Friday, March 19, 2010

Whipping health reform

I've been kind of fixated on Colorado politics this week and prepping for courses, so I haven't devoted a lot of blog space to health reform lately.  But thanks to Bernstein for pointing out this particularly fascinating NYT piece on how the House Majority is trying to whip votes.  I can't recall too many roll call votes receiving this level of scrutiny (Clinton's first budget comes to mind), and the coverage is useful.  Indeed, I plan to assign this article next quarter.

Something that this article makes clear, but what is rarely acknowledged by political observers, is that the majority doesn't care to run up the score.  It's a controversial vote, and they want to free up as many members in competitive districts as possible to vote against the thing.  So a lot of the calculation being made by Pelosi and others is whom to leave alone:
But inside the speaker’s suite of offices on the West Front of the Capitol where Democrats are filing in for face-to-face discussions with party leaders, there is a pecking order for vulnerable lawmakers that helps determine the degree of arm-twisting and pressure imposed on them.
Who won by the smallest margin? Which districts have smaller black populations, a traditionally reliable vote? Who voted for the somewhat different version of the legislation in November and is going to be attacked by Republicans for that vote regardless of what they do this weekend? And who stands the best chance to persevere through a roiling political year and by November have at least a decent shot of winning?
Also see Nate Silver's piece on the collective action dilemma behind this vote.

It seems pretty clear to me that the thing is going to pass.  It's also clear to me that the Democrats are going to lose seats this fall.  And what will annoy me is the pundits who claim that Democrats lost seats because they passed health reform.  Let's just stipulate that the Democrats will lose seats whether health reform passes or fails.  I have no idea whether passing health reform will mitigate losses or exacerbate them -- probably not too much either way.  But I'm sure the pundits will overhype it anyway.

1 comment:

Tycho said...

What they lose this fall, they'll make up in 2012.