Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Senate nose count on the public option


Assuming the Democrats seeking the public option for health reform through the reconciliation process, they only need 50 votes in the Senate, plus Biden breaking the tie.

According to a recent whip count, there are already 45 “yes” votes for the public option, 15 “maybes”, 1 unknown, and two “no’s” who might be persuaded to switch.

Here are the 45 “yes” votes:

Boxer/Feinstein CA, Bennet/Udall CO, Dodd CT, Kaufman DE, Akaka/Inouye HA, Harkin IA, Burris/Durbin IL, Kerry/Kennedy MA, Cardin/Mikulski MD, Levin/Stabenow MI, Franken/Klobuchar MN, McCaskill MO, Hagan NC, Dorgan ND, Shaheen NH, Lautenberg/Menendez NJ, Bingaman/Udall NM, Reid NV, Gillibrand/Schumer NY, Brown OH, Merkley OR, Casey/Specter PA, Reed/Whitehouse RI, Webb VA, Leahy/Sanders VT, Cantwell/Murray WA, Feingold/Kohl WI, Johnson SD, Rockefeller WV.

Here are the 15 “maybe” votes, with ideas for how to nail down their votes:

Begich AK, Lincoln/Pryor AR, Landrieu LA: vulnerable Democrats in red states. Offer help in reelection races.

Bayh IN, Conrad ND: Blue Dog deficit hawks who care about policy. Make the numbers balance for them.

Wyden OR, Isakson R-GA, Snowe R-ME: others who actually care about policy. Snowe and Isakson are Republicans so winning them over will be tough, but Isakson is the one who actually wrote the end-of-life language that everyone screamed at Obama about, so perhaps a chat about that would do the trick, while Baucus could tell us what Snowe's major concerns were when she was in the Gang Of Six. Widen fielded his own reform proposal, so throw some of his ideas in the final package.

Nelson NE, Baucus/Tester MT, Warner VA, Carper DE, Nelson FL: guys who may just need their egos massaged. Nelson and Baucus were bloodied early in the health care battle, Nelson when his effort to round up opponents to the public option collapsed, and Baucus during his tenure in the Gang Of Six; both need to save face, particularly since they come from red states. Warner has presidential ambitions so he needs a schmooze from Obama; Carper comes from Delaware so he needs a schmooze from Biden. Byrd probably needs a schmooze too just because he's Byrd.

A number of these people might be swayed by trying all three approaches: massage their egos, sell the policy, and help them with any political vulnerabilities -- a bunch of these folks are from red states.

Here's the 1 we don’t know:

Byrd WV – he is a stickler for Senate procedure and for his own Byrd Rule, so treat both with respect. This assumes he is well enough to vote (same for Kennedy, which is why getting to 52 is better than 50).

Here are the 2 “no” votes, which we could try to turn:

Lieberman: threaten to take away his chairmanship; he’s already gotten one mulligan from Obama and doesn’t deserve another.
Collins: If you get Snowe, get her to persuade Collins. Collins really does her homework, so whoever tries to persuade her needs to do his homework too.

So out of the 18 maybe/unknown/no votes, Obama needs 5.

For the Republicans to win, they need 14 of the 18; and only 2 of the 18 are Republicans. So they need a sizeable bunch of Democrats to publicly defy their President.

Advantage: Obama.

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