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Pelosi's strategy to get the votes


Dennis Kucinich's decision to switch his vote from "no" to "yes" is interesting. The Senate bill, even with the reconciliation fixes, will be a much more conservative document than the House bill. There'll be no public plan, lower subsidies, an excise tax of some sort, an independent Medicare commission and more. So what you have here is the bill moving to the right even as it picks up votes from the left.

If you want to see how Nancy Pelosi gets the votes, Kucinich offers a hint. She unites her left flank, as these folks may not like the bill, but they love what the bill is trying to do and they don't want to destroy Barack Obama's presidency. And then she goes to however many Blue Dogs and strays as she needs and says, basically, that this bill is more to your liking than the original. The cost controls are stronger, the public option is gone and there's even an entitlement reform component. You won! This argument, incidentally, has the virtue of being true.

When you combine the bill's increased policy appeal to conservative Democrats with the political reality that conservative Democrats are often vulnerable Democrats who are in particular trouble if the bill collapses and the party enters an electoral death spiral, that may well be enough to wrangle the final few votes. From their perspective, this is a better bill than it was before and, if anything, it's more politically important to the Democratic Party than it was before. Those factors combined are probably worth a couple extra votes.

Photo credit: Melina Mara/The Washington Post

By Ezra Klein  |  March 17, 2010; 6:16 PM ET
Categories:  Health Reform  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Could LBJ have passed health-care reform in 2010?
Next: Reconciliation


It may be a smart strategy on paper, but so far it does not look like she has got many votes. She is short of passing the bill and there is a clear possibility that this whole edifice crumbles down.

Ezra, probably on purpose, you are quite behind all the happenings here. Many Rep. have said no and Union person is asked to visit WH so that excise tax can be ramped up for the hole created. Holes are created in Senate bill because there was lot of 'promise of spending more money or collecting less money' so as to align with House.

And that is the problem - why these bright bulbs did not realize that reconciliation means actually moving the bill 'right' of Senate Bill other wise it is not going to fly. Everybody thought recon will be all 'desert and no spinach' because it will mean to give House what they want. What is happening is reverse of that and hence the delay in CBO score.

Seems like Ezra, willingly or unwillingly, failed to notice it or point out that. Same with Media and the whole Pelosi endeavor is stuck now. It is as if the 'baby is stuck' in the canal when everyone is so anxiously waiting for the birth.

Things simply do not look that encouraging leaving aside all the attacks GOP is mounting. Politically, I do not know where is the vaunted smartness of this Dem Team.

Posted by: umesh409 | March 17, 2010 6:51 PM | Report abuse

Just to put it clearly - I always preferred Senate Bill more to House Bill (which was very bad bill from cost perspective). So improving on that is even better. But to get House on board, lot of promises were made and those are making it difficult to achieve the cost balance. Needless to say for 'cost control' folks, this is a preferred outcome - if the bill passes at all instead of crumbling under the own weight of Dem contradictions.

Posted by: umesh409 | March 17, 2010 6:55 PM | Report abuse


When I saw earlier today on Politico of Trumka being called in I thought the same thing. Kucinich from the progressives, Trumka representing labor to bend to the cost control pressures. I can only hope. I've always hoped the Senate bill alone would stand although I want the kickbacks out and the cost control of the excise tax to stand as well as the increased subsidies for affordability so its sustainable. heck while you're at it sneak in a last minute 7 year biologics adjustment to it. Really make Tauzin squirm. Wait until they cash the $6 million for pro reform ads though.

Posted by: visionbrkr | March 17, 2010 8:17 PM | Report abuse

Representatives are much less powerful than Senators. Consequently, the party has much more leverage over them.

Posted by: zosima | March 17, 2010 10:24 PM | Report abuse

Look! Dennis voted for! It must be more conservative!

Posted by: bmull | March 17, 2010 10:34 PM | Report abuse

You write of blue dogs "From their perspective, this is a better bill than it was before." I think you have assumed that you can reduce policy to one dimension left-right.

For example, it is clear that the Senate bill is unappealing to, among everyone else in the whole world, Bluedogs, because of the cornhusker kickback. This is not a left-right issue -- this is a sleazy and extremely dumb vs primate level intelligence issue (as is proven by the fact that Nelson doesn't support the kickback any more).

Even counting the reconciliation sidecar as read and passed, it is not clear to me why blue dogs would prefer a mixture of an excise tax and a tax on high incomes to the surtax on the super rich.

This is a move to the right *and* which creates an excellent issue for Republicans. The surtax is very popular. The excise tax is very unpopular. Representatives who fear the voters should be much more reluctant to vote for an excise tax.

Now it is true that bluedogs don't seem to care about public opinion at all. They are deficit hawks and care about paygo. The explanation (due to among others Matt Yglesias and probably you) is that their aim is to get on TV by appealing to the elite beltway journalistic consensus.

But now their seats are in danger. I can imagine that they suddenly really really don't want to vote for an excise tax.

Most of this is neither here nor there. All vulnerable Democrats have no interest as strong as passage of a health care bill -- any health care bill.

The dynamic is that they need the bill to pass but don't want to vote for it. I predict a very tense roll call as each bluedog hopes some other blue dog will take one for the team.

Posted by: rjw88 | March 18, 2010 1:24 AM | Report abuse

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