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Strict Standards: array_filter() expects parameter 2 to be a valid callback, non-static method K2::strip_trackback() should not be called statically in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-content/themes/k2/app/classes/k2.php on line 458

Strict Standards: array_filter() expects parameter 2 to be a valid callback, non-static method K2::strip_trackback() should not be called statically in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-content/themes/k2/app/classes/k2.php on line 458

Strict Standards: array_filter() expects parameter 2 to be a valid callback, non-static method K2::strip_trackback() should not be called statically in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-content/themes/k2/app/classes/k2.php on line 458

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Strict Standards: array_filter() expects parameter 2 to be a valid callback, non-static method K2::strip_trackback() should not be called statically in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-content/themes/k2/app/classes/k2.php on line 458

Strict Standards: array_filter() expects parameter 2 to be a valid callback, non-static method K2::strip_trackback() should not be called statically in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-content/themes/k2/app/classes/k2.php on line 458

Strict Standards: array_filter() expects parameter 2 to be a valid callback, non-static method K2::strip_trackback() should not be called statically in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-content/themes/k2/app/classes/k2.php on line 458

Strict Standards: array_filter() expects parameter 2 to be a valid callback, non-static method K2::strip_trackback() should not be called statically in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-content/themes/k2/app/classes/k2.php on line 458
Category Archive for ‘health care’ at Campaign Diaries
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Archive for the 'health care' Category


Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

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Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

Where the House stands on health-care

A lot of attention has been devoted to the Senate in recent months, but as we approach make-or-break time in the health-care debate it has become clear that the suspense lies in the House.

The approach Democrats are now openly pursuing (get the House to pass the Senate bill, get both chambers to pass legislation containing fixes using the reconciliation the process) does not require them to ever put together more than 50 Senate votes. While even that could grow complicated, it’s tough to see Harry Reid losing 10 of his senators given that even centrists like Mary Landrieu sound open to voting for reconciliation. Besides Landrieu, all eyes are on Ben Nelson, Joe Lieberman, Blanche Lincoln, Evan Bayh, Jim Webb, Mark Pryor, Michael Begich, Kent Conrad, Russ Feingold - how likely is it all of these join the GOP in killing a small fix bill?

Meanwhile, the House has gotten far trickier. For one, many Democrats dislike the Senate bill and have insisted they would not vote for it without the upper-chamber passing the fix bill first. Second is the abortion issue: The Senate bill does not contain language as tough as the Stupak amendment and the sidecar is not expected to add it. This should not only lead Stupak to bolt but could also give conservatives Democrats who supported the original bill cover to change their vote. After all, the Senate bill is to the right of the House bill on most other issues, making abortion a rare issue centrists can point to in order to justify a switch.

Third, Democrats have gotten more scared about their electoral prospects than they were in the fall. Why this should push them to kill the bill is hard to discern. Adopting it would generate weeks of positive coverage about the party’s epic achievement, whereas letting it die would generate more stories about Democrats’ failure to govern. As importantly, anyone who voted for health-care reform in the fall will be attacked however they vote this second time. What will their response be: “I voted for it before I voted against it”? Yet, there’s no question that electoral terror has gripped Democrats.

Once you add up all of these factors, the math becomes tough. The House voted to pass the original health-care bill 220 to 215 this fall. Since then:

  • 4 representatives have left the House - 3 Democrats who had voted “yes” and 1 Republican who had voted “no”. (Jack Murtha passed away; Robert Wexler, Neil Abercrombie and Nathan Deal resigned.) This alone shrinks the margin to 217-214.
  • Rep. Anh Cao, the one Republican who voted for the original bill, has made it clear he will oppose any new legislation. That makes it 216-215.
  • Rep. Bart Stupak has left little doubt he’d vote against the bill if his anti-abortion language is not included. Given that the Senate bill already contains tough anti-abortion provisions, it appears Stupak is not open to compromise and his threat sounds all the more credible given Politico’s revelation that the Michigan Democrat was working with Senator Mitch McConnell to derail the Senate bill back in December. With Stupak gone, that leaves the math at 216-215 against the bill.

In short: Pelosi has to convince at least one of the 39 Democrats who voted “no” to the original bill to switch to a “yes” - a tough proposition that should be all the more tougher considering that it’s more likely than not that other Democrats follow Cao and Stupak’s lead and switch from “yes” to “no.”

Before going through the list of the 39 Democrats who opposed the bill to see who Pelosi might hope to convince,  let’s first consider who might go the other way. One factor to consider: Many Democrats voted “yes” knowing perfectly well they would face very tough races in 2010 (think Baron Hill and Tom Perriello), so why would they now suddenly change their mind? Relatedly, as long as centrists who voted “yes” to the House bill are not motivated by abortion, how would they justify voting against the more conservative Senate bill? Accounting for those questions, I think 5 Democrats are especially likely to switch their vote because their circumstances have changed:

Name
District
Competitive race?
Obama-McCain
Junior?
Comment
Marion Berry
AR-01
Retiring
38-59
No
While you would think his retirement would make him unlikely to vote “no,” Berry has certainly been sounding like he’s considering doing so.
Steve Driehaus
OH-01
Yes
55-44
Freshman
He was one of Stupak’s allies during the fall’s abortion debates, and Democrats seem worried about losing him. His district did vote for Obama by 11% though.
Brad Ellsworth
IN-08
Yes
47-51
Sophomore
He was considered safe back in the fall. Now, he’s running for Senate. All the more likely to switch that he voted for the GOP’s motion to recommit.
Earl Pomeroy
ND-AL
Yes
45-53
No
Back in the fall, he wasn’t expected to face a competitive race - but now he does.
Bart Stupak
MI-01
No
50-48
No
Abortion

But the list of Democrats the leadership should worry about goes much further than these 5. Here is a much longer list of representatives who have been mentioned as possible switchers:

Name
District
Competitive race?
Obama-McCain
Junior?
Comment
Michael Arcuri
NY-24
Yes
51-48
Sophomore
Blue Dog
Tom Bishop
NY-01
Yes
52-48
No
Dennis Cardoza
CA-18
No
59-39
No
Blue Dog
Chris Carney
PA-10
Yes
45-54
No
Blue Dog
Jim Cooper
TN-05
No
56-43
No
Blue Dog
Jim Costa
CA-20
No
60-39
No
Blue Dog
Jerry Costello
IL-12
No
54-44
No
Abortion
Harry Cuellar
TX-28
No
56-44
No
Blue Dog
Kathy Dahlkemper
PA-03
Yes
49-49
freshman
Abortion; Blue Dog
Joe Donnelly
IN-02
perhaps
54-45
sophomore
Abortion; Blue Dog
Baron Hill
IN-09
Yes
49-50
sophomore
Blue Dog; more vulnerable than he looked in the fall
Steve Kagen
WI-08
Yes
54-45
sophomore
Paul Kanjorski
PA-11
Yes
57-42
No
Marcy Kaptur
OH-09
No
62-36
No
Abortion
Dan Kildee
MI-05
No
64-35
No
Abortion
Dan Lipinski
IL-14
No
64-35
No
Abortion
Harry Mitchell
AZ-05
Yes
47-52
No
What would have been the point of voting “no” in the fall if he votes “yes” now?
Alan Mollohan
WV-01
Yes
42-57
No
Dennis Moore
KS-03
Retiring
51-48
No
Bill Owens
NY-23
Yes
52-47
Freshman
Tom Perriello
VA-05
Yes
48-51
Freshman
What would have been the point of voting “no” in the fall if he votes “yes” now?
Gary Peters
MI-09
Yes
56-43
Freshman
Nick Rahall
WV-03
probably not
42-56
No

John Salazar
CO-03
Yes
47-50
No
More vulnerable than he looked in the fall
Mark Schauer
MI-07
Yes
52-46
Freshman
Zach Space
OH-18
No
45-52
Sophomore
John Spratt
SC-05
No
46-53
No
High-ranked
Charlie Wilson
OH-06
No
48-50
No

This is not to say that most of these Democrats will switch - as I said, how will they justify doing so given their fall votes - but the party leadership will have to key an eye on all of them. So where might Pelosi pick-up votes? Of the 39 Democrats who voted “no” in the fall, one is now a Republican (Parker Griffith).  Of the remaining 38, 15 seem to be lost causes:

Dan Boren, Bobby Bright, Travis Childers, Artur Davis, Lincoln Davis, Chet Edwards, Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, Dennis Kucinich, Jim Marshall, Charlie Melancon, Walt Minnick, Mike Ross, Heath Shuler, Gene Taylor, Harry Teague

Never say never, but these congresspeople look as certain as can be to vote “no.” They are either at the far-right of the caucus (Boren, Bright, Childers, Marshall, Ross, Taylor), in over their head in tough re-election battles (Minnick), seeking higher office in red states (Davis, Melancon) or committed to voting for nothing but single-payer (Kucinich). I thought Herseth Sandlin might be open to supporting a more centrist bill, but recent comments make it unlikely. That leaves 23 Democrats, 5 of which seem more open than others to switching:

Name
District
Competitive race?
Obama-McCain
Junior?
Comment
Brian Baird
WA-03
Retiring
52-46
No
He’s retiring, making him immune to GOP pressure. He recently said he was totally “undecided.”
John Boccieri
OH-16
Yes
48-50
Freshman
Boccieri has turned out to be a lesser priority for the NRCC than fellow Ohio freshmen Kilroy and Driehaus. He has recently sounded open to supporting the bill.
Bart Gordon
TN-06
Retiring
37-62
Sophomore
He’s retiring, which puts him right at the top of the Democrats’ priority list since the GOP can’t pressure him with electoral reasons. He is a Blue Dog. A very important detail: He voted for the bill in the Energy & Commerce Committee before opposing it on the floor, which certainly suggests he’d be open to voting for it now.
Larry Kissell
NC-08
Yes
53-47
freshman
Faces a competitive race, though he represents one of the bluest districts among the 39 who voted ‘no’ in the fall.
Scott Murphy
NY-23
Not for now
51-48
freshman
Murphy looks safer than he did this fall

That leaves us with 18 Democrats whose support for a final bill is plausible, albeit still tough to envision. It will at the least require some very heavy pushing for Pelosi to convince any of these:

Name
District
Competitive race?
Obama-McCain
Junior?
Comment
Jason Altmire
PA-04
Yes
44-55
Sophomore
Despite a few hints of openness to supporting a bill, he has sounded very hostile to health-care reform and the abortion issue should seal his “no.” He’s a Blue Dog.
John Adler
NJ-03
Yes
52-47
Freshman
Adler has done his best to position himself as a centrist over the past few months and he is facing a tricky race. Yet, he is less vulnerable than many others on this list and he represents a district that clearly voted for Obama. He should be right at the top of Pelosi’s target list.
John Barrow
GA-12
No
54-45
No
Allen Boyd
FL-02
In primary
45-54
No
At this point, this Blue Dog has more to worry about in the Dem primary than in the general election. He’s a Blue Dog.
Rick Boucher
VA-09
Yes
40-59
No
Boucher looks far more vulnerable now than he did in the fall, which will complicate Pelosi’s outreach.
Ben Chandler
KY-06
Probably not
43-55
No
The filing deadline has passed in Kentucky, and while the race could heat up Chandler doesn’t have to worry about facing a top-tier Republican. Will this encourage him to vote “yes”? He did support cap-and-trade. He’s a Blue Dog.
Tim Holden
PA-17
Yes
48-51
No
He’s a Blue Dog, and he is facing his first tough re-election race in some time.
Suzanne Kosmas
FL-24
Yes
49-51
freshman
She has emerged as a fairly centrist Democrat, so I’d be somewhat surprised if she switches; but her district is not as red as others on this list.
Frank Kratovil
MD-01
Yes
40-58
freshman
If Pelosi convinces him that he will lose anyway, perhaps?
Betsy Markey
CO-04
Yes
49-50
freshman
She’s a Blue Dog. The Democratic leadership let her be the main sponsor of the bill repealing the anti-trust exemption; might she repay them by voting “yes”?
Eric Massa
NY-29
Probably
48-51
freshman
He is fundraising off his initial vote for health-care, but he is one of the most obvious votes for the leadership to target.
Jim Matheson
UT-02
Probably not
39-57
No
Would be surprised if he votes “yes,” but in recent comments he was less hostile than other Blue Dogs. He’s a Blue Dog.
Michael McMahon
NY-03
Perhaps
49-51
freshman
Mike McIntyre
NC-07
No
47-52
No
The filing deadline passed in North Carolina, and the GOP failed to recruit a credible challenger despite the district’s red lean. Despite McIntyre’s conservatism, that alone makes him a target to leadership pressure. He’s a Blue Dog.
Glenn Nye
VA-02
Yes
51-49
freshman
He’s a Blue Dog, a freshman and he faces a tough race in November - a tough combination for Pelosi. But he also represents one of the few Obama districts on this list, so he is sure to face more pressure than others.
Colin Peterson
MN-07
Probably not
47-50
No
Committee chairman. He’s a Blue Dog.
Ike Skelton
MO-04
Yes
38-61
No
He’s a Blue Dog. The abortion issue could prevent Pelosi from convincing him.
John Tanner
TN-08
Retiring
43-56
No
His retirement is prompting talk he might be more wiling to help his party, though he looks likely to do so than Baird and Gordon. He’s a Blue Dog.

I’ve surely forgotten some Democrats whose votes might also be up in the air and I’ve surely missed comments by many that would suggest they’re clearly committed to one camp or the other. But keep in mind that as long as it’s not even clear whether they’ll even ever be a vote, Democrats on this list have no reason to make their intentions.


Update: The AP just published a story identifying 10 Democrats open to switching from a “no” to a “yes:” Baird, Gordon, Tanner, Boucher, Kosmas, Kratovil, McMahon, Minnick, Murphy and Nye. The only one that is a surprise to me is Minnick, and I’ve update my charts accordingly. The others are certainly not shockers, though I am surprised Boccieri was not included in the story since he has publicly been open to changing.

Update 2: The AP updated its story ruling out Minnick as a switch option, just as I had expected when I placed him in the “lost causes” column. Also, this Slate article contains a few details I had not thought about and which I am adding to my charts. In particular, Rep. Bart Gordon voted for the bill in committee before opposing it on the floor. While he is already in my top-tier of potential switchers, this certainly makes it seem even more possible.


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Democrats’ nightmare

Last night, Democrats suffered a humiliating defeat, lost the Senate seat Teddy Kennedy had held for more than four decades and surrendered the 60-seat majority they had built so painstakingly. This extraordinary upset, which has few if any rivals among the past 2 decades, emboldens Republicans to push for still-greater gains in 2010 and deals a terrible blow to Democrats’ agenda, starting with the health-care bill that just two weeks seemed certain to adopted.

Even with that introduction, I fear I am not doing justice to the magnitude of what happened last night. After all, as we entered January, Scott Brown would have been considered lucky to get within 10% of Martha Coakley but a few voices started wondering whether little-known state Senator Scott Brown could pull off a victory; I confess I did not awake to the possibility until just two weeks ago. (That might sound late but it’s nevertheless earlier than the time at which Coakley recognized the danger she was facing.) Fast forward 15 days, and Brown pulled off a jaw-dropping 4,8% victory.

Democrats are already consumed by the blame game

In the days leading up to the election, prominent figures like Barney Frank and as many anonymous D.C. aides was there are journalists were blasting Coakley’s hapless campaign; yesterday, in the middle of Election Day, the Attorney General’s camp fired back with a memo accusing national Democrats of failing to engage and being responsible for the tough environment that has contributed to her decline. Putting aside that it is telling of the campaign’s disorganization that a top Coakley staffer found the time on Election Day to write such a lengthy postmortem, we can surely all agree that everyone is right here: such an unlikely even can only be explained by a perfect storm of factors.

The first is the Democratic nominee. Coakley ran a strong primary campaign, but she paid no attention to the general election. It’s one thing for observers like myself to declare her the heavy favorite, it’s another for the candidate to decide that she does not have to put in any work to secure her first victory in a federal race. She took a long vacation, and her campaign did not go up on TV until the final 10 days of the campaign - after her opponent started airing his third ad. As such, Brown had ample time to introduce himself to voters in a positive light. By the time Democrats woke up, it was much too late: the Republican’s favorability rating was impressively high, and a sudden blitzkrieg of negative advertisement cannot be expected to change one month’s worth of good will.

And it’s not like Coakley can blame her lack of a campaign on financial woes: as of December 31st, Coakley had more than $1 million in the bank. Furthermore, most of her failures have nothing to do with fundraising: Not only did she come across as stiff and conventional (it’s not like she seemed a particularly original and intriguing candidate back during the primary campaign), but numerous news stories reported that she scoffed at the idea of holding events and shaking hands. As of Monday, Coakley had only held 19 events since her primary victory - that’s less than one every two days!

(It’s hard to imagine Rep. Capuano, the energetic champion of progressive causes, would have given the GOP such an opening - a thought that sure to haunt Democrats so much over the next 3 years that Capuano has to be considered the front-runner to win the Senate nomination in 2012 if he wants to challenge Brown.)

Brown, meanwhile, mounted an unexpectedly formidable campaign. That Democrats should never have allowed that to matter doesn’t change the fact that not all Republicans could have pulled off what the state Senator did: He managed to navigate the GOP’s ideological divide with a talent that other Republicans will want to imitate, simultaneously presenting himself as an “independent” supportive of abortion rights and getting Tea Partiers/national conservatives to embrace him. His populist message (his attempts to channel voters’ anger over the economic crisis, his effective self-portrayal as a “regular guy” who rides a pick-up truck) clearly resonated with voters.

But in a state like Massachusetts, even the worst Democratic candidates shouldn’t lose against the best Republican ones - and let’s not forget that Coakley is, after all, the sitting Attorney General while Brown had no statewide profile as of 5 months ago. Last night’s results obviously comes in the context of a tough environment for Democrats, and despite the White House’s best efforts to put all of the blame on Coakley’s failures, there is no question that national politics played a great role in yesterday’s upset.

Had a Senate special election been held in Mississippi or Louisiana in the spring of 2008, Democrats might very well have won it. They did, after all, win House races in those two states in districts that were arguably more Republican than Massachusetts is Democratic. 18 months later, the White House has changed hands and so has the entire political landscape. Many voters who typically Democratic, starting with blue-collar workers, either cast a ballot for Brown (how many of these had ever cast a ballot for a Republican in a federal race?) or did not vote (turnout was higher than would be expected in a special election, but the motivation gap was certainly there since Boston’s turnout was lower than in its suburbs). This does speak to Washington Democrats’ unpopularity: It took them a year to squander voters’ good-will.

Democrats divided

There will be a lot of recriminations among Democrats as to what accounts for this. The party’s right-wing, starting with Claire McCaskill and Evan Bayh, have already made it clear they blame progressives. Bayh, for instance, stated that Coakley’s defeat is due to the party being taken over by “the furthest left elements;” McCaskill declared that Democrats were taking their agenda “too far, too fast.”

Yet, to the extent that this perception exists, it is in great part due to those Democrats who spend much of their time denouncing liberals’ control over the party when they are far more powerful themselves. Take health-care: A third of House Democrats are co-sponsors of a single-payer bill, which did not even factor in the discussion. In fact, after losing on almost every intraparty fight on which they engaged this fall, progressives were ready to pass a public option-less bill that instituted new restrictions on abortion funding - a bill that closely resembles the health-care plan Mitt Romney supported in Massachusetts. Bayh, McCaskill and their allies have long ago buried most of liberals’ other priorities, from cap-and-trade to EFCA. Looking back at 2009, I have trouble seeing what the left might have to celebrate.

The perception that “the furthest left elements” of the Democratic party have too much influence in Washington has a lot to do with Bayh and Lieberman saying it is so against much of the available evidence; the flawed perception that the health-care bill’s is a socialist’s dream has much to do with those Democrats who spent months denouncing it as radical legislation before voting for it. Of course, the Nelsons and Bayhs are only hurting themselves: As long as they were open to the possibility of supporting the bill, why spend months tearing it down first? That contributed to making the legislation so unpopular that Lincoln is more vulnerable than she would be otherwise, Bayh is potentially vulnerable to a GOP challenge and Nelson’s approval rating has dipped so low the GOP cannot wait for 2012.

Democrats’ greatest fault in 2009 was a fundamental lack of response to voters’ desire to see corporations, banks or executives punished for their responsibility in the economic crisis. Instead of rising up to the challenge of representing the working-class, the White House gave Larry Summers and his ideological allies the keys to the country’s economy, framed the health-care debate as a collaboration with insurance and drug companies and all but renounced any confrontation with the financial sector. (In October 2008, who would have thought that in January 2010 Wall Street firms would have this little to complain about?) In this context, is it surprising that the hard-right has been able to seize the populist mantle, convince independents and blue-collar voters that the Tea Party is capable to channel their anger?

In short, my view is not just that cautious governance is depressing the liberal base - that alone cannot explain the voting shifts we have been seeing - but rather that it has pushed working-class voters (who are not necessarily liberal) away and has allowed Tea Party populism to prosper.

Can health-care survive?

All of these debates will come to an immediate head over the question of what should be done with health-care reform. The loss of a 60-seat majority will affect Democrats all year, and Brown’s victory will surely be a source of frustration for the party in every roll call that will be taken until January 2013, but nowhere will it be more consequential than on the health-care bill. Congressional Democrats have spent much of the past 8 months focusing on this issue, and when the Senate finally passed its version of the legislation it looked all but certain that a bill would land on the president’s desk within 6 weeks. Brown’s victory single-handedly changes the equation. It is now an open question as to whether any health-care bill will pass Congress this year.

The problem isn’t so much that Republicans now have 41 votes. (Democrats still have majorities which which to pass a conference report since it is unlikely Brown can be seated until January 29th at the earliest, and since congressional leadership has already sent large parts of the final bill to the CBO for scoring, that might be enough of a window for the same 60 senators who passed the bill in December to push it through again. Legislation could also be adopted if the House, in which the Democratic majority is obviously not affected by Brown’s victory, simply passes the Senate bill unchanged.)

If health-care reform fails it will be due to Democrats backing away. Centrists want a bill that can win Republican support; House liberals are categorically refusing to pass the Senate bill as is, since many of the complaints they had about the exchange design, subsidy levels and funding mechanisms were supposed to be fixed in conference; and Democrats across the ideological spectrum are saying they are uncomfortable with pushing anything through the Senate before Brown is seated. While Virginia’s moderate Senator Jim Webb was the first to call for a suspension of any health-care vote, liberal leader Barney Frank also said that the bill could not be passed without taking into account Massachusetts voters.

(Update: Yes, Democrats weren’t even supposed to have 60 votes until Specter switched parties; yes, they were preparing to charge ahead with health-care reform even before MA Dems changed state law to allow Paul Kirk to replace Kennedy. As such, I agree with Ezra Klein’s many posts that argue that covering the loss of a 60th seat as if the Democrats have lost control of the Senate is silly - and revealing of the institution’s dysfunctions. Yet, the problem here is that they are losing a seat after completing the debate: At this point, they can hardly turn to Snowe or Collins in the hope they can be convinced to back the reform; and turning to reconciliation at this late point would waste them precious weeks. Had they known in September they would have to deal with 59 votes, they would have proceeded differently from the get go.)

One option is for the House to adopt the Senate bill while at the same time passing a reconciliation resolution implementing some of the changes that the conference committee was expected to implement, for instance a change to the subsidy levels and the establishment of national exchanges; all the Senate would then have to do is adopt the small reconciliation bill with only 50 votes. While unions seem to be endorsing this approach, House liberals are signaling they are not because they do not trust the Senate would actually follow through on the “fix”.

Scrapping the bill and starting everything over through reconciliation thus appears the only option left on the table, though it would face major obstacles. Congress would spend many more months focused on health-care, Pelosi would still not be certain of a majority and many of the bill’s most emblematic reforms (for instance a ban on pre-existing conditions) would have to be stripped since they do not affect the budget. Yet, health-care proponents got an unexpected bit of good news today: Budget Committee Chair Senator Kent Conrad, who I would have expected to side with Evan Bayh, signaled he was “cautiously” open to using reconciliation. [Update: Ben Nelson issues a statement strongly hinting that he'll back Democratic leadership's decision because "we should not give up."]

Democrats would be taking a big political risk if they push through health-care reform under the current circumstances, especially if they take the reconciliation route. But I firmly believe the electoral consequences would be even more disastrous if no legislation passes. As the 1994 midterms showed, that would only result to Democratic incumbents seeking re-election with nothing to actually run on; it would depress liberals while doing nothing to dampen conservative enthusiasm, quite the contrary; and it would confirm to voters that the health-care bill was a radical piece of legislation and that every congressman who voted for it should be punished.

Indeed, the bottom line is that all Democratic senators and the vast majority of Democratic House members have already voted in favor of health-care reform. Dropping the legislation now would do nothing to shield them from attacks, but it would deprive them of any means to fight back.

Emboldened Republicans could seek to expand the map further

If we can win in Massachusetts, Republicans are now telling themselves, we can win everywhere. That logic is no doubt limited (not all Democrats will take a one-month break before the election, for one; the GOP saved quite many endangered seats in 2008, second), but there is no doubt that Democrats are caught in a vicious cycle. The more Republicans grow confident that they will score huge gains in November, the better the landscape will look.

Indeed, Brown’s triumph could help the GOP pull off many more recruitment coups, as credible Republicans in districts that the GOP wouldn’t ordinarily think of contesting will now probably take a look at jumping in. More Democratic congressmen could call it quits (there is little doubt that Byron Dorgan and Vic Snyder were scared off by the prospect of unexpectedly tough re-election races); Democratic leaders were reportedly calling members last night to ensure there wouldn’t be a panic-induced wave of retirements following the Massachusetts results; and the more money will flow the GOP’s way.

While we have paid a lot of attention to the NRCC’s efforts to expand the House map, the NRSC could be emboldened by its Massachusetts pick-up. They have already mounted top-tier campaigns in 7 seats held by Democrats (NV, AR, ND, DE, IL, PA, CO); why not try to put 3 more in play in the hope of taking control of the Senate? The obvious candidates are New York and California, but let’s not forget about Connecticut: Not only is it not as blue as Massachussetts, but Richard Blumenthal’s position as an invincible Attorney General looks less firm since Coakley’s loss.

The icing on the cake could be Indiana: Rep. Mike Pence is reportedly meeting NRSC officials to talk about the possibility he might challenge Evan Bayh! That wouldn’t automatically become a top-tier race, but it would certainly be a race well-worth watching. The mere fact that we’re talking about the possibility that Bayh might have to worry about his re-election race is a testament to just how low Democrats have sunk.

A few silver linings for Democrats

If even the most pessimistic Democrats could not have imagined living through such a nightmare, there are a few silver linings worth mentioning. The first is that they lost Massachusetts’s Senate seat for only 3 years rather than the usual 6: Scott Brown is up for re-election in 2012, when he will surely be one of the most endangered incumbents nationwide. He has enough political talent that he could survive, of course, but it will not be easy considering he has little time to entrench himself and that he would have to deal with Obama’s coattails.

Second, the failures of Coakley’s campaign ensure that other Democrats do not take anything for granted. If Republicans are now crowning that they can win anywhere, Democrats are more aware than ever that they can lose anywhere. Sure, everyone already knew that 2010 would be tough for Democrats - but there is a difference between believing it to be true and receiving proof like yesterday’s. As such, the GOP shouldn’t expect Blumenthal to rest on his laurels as he might have been tempted to do had he not witnessed the collapse of his Massachusetts colleague; similarly, the NRCC cannot hope to take Democratic House members by surprise, as the DCCC had done to supposedly safe GOP incumbents in the final weeks of the 2006 campaign.

Unfortunately for liberals, the week could still get much worse: The Supreme Court just called a special session tomorrow and it is expected to decide Citizens United. That could mark the end of campaign finance regulations as we know it.


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Health-care bill passes Senate

On a 60 to 39 vote, the Senate passed the health-care reform bill this morning, advancing the legislation towards a now all but ineluctable adoption in early 2010.

That the past few days were unsuspenseful is enough to make us forget that back in August it was no foregone conclusion that Democrats would present a unified front; even as it became clear in November that something would pass, the outlines of a bill that might get the support of 60 senators wasn’t easy to discern. Yet, by last week-end the only question marks concerned the timing of the vote and Robert Byrd’s health, which Tom Coburn had essentially urged conservatives to pray would deteriorate (which led to this depressing, albeit perhaps fake, video of someone who took him seriously). Over and over this week, 60 Democrats stood united in pushing the bill forward.

That said, I am surprised by the final roll call: Final passage only requires 50 votes, and I had always assumed that at least some conservative Democrats would choose to vote against it since their vote is no longer needed. What convinced Ben Nelson, Roland Burris and most significantly Blanche Lincoln to vote ‘yes’ this morning? This seems to me to be a somewhat worrisome development: Not only did a routine develop over the past half-decade that absolutely every legislation, amendment and nomination needs to secure a 60-vote supermajority, but senators are increasingly internalizing the idea that voting for cloture and for final passage is the same thing.

When filibustering and oppose a bill are considered different, a senator can ask for different concessions depending on if he is being asked to support the former or the latter (which often led to some supporting cloture and then voting ‘no’); this fall, however, Lieberman took the lead in making it clear he’d filibuster if he had any issue with the bill - and that essentially came to mean securing 60 votes for cloture is equivalent to securing 60 votes for passage. That makes for a far higher hurdle for future bills - and perhaps also for future judicial nominations - to clear.

Of course, another novelty in the process was Republicans’ determination to present a unified front whatever Democrats propose. This might be the usual way Parliament works in European countries, but party-line votes on high-profile bills are certainly not the norm in Congress: Olympia Snowe’s ‘no’ vote is telling, considering this legislation is substantially similar to the one she supported in committee. Sure, individual mandates were added, but the Finance Committee prevailed over the HELP Committee on issues like the level of Medicaid expansion or the public option. Snowe was left justifying her vote by claiming the process was too hurried, even though she was part of Max Baucus’s Gang of Six that spent endless months negotiating.

Harry Reid can finally take a few hours of rest now that he managed to sell the legislation to every member of the Democratic caucus - something that at many points this year looked like an impossible proposition. Whatever else happens over the next six weeks, the bottom line is that a version of health-care reform that resembles the Senate’s should land on the president’s desk over the next 6 weeks, granting Democrats as major a legislative victory as they have gotten in the past three decades. Millions who do not currently have insurance will be covered (many of them thanks to government subsidies) and Medicaid will be expanded to millions who currently do not qualify.

But considering where we were in early October (the Finance Committee produced legislation that is similar to what the Senate adopted today, and it did look like liberals would manage to push the bill leftward because of the need to merge it with the HELP committee’s bill) and considering that the private sector got many of its wishes (the Pharma Deal held while insurers will not have to worry about competition from a public option), the past few months have understandably been painful for progressives.

The process often came down to granting Lieberman everything he wanted without extracting concessions; the leadership’s decision to essentially take reconciliation off the table weeks before the final vote emboldened conservative Democrats to take the legislation hostage; the White House consistently sided with centrists in urging the bill drafters - Pelosi first, Reid second - to water down the legislation; Obama’s recent comments that he did not campaign on the public option, which echoed Lieberman’s transparent early December lies, confirmed his disinterest in even pretending that he fought alongside liberals; and the debate’s final two weeks devolved into open warfare within the left, between those led by Howard Dean, MoveOn and Jane Hamsher who advocated killing the bill as a giveaway to the private sector and those who pushed back on that contention.

In the end, the former group did not convince its few Senate allies - Sanders, Brown - to sink the Senate deal and force the leadership to go down the reconciliation route. Conservative senators were appeased, liberals senators touted the provisions they championed that had been left intact, and the 60-vote coalition held.

Now comes conference. (Despite some speculation that the White House might try to convince House leaders to adopt the Senate bill as is, or by introducing only a few minor additions, it looks like Democrats have abandoned the possibility of ping-ponging their way to a final bill.) On paper, this should be a difficult procedure: For months, dozens of House Democrats have pledged they would vote against any bill that lacked a public option, so common sense (not to mention the fact that the House hasn’t been designed to roll over for the Senate) would dictate that they receive some concessions in exchange for supporting the legislation.

Yet, the Progressive Caucus leaders who took the lead in taking that pledge (starting with Rep. Grijalva) have signaled they’re willing to accept the Senate bill; yesterday, Rules Committee Chairwoman Louise Slaughter suggested that passing the Senate bill would be worst than passing none, but she quickly signaled that even such a strong statement should not be taken as a sign she was preparing to vote ‘no’. Given Grijalva’s comments, given that Nelson and Lieberman have made it clear that they would have no hesitation voting against the conference report and given that the leadership can no longer credibly threaten to go to reconciliation, it’s hard to see how the conference report substantially differ from what passed today.

Yet, there are still a few issues on which liberals are hoping to prevail - and if Nancy Pelosi plays her card rights, these are winnable battle. The highest-profile at this point is how the insurance exchanges will be designed: at the state level, as the Senate would have it, or as a single national marketplace, as the House bill proposes? Leaving the implementation of the exchanges, the price bargaining and the regulatory power to the federal government rather than to the states would greatly expand the system’s strength.

Other issues which House negotiators will try to push include increasing the level of subsidies, improving the treatment reversed to immigrants (Reid has reportedly already promised Bob Menendez to remove legal immigrants’ waiting period) and advancing the date at which most of the reform will come to be implemented from 2014 to 2013. And then there is abortion, the main issue on which the House bill is to the Senate’s right: How will Pelosi deal with Rep. Stupak’s threats to sink the legislation if his amendment is not included in the conference report?

How these questions are answered could be very important from an electoral perspective. Paradoxically, both parties believe the bill’s passage can help them on the campaign trail. Democrats hope that it will be proof they can govern and deliver on their promises and that it will help them turn out the base, while Republicans are confident it will lead to a backlash. I don’t think the two propositions are contradictory. As any ruling party, Democrats stand to lose short-term by passing controversial legislation, but failing to adopt a health-care bill after spending 7 months talking about wouldn’t appease conservatives while it would infuriate liberals and turn off independents.

The question, then, now is whether the bill is too watered down for Democrats to gain much in terms of motivating their base; in particular, the public option had become a recognizable issue across the country, even among voters who do not follow political news daily. Can the House force the inclusion of some of its provisions to make the base more excited come February than it is today and to give progressives the credibility they’ll need to have a voice in the policy debates that are coming up in 2010?


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Making sense of Lieberman

“Joe Lieberman is the least of Harry Reid’s problems,” the Senate Majority Leader said last month. If this statement initially raised eyebrows (why he is not sounding more worried?), we know now what Reid meant: Joe Lieberman is the least of Harry Reid’s problems, because Harry Reid is prepared to give Joe Lieberman whatever he wants to ensure some version of health-care reform passes the upper chamber this year. The result is not pretty for liberals: The Senate leadership is dropping not only the public option but also what the so-called Gang of Ten spent a week negotiating in exchange, namely the Medicare buy-in.

The Medicaid expansion had already been abandoned late last week, which means progressives are accepting to give away what had come to be their most prized provision without receiving anything in return. Just last week the likes of Schumer and Carper were trying to craft some sort of watered-down deal (a trigger, or an opt-in, or some sort of more convoluted mechanism) that’s quite a blow; from what I am reading at this point, it’s unlikely the bill will contain any remnant whatsoever of anything that might vaguely resemble a public option. (TPM reports that the White House instructed Reid to go as far as drop triggers to satisfy Lieberman.)

In the middle of these latest developments is Lieberman, whose behavior is increasingly resembling that of a sociopath.

Let’s set the context: Following warnings from a group of moderate Democrats that they would oppose cloture if the bill was not modified, the Senate leadership organized meetings between a group of 10 senators last week to reach an agreement on how to proceed. Lieberman did not bother showing up at the meeting, but he sent word via staff members that he was willing to support replacing the public option with a Medicare buy-in, provided the Congressional Budget Office’s score is favorable - a condition that was identical to those of most of the other negotiators. With Lieberman’s green light, Senate Democrats triumphantly announced that they were close to a deal and Reid sent a new version of the bill to the CBO.

Some hints of what was to come appeared late last week, when Lieberman started to criticize the buy-in proposal. Fast-forward to Sunday morning, when he announced that expanding Medicare was a non-starter he would be sure to filibuster because it would (he said) increase the deficit. The twist: Lieberman switched his position before the CBO released its score, which was expected to show no such thing. He went on to repeat his statement to Reid, who was reportedly dumbfounded and infuriated - though naturally not enough for any hostile blind quotes to seep through to the press, a contrast to the intensity of the criticism Democratic aides aimed at Byron Dorgan this week-end over the reimportation issue.

In short, Lieberman managed to pull off a complete flip-flop in a matter of days without receiving any new information. In the process, he managed to backstab Democratic leaders, who thought they had reached 60 votes based on the Connecticut Senator’s private assurances.

The revelation tonight that just three months ago Lieberman had voiced support for a Medicare buy-in program makes the senator’s chance look even more transparently unprincipled. Just as he did when he was denouncing the public option, Lieberman has been using arguments that have contradicted his often stated beliefs (many of them he uttered just months ag0), he’s been relying on claims that are so easily disprovable that it’s hard to believe he thinks they are valid, and he has shown no consistently from one day to the next. It’s progressively become clear that his main objective is to appear as an unreliable negotiation partner.

Whatever one thinks of the Senate’s other conservative Democrats, Lieberman’s behavior is not comparable to those with which he is sometimes associated. Ben Nelson, Blanche Lincoln and Mary Landrieu might be threatening to filibuster, but they haven’t been moving the goal posts from day to day; they might be demanding concessions from liberals, but they haven’t come out blasting what just a few days before they were the ones advocating as a compromise that would push the bill their way; they might be too close to insurance companies, but at least that means they are motivated by considerations related to health care so that we can make sense of their actions.

By contrast, Lieberman has been acting like he thinks this debate is an inconsequential game with which he can amuse himself and his flip-flops leave me no other choice but to agree with Ezra Klein that he is first and foremost motivated by revenge over his lost presidential dreams and over his loss in the 2006 primary. This might be a cliche, and it might be unthinkable for most of us that a senator would be willing to thwart million of people’s access to health insurance for such petty reasons, but how else to explain the fact that he now suddenly opposes reforms that he seemingly supported for most of his career? How else to explain that he denounces a policy proposal only after it has been embraced by the left?

Even mainstream journalists like Howard Fineman now see no other way to interpret Lieberman’s pathetic behavior, and it would only be appropriate in a healthy democracy for the Connecticut Senator to lose his credibility among commentators and pundits. Why don’t next Sunday morning’s shows try inviting Blanche Lincoln, Mary Landrieu or Jim Webb rather than Lieberman?

There are obviously other factors than Lieberman at play here, starting with the White House. Beyond the very limited leadership Obama has exercised on the issue (urging Democrats to follow the lead of their most moderate senators could only get the party so far), he has long since emerged as an obstacle rather than a proponent of a public option. Now, there are mounting reports that Rahm Emanuel visited Reid’s office today to essentially order him to give Lieberman what he wants - including dropping anything resembling a public option (including a trigger) and the Medicare buy-in.

It might not have yielded any positive result for the White House to pressure Lieberman the way they’ve been known to browbeat liberals; but the fact that it took less than 24 hours between Lieberman’s comments and the administration’s decision to grant him what he wants (rather than, say, agitate the threat of reconciliation) suggests first that they did not need much convincing that these were acceptable concessions and seocnd that there is next to no point at which they would consider alternative routes to giving Lieberman free reign.

There would of course be a lot for Democrats to lose in using reconciliation, but they did go through the trouble of putting it in the reconciliation instructions of last spring’s budget bill - not to mention that they surely did not expect to deal with this irrational a senator. Given Ezra Klein’s good summary of what reconciliation would entail, it’s hard not to conclude that this primarily stems from an ideological consideration (most Democrats’ reluctance to prioritize expanding the public sector) and an arbitrary temporal one (the desire to finish debate before Christmas, a calendar that was first endangered by Obama and Reid allowing Baucus to take far more months than he was supposed to in order to draft a bill).

What is next for the health-care bill? The legislation that will emerge out of Congress should be far closer to the Finance Committee’s bill than what had come to look likely in recent weeks. Jay Rockefeller and Tom Harkin made it clear tonight they would do nothing to change the bill at this point while Roland Burris backtracked from his pledge to vote against a public option-less bill. “I am committed to voting for a bill that achieves the goals of a public option,” he said today, a far cry from his earlier statements. Simultaneously, there is increasing talk of Democrats bypassing the conference committee; even if that does not occur, the mere fact that it is being discussed as a plausible option shows us where the balance of power lies in the 111th Congress.


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Conservative Democrats’ decision to help GOP drag on debate isn’t smart move

As an addendum to my post on last night’s health care vote: It is no coincidence that the last Senator to announce how she would vote on last night’s procedural vote is the only conservative Democrat who is up for re-election next year. Yet, I’m skeptical of Blanche Lincoln’s strategy.

None of this applies if Lincoln and her allies are ultimately looking to kill the bill (Lincoln is surely wondering whether she’d emerge as a heroine among her state’s independents and Republican voters if she was the one Senator who sank health care reform), which is why Joe Lieberman might be the one senator this post doesn’t apply to. But if these vulnerable centrists are looking to end up letting the bill pass, they should want to get the issue over with as soon as possible.

There’s a reason Republicans are looking to drag this debate into 2010, and Blue Dogs Democrats’ willingness to help them isn’t a smart move insofar as their survival is concerned.

For one, can it be a good idea for Lincoln to position herself at the very center of the debate and thus attract so much more attention on herself? When she spends days publicly hesitating as to whether she’ll let the health care bill proceed before emerging as the decisive vote at the last minute, she can be sure that her vote (and not, say Pryor’s) will be on the front page of every paper and that Arkansans will come away thinking that she ended up caving to the Democratic leadership.

Second, if centrists were to make their support clear earlier, it would at least allow them not to be in an uncomfortable spotlight. For instance: By holding a press conference announcing his decision on the public option weeks before he unveiled the rest of the merged bill, Reid got a progressive group to stop airing an ad in Nevada that was questioning his strength as a leader, whether Lincoln’s reputation was surely not bolstered by the ads liberal groups have been running in Arkansas in recent weeks.

Third, it’s unlikely vulnerable Democrats will face any less pressure from the right if they vote to adopt a bill that contain a trigger than if they vote to adopt a bill that contains an opt-out. The difference is that their insistence on the former drags the debate over many more months - thus prolonging the time over which the bill will look more radioactive. This dynamic played out over the summer: You might remember that Nancy Pelosi was looking to get the House to vote for health-care reform before the summer recess, but Blue Dog Democrats forced a delay until the vote in exchange for their letting the bill emerge out of the Energy and Commerce Committee. This set the stage for the dramatic August town halls; health care reform became far more unpopular and it increased the political pressure on vulnerable House Democrats trying to decide how to vote.

Note that this is just as damaging to those who end up opposing the bill as to those who end up supporting it. Reps. Ike Skelton or Health Shuler contributed to delaying the debate’s resolution by months - perhaps all the way to January 2010, in an election year. They then ended up voting ‘no’ but it’s the Democratic brand itself - the entire party, its entire ticket - that will suffer if an unpopular bill passes so slowly as to galvanize opposition, so late as to be on voters’ mind next November.


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Health-care bill passes first Senate test

After holding out until the final hours, Ben Nelson, Blanche Lincoln and Mary Landrieu stood by their party; Joe Lieberman managed to refrain himself from backstabbing Democrats and stayed true to his promise to let the debate start; Max Baucus made it back from Montana in time; and Robert Byrd made it to Capitol Hill, something we can never be sure he’ll be capable of. Put together, this gave Harry Reid the 60 votes he needed to advance the health-care bill to the floor of the U.S. Senate.

(Only 39 senators opposed the motion because Ohio Republican George Voinovich was absent. Note that this does not matter: In cloture votes, an absent senator is equivalent to a “no” voting senator and a cloture motion needs to gather 3/5th of all senators, not just of those who are voting. In other words, 60 “aye” votes are needed no matter how many “no” votes there are.)

Given how much coverage last night’s proceedings received, you would think it was a momentous occasion. Instead, it was simply a procedural vote to close debate on whether debate should start. That Democrats managed to clear it is obviously a momentous victory - but it is hardly the final chapter. Blanche Lincoln, Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson have explicitly said they are prepared to filibuster if the bill is not watered down, Roland Burris if it is not moved closer to the House bill; Mary Landrieu and Evan Bayh can bolt at any moment; and floor fights over the public option and over abortion funding should be explosive.

In fact, every day will be a struggle for Democrats to get through and Reid will need to have all of his 60 senators ready at all times for the next month. Republicans have promised to force cloture votes on every single amendment, which every single Democrat need to be in the chamber nearly every day for the next month, ready to cast decisive vote after decisive vote. For Byrd to feel too tired to show up for a few days, for instance, would allow Mitch McConnell to force debate to continue on whatever minor amendment is being considered; that might not be enough to sink health care reform, but it would certainly delay proceedings.

Opt-out cannot easily be replaced with a trigger, but leadership’s willing to try

The major issue threatening to split the Democratic caucus remains the public option. Yesterday, Blanche Lincoln ripped into the opt-out compromise that most centrists were not so long ago willing to embrace, and she became the second Democrat (after Joe Lieberman) to threaten a filibuster if she does not get her way on this issue.

(It’s hardly surprising that centrists are changing their tune: A month ago, the two options facing Reid were the HELP bill, which had a public option, and the Finance bill, which had none. The opt-out was a compromise then - but one they’ll now try to push rightward. Had Reid put in Schumer’s ‘even field’ public option in the bill, would Lincoln and Landrieu not have allowed debate to start, even if it meant warning they’d oppose it latter? In such a scenario, the opt-out would still have looked like a compromise whereas now it’s being portrayed as the liberal-most option.)

This came among mounting reports that the Democratic leadership is willing to water down the public option beyond the opt-out. First, Reid made it clear that he would not pass the bill using the reconciliation procedure. Second, we learned that the White House was still courting Olympia Snowe - a clear sign that neither Obama nor the Maine Senator had given up on their hope to have a trigger put in place. Third, Schumer is working with Lincoln, Landrieu and Carper on finding drafting some sort of watered-down compromise that reportedly mixes together co-ops and triggers. Fourth, Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat, backed those efforts today.

Yet, the situation is now rather complex: The opt-out mechanism cannot easily be replaced with a trigger. Now that the bill is on the floor, Reid cannot replace one provision with another - any change needs to go through the amendment process, which means it can potentially be filibustered: Any switch would need at least 50 votes, probably 60. Since it’s not like any Republican but Snowe (and perhaps Collins) favors the trigger, most Democrats would need to agree to it: this cannot be a repeat of the Stupak Amendment, which passed the House because the entirety of the Republican caucus voted for it, joined by 1/4th of Democrats.

This leads to many obvious questions: For one, can Reid convince all Democrats (he might be able to spare one) not to filibuster a trigger amendment? For instance, if Bernie Sanders and Roland Burris decide they cannot stand for this and join 39 Republicans (40 minus Snowe) against the amendment’s cloture vote, the debate will be stuck.

If a trigger amendment were to survive the cloture test, can Reid ensure that no more than 11 Democrats join those 39 Republicans in voting against its adoption? That Schumer and Durbin are working with Landrieu and Lincoln is a sign he might, but I have trouble seeing Sanders, Burris, Brown, Rockefeller, Merkey, Lautenberg, Whitehouse, Harkin and perhaps a few others actually taking a vote to strip the public option out of the bill. Given their efforts to endear themselves to liberals, Gillibrand and Specter would be hard-pressed to do so as well. Imagine the backlash any Democratic senator who agreed to kill the public option would face.

(It’s my understanding that the only way for Reid to avoid such a vote being taken would be pulling the bill from the floor and restarting the process, which would be a considerable delay.)

If the Senate were to adopt a bill with a trigger, it would only set up a showdown with the House. While I wouldn’t expect more than 10- 20 of the 60 House Democrats who pledged to oppose any bill that didn’t contain a robust public option to actually do so if they were confronted with a trigger, that much could be enough to sink the bill in the lower chamber: Some of the conservative Democrats who voted “no” two weeks ago might change their vote on a watered-down conference report, but at least two dozen are sure to oppose it no matter what. That doesn’t give Pelosi that much room on her left.

And this is only a review of the roadblocks awaiting Democrats around the public option question. At the center of the debate lie the usual questions: Will the leadership really takes reconciliation off the table? How far will 5 Democratic Senators take their threat to join Republican filibusters? Will Reid and Pelosi convince their caucus to take those threats seriously? Brown, for instance, suggested this morning that he thought Lincoln, Nelson, Landrieu and Lieberman were bluffing.


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220-215

After decades spent dreaming about health-care reform, Democrats finally managed to pass a bill through a chamber of Congress last night.

While all the focus has been on the Senate lately, the House leadership was facing just as tough a task. With a group of about two dozen Blue Dogs sure to oppose the measure however watered down they managed to make it and with liberals better organized than usual to prevent the bill’s dilution, it wasn’t always obvious how Nancy Pelosi could gather 218 votes - especially when you consider that all all vulnerable Democrats up for re-election in 2010 (rather than just a third on the Senate side).

At the end of the night, however, the House adopted the bill 220 votes to 215, which means Pelosi had just two votes to spare. 39 Democrats opposed it, while Rep. Anh Cao was the lone Republican to vote yes. (The roll call is here.)

Too much should not be read into just how narrow the margin was, by which I mean that it is highly unlikely the GOP was just 3 votes away from triumph: It is no coincidence that both this vote and the one on the cap-and-trade bill (which passed with 219 votes back in June) won with bare majorities. Democratic leaders will allow some of their vulnerable members to break party lines if it can help them; that doesn’t mean they had more than a handful of reserve votes, but had 3 more Democrats voted ‘no,’ Pelosi and Clyburn probably had a handful of lawmakers willing to change their vote to “yes.”

Stupak amendment passes, with 64 Democratic ‘yea’s

On the other hand, the Democratic leadership does look to have been more pressed for votes than it might have been expecting: A group of lawmakers led by Rep. Bart Stupak warned they would oppose the bill if anti-abortion provisions were not toughened - and, as is always the case, such threats are more credible coming from the right than from the left. Nancy Pelosi relented, allowing a vote on an amendment Stupak drafted in collaboration with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in the hope of winning the support of pro-life Democrats on the bill’s passage. (Update: Politico has a must-read story that contains details about just how involved the Church was.)

The amendment was adopted by a large majority composed of 176 Republicans and 64 Democrats (the roll call is here), handing liberals a highly consequential defeat in what would otherwise been a historic night.

Indeed, last night’s vote is arguably the pro-life movement’s biggest congressional victory since the Hyde Amendment was first adopted in 1976. The measure prohibits insurance companies from offering plans that cover abortion procedures and that are eligible to be bought by people with subsidies. As such, a woman on the individual and small business exchange could not buy insurance that covers abortion unless she bought separate insurance intended to specifically cover that procedure - an unviable proposition for low-income women, and probably for most people. (More about the amendment from Ezra Klein and John Cohn.)

Given that there are a fair number of pro-choice Republicans in the House, it was somewhat of a surprise that all supported the Stupak amendment: Reps. Mary Bono Mack, Mike Castle, Mark Kirk, Judy Biggert, Lynn Jenkins, Rodney Frelinghuysen, Charlie Dent and Shelley Moore Capito all received financial support from Republican Majority for Choice in 2008. The only GOPer who did not support the measure was conservative Rep. John Shadegg; he argued pro-life Democrats would oppose the entire bill if the Stupak amendment failed, so he wanted Republicans to defeat the latter to sink the former.

As for the 64 Democrats who voted “yea”, the list is mostly comprised of conservative Democrats whose alliance with Republicans is expected no matter the subject at hand (Bright, McIntyre, Matheson, Melancon, Griffith, Taylor, Hill, Chandler, Salazar, Peterson and many others); that said, there are a few who represent heavily blue districts and who are considered liberal on issues other than abortion (Marcy Kaptur, Richard Neal). Also noteworthy is Rep. Bob Etheridge’s “yes” vote: If he decides to jump for Senate, that could play a significant role in his primary against Elaine Marshall.

40 defections on the bill’s final vote: 39 Democrats, 1 Republican

The vote on the Stupak amendment was followed by a vote on an amendment proposed by the GOP that would have scrapped the entire bill to replace it with the Republicans’ reform plan. While the measure went down 187-247, 13 Democrats - the who’s who of conservative House Democrats - did support it: Boren, Bright, Cardoza, Childers, Costa, Cuellar, Ellsworth, Bart Gordon, Griffith, Matheson, Minnick, Scott Murphy and Pomeroy.

11 of these 13 lawmakers are in the Blue Dog Coalition - all but Cardoza and Murphy. Yes, that’s the Scott Murphy who recently won the special election in NY-20, a district Barack Obama won in 2008. Cardoza, Costa and Cuellar represent districts that gave Obama double-digit victories.

Somewhat puzzlingly, Cardoza, Costa and Cuellar voted in favor of the bill itself (talk about trying to have it both ways, especially given their indecision leading up to the vote). The other 10 - including Murphy - opposed it. They were joined by 29 other Democrats, bringing the total number of defection on that side of the aisle to 39. The full list is:

Adler, Altmire, Baird, Barrow, Boccieri, Boren, Boucher, Boyd, Bright, Chandler, Childers, Artur Davis, Lincoln Davis, Edwards, Gordon, Griffith, Herseth Sandlin, Holden, Kissell, Kosmas, Kucinich, Kratovil, Markey, Marshall, Massa, Matheson, McIntyre, McMahon, Melancon, Minnick, Murphy, Nye, Peterson, Ross, Shuler, Skelton, Tanner, Taylor, Teague

24 of these Democrats are Blue Dogs - which means that 46% of that group opposed the bill. 14 of them are freshmen, which means 37% of all Democrats who’ve been sworn in this year voted ‘no.’ 31 represent districts won by John McCain last year - including 19 in which the Arizona Senator prevailed by double-digits.

That means that 8 are from districts won by Obama: Adler, Baird, Barrow, Davis, Kissell, Kucinich, Murphy and Nye. In particular, Obama won victories superior to 5% in the districts of 4 of these 8 Democrats: He received 74% in AL-07 (Artur Davis is running for Governor in Alabama, which explains his vote), prevailed by 18% in OH-10 (Kucinich opposed the bill from the left, one of two Democrats to do so), prevailed by 11% in GA-12 (Barrow) and 8% in WA-03 (Baird); both GA-12 and WA-03 voted for George W. Bush in 2004.

All of this is to say that the group of lawmakers bucking their party is the typical cross-section of conservative Democrats and vulnerable incumbents.

I for one find it more likely that vulnerable Democrats lose their re-election if their party fails to pass health care reform than if the legislation is adopted. That might not apply to lawmakers like Bright and Minnick who represent very heavily Republican districts, but it certainly does to those like Kissell, Nye, Barrow and Kosmas who are sitting on top of swing districts: The narrative of an overreaching Democrats would drive away independents, the bill’s failure would make it unpopular and the party’s inability to reach its goal would depress base turnout.

Since Republicans are sure to make the most of any Democratic “yes” vote, vulnerable incumbents might have been best off if the bill passed while they opposed it. For that to work, some vulnerable incumbents have to be willing to vote “yes,” however, otherwise the bill would go down. And indeed, a significant number of vulnerable lawmakers did support it.

Here is a partial list of Democrats whose “yes” votes I believe is newsworthy, either because they’re facing a competitive race in 2010 (statewide run or re-election) or because they are generally considered moderate-to-conservative:

Arcuri, Bishop, Dahlkemper, Donnelly, Driehaus, Ellsworth, Etheridge, Hill, Hodes, Kagen, Kanjorski, Kilroy, Dennis Moore, Bill Owens, Perriello, Peters, Pomeroy, Salazar, Schauer, Shea-Porter, Space, Stupak, Titus

Perhaps the most important name on this list is that of Perriello, who is near the top of the GOP’s target list. The freshman spent most of the summer saying he was leaning towards opposing the bill but that he was looking to get to a yes, and he ultimately did get there - just as he had during the cap-and-trade vote. Space is another Democrat representing a McCain district who’ll go into 2010 having supported both the cap-and-trade and health care bills.

Might either have voted “no” if safe Democrats like Chandler or Peterson had agreed to support the bill? That’s all the more important a question given that Peterson is a committee chairman, and as such a member of the Democratic leadership. It’s also worth highlighting that this is a rare instance in which Indiana’s 3 Blue Dogs (Donnelly, Ellsworth and Hill) all backed the leadership on a contested vote; when’s the last time that happened?

As for Bill Owens, rarely do we get this clear an instance of an election having consequences: He won by a few percentage points just a few days ago. Had Doug Hoffman been elected, Democrats would have been down to 219 votes - not 2 but 1 vote from defeat given that Anh Cao only deserted his party once he saw that Pelosi had reached 218 votes.

Indeed, we are now left with the sole Republican who deserted his party. While his vote comes as a surprise because of the party unanimity Republicans had been able to impose on important votes like that on the stimulus bill, it’s far from shocking: The New Orleans congressman is the most endangered incumbent in the 2010 cycle, since he represents a heavily Democratic district. If he wants to have a small shot at surviving next year, Cao will have to be able to point out to a few instances in which he did cross party lines - and this is one high-profile instance to which he’ll be able to point.

What’s next?

There is no need for a long analysis of what awaits the health care bill. Most of the attention was already devoted to the Senate process, which (fairly or unfairly) has been portrayed as a bigger risk for Democrats, so we’ll now go back to monitoring the 5 senators who have left the door open to supporting a GOP filibuster: Joe Lieberman (who reiterated that he’d oppose cloture this morning), Mary Landrieu, Blanche Lincoln, Ben Nelson and Evan Bayh.


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In progressive victory, Reid sends public option to floor: Centrist Dems now face certainty of exposure

Harry Reid’s afternoon press conference provided a climactic and decisive resolution to all the speculation about the public option’s prospects in Senate negotiations: The Majority Leader put a (temporary) end to all rumors by making it clear that the health care bill he would send to the Senate floor would contain a national public option with an opt-out mechanism.

The day’s bottom line: For a non-triggered public option not to reach the president’s desk at this point, a Democratic senator will have to join Republicans and publicly filibuster the entire health care reform.

To block public option, a senator will have to expose himself

Centrists cannot strip the public option out of the bill now that Reid has put it in: Such an operation would require 60 votes, something they do not have since at least 52 Democrats are on record supporting some type of public option. That figure also means that this bill shouldn’t have any problem winning final passage, for which it only needs 50 votes. That means that the only moment at which the public option could still fail is over the cloture vote of the entire bill.

Let me repeat what this means. To defeat the public option, a conservative Democrat cannot just vote against an amendment that would implement it. Rather, he’ll need to take the risk to sabotage his party’s entire reform effort. No more silent filibuster, filled with innuendos and vague statements: If Joe Lieberman or Ben Nelson want to sink the public option, they’ll need to stand up and filibuster the whole bill.

Needless to say, that would expose them to a huge backlash at all levels of his party. Health care reform isn’t an issue being followed by a handful of political junkies; it is a quest that has defined the Democratic Party for the past 50 years, and it would be quite a huge political risk for any Democratic senator to emerge as a visible and irrefutable obstacle to reform itself.

More than anything else, it is this certainty of exposure that so radically changes the public option’s prospects today. Moderate senators look to be at the center of every debate and they demand huge concessions; but they also don’t want to be caught in the spotlight in the way that will make them controversial and extremist. That’s why their success often comes through behind-the-scenes threats not to support cloture - a threat they rarely have to execute since the leadership is unwilling to test them.

Now, the public option could still fail - but if it does there will be clear culprits who won’t be able to hide their responsibility behind confused reports of closed-door negotiations. For a senator to block the public option will require a non-subtle and high-profile act, one that would will make him make the focus of all the attention, the target of tremendous liberal rage and isolate him from the rest of his party. What centrist senator wants to take that risk?

Of course, the premise of this argument is that there aren’t more than a handful of Democrats who might even consider filibustering the entire health care bill. If the cloture vote fails by 5 or 6 votes, it could give the no-voters cover to claim they represent a broad centrist constituency and that the leadership behaved recklessly in including the public option; but most indications suggest that no more than a couple of Democrats might buck their party, which would put them in an untenably isolated position.

Who might vote against cloture?

5 Democratic senators might conceivably join a Republican filibuster - and as I will say specify below, a number of them have made it clear they’re unlikely to do so. They are: Mary Landrieu, Ben Nelson, Blanche Lincoln, Joe Lieberman and Evan Bayh.

Reid has talked to all of these senators in recent days; if just one had warned Reid they were likely to oppose cloture, would the Majority Leader have gone through with today’s press conference? Furthermore, all press reports have Senate aids saying that Reid has locked down 56 or 57 cloture votes, which would mean between 1 and 2 of these 5 senators have pledged not to filibuster.

That could most conceivably be Landrieu, who recently stated “I’m not right now inclined to support any filibuster.” Lieberman also said he was “inclined” towards supporting cloture, though he played up his indecision. Nelson’s recent statement that he was “not excited” about the opt-out mechanism isn’t quite the type of thing you say if you’re looking to torpedo a measure - especially one you were on record praising just a few days before. That leaves us with Bayh and Lincoln, who’ve kept a low-profile.

Of these 5 senators, 4 have clear electoral reasons not to do filibuster. On the one hand, Lieberman has to find some coalition willing to re-elect him in 2012. On the other, Landrieu, Lincoln and Nelson are all vulnerable; though they represent red states, they certainly can’t afford having progressive groups out to destroy them. That leaves us with Bayh as the only senator about whom I can think of no specific reason he’d be reluctant to filibuster the bill.

Two Democrats who do not support the public option but who I do not expect to pose much of a problem for Reid are Mark Begich and Mark Pryor. I can’t envision Begich being an ‘no’: would a freshman senator would dare jeopardize his entire career by blocking his party’s chief priority within 9 months of coming in office? Pryor has made it clear enough he is highly unlikely to join a filibuster in most circumstances, let alone when we’re talking about an opt-out mechanism many centrists have praised.

Another non-supportive Democrat who looks highly unlikely to even entertain the thought of a filibuster is Kent Conrad. The North Dakota senator is primarily concerned with bringing back as much federal benefits as possible to his state; isolating yourself from your entire party by filibustering health care reform is quite an obvious obstacle to that. Furthermore, Conrad is a committee chairman, a Baucus ally and has had a hand in shaping the legislation; Reid mentioned today that he would leave co-ops in the bill, in what is obviously designed to keep Conrad on board.

Finally, this post would not be complete without a few words about Reid. Last week, I wrote about how the decision was almost entirely up to the Nevada Senator. Since then, the often derided Reid has emerged as unexpectedly willing to force the hand of centrist Democrats by demanding that they go on the record and surprisingly unwavering in defying the White House - either by going against Obama’s wishes or at the very least in proceeding without the president’s blessing.

Whatever the public option’s ultimate fate, Reid undoubtedly helped his own cause among liberals today: Progressive groups had made it clear just how huge an electoral cost he would pay if he was responsible for letting the public option go, but the Majority Leader gave them what they wanted by including it in the floor bill. Now, any demise of the the public option can hardly be held against him - and that at least allows him to hope for the help of unions and activists in his tough re-election campaign.


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In public option battle, focus shifts away from Reid and Nelson, to Obama

[Updated, see bottom]

Momentum has been building quickly for the public option since the Finance Committee passed the only version of the health care bill devoid of a government-run plan. Over on the House, reports suggested Nancy Pelosi was willing to send to the floor the most liberal version of the public option - a “robust” plan tied to Medicare rates plus 5%. Over on the Senate, 52 Democrats were on record as supporting a national public option (albeit a “weak” one), with the last bastions of centrist resistance fading away.

Max Baucus, who for weeks insisted that a public option should not be included because it would prevent a bill from getting 60 votes, declared that a “less pure” kind of public option could pass the chamber. And he declared that he was more open to an opt-out mechanism than to a co-op plan or a trigger, perceived to be more centrist options.

Then, it was Kent Conrad’s turn to acknowledge that the bill to be sent to the floor might have some form of public option after all in terms that included no threat that he was looking to filibuster such a reform. Mark Pryor made it clear he was highly unlikely to oppose cloture. The most surprising statement - at least in my view - came from Ben Nelson, who joined Baucus in touting the viability of an opt-out mechanism: Coming from someone who has been opposed to a public option, that pronouncement was quite a victory for progressives.

Add to that what looked like deliberate leaks by the Senate leadership that the public option had the votes to pass the Senate, and it looked increasingly likely that Harry Reid would include a government-run plan in the bill he sent to the floor - at the very least a plan with an opt-out mechanism. (I explain here why Reid’s decision is very important, since it will be virtually impossible to add or remove anything from the bill once he sends it to the floor.)

What was the Senate Majority Leader waiting for? TPM reported that Reid was unwilling to take the decision if he did not receive the White House’s blessing - which is to be understood not only as political cover (Reid does not want to blear the blunt of centrist anger) but also as a guarantee that Obama is willing to work the phones helping Reid pass the bill he’s sent to the floor. But TPM added that the White House was refusing to signal it would back Reid’s decision - a position that isn’t surprising given Valerie Jarrett’s week-end statement that Obama was “not demanding” a public option.

The plot thickened last night, once information started trickling out about what had transpired in a meeting between Obama and Senate leaders. All reports agree that Reid is leaning towards including a national public option with an opt-out provision - something ABC also reported before the meeting. But different press outlets received contradictory leaks about Obama’s attitude: two versions are now being reported.

  1. Politico’s version, backed by CNN: Reid said he believed he had the votes to get a bill with a public option past cloture but Obama explicitly said he preferred a bill with a trigger mechanism - a version that is a line in the only for Olympia Snowe.
  2. The New York Times’s version: While Reid confirmed he was looking to including a public option, but Obama “did not express a preference.”

It is perfectly plausible that the former version has been leaked by staffers of centrist Senators who are trying to slow down the public option’s momentum by making it seem like it is opposed by the White House. At the very least, however, Politico’s report is consistent with our knowledge that Rahm Emanuel has been more explicitly pushing for a trigger for months.

But the latter version of events isn’t that much more reassuring for progressives who are hoping to get a public option. For a week now, we’ve been hearing that Reid is perfectly willing to include sort of public option and that many centrists are resigned to that prospect. As such, Obama is now the primary obstacle left to the inclusion of a public option - whether he stated his preference for a trigger or whether he simply refused to say he would be fine with Reid taking that route.

On the one hand, this has been a long time coming: Obama’s speech to Congress in early September contained explicit warnings to the left not to insist on the public option, and in recent weeks the president has repeatedly instructed liberals not to be unhappy with Baucus’s bill.

On the other hand, it is quite stunning. Obama has said for months that his preference is for a bill to contain a public option; yet, he is now either refusing to express a preference or outright opposing a public option’s inclusion. Also, it is one thing for him not to actively help liberals promote the public option - it is another thing for him to signal discomfort when the Senate Majority Leader is signaling he’s leaning towards including it.

This debate is far from over, and the ball is still in Harry Reid’s hands: Unless they want to take the risk of endangering the entire reform project, the White House would have little choice but to work the phones for whatever bill he sends to the floor. And what Nancy Pelosi decides to do over on her side is just as important: If the House comes to the conference committee with a “Medicare plus five” public option in its bill, it will be harder for Senate negotiators to insist the public option be fully dropped.

Update: TPM, which can hardly be accused of looking to create artificial division within the Democratic Party, independently sources that the White House “is pushing against” the idea of a non-triggered plan and that Obama has emerged “as an opponent of all but the most watered down form of public option.” Meanwhile, The Washington Post reports that Harry Reid looks increasingly determined to defy the White House & Snowe and is trying to round up 60 votes!


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Why the public option is not dead just because it’s in Reid’s hands

The Senate’s health care bill is now in the hands of a couple of powerful actors charged with merging the Finance Committee and the HELP Committee’s bills: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, committee chairmen Chris Dodd and Max Baucus and, less formally, the White House.

Whatever the merger committee decides on the public option will be of utmost importance since it will be virtually impossible to add or remove it once the bill is on the floor because passing an amendment requires 60 votes. If Reid sends down a bill with a public option, it couldn’t be removed because 51 Democrats are on record supporting it; if he sends down a bill without a public option, there will not be 60 senators to support its inclusion.

Everyone knows this, so keep it in mind when you hear talk of a “compromise” that would have the leadership not include the public option in the bill it sends down to the floor but allow its supporters a chance to pass it on the floor.

So what might impact the merger committee? The most obvious answer is the wishes of the senators’ whose vote on the final bill is still up-for-grabs. Olympia Snowe’s opposition to anything beyond a trigger and 3 Democrats’ committee vote against the inclusion of a public option will weigh on the leadership’s mind, as will Roland Burris repeating his pledge to vote against a public option-less bill.

Yet, talk of the need to insure passage is at least partly for show: no senator has linked his decision on the one vote that will matter - cloture - to the inclusion of the public option. No centrist Democrat have said they’d oppose cloture on the whole bill if it included a government plan: Lieberman (one of a few outspokenly opposed to a public option) just minimized the chance he’d join a filibuster while Pryor went as far as saying he does not think “you’ll see me or any other Democrats” oppose cloture. Similarly, Burris did not specify whether his pledge extended to cloture.

My point: Whatever bill the leadership chooses to send to the floor is more likely than not to pass the chamber without any major modifications. Thus, the public option’s fate is largely dependent on the merger committee’s ideological & political preferences. With Dodd and Baucus on opposing ends and with the White House signaling it won’t help those who want to include a public option (for Valerie Jarrett to state this late in the game that the president is “not demanding” a public option is very meaningful), Reid will play an outsized role in shaping this decision.

That is undoubtedly a scary prospect for liberals, who have largely come to distrust the Majority Leader. Despite Reid’s repeated statements that he supports a public option, his reluctance to limit moderate Democrats’ influence on the chamber would make it a surprise if he did not bow to the desires of his caucus’s centrist wing.

And yet, Reid could find it difficult not to include a public option. One of the most vulnerable senators up for re-election next year, Reid faces a dismal approval rating and the prospect of an unmotivated Democratic base: To secure another term, he will need all the help he can get - including the heavy involvement of unions, without which it should be hard for Reid to ensure high enough turnout in Clark County (Las Vegas) to win statewide.

Yet, progressive groups (not to speak of bloggers like Jane Hamsher) are signaling Reid should not only forget their help, but also count on their hostility if he plays any role in burying the public option. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee just bought $50,000-worth of ad time in Nevada to air a 1-minute ad with the tagline “Is Harry Reid Strong Enough?” The spot features a woman who claims that her vote in 2010 will depend on only one issue - whether Reid can muscle the public option through the Senate:

Reid would be in trouble if Nevada’s Democratic base is any more demobilized than it is nationally. But this ad is especially clever because it is framed to address as independents as much as progressives: It makes the public option a test of Reid’s effectiveness rather than a test of his liberal credentials. One of Reid’s major arguments next year will be that he holds power and influence so he can help Nevada; it certainly doesn’t help his already troubled re-election prospects for an outside group to undermine that claim 13 months from Election Day.

On the other hand, there is no obvious electoral downside to Reid pushing through a public option: A clear majority of Nevadans in general and independents in particular support the creation of a government-administered plan in a September Research 2000 poll.

In short: The political price Reid would pay if he is held responsible for killing the public option is superior to that faced by most Democratic senators. And that’s the best hope liberals have of salvaging a non-triggered public option.


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Public option might be dead in Finance, but it remains alive in Congress

In a debate with unusually clear ideological faultlines, the Senate Finance Committee spent hours yesterday debating whether to include a public option in its version of health care reform. As had been expected, proponents of a public plan failed to rally a majority of the committee in two high-profile votes. This guarantees that the Finance Committee’s bill will not contain a public option, in contrast to the legislation’s all four other versions that passed other congressional committees over the summer.

Yet, in no way does this mean that the public option’s overall prospects are dead. The Finance Committee’s mark-up was never supposed to be the stage at which the public option might win the day; more propitious opportunities await.

It will certainly not be easy for the public option to work its way in the final bill, especially given reports that Barack Obama and Harry Reid are likely to side with those looking not to include it during behind-the-scenes negotiations. But numerous factors (the growing number of Senate Democrats who are on the record supporting a bill with a public option, House progressives’ continued insistence they’ll oppose a public option-less bill) mean that the floor debate or the conference committee will be far more decisive battles than today’s two votes.

Conrad, Lincoln, Baucus: 3 Democrats kill public option in committee

Yesterday, the first vote came on an amendment proposed by Jay Rockefeller; it would have implemented a robust public option based on Medicare rates. 5 Democrats joined the committee’s 10 Republicans in opposing the amendment - Max Baucus, Kent Conrad, Blanche Lincoln, Tom Carper and Bill Nelson - while 8 voted in favor of it, including Ron Wyden and Jeff Bingaman. Next came Chuck Schumer’s amendment implementing a weak “level playing field” public option. This time, Nelson and Carper voted yes; but Conrad, Lincoln and Baucus’s opposition led to the public option’s 10-13 defeat.

Had two of these three senators voted for it yesterday, the issue would have been resolved for good: All committees would have passed legislation with a public option and that would have all but guaranteed that the final bill debated on the floor would include it as well. As I review below, there is no clear evidence that a bill with a public option lacks the votes for passage; so if health care reform ends up lacking a public plan, no Senators - not even Lieberman or Ben Nelson - will be as responsible as Lincoln, Conrad and Baucus.

Two twists: (1) Lincoln did not bother showing up or explaining her vote, which means that Conrad was the loudest Democratic opponent of a public option in today’s proceedings, mounting a full assault on Rockefeller’s proposal to tie the public option to Medicare rates. (2) Max Baucus used bizarre logic to explain his opposition. He explained that he was in full support of a public option but that he opposed it because it lacked the votes to pass. “My first job is to get this job across the finish line,” Baucus said. “I fear if this provision is in this bill as it goes out of this committee, it will jeopardize real meaningful health reform.”

We now know that the public option would get a majority in the Senate

Public option proponents did get one piece of excellent news during today’s proceedings: In voting “yes” to Chuck Schumer’s amendment, Carper and Bill Nelson went on the record for the very first time as supporting some version of a public option. Until now, both had been noncommittal. This does not mean that they would not prefer some other reform to be implemented (Carper is now trying to push potential compromises like co-ops or state-based public plans) but it certainly suggests neither would vote against whatever reform Democrats end up bringing to the Senate floor.

This certainly helps clarify the situation as to where the public option, and with it the odds of a relatively progressive bill, stand in the full Senate. Based on the Washington Independent’s excellent overview of every senator’s stance on the issue, we can now say that the public option-inclusive bill would clear a majority in the U.S. Senate. (The count lists 47 supporters, but Carper, Bill Nelson and Claire McCaskill are all on record supporting a public option in their respective committee, which brings the total to 50; with Joe Biden’s tie-breaking vote, that means 51.)

What this means: Health care reform that includes a public option would be sure of getting the votes it needs to pass if Democrats chose to push it through reconciliation. Now, there are certainly other reasons not to take that route, but this is important to keep in mind as I am still reading that the public option would not even be sure of getting 51 votes.

What about 60 votes? Only 6 Dems could conceivably oppose cloture

50 senators are on record supporting a bill with a public option, which means 10 either oppose it or are on the fence - and none of them has promised to at least vote for cloture. They are: Ben Nelson, Joe Lieberman, Landrieu, Conrad, Lincoln, Evan Bayh, Mark Begich, Jon Tester and Mark Pryor.

Based on recent comments by Tester and Pryor (see the Washington Independent’s overview) they have left themselves little cover to oppose a constrained public option like that proposed by the Schumer amendment. It’s also difficult to see Baucus voting to filibuster health care reform due to his role in drafting the legislation and to his insistence that he only voted against the public option today because he does not think it could eventually get 60 votes. I also find it improbable that Begich would take the risk of becoming a pariah within his own party just 10 months after being sworn in for his first Senate term.

That leaves us with only 5 Democrats who could plausibly choose to join a GOP filibuster of a bill containing even a weak public option: Conrad, Lincoln, Landrieu, Ben Nelson, Lieberman and Bayh.

When you hear that the Senate does not have the votes to pass the public option, we are not talking about the prospect of the bill failing to be adopted: While all 6 of these senators could very well vote against final passage, we already know that their votes will not be decisive. So what we are talking about is one or more of these 6 senators going as far as to vote against cloture and for a GOP filibuster.

We can debate how much credence to give to that possibility - to my knowledge, only Nelson has explicitly raised the possibility of opposing cloture - and I personally still find it hard to imagine these typically cautious senators taking the gigantic political risk of joining such a small, exposed group to prevent their own party’s health care reform from moving on to an up-and-down vote.

Deciding floor bill, floor debate, conference: What is next for PO

That a bill containing public option still has a path to 60 cloture votes does not mean that the Democratic leadership will choose to go down that route. Yet, whether or not congressmen vote on legislation that includes a public option will soon entirely depend on Barack Obama and Harry Reid. Once the Finance Committee passes its bill, its chairman Max Baucus will meet with HELP Chairman Tom Harkin and Harry Reid to shape the bill that will be introduced on the floor of the Senate; the White House will have a seat at the table.

Most reports suggest that Reid and Obama will side with Baucus over Harkin, which would mean that the bill that would advance to the Senate floor would not have a public option. (It will then be interesting to see whether Harkin gets any concessions from centrists in return.)

The next step will be the floor fight over a public option. I am somewhat unclear as to how many votes would be needed here. If the bill already contains a weak public option, it does not look that Republicans would have the votes to strip it since 50 Democrats (plus Biden) are on record supporting it. If it does not, however, I believe it would take 60 votes for an amendment introducing it to pass (it’s next to impossible for a public option standing on its own to get that much) but I have also read that 50 would suffice.

If the bill finally adopted by the Senate does not contain a public option, a final opportunity to include it will occur at conference since the House legislation is likely to have a public option. A same scenario would occur here, with Senate negotiators and House negotiators clashing with the White House in a position to arbitrate. This time, however, the left would have a stronger hand because about 60 House Democrats are still threatening to vote against a public option-less bill.

For the leadership, this certainly raises the stakes of once again dumping the public option, and much will depend on the Congressional Progressive Caucus’s credibility. Will the White House take them seriously enough to think that removing the public option would cause a bigger headache that including it?


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Senate Democrats are back at 60

At first, I confess I found it unlikely Massachusetts Democrats would accept granting Deval Patrick the right to appoint Teddy Kennedy’s successor; but intense pressure from national Democrats and state politicians convinced reluctant legislative leaders to push such a bill through. Given the overwhelming majorities the party enjoy in both chambers in the legislature, getting the Speaker and the Senate’s President to back the reform was all its proponents needed.

The process went about as fast as the legislature could have moved, and Deval Patrick wasted no time in announcing that he was appointment former DNC Chairman Paul G. Kirk. Once he is sworn in, Kirk will get Senate Democrats back at 60 seats.

And this time, it’s a filibuster-proof majority they can actually count on: All 60 Democrats are healthy enough not to miss important votes, and that includes Robert Byrd. The West Virginia Senator has missed a lot of votes this year, and he just spent a few days in the hospital this week (he was released today); but he has been able to attend enough roll calls that it doesn’t look like Democrats have to worry about his absence on high-profile occasion the coming showdown on health care reform.

Since Kirk will not seek a full term, his appointment will have no impact on January’s special election or in the 2010 midterms. But I do not need to tell you how important his vote will be in the coming months: Democrats no longer need a single Republican vote to pass health care reform (or anything else, for that matter). That does not mean liberals should claim victory since Olympia Snowe is not necessarily any more conservative than Ben Nelson and Blanche Lincoln.

Yet, centrist Democrats and centrist Republicans are subjected to very different types of pressure - especially when we’re talking about the cloture vote. As long as Snowe is the 60th vote Democrats need, we can imagine her bowing to her leadership’s injunctions and letting the bill die; but now that Nelson is in that decisive position, would he dare be the only Democrat to join a Republican filibuster and thus be entirely responsible for the bill’s failure?

Kirk’s appointment also prevents centrists like Nelson and Conrad from hiding behind the “lack of votes” to justify pushing legislation to the right without saying how they themselves would vote. Now, for them to say that the bill lacks 60 votes can only mean that they themselves are leaning towards a “no” vote - something they have been reluctant to say until now for obvious political reasons.

All of this said, as long as Obama signals he still desperately wants Olympia Snowe’s support, it will give Max Baucus the cover he needs not to move the bill further to the left. (Don’t forget that Baucus’s insistence that Enzi and Grassley should be included in the Gang of Six had nothing to do with passing the bill and everything to do with the Finance Chairman’s ideological leanings) and it will leave Snowe at the center of the game by allowing Nelson and Lincoln to still tie their votes to hers.

And a sign that the Democratic leadership has little intention to use its new-found filibuster-proof majority to push for a more liberal bill is buried in The Boston Globe report on Kirk’s appointment. I have already written that an important question in the coming weeks is which side of the Democratic divide - the Congressional Progressive Caucus or centrist Senators - the White House will put more pressure on, with Obama’s mid-September speech leaving little doubt it would be the former. Here’s more evidence that congressional liberals will need to face powerful intraparty opponents to get what they want:

Some Kennedy insiders who support Kirk’s appointment, though, have argued that Dukakis is too outspoken on health care issues, espousing liberal positions that could complicate Democrats’ attempts in Washington to moderate their approach on the legislation.

Also: I have been traveling in recent days, which has as you can see slowed down posting. But I should be back at the usual rhythm starting tomorrow.



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  • All good things must come to an end

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  • What remains on the table

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    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55
  • Confusion in Connecticut (Updated)

  • Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

    Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55
  • Results thread, part 2: Dems suffer staggering losses in House and legislatives races, limit damage in statewide races

  • Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

    Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55
  • Election Night results thread: Rep. Boucher’s fall first surprise of the night

  • Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

    Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55
  • Election night cheat sheet

  • Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

    Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55
  • Final ratings: Democrats brace for historic losses

  • Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

    Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55
  • What to watch for down-ballot

Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

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