What, of course, is interesting about the arm twisting of undecided congressmen is how little Joe Biden is involved. You would think a guy who was in Congress for forever would be able to convince colleagues, or at least would be tasked with such an assignment. That Obama is doing it personally reflects little confidence in Biden and also a micro-managing of the legislation he refused to be involved in drafting and ironing out. Compare with Bush, who delegated this responsibility to Cheney, who was apparently far more effective than either Biden or Obama. Certainly his victories were less public so there were not quite so many process stories, which seem like the only articles coming out of the White House any more.
One possibility: Obama doesn't want Biden anywhere near Congress because he fears our intrepid vice president, God love him, would make yet another silly gaffe.
In order to obtain a friendly CBO score, the Democrats lowered the threshold at which health insurance plans will be subject to the excise tax. That threshold is now pegged at inflation, which means more and more plans will be subject to bracket creep over time.
Yesterday Trumka was summoned to an unscheduled meeting at the White House. One wonders what he was told. Could it have been that the regressive changes to the taxes and subsidies shouldn't sway his support for the bill, since the Democrats can always cancel them once they kick down the door?
House majority leader Steny Hoyer has informed his colleagues of the CBO health bill score. Politico reports:
The bill would cost $940 billion, and reduce the deficit by $130 billion over the first 10 years and $1.2 trillion in the second 10 years. The deficit numbers Democrats have been most worried about, and will be key to convincing moderates to coming on board with the bill.
Keep in mind that the second decade estimate is incredibly speculative. Overall, though, this score may move some undecided congressmen into the Yes column. Whether those congressmen will be members who voted No last year is another question entirely, however. Perhaps they will have seen this video:
More CBO details, and the final reconciliation language, are expected later today. A Sunday morning vote is now likely. Gentlemen: Start your engines! The countdown has begun.
More bad news for Democrats in the latest Pew survey. Forty-eight percent oppose the health bill, 38 percent approve. Obama's job approval is down to 46 percent, with 43 percent disapproval. A majority says health care costs will increase despite passage of health care reform. Ask voters what they think of Congress, and the four words you are most likely to hear are “dysfunctional,” “corrupt,” “self-serving,” and “inept.” "Tickle fight" didn't make the cut.
On a brighter note, the public continues to admire and like Obama personally, even if they are deeply divided when evaluating his job performance. And voters also say the war in Afghanistan is improving. Prosecution of the war there continues to be one of the president's strongest issues.
Rep. Jason Altmire has met with President Obama twice this month and received a phone call from Air Force One. Two planes circled his western Pennsylvania district, trailing banners urging him to vote against the health-care bill. And conservative "tea party" activists confronted him at his office, trying to force him to answer: "Are you for or against the bill?"
The pressure has been extreme over the past two weeks on Altmire and the few dozen House Democrats who say they still have not decidedhow they will vote on ambitious legislation designed to remake the nation's health-care system.
Says Bart Stupak: “All the phones are unplugged at our house — tired of the obscene calls and threats. [My wife] won’t watch TV,” Stupak said during an hourlong interview with The Hill in his Rayburn office. “People saying they’re going to spit on you and all this. That’s just not fun.”
Fox News Channel's Bret Baier interviewed President Obama today. It wasn't what you'd call a friendly encounter. Baier, concerned that the president was filibustering, repeatedly interrupted the chief executive. Obama quickly grew frustrated. Before long, the look on his face suggested he was wondering why he agreed to the interview in the first place.
Republicans feel it is accurate, particularly in this sense: They believe that no Democratic lawmaker who is definitely planning to vote yes on the bill would want the activists on the left, in this case exemplified by Firedoglake, to believe he or she is still undecided. Why take a beating for nothing?
The current count at FDL is 205 Yes, 209 No, including leaners. That jibes with other whip counts showing health care reform's future up for grabs.
A major factor in the upcoming vote is the CBO score of the reconciliation bill. The number isn't out yet, not because math is hard but because Democrats are manipulating the numbers to get a good result. Yet word is spreading that health care reform's price-tag is still tremendously expensive. As the saying goes: Know hope.
According to Thomas Peters, Nancy Pelosi's emergency meeting this morning with the female Democratic House members was called after she met with Bart Stupak yesterday, and Stupak "didn't cave to her demands." There's been chatter on Capitol Hill today that Pelosi excluded pro-life women from a meeting this morning, and a staffer for pro-life Democrat Marcy Kaptur tells THE WEEKLY STANDARD's Daniel Halper that Kaptur did not attend this morning's meeting, though the staffer didn't specify why Kaptur didn't attend.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, the GOP deputy whip, just held a conference call with bloggers. Here's what he said. The Republicans estimate that Pelosi has 205 Yes votes, while there are 205 No votes. That leaves about 21 votes up for grabs. Pelosi can lose 37 Democrats and still pass Obamacare into law. Based on rules and precedent and what's happening on the floor, the Republicans estimate that the earliest a health care vote could be held would be late Saturday or early Sunday.
McCarthy also said the Democrats have been pushed backward over the last 24 hours. Forget Kucinich. The reaction to the Slaughter Solution has been horrible for Pelosi and her team. Bart Stupak is holding his ground, even if some of his bloc may peel off in the end. And there's still no final reconciliation language and thus no CBO score for the bill. The Democrats are playing with the numbers in order to earn a deficit-neutral score. Meanwhile, the Capitol Hill switch board has been flooded with calls for and against the legislation.
Rep. Parker Griffith of Alabama, who switched to the GOP in December, shed some light on how the Democratic whip operation works. Griffith said the whip team, when it calls or visits an undecided congressman, knows everything about him. They know the demographics of his district, his popularity, his most recent margin of victory, how safe his seat is, how popular the president and Pelosi are in his state, whether his state has a Medicaid shortfall, and whether he's been wanting money for a new road or bike path or medical school in his district. They come ready to deal. The one thing the whip team can't guarantee? A congressman's reelection.
Rep. Michael Burgess couldn't believe his ears. He'd just been read President Obama's words in Strongville, Ohio, yesterday. At a campaign-style rally, the president had said that "We’ve ended up with a proposal that incorporates the best ideas from Democrats and Republicans."