Why Centrist Dem Senators Don't Like The Heat

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.

Tags: Evan Bayh, Harry Reid (all tags)

Comments

10 Comments

All we need are 51 to actually vote for it

As I've been saying all along (and as Dr. Dean has been saying recently), all we need for real changes are 51 votes and for none of the Democratic caucus to support a filibuster.  9 Democrats could still vote against, in to polish their red state cred, but there's a distinct difference between voting against and actively impeding the execution of legislative power.

by Dracomicron 2009-07-08 08:23AM | 0 recs
Re: Why Centrist Dem Senators Don't Like The Heat

While Evan Bayh is a "moderate" he is still not the extremist kind like Mary Landrieu and Ben Nelson who went on record today to suggest that they may vote against the Democratic caucus against cloture if they so please. The solution? Let us work to get a primary challenger against each and every one of them.

by tarheel74 2009-07-08 08:31AM | 0 recs
You can't get anyone more liberal

in Louisiana and Nebraska. Their "independence" from the Democratic caucus is what gets them reelected.

Besides, they are not up until 2014 and 2012 and by that point, it probably won't even matter because they'll be too popular to loose or too unpopular for Democrats to keep the seat anyway

by DTOzone 2009-07-08 09:03AM | 0 recs
Re: Why Centrist Dem Senators Don't Like The Heat

Primaries are nice, but they are in difficult states.  If I was Reid, I'd make it clear that they only way that they keep their seniority in the caucus to vote with the party on the key votes.

Otherwise, say goodbye to any hope of ever chairing another committee.

by jroyale 2009-07-08 09:29AM | 0 recs
Re: Why Centrist Dem Senators Don't Like The Heat

Its too bad Evan Bayh and others didnt have a conscience during the Bushies adventures in iraq which bankrupted the country's treasury and discussion time to find solutions to more pressing issues like the very same issues these centrists want more time to discuss now.

by Pravin 2009-07-08 10:27AM | 0 recs
Re: Why Centrist Dem Senators Don't Like The Heat

Though I agree that the caucus should stick together with procedural votes, I do understand the reluctance of someone like Mary Landrieu or Ben Nelson for not doing so.  The vast majority of the public does not understand the difference between a procedural vote and a vote for final passage.  To them a vote is a vote and come election time all an opponent has to do is run an ad accusing one of the "moderate" Democrats of voting "for" some controversial legislation when in fact they only voted to close debate  This ad can even go as far as showing(usually on the bottom right hand corner of a TV screen) the date and bill number associated with this procedural vote in order to lend a sense of credence to the claim.  Jane and Joe public aren't going to understand the difference, it blurs the lines and the incumbent, "moderate" Democrat then has to defend and explain his/her vote.  

by realtarheel 2009-07-08 10:42AM | 0 recs
Re: Why Centrist Dem Senators Don't Like The Heat

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.

No, 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 captive of business interests who happen to know that the cloture vote is the 'real' vote, and won't be the least bit fooled if their pet Senator votes 'yea' on cloture and 'nay' on the bill itself.

by RT 2009-07-08 11:45AM | 0 recs
Re: Why Centrist Dem Senators Don't Like The Heat

Touche.

by Josh Orton 2009-07-08 12:54PM | 0 recs
Of course...

A captive of business interests who know that the cloture vote is the "real" vote will also know that a captive who's been stripped of comittee assignments and is outed as such a captive is not that useful a pawn.  Might be worthwhile to play the card in an extreme circumstance (like the health care reform), but it's not a long term strategy, really, unless you plan on having every Senator in your pocket.  I'm sure some "business interests" do.

by Dracomicron 2009-07-08 01:18PM | 0 recs
Re: Why Centrist Dem Senators Don't Like The Heat

I'm all for putting as much pressure on these senators as anyone to differentiate between the cloture vote and the substantive vote, but the fact is that if a senator - right, left, or center - is strongly opposed to something, he or she will resort to any and all means to oppose it. It is not necessarily just about some abstract concept of trying to appear "moderate" or "independent".

by KitBinns 2009-07-09 08:18AM | 0 recs

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