Why I'm not counting votes
I'm getting a lot of e-mails about this or that congressperson's latest hedge, or this or that effort to count the votes. So let me take a second to explain why I'm not posting those articles: I don't trust them.
To a degree that's really under-appreciated, legislators communicate with each other through the press. That's particularly true for the specialized Washington press: The Roll Calls and Congressional Quarterlys and Hills of the world. We read those stories as news articles, but the politicians who are quoted in them are often directing their words at their leadership rather than the publication's lay audience. And that means those comments generally have a couple different meanings. The most common double meaning is that a quote that seems like a prediction ("I am not inclined to vote for this bill") is actually the opening of a negotiation ("I want something changed in this bill, and I want it badly enough that I'm willing to play up my opposition in the press.")
Since I can't see into the souls of legislators, I don't waste time trying to parse this stuff. The final weeks before a close vote feature a lot of congresspeople making statements of unbending opposition and then cutting deals which turn them into qualified supporters of the legislation. This appears to be happening with Bart Stupak, for instance, even though he's spent the past few weeks grabbing headlines with his vocal opposition to the bill. So my stance on all this is that we'll know soon enough, but until there's solid evidence, I'm not going to spend time chasing statements that may or may not mean what they appear to mean.
March 9, 2010; 12:14 PM ET
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