Why Centrist Dem Senators Don't Like The Heat
by Josh Orton, Wed Jul 08, 2009 at 08:17:21 AM EDT
This is how we know the pressure from leadership isn't just talk:
Senate Democratic leaders have stepped up the pressure on their rank and file to unify on procedural votes after finally gaining a filibuster-proof majority, but centrists who have long been headaches for the leadership are so far refusing to commit to the strategy.
"Most Senators vote their conscience and they do what they think is right. They didn't come here to be told what to do by somebody else," moderate Sen. Evan Bayh (Ind.) said.
Reid's got a delicate two-step: allow "moderates" like Bayh to feather their "independent" image by casting a few (harmless) symbolic votes against policy - but then compel party unity on lynchpin procedural votes.
Some moderates know it's a good deal, and have no intention of stabbing Obama's agenda in the back. But others show no such humility - their "centrist" self-image comes first. It's the difference between a moderate who only wants to quietly cast a couple dissenting votes to calibrate their image at home - versus a blowhard like Lieberman who actually goes on national television to badmouth his own party.
Update [2009-7-8 12:27:13 by Josh Orton]: David Waldman suggests that, unlike in the House, the distinction between procedure and process is blurred in the Senate - and so Senators think they have to vote against both procedure AND policy to prove independence, since so many equate a filibuster with blocking legislation.
It's a decent point, but I wouldn't underestimate simple vanity either.