Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Optimist Is In The House

I think this analysis from Nate Silver about the probability that the health care bill will pass (he's at about even-money) is too pessimistic on at least two counts.

First, the picture looks a lot better if you make the likely assumption that Pelosi had a fair number of extra votes lined up, but that she didn't need to call on because she already had enough for passage, and the members in question felt that if they weren't needed they'd rather not stick their necks out. The vote total for the bill fits this interpretation pretty well. She needed 218, but if she got exactly 218 everybody would've been 'the deciding vote to pass health care reform' and some people from marginal districts probably didn't want that. Add one more to avoid that problem and then the Republican Anh Cao, who she might not have felt she could count on, and you've got the 220 she had. This suggests the possibility that there were a few members who said, "Okay, Nancy, I'll be there if you need me, but I'd rather not be seen doing this in case the Senate can't pass the bill and it ends up being a Thing That Failed."

Second, Nate's point that "nobody who voted against the bill before has yet affirmed that they'll switch to vote for it" is less significant than he thinks. Once you declare yourself in favor, you lose your leverage in future negotiations. This is especially important in light of his concern about how none of the Blue Dogs are being drawn in by the more conservative Senate bill. Why would they come out early in support of the legislation and give up leverage?

Sidenote: it's one of the bizarre features of the Senate negotiations that the people who exercised maximum leverage basically used it in ways that ruined their public image -- Ben Nelson's Cornhusker Kickback was roundly derided, and Joe Lieberman dropped dramatically in the polls after killing the public option. Hopefully no Blue Dog will come out and demand, I don't know, a big naked statue of themselves in exchange for voting yes.


Anonymous said...

I can understand what Nate Silver's saying about the problems in rounding up enough votes to do this. But what I'm not getting is, if he's right, why everyone thought it was such a sure-thing to pass before that man with the truck won his election.

The problem is supposed to be that Pelosi is losing Stupak, who allegedly has a bunch of supporters. But what was supposed to happen when the Senate was still able to do reconciliation? Putting the Stupak amendment back in the reconciled bill and getting that through the Senate? It doesn't make sense.

I know the special election might have scared a few Democrats, but there's been plenty of counteracting media stuff since - rate hikes, Obama betting the farm on the thing, etc.

Seems to me that the conventional wisdom has got this drastically wrong somewhere. Either it wasn't very likely to pass before, or it is very likely to pass now. I'm guessing both.

Neil Sinhababu said...

Yeah, I think we've actually got less procedural obstacles than before, especially with the Senate guys leaving the reconciliation doors open. Our only new obstacle is the level of fear in the 218th House vote for the bill. And if there's anyone I trust to handle that, it's Nancy Pelosi.

ikl said...

I think that Pelosi had more votes in her pocket in November, but that doesn't mean that she still has them now. In that respect, the "catch and release" strategy in November has some costs: it makes it more difficult to get those votes back on a second health care vote because then the Rep has to explain why they changed their mind.

I'm pretty sure that Gordon is now a yes. Baird might be as well, although his no vote in November was a bit strange, so I'm less sure about that. Scott Murphy signed the public option petition and his official reason for voting no in November was that the House bill didn't control costs so I suspect that he might be a yes as well (I also think that lots of Dems in his district who worked on his campaign were likely upset about the vote). It helps that Murphy doesn't seem to have a top tier opponent in November as well. But those are the only three that strike me as likely to flip to yes. Doesn't mean that Pelosi doesn't have or can't get others, but these are the only three that seem clear to me.

ikl said...

Reading between the lines of what Baird said today, I think that he is a yes.

Altmire is probably still a no, but not as clear as I had thought.