Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Who You Gonna Call... David Dreier Or Ezra Klein?


When Tom DeLay was forced to resign from the House after being indicted for "ethical improprieties," Denny Hastert decided to appoint fellow closet case David Dreier as Republican Majority Leader. The howls of rage from Capitol Hill were so loud that George Bush was woken from his late afternoon nap. Roy Blunt, a particularly nasty homophobe, had some choice words about poor Dreier's well-known sexual proclivities and about his barely concealed life in the closet, to the effect that he had no intention of working under such a person.

Today Dreier is a figure of derision and pity. He's fairly senior in the Republican hierarchy, but he has no juice whatsoever. He toes the right-wing line religiously-- even voting against the bipartisan bill to control Red Tide, something ultra-popular in his environmentally sensitive district. Other House Republicans, attuned to their districts, bucked the GOP extremist leadership to vote "aye." Liberals? Yeah, right... like Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Brian Bilbray (R-CA), Mary Fallin (R-OK), Adam Putnam (R-FL), Tom Cole (R-OK), Paul Ryan (R-WI), John Boozman (R-AR), John Kline (R-MN), Anders Crenshaw (R-FL), Rob Wittman (R-VA), Adrian Smith (R-NE). Dreier's in a netherworld of his own, a victim of his own horrid choices-- neither fish nor foul-- or a little bit of both.

So when he went running to the media yesterday screaming that the Democrats' healthcare reform bill was dead, most everyone to the left of Michelle Malkin yawned. No one tells David Dreier anything-- except where the newest humpy tea room is. A far more reliable, reality-based source of what's going on is the Post's resident politics-of-healthcare expert Ezra Klein, who has made an effort to remove the hyperbole and give as clear an explanation as possible of what Pelosi is trying to accomplish with her "deem and pass" strategy.
Rather than passing the Senate bill and then passing the fixes, the House will pass the fixes under a rule that says the House "deems" the Senate bill passed after the House passes the fixes.

The virtue of this, for Pelosi's members, is that they don't actually vote on the Senate bill. They only vote on the reconciliation package. But their vote on the reconciliation package functions as a vote on the Senate bill. The difference is semantic, but the bottom line is this: When the House votes on the reconciliation fixes, the Senate bill is passed, even if the Senate hasn't voted on the reconciliation fixes, and even though the House never specifically voted on the Senate bill.

It's a circuitous strategy born of necessity. Pelosi doesn't have votes for the Senate bill without the reconciliation package. But the Senate parliamentarian said that the Senate bill must be signed into law before the reconciliation package can be signed into law. That removed Pelosi's favored option of passing the reconciliation fixes before passing the Senate bill. So now the House will vote on reconciliation explicitly and the Senate bill implicitly, which is politically easier, even though the effect is not any different than if Congress were to pass the Senate bill first and pass the reconciliation fixes after. This is all about plausible deniability for House members who don't want to vote for the Senate bill, although I doubt many voters will find the denials plausible.

Pelosi relishes a great, long-term debate with the GOP on the merits of government protecting society from the ravages of the selfish and greedy. It's a damn shame that the Democratic Party-- herding cats-- is so politically clueless as to actually seek members who are sure to oppose the party's own grand ambitions for the American people. Right now the DCCC is pushing Lori Edwards, a reactionary Blue Dog who will always be one press conference away from switching parties à la Parker Griffith, instead of getting behind a true blue grassroots Democrat, Doug Tudor in FL-12. Similarly, we hear Pelosi has put an awkward thumb on the table in favor of one of this year's worst Democratic candidates, former Joe Lieberman for President campaign chair Katrina Swett, who is trying to steal a New Hampshire congressional nomination away from progressive activist Ann McLane Kuster.

Pelosi, more than anyone, knows the depths of Jane Harman's perfidy and has certainly been more than aware of the damage Bart Stupak has done to the cause of healthcare reform, to women's rights, to the Democratic Party and, most importantly, to the United States of America. She has seen Georgia Blue Dog John Barrow, a cowardly cur if there ever was one, crossing the aisle to vote with the GOP in committee and on the floor over and over and over. But she is far from countenancing primary challenges against any of them, even though each has an outstanding progressive challenger eager to vote for the ideals of the party of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.

And, as Digby mentioned at her blog yesterday, that is exactly why MoveOn is raising a war chest to deploy against faithless Democrats and why Blue America started the Sending Democrats A Message page. We'll do what weak and compromised leaders won't and/or can't do. When I ran into Rahm Emanuel in a DC bar shortly after Donna Edwards beat insider Al Wynn in the Democratic primary, I wasn't sure, after I had introduced myself, if he was going to keel over from a heart attack or lunge at me. And I was just congratulating him on having traded in a loyal and principled Democrat for an aisle-crossing corrupt one.

Meanwhile, back in Dreier territory... he eventually went on to admit that the Republicans can't stop the procedure that Ezra described (above). “There is nothing that can prevent it,” said Dreier, the ranking member of the Rules Committee. “It’s something they can clearly do if they have the votes.” Happy days are here again? We'll see.

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At 8:05 AM, Anonymous Balakirev said...

Mind, Howie, Klein's on the record repeatedly as opposing the use of the "deem-on" strategy. He says 1) it's not necessary, since the House and Senate health care versions are very close--which isn't true, either policy-wise or politically; and 2) that using a "deem" will send a message of political hackery and backroom dealing to the public. Come on, now: since when has the public regarded the Congress as anything but more corrupt than a vintage blue cheese? So I wouldn't exactly buy into Klein's position on this, myself. Deeming sounds good from my perspective, though I still wish Obama hadn't sold us all down the river over the public option. And it's the first example of this administration actually showing a tiny bit of spine.

I don't think it's a prediction of future actions, however.


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