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Posted at 2:13 PM ET, 01/20/2011

Should Reid bring up repeal?

By Ezra Klein

Harry Reid isn't planning to bring the House's health-care repeal bill up for a vote in the Senate. Kevin Drum thinks he should reconsider:

What's the harm in wasting a bit of time and making this a knock-down-drag-out fight? After all, the House leadership got a nice, clean repeal vote by bringing up the bill under a closed rule and allowing no potentially embarrassing amendments and virtually no debate. In the Senate, by contrast, Democrats control things, and they can bring up all the amendments they want. So maybe they should play along, hold hearings, and force Republicans to vote on, say, an amendment to the repeal bill that would keep the preexisting condition ban in place. And another one that would keep the donut hole fix in place. Etc. etc.

As a general point, I think "making people take semi-embarrassing votes" is vastly overrated in American politics. Can anyone think of a campaign that even partly turned on one of these gambits?

By Ezra Klein  | January 20, 2011; 2:13 PM ET
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I think John Kerry's "I voted for it before I voted against it" was pretty damaging in the end.

Posted by: mschol17 | January 20, 2011 2:30 PM | Report abuse

The Senate has other, important work to do!

Posted by: Maezeppa | January 20, 2011 2:35 PM | Report abuse

No, he should do to the House GOP what the Senate GOP did (via filibuster threats) for the past two years when Pelosi's Dems passed bills that never got a Senate vote, even though Dems had a majority in the Senate. The Dems have nothing to gain by allowing a Senate vote. If Reid wants a controlled debate, introduce a resolution praising the ACA, listing all the reasons for the praise, and encouraging the executive branch to implement it fully and effectively.

Posted by: pjro | January 20, 2011 2:36 PM | Report abuse

I say the smartest play is for Democrats to start talking non-stop about the economy, jobs, and deficits. Force the GOP to block a few jobs bills in the name of repealing healthcare. They'll soon learn some of the pain Democrats learned when they let them healthcare topic drag on far too long while the public was concerned with jobs and the economy.

Posted by: charri68 | January 20, 2011 2:41 PM | Report abuse

Should Reid bring up repeal?

. . .

only if he has something to replace it with.

Posted by: visionbrkr | January 20, 2011 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Didn't a bunch of political junkies show that each vote with the Obama agenda hurt a vulnerable Democrat by 3/4ths of a percentage point? Isn't it plausible that Obama will carry a number of districts now held by Republicans?

Posted by: NicholasBeaudrot | January 20, 2011 2:59 PM | Report abuse

I agree with Maezeppa & pjro that the Senate should focus on jobs, jobs, jobs. But bringing up repeal might not be a bad idea. Not to shame the Republicans, but to draw them into actually governing. Have it be an open process. Debate the amendments. Debate the public option. Debate the mandate. See if the Republicans have anything constructive to offer. Who knows, maybe they do.

Posted by: willows1 | January 20, 2011 3:00 PM | Report abuse

Chambliss vs. Cleland wherein the triple-amputee war hero was superimposed with Saddam Hussein for voting against various Bush-supported war/security amendments.

Posted by: _SP_ | January 20, 2011 3:07 PM | Report abuse

I agree with mschol17. I think Republicans sensed they scored points against John Kerry when he when he gave that awkward explanation. The multitude of inane nonsense votes that have become de rigueur ever since are primarily motivated by the hope of setting another trap.

Of course, John Kerry was especially susceptible to such traps and it is unlikely that anyone else will ever again become so entangled, but why let that get in the way?

Posted by: jleaux | January 20, 2011 3:27 PM | Report abuse

I think Harry Reid should offer to put it up for a vote in return for something else. Maybe they could get a vote on the debt limit, filibuster reform, an annual budget, or how about a bill or amendment that authorizes all of the necessary funding for the healthcare bill so Republicans cannot use that tactic later this year.

Maybe there is nothing the Democratic Senate wants that the Republican controlled House will pass, but I would think there must be some bills Democrats could get passed if they could get past the filibuster. They need to come up with a creative trade to say "we wont filibuster healthcare repeal if you dont filibuster "X" or if you pass "X" in the house."

Posted by: DeanofProgress | January 20, 2011 4:37 PM | Report abuse

Allowing it to come up for vote would demonstrate that the Democrats are not averse to majority rule:

We Senate Democrats are not going to use cloture and calendar tricks to artificially impair this bill. We're going to give it a public airing and let it fail for the right reason -- which is that it lacks the support of a majority of the Senate.

The hard votes that the Republicans would have to take on all the amendments is just political icing on the cake and yet another demonstration that the Democrats are not anti-majority.

Posted by: Porchland | January 20, 2011 4:42 PM | Report abuse

I think the point is educating the electorate more than semi-embarrassing votes.

Given that many Americans don't understand what's in ACA and support the individual components, perhaps this would be a chance for Democrats to connect those components with ACA, using suitable amendments, and force Republicans to announce their support for pre-existing condition restrictions, the doughnut hole, lifetime limits, and all the other aspects of health insurance that Americans hate. Besides, imagine a bill passes the Senate that abolishes the individual mandate but keeps the exclusion on pre-existing conditions. It goes back to the House and the House Republicans have to either pass it or explain why they won't

Posted by: adonsig | January 20, 2011 4:46 PM | Report abuse

Reid should treat it as something hardly worth noticing. That way for the bill to go anywhere the R's have to champion it, demand that it get processed, at which point it gets passed to a couple committees who immediately table it. Then the republicans have to demand that the committees consider it and the chairs can tell them to go soak their oversized heads for a while. Make the republicans behave in spoiled barat mode and never let the bill actually go anywhere. The R's will ecome shriller and shriller, and in the two years the d's can stall the r's can look worse and worse.

Make the R's do all the work and get nowhere. NEVER actually talk about it.

Let the Press make all the noises that the republicans don't make, and once in a while let some short term intern wonder publicly what all the republicans complaining is, considering their own unwillingness to let Democratic legislation advance in the senate.

Posted by: ceflynline | January 20, 2011 4:56 PM | Report abuse

I'm curious if there is a way for the Republicans to force a vote on the repeal vote over Harry Reid's objections?

Posted by: RobT1 | January 20, 2011 5:40 PM | Report abuse

"I'm curious if there is a way for the Republicans to force a vote on the repeal vote over Harry Reid's objections? Posted by: RobT1"

They can't necessarily even force Reid to assign the bill to committee. Once in committee there are parliamentary motions to try to force a committee to release a bill, but for every motion the Dems have a dozen counter motions to slow things down.

But in fact the very first motion after any republican motion to consider would be a motion to table. Majority rules. To move to pick the motion up off the table a member of the side that prevailed would have to make the motion, so when the motion to table wins, McConnell would probably change his vote to in favor of tabling for parliamentary reasons.

If the Dems decide to get creative they can play Senatorial Hackey Sack with this bill until the 112th adjourns in a couple years.

Posted by: ceflynline | January 20, 2011 7:27 PM | Report abuse

Gives hack journalists like Weigel something to write about it... What else would that fat stooge write about it if he didn't have pointless process stories?

Posted by: cdosquared5 | January 20, 2011 7:36 PM | Report abuse

"As a general point, I think "making people take semi-embarrassing votes" is vastly overrated in American politics. Can anyone think of a campaign that even partly turned on one of these gambits?"

I'm not familiar enough with the details of multiple federal campaigns to hazard a guess on this, but I can think of some examples at the state level where it has been used, including in one of the campaigns for Governor. I remember it especially because it involved some votes in a legislative committee I was staffing at the time. In the end, the issue did not determine the electoral outcome, but it was not because of a lack of effort in the campaign advertising.

Posted by: reach4astar2 | January 20, 2011 8:25 PM | Report abuse

Referencing Harry Reid, see the Seinfeld episode called "opposite George" where he does everything against his instincts and becomes very successful.

Rememeber, it was Reid who prevented a vote on tax cuts back in the summer, when the same package ultimately passed, might have made a difference in at least a few lost Democratic seats.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 20, 2011 8:30 PM | Report abuse

It should go without saying that if anyone can think of such a campaign then that person is Nate Silver. In fact he has thought of many such campaigns (which appear as dots in a scatter).

I know this is at that other newspaper which must not be mentioned here, but it absolutely answers your rhetorical question

Votes against ACA and TARP are associated with better than otherwise expected performance by Democrats running for congress.

I know you appreciate math, but your question suggests that you think it is useful only for policy analysis and not for political strategy. Even if there is no single case in which a vote on a bill clearly made a difference, it is possible to use information from many races to test and apparently reject the null that roll call votes don't matter.

Posted by: rjw88 | January 21, 2011 3:17 PM | Report abuse

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