By Doug Heye, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
Did you get the sense that the House Democratic Leadership was frantic, even desperate, to nail down the vote for the 1,990-page healthcare reform bill?
No, not the actual votes from members Democrats were worried might go south on them—though House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer had good reason to be concerned about that; 39 Democrats opposed their party's bill—but scheduling the actual vote itself. It had to be before the Veterans' Day recess.
What was the hurry? The vote was promised before Congress' August recess and didn't happen—what are a few more days to allow the legislation to be seen by the American public for 72 hours, as Pelosi promised?
Well, it turns out, that was the problem all along. Democrats remember well what happened to them the last time Congress took a recess. Democrats such as Sens. Claire McCaskill and Arlen Specter faced the wrath of angry constituents at town halls carried live by the cable television news networks. In congressional district after congressional district, House Democrats were besieged with arguments and complaints, some polite, some not so polite, against the Democrats' healthcare proposal.
Pelosi simply could not afford for the Veterans' Day recess to be a replay of the August debacle that caused support for the proposal to plummet. The pictures and video we saw last recess could imperil the bill—especially on the heels of last Tuesday's election results which showed independents abandoning Democrats (and Republicans feeling newly emboldened).
By ensuring the vote before another recess, Pelosi and Co. made certain voters—you—would not be able to change the mind of any Democrats on the fence. It's smart politics. It's also the cynical politics Democrats promised to change.
"Dems Brace for Another Recess," Chris Frates and Carrie Budoff Brown write in today's Politico. For one Democrat who supported the bill, Virginia's Tom Perriello, that meant, as reported by the Danville Register & Bee and quickly circulated by the National Republican Congressional Committee, being greeted by 70 protestors angry at Perriello's vote and waving signs such as "Best wishes on your retirement."
But that's not Nancy Pelosi's problem; she already got her votes. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, on the other hand...