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Reid may not have 60 votes, at least for a few days


Politico reports that Max Baucus is rushing back to Montana for a family emergency. Word was that Reid was hoping to vote to proceed on the bill on Saturday, but if Democrats don't have Baucus, that could leave them with 59 votes, rather than the 60 needed to break the filibuster. The question then becomes whether Snowe or Collins will vote for cloture, or whether the vote needs to be delayed.

At the outset, this isn't a terribly big deal, but it does show the chilling delicacy of the Democratic margin. If a single senator falls ill, or gets in a car accident, or is otherwise incapacitated, the vote count becomes wildly unbalanced, and health-care reform becomes imperiled.

Photo credit: John Moore/Getty.

By Ezra Klein  |  November 18, 2009; 2:20 PM ET
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Okay, I'm probably being overly cynical. If there truly is a family emergency, then I pray for a wonderful outcome for all involved.

But Baucus is the a-hole who delayed us through August for no apparent reason. He's the guy who prevented a Finance Committee vote on the Wyden Amendment and lied about the reason. Now, at a crucial point in the process, this is the same guy who has to rush out of town for an unspecified family emergency? Again, I hope I'm wrong. But it's highly suspicious.

Posted by: cjo30080 | November 18, 2009 2:34 PM | Report abuse

line up the wacko conspiracy theorists. oh wait, one's already here.

FYI, there was no guarantee that debate would open up anyway. All it took was one of Lincoln, Liebermann, Nelson to stop it although I don't know anyone who expects that to be the case.

That being said delays are now starting talk that with delays and IF the senate passes it out near the end of the year and its something that Pelosi could stomach the house may instead of going to conference just vote on the senate bill and it would likely pass and then the President could sign it before the end of the year.

Posted by: visionbrkr | November 18, 2009 2:50 PM | Report abuse

Remember how the Senate used to rely on the cordial relationship of members, where if one couldn't be present but indicated his intention to vote a certain way a colleague on the other side would change his vote? That's why stupid things like holds were allowed- it was assumed everyone would play nice and rules that could be abused wouldn't be. Now, of course, Republicans rely on things like the illness (Byrd) and deaths (Kennedy) of members of the opposition and their families (Baucus) to continue their obstructionism.

Posted by: _SP_ | November 18, 2009 2:57 PM | Report abuse

By the way, is this another quirk of the filibuster, where it requires 60% of the total membership for cloture, but normal order requires 50% of the voting members? If some members abstain or are absent, can a bill pass, say, 48-45? Yet another reason to get rid of this stupid piece of arcana.

Posted by: _SP_ | November 18, 2009 3:03 PM | Report abuse

SP: A quorum in the Senate is a simple majority of Senators, 51 currently, so a bill can pass with a vote of 26-25.

Posted by: thehersch | November 18, 2009 3:19 PM | Report abuse

Wacko is giving corporate tools the benefit of the doubt when they've repeatedly demonstrated that they don't deserve it. Baucus is a tool, and given his recent history, such speculation is more than justified.

Posted by: cjo30080 | November 18, 2009 3:20 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, where is the much vaulted comity in the senate? I mean, Baccus is friends with Grassley and Snowe. Why wouldn't one of those repiglicans on the finance committee agree to vote for cloture in lieu of Baccus? After all, he held up the finance committee bill for MONTHS based on their desire to gut the bill of any meaningful reforms. Why wouldn't they return the favor by getting the bill to the floor.

Posted by: srw3 | November 18, 2009 3:21 PM | Report abuse


seriously STOP.

are you inferring that Baucus is FAKING a family emergency so as to not vote on clouture to proceed? Maybe a Republican posioned his grandma so he had to run to her aid. My GOD the Republicans proclaimed to want to SAVE Grandma and now they do this!!! Don't you think whatever the emergency is that its easily proven if its not actually an emergency and that it won't eventually come out as such???

Stupidity is not solely reserved it seems for "birthers", Glenn Beck or "Bow-gate theorists".

Posted by: visionbrkr | November 18, 2009 3:35 PM | Report abuse

The anonymity of the Internet frees people to say really stupid things. Ladies and gentlemen, sh#t happens to people.

Do you really want to have in a public comment section some stupid conspiracy about a Senator having a family emergency. For Christs sake, what if someone dies?!

Chill out. Its beneath all of us.

Posted by: zeppelin003 | November 18, 2009 4:04 PM | Report abuse


First, before you call somebody stupid, you might consider looking up the word "infer." You don't know what it means.

Second, I'm not IMPLYING anything. I'm speculating, and my speculation was clear and well qualified.

No, assuming it's true, the family emergency is unlikely to come out--nor should it (don't assume that all family emergencies are medically related). It's none of our business. Therefore, we have to give Baucus the benefit of the doubt. Therein lies the problem.

Seriously visionbrkr, STOP! Stop wallowing in your arrogance.

Posted by: cjo30080 | November 18, 2009 4:10 PM | Report abuse

i'm going to let it go because I agree with zeppelin003's comment. The internet does allow for all of this. But I will defend myself.

I just wish that both sides (left and right, Republican and Democrat) realized how silly some comments are. Sometimes family emergencies ARE family emergencies. And how much is actually private for Senators nowadays. You don't really think that a progressive blogger out there isn't tracking down what the emergency is and if it doesn't warrant "emergency status" in their eyes they won't comment negatively on him? What if Senator McCain had a family emergency? Would you be so inclined to call question to it? It doesn't mean HCR won't pass cloture, it doesn't mean it won't become law. It just means the senate may not start this weekend on it.

Posted by: visionbrkr | November 18, 2009 4:46 PM | Report abuse

Relax, guys,

they have 60 votes to proceed to debate.

whether it happens on saturday or next monday, the process will move forward.

Posted by: RandomWalk1 | November 18, 2009 5:05 PM | Report abuse

"At the outset, this isn't a terribly big deal, but it does show the chilling delicacy of the Democratic margin. If a single senator falls ill, or gets in a car accident, or is otherwise incapacitated, the vote count becomes wildly unbalanced, and health-care reform becomes imperiled.' Sorry, Ezra, as much as you don't like it, that's the way the system works.

Posted by: gramps2 | November 18, 2009 5:53 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of Byrd, what's his health situation? Is he going to be able to vote for cloture when needed?

Posted by: redwards95 | November 18, 2009 6:09 PM | Report abuse

Why can't one of his peers just vote "yay (or nay) by proxy" for him? They do it in committees all the time. Is there a decorum rule against this?

Posted by: onewing1 | November 19, 2009 2:41 PM | Report abuse

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