Will Moderate Democrats Vote For Health Care Reform Before They Vote Against It?

A handful of moderate Democratic Senators are getting a lot of attention for their wavering stances on health care reform. See, for example, this piece from ABC News:

Democrats may have scored a big victory on the first Senate health care overhaul vote, but party unity lasted only as long as it took to bring down the gavel on Saturday's vote.

Sixty senators—exactly the number needed to pass a bill—voted Saturday night to move forward with debate. But even as they voted yes on this first procedural votes, several Democrats warned they'll vote no on the next vote if the bill isn't changed.

"I'm prepared to vote against moving to the next stage of consideration as long as a government-run public option is included," said Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Neb., who has been a swing Democratic vote on the Senate's bill.

She's one of four Democrats who voted "yes" on bringing the bill to the floor for debate—but who say they'll vote "no" next time if the bill still includes a government-run insurance program.

Since no Republicans support the bill, losing four Democratic votes would mean the bill only has 56 "yes" votes—not enough to pass.

Technically, the bill doesn't need 60 votes to pass. At some point, the Senate will require 60 votes for cloture—which ends debate and allows for a vote on the passage of the bill—but, once 60 Senators vote for cloture, the actual passage could be achieved with just 51 votes. So it's possible that we could see a situation in which those moderates vote for cloture but against the final bill. 

Indeed, given the competing pressures of party (which desperately wants to pass this bill) and polls (which show increasing disapproval of the bill, particularly Lincoln's home state of Arkansas) that moderates face on the bill, that's exactly what polling whiz Nate Silver suggests that Lincoln, who faces a potentially tough re-election bid next year, do. For Lincoln, he argues, "the path of least resistance would seem to be committing to voting for cloture, so that the Democratic base, your colleagues in the Senate, and the national media don't go nuclear on you—but against the underlying bill, which is unpopular in your state."

If it works, it's a neat trick: It allows moderates like Lincoln to support the party without technically supporting the bill. Yet this is not a strategy without risk. The question is whether or not voting for cloture will be percieved as a purely procedural vote—a "vote to allow a vote" or something along those lines—or a vote for passage. Given that once the Senate votes for cloture, passage is virtually guaranteed, I think the better argument is that a vote for cloture is, for all practical purposes, a vote for passage. But if Lincoln and others can convince their constituencies that it isn't, they might be able to satisfy the conflicting demands of both party and constituents.

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  • Mike M.||

    Someone tell ABC News that Blanche Lincoln represents Arkansas, not Nebraska.

  • hmm||

    Those states in the middle are all the same. The important ones are on the ends.

  • Nick||

    Whoever wrote up the story was probably thinking of the city of Lincoln, Nebraska.

  • Kroneborge||

    Ad "Senator X, voted to allow the passage"

    Simple and easy.

  • JB||

    The politicians who vote for trillions more spending are really going to try to convince their constituents that they are stupid as well?

    Anyone who pulls a stunt like this will be called to the carpet as someone with no principles. People will see it for the cheap political ploy it is.

  • ABC News elitist ||

    Someone tell ABC News that Blanche Lincoln represents Arkansas, not Nebraska

    There's a difference?

  • LarryA||

    I've lived in both. Arkansas has mountains, Nebraska is flat.

  • ABC News elitist ||

    Nice try, smart guy. I just checked Google maps; Lincoln is clearly in Nebraska.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Shit. That should have been "ABC News fact checker".

  • BakedPenguin||

    Kroneborge and JB pretty much said it. Their opponents won't let the voters forget.

  • ||

    But if Lincoln and others can convince their constituencies that it isn't, they might be able to satisfy the conflicting demands of both party and constituents.

    This would require some remarkable stupid or ignorant constituents, and some world-level spin from the MSM.

  • ||

    One word: ARKANSAS

  • ||

    It all depends on how stupid your constituents are. Since Lincoln is from Arkansas, the tactic would probably work for her.

  • ||

    Those stupid constituents elected Mike Huckabee as Gov.

  • ||

    Hi prolefeed.

  • ||

    Hi J sub D!

  • Tony||

    Majorities in these senators' constituencies favor healthcare reform. Their reelection issues will be there with or without it--but I see little point in helping defeat their party's #1 domestic agenda item.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    Hell, Tony, let's make EVERYTHING an entitlement. Food, clothing, shelter, jobs, transportation... the whole thing. Why be half-assed about it?

  • JB||

    I want an entitlement to beat the fuck out of Tony.

    Actually I already have that right according to him: beating the fuck out of him contributes to my mental health.

  • ||

    This would require some remarkable stupid or ignorant constituents, and some world-level spin from the MSM.

    This mission is as good as ACCOMPLISHED.

    I'm sure Team Olberddow will be able to portray the first vote as a noble urge to "Let the People's Will be Known".

  • ||

    Majorities in these senators' constituencies favor healthcare reform.

    And ponies; never forget the ponies.

  • ||

    Wow- Miss Hathaway (looking on) looks damn good for a woman her age.

  • CTHORM@IBIS||

    Maybe its me, but I think it's time to take off the beer goggles. Don't worry, the truth may be harsh but at least your hands will stop lying to you.

  • Mad Max||

    'Someone tell ABC News that Blanche Lincoln represents Arkansas, not Nebraska.'

    That's the problem with the Internet - you bloggers and commenters with your 'gotcha' games and your obsession with meaningless trivia. I mean, yes, Blanche Lincoln is technically a Senator from Arkansas, not Nebraska, but with all your nitpicking you are missing the broader story - we're showing Senators how they can give the administration the cloture vote it needs and then fool their constituents by voting against final passage. I mean, with all your criticism of ABC's coverage, it's as if you don't *want* them to promote the health-care bill! ؟

  • Rich||

    People will see it for the cheap political ploy it is.

    And perhaps even see it as one more in a never-ending series. But will people vote the perps out of office?

  • ||

    I don't see an issue here. Lincoln wants the debate, so it's a yes vote for that, and at the end of the debate, if it still has the public option she'll vote no.

  • Mad Max||

    TrickyVic,

    The problem is that cloture is the decisive vote. It will need 60 Senators. They already have the 51 needed for final passage.

  • ||

    Ah, I see what your talking about. It is kinda of sneaky. I remember some republicans were doing the same thing to forward a bad dem bill and then vote against it. I thought it was a sneaky trick then, it is now.

    Lincoln may regret her vote, the health care bill isn't that popular with most people I know in AR. If her yes vote allows it be passed even if she votes no on final, I don't think her people will let her get away with it.

  • ||

    I remember some republicans were doing the same thing to forward a bad dem bill and then vote against it. I thought it was a sneaky trick then, it is now.

    No, that's entirely different.

    The Republican trick was in the House, so it took the same amount of votes to schedule the bill for a vote as to pass it. (The bill was Charlie Rangel's "Let's bring back the draft!" bill. Republicans wanted to get on record opposing the draft.) Voting to bring the bill up for debate in the House is completely negated by voting against the actual bill, since it's the same threshold.

    With cloture in the Senate, it's very different. Voting the opposite way on cloture and the final bill would cause it to pass.

  • ||

    A better example would be various Dems voting against GWB's tax cuts on technical votes that required 60 votes, but then voting for the final package.

  • ||

    Sneaky is bad choice of word. I understand wanting to get it to floor for debate, but if your vote to do so ends up with no debate and passage, that not very smart.

  • ||

    The final vote is the decisive vote.

  • ||

    No, that's stupid. The decisive vote is cloture. The final vote is a formality.

    Cloture takes 60 votes; the final vote takes 50. The "decisive vote" is always the one that takes the most supporting votes to pass.

    OK, I suppose you could filibuster ending debate on the conference report, if you mean final vote by that.

    Otherwise, I'm sorry, you're being really, really dumb here.

  • ||

    """The "decisive vote" is always the one that takes the most supporting votes to pass.""

    The stupidity is how you are defining decisive.

  • ||

    The stupidity is how you are defining decisive.

    How would you define it? Both votes are necessary. If the cloture vote fails, the bill fails. Thus, if the cloture vote fails, the cloture vote was decisive.

    If the cloture vote passes, the bill will pass. It is already a certainty that there will be 50 votes for the bill.

    The cloture vote is the deciding vote, the vote of interest. The other is theater.

    I can't see how you can possibly disagree. I'm utterly confused. Favor or oppose the bill, I can't see how you can view the much easier vote which is a certainty anyway as "decisive," as oppose to the equally necessary, much harder, and currently unknown cloture vote.

  • ||

    Honestly, what's your definition of decisive? "Final?" In that case, it's not even the final vote in the Senate to pass this bill. It's the vote later on to accept the conference report.

  • ||

    I don't entirely understand all the people who oppose this bill and yet are so willing to call the Arkansas electorate dumb. At the very least, they oppose this bill, requiring subterfuge to pass it.

    If you support this bill, I can certainly see how you'd want to call electorates that oppose it dumb, while praising the intelligence of the California and Massachusetts and New York electorates that support it. But while conservatives are sometimes proud of the natural instincts of the Stupid Party, I didn't think that libertarians generally were.

  • ||

    Lincoln's website recently said she supported the public option then it didn't take long before she switched. Facts are the public option is important and already working! http://cli.gs/z3AtaY/

  • ||

    How much money has Sen. Blanche Lincoln and the other Democrats opposed to the public option received from insurance companies?

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