White House Cheat Sheet: The Hard Math of the Senate Vote
The $827 billion economic stimulus package being pushed by President Obama is expected to be voted on and approved today by the Senate but with far less Republican support than the chief executive and his top aides initially imagined.
The Senate vote is scheduled for shortly after noon today and, according to a Democratic leadership aide, only three Republicans are expected to cross party lines to back the bill -- Sens. Arlen Specter (Pa.), Susan Collins (Maine) and Olympia Snowe (Maine).
Assuming all goes according to plan, those three votes would put Democrats at 61 votes as Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy, who has been out of the chamber since collapsing and having a seizure on inauguration day, is expected to be there for the roll call. That's one more vote than the party needs to pass the legislation -- giving Democratic leaders a small amount of wiggle room in the event one of their members (presumably someone on the ideological left unhappy with the cuts in the bill) jumps ship.
That's a far cry from the broad bipartisan majority that Obama and his top aides foresaw for the bill -- once speculating that 80 Senate votes was a real possibility.
Why did Democrats come up so short of that goal?
Conventional wisdom -- particularly the kind being peddled by congressional Republicans -- is that the lack of true bipartisanship coupled with the rush to judgment on the legislation led to their opposition.
But, the truth may well be found in study of the raw numbers of the Senate, a study that shows that a combination of Democratic gains over the past two elections and a series of Republican retirements drastically limited the pool of persuadable Republicans.
Of the 41 Republican senators, just 10 sit in states that were carried by Obama in the 2008 election. Of those ten, three are already supporting the legislation (Snowe, Specter and Collins) while another three are retiring at the end of this session -- Sens. Bonnie Newman (N.H.), Mel Martinez (Fla.) and George Voinovich (Ohio). Of the remaining four, only two -- Sens. Richard Burr (N.C.) and Chuck Grassley (Iowa) -- are up for reelection in 2010 and theoretically persuadable.
Broaden the scope slightly to include the eight Republican senators who represent states that Arizona Sen. John McCain (R) won with under 55 percent last fall and a similar trend emerges.
Missouri Sen. Kit Bond whose state McCain won with 49.4 percent is retiring. Of the seven other Senators in this group, four are up for reelection in 2010 -- McCain as well as Sens. Jim DeMint (S.C.), Johnny Isakson (Ga.) and John Thune (S.D.). In the last four presidential elections prior to 2008, however, those four states had voted only twice for the Democratic nominee -- Georgia in 1992 for Bill Clinton and Arizona in 1996 for Clinton -- meaning that there is scant evidence that a vote against Obama's number one legislative priority could come back to bite these incumbents.
Do the math: For the vast majority of Senate Republicans casting votes today, it is neither in their short-term or long-term political interests to vote with Obama and his Democratic allies. It's the downside of the 13 Senate seats Democrats have picked up over the past two election cycles and a sign that Obama's plans for bipartisanship face significant numerical obstacles in the upper chamber.
Sked Stuff: When President Obama appears in Fort Myers, Fla. today for his second economic-themed town hall in as many days, one of his potential 2012 GOP opponents -- Gov. Charlie Crist -- will be by his side. "I am eager to welcome President Obama to the Sunshine State as he continues to work hard to reignite the U.S. economy," said Crist in a statement released Monday by the White House. Crist's decision to appear with Obama comes roughly one week after the Florida governor was one of four Republican chief executives to join 15 of their Democratic colleagues in expressing their support for the president's stimulus package.
A Real Race in Pa.: Just when it looked like Sen. Arlen Specter (R) might dodge a serious race in 2010, Joe Torsella, a former congressional candidate and the past head of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, announced his decision to run on Monday. Torsella's decision gives Democrats an able fundraiser -- Torsella raised tens of millions for the National Constitution Center -- and a close ally of Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, who defeated Torsella in a 2004 Democratic primary for the 13th congressional district, will stay out of the race, according to three sources close to the situation. Torsella may still face a primary challenge but given his ties to Rendell it's hard to imagine anyone knocking him off. Torsella is a serious candidate and, given Pennsylvania's demographics, this race will be close.
Macker Turns 52: Former Democratic National Committee chairman turned Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe will celebrate his 52nd birthday today with a fundraiser at the Westin Hotel in Arlington, Va. Make sure to bring your wallet -- to serve as a "host" will cost you $5,200 but you can get in as a "young professional" for just $52. (Get it?) One person you won't see there: former state Rep. Brian Moran, a rival for the Democratic nod who hammered the Macker during a speech to the state party last Saturday.
Conservatives Rally Against Solis Pick: Americans for Job Security, a conservative interest group, is organizing a grassroots effort -- emails, phone calls etc. -- against Rep. Hilda Solis' (Calif.) nomination as secretary of labor. Solis, whose confirmation hearing was postponed last week amid revelations of an unpaid tax lien by her husband, could see her confirmation turned into an incubator of the looming brawl between business and labor over the Employee Free Choice Act a.k.a. "card check." In a statement announcing the campaign, AJS president Stephen DeMaura said that Solis is "wholly owned by Big Labor and is willing to compromise the rights of employees in order to enact their anti-worker agenda." A source familiar with AJS's plan said a paid media campaign could well be in the offing if Solis remains unconfirmed.
Don't Cross Harry Reid -- Ever: Even as Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) is drawing huge coverage for his allegations that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have failed with the economic stimulus bill, there's more evidence out of the Gem State that Reid is, um, not to be trifled with. Way back in 2007, Reid declared that no coal-fired power plants would be built within the state's borders -- a pledge that a local energy company chose not to heed. The company in question, NV Energy, announced the suspension of the construction of its coal-fired plant on Monday. As one Las Vegas blog put it: "Politically, it's wise never to bet against Harry Reid." Recruitment for a Republican challenger to Reid in 2010 goes on nonetheless. Rumors that former Rep. Jon Porter has decided against the race are misplaced, according to one knowledgeable source who said that Porter and Rep. Dean Heller remain in the mix.
Click It!: A-Rod admits to steroid use. WOW. ESPN's Peter Gammons, of course, got the scoop. And if the pressure of his huge deal in Texas was the reason, how come he stopped when he got to the pressure cooker that is the New York City sports scene? Just asking.
Say What?: "I'm always good for a beer." -- President Obama at a town hall Monday in Elkhart, Ind. when asked about the possibility of sharing an adult beverage with conservative radio (and TV) personality Sean Hannity.
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