretend there was now that both Lieberman and Nelson have blown the whistle on Reid’s chicanery.

But all this just goes to show how quickly ReidCare is unraveling.

Harry Reid must be one nervous pol. He concocted a half-baked deal to rescue ObamaCare, spun to the media that there was a “deal” among moderate senators, and is now watching health care — and possibly his career — go up in smoke. Roll Call reports:

Sen. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) formally notified Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Sunday afternoon that he would filibuster the health care reform bill if it includes a Medicare “buy-in” provision.

Lieberman’s position came as a surprise to Reid, considering the self-described Independent Democrat was among the first people Reid spoke to about the Medicare provision when it was discussed by a Democratic group of centrists and liberals attempting to craft a compromise that could secure the votes of all 60 Members of the Democratic Conference. At the time, Lieberman “voiced support” for the plan, according to a Senate Democratic leadership aide.

Lieberman spokesman Marshall Wittmann strongly disputed the leadership aide’s account.

“The suggestion by an anonymous ‘aide’ that Senator Lieberman ever supported the Medicare buy in proposal is absolutely and totally false. The fact that the ‘aide’ won’t identify him/herself is a testimony that they are telling a deliberate falsehood or he/she is completely confused,” Wittmann said.

It’s rather apparent that the “Senate aide” — almost certainly a Reid aide — is telling a tall tale. Almost as soon as the “deal” was announced, Lieberman voiced his concern about the funding of the plan and his ongoing opposition to any public option. Reid is plainly trying to box Lieberman in, suggesting that the senator from Connecticut and others had bought into a deal, when in fact none existed. And the gambit, like the Medicare buy-in itself, is harebrained and has in effect forced Lieberman to come out in flat opposition to any Medicare “deal.” Note the word “ever.” Lieberman, we now know, never supported Reid’s non-deal on Medicare.

Moreover, one has to marvel at the blind quote (likely from that same office): “It’s all coming down to one guy who’s prepared to vote against the interests of children and families in Connecticut who need health care reform.” No, it seems that Sen. Ben Nelson is opposed to it too. And I suspect that there are many Red State senators who aren’t on board either. But Reid’s fake agreement is evaporating before his eyes, so he’s looking for someone to blame.

Indeed, Reid’s office is now out spinning the New York Times‘s take, which declares Lieberman’s opposition to be “a surprise.” To whom exactly? Once again, unnamed aides say they thought they had a deal. Oh really? What about Lieberman’s statement last week explicitly withholding judgment? Once again, Reid’s ploy is obvious — try to keep the finger in the dam, try to prevent others who never agreed to the Medicare buy-in scam from letting the cat out of the bag, and try to maintain the appearance of momentum. But really, other senators know there was no deal, and they’re hardly going to pretend there was now that both Lieberman and Nelson have blown the whistle on Reid’s chicanery.

But all this just goes to show how quickly ReidCare is unraveling.

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Pansygate

As if we did not have enough outrage over real and semi-real issues, we now have Pansygate.  Indignation has gripped some over this comment by Governor Mike Easley at Tuesday’s endorsement presser for Hillary Clinton: “This lady right here makes Rocky Balboa look like a pansy.”

He did not, it should be noted, say Barack Obama was a pansy. He said Rocky was, in comparison to Hillary. And sometimes a dainty flower is just a flower, and a weakling is just a weakling (two commonly accepted meanings). But some–including a pleading Keith Olbermann, who tried unsuccessfully on MSNBC last night to badger a poor Roll Call reporter into conceding this was a discriminatory remark–will not be persuaded.

Suffice it to say that on a day when Obama was the focus of a storm of negative attention, the last thing Clinton would have wanted would be to get involved in anything controversial or suggestive of intolerance. She is now, you see, auditioning as the Uniter. That’s how far we’ve come.

As if we did not have enough outrage over real and semi-real issues, we now have Pansygate.  Indignation has gripped some over this comment by Governor Mike Easley at Tuesday’s endorsement presser for Hillary Clinton: “This lady right here makes Rocky Balboa look like a pansy.”

He did not, it should be noted, say Barack Obama was a pansy. He said Rocky was, in comparison to Hillary. And sometimes a dainty flower is just a flower, and a weakling is just a weakling (two commonly accepted meanings). But some–including a pleading Keith Olbermann, who tried unsuccessfully on MSNBC last night to badger a poor Roll Call reporter into conceding this was a discriminatory remark–will not be persuaded.

Suffice it to say that on a day when Obama was the focus of a storm of negative attention, the last thing Clinton would have wanted would be to get involved in anything controversial or suggestive of intolerance. She is now, you see, auditioning as the Uniter. That’s how far we’ve come.

Read Less




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