My Best Guess on the One or Two Senate Votes Needed for Cloture

by: Chris Bowers

Fri Oct 23, 2009 at 14:58

Multiple anonymous sources (quite a day for anonymous sources, eh?), are telling the Huffington Post that Harry Reid is only one or two votes shy of reaching cloture on health care bill with some sort of opt-out public option:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is just one or two Senate votes shy of having a filibuster-proof majority in favor of a public option for health insurance coverage with a provision allowing states to opt-out, multiple sources tell the Huffington Post.

The first thing to keep in mind is that whip counts don't exactly work on a vote by vote basis.  It is true that the leadership keeps a hard count, but many of the members who are considered solid "yes" votes can switch to undecided at times like these.  When they sense the leadership really wants something, switching to "undecided" gives members a chance to negotiate something for their district.

Second, for what it is worth, my best guess based on information I have seen is that Evan Bayh is the "one" vote Reid is short (I feel good about that guess), and Ben Nelson is the "or two" vote that Reid is short (although I feel less sure about that guess). Here is why (more in the extended entry):

Chris Bowers :: My Best Guess on the One or Two Senate Votes Needed for Cloture

  • Mark Pryor, Joe Lieberman and Mary Landrieu have all said they are leaning against joining a filibuster. It doesn't mean they are solid yes votes for the reason I stated above, but right now they don't appear to be the main obstacles.

  • Max Baucus and Kent Conrad have never threatened to filibuster, and are highly unlikely to do so given both their leadership positions (committee chairs) and their role in crafting the overall legislation.

  • Two different sources have given me two different lists, each composed of three Democratic Senators, who are considered direct threats to filibuster. While four names total were provided in those two lists, only Evan Bayh and Ben Nelson appeared on both of the lists. Again, take that for what it is worth, since the situation is in flux, and since both I, and my sources, have been wrong before.

  • Perhaps most importantly, unlike really any other Senate Democrat, Evan Bayh is directly threatening to filibuster. No other Senate Democrats has made a comment like this:

    "It's not fair to ask people to facilitate the enactment of policies with which we ultimately disagree," said moderate Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.). "So the closer we get to the end of the process, the more, for me, the process and policy will be one and the same."

    That is a direct threat to filibuster, and it is out in the public record. It strongly leads me to believe that Evan Bayh is the "one" vote that Reid is short.

  • While I don't have nearly the same supporting evidence, I think that Ben Nelson is the "or two." He backed away from the opt-out public option yesterday, after initially making some supportive comments. Granted, he isn't threatening to filibuster in the same way that Bayh is, so Nelson might not be the "or two."
In addition to the very reasonable chance that my speculation here is wrong, it is also quite possible that Reid is actually more than one or two votes away, thus devaluing this entire process. Still, for what it is worth, Evan Bayh and Ben Nelson are my best guesses on the one or two votes needed for the cloture on the opt-out in the Senate.

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Isn't Bayh up for reelection in 2010 (4.00 / 4)
While his seat seems safe, isn't there a strong union presence in Northern Indiana and at colleges that can threaten to sit out the next election if Bayh doesn't step up?  

With Obama being able to turn the state blue, there must be a grass roots infrastructure that can be tapped into to pressure Bayh.

John McCain won't insure children

Too much money (4.00 / 1)
Bayh has so much money , $12, 730,000 cash on hand, and so little opposition that he seems on cruise control.  And he's gotten way more conservative this year particularly on key votes , dropping around 30 points on the progressive punch crucial vote score from his so-so career average.

He 's a S*** and probably a s*** out for revenge since he was not named VP by Obama and flamed out of the Presidential hopefuls well before Iowa.  Bayh founds the Senate Conservadems this year,the biggest block to getting anything done this year. His votes go down the toilet.  I think he wants to stick a knife into anything positive.

Birch Bayh may have been defeated but he stood for something other than himself and his jealousies.  Evan Bayh may not be defeated but somebody needs to drain that cash because it gives him an inflated image of who he is in the national scene.  He's a loser and a whiner and a creep and he always will be.

[ Parent ]
Agreed... (4.00 / 1)
... Bayh has money coming out of his ass.

The GOP is running nothing at him at the moment (Stutzman, Behney, and Bates).  If he helps water down and/or kill Health Care and other Dem initiatives, the RNC and NRSCC isn't going to touch him in almost a "deal".  They didn't expect to have any chance at him, so they won't waste the money or a quality candidate.  There are too many other seats in play for them to waste it.

One does wish that someone primaried Byah, but the cost would be insane.  Plus the DNC and DSCC would pressure someone to stay out.

He's one to shoot for in 2016.


[ Parent ]
I don't know if Bayh is primaryable (4.00 / 1)
Obama may have won Indiana last year but the state is still pretty conservative.  I wouldn't be surprised if Bayh is where the state's Democrats are.

I think the only viable way to get rid of him in 2010 or even 2016, barring a massive political sea change in Indiana, is through a Republican.  And you know, at this point, having a Republican in that seat would probably be better than having Bayh.  You get the same voting pattern without any of the asshole.

[ Parent ]
If he can't be counted on to (0.00 / 0)
overcome a filibuster, what the fuck good is he? I would love to see him lose to a Republican. I would vote for a pile of dog shit before I'd vote for Evan Bayh.

[ Parent ]
If Bayh ends up being the"one vote" to block cloture.... (4.00 / 3)
best believe there will be people out for blood (including me.)

I just can't see Bayh wanting to attract the very strong resentment from his own party that would come with doing something like that.

End this war. Stop John McCain. Cindy McCain is filthy rich.

I say call his bluff... (4.00 / 4)
I can't imagine Bayh wants the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans on his conscience that will result from his actions.

End this war. Stop John McCain. Cindy McCain is filthy rich.

[ Parent ]
Nope, I don't think so either. (0.00 / 0)
As Chris has said before, usually lawmakers pull this sh*t to get something for their home states/districts. And since Harry Reid also does this all the time to get goodies for us in Nevada (like boosting the federal Medicaid subsidies in the Baucus bill), I'm sure he's figuring out what carrot to dangle at Bayh to get him to bite. I also just hope he has a stick ready just in case...

Yes, Virginia, there are progressives in Nevada.

[ Parent ]
What (0.00 / 0)
Evan Bayh has no conscience.  He just has jealousy.

[ Parent ]
Byah Fillibuster = No Futue (4.00 / 6)
I hope that Byah thinks long & hard.  Supporting a fillibuster, such a public break with the Caucus, the party, the President and the public would be toxic radioactivity to any future ambitions for Sen. Bayh.  He would be forever known as the Senator who stopped health care and even the Grinch Who Stole Christmas.  Of the Senators thought to be wavering Bayh is the one with serious national prospects.  Bayh's support for a filibuster would never, ever be forgotten.  I think, in the end, he will not cross the rubicon and become a pariah.

Bayh sees himself as a future Pres or VP (4.00 / 3)
He has national ticket aspirations. If he filibusters his own party on the seminal domestic policy bill of our generation he's finished in Democratic politics. Done. Over.

Call his bluff. Make him actually vote to filibuster.

Self-refuting Christine O'Donnell is proof monkeys are still evolving into humans

[ Parent ]
If Bayh has presidential ambitions (4.00 / 1)
it might actually be through an independent candidacy or even through the Republicans.  He's much too conservative to make it through a Democratic primary, and he has no other mitigating assets like charisma.  The only thing he has going for him is ability to raise tons of corporate money.

If, on the other hand, Bayh helps weaken or kill health care reform and the rest of the Democratic agenda this session of Congress, he can defect to the Republicans when they regain control of Congress and cast himself as the sort of "inside agent" hero who helped destroy the Democrats from within.

Don't know how likely this would be; it'd probably be more likely that he "runs" for VP by running (unsuccessfully) in a Democratic primary.  Hopefully we liberals will stop him from making it to VP.

[ Parent ]
He was only a handful of delegates... (0.00 / 0)
...away from possibly being Hillary Clinton's VP, so you'll have a hard time convincing him he can't be Pres or VP. In any event, objective reality doesn't matter as much as his own inflated ego. He thinks he's national ticket material.

Self-refuting Christine O'Donnell is proof monkeys are still evolving into humans

[ Parent ]
See, I told you Reid would deliver... (4.00 / 3)
If we worked him the right way. While I'm uncomfortable with the idea of an "opt-out" public option that lets states remove the individual right of choice, I just want some sort of workable public option passed out of the Senate so that we know for sure a decent public option emerges from House-Senate Conference. It sucks that the Senate fight is boiling down to this, but we should at least give Harry Reid and Chris Dodd credit for sticking to their guns on the public option... And give ourselves credit for making them stick to their guns! ;-)  

Yes, Virginia, there are progressives in Nevada.

When it gets this close (4.00 / 2)
I've got to believe that there is tremendous pressure not to be the one Senator that stands with Republican against Obama.  After all the bloviating wraps up and the votes come it would be shocking to see the dems lose a cloture vote on HCR.  

Bayh is a real jerk when it comes to HCR, but I don't think even he is willing to buck Obama on this one.  These last few Senators are most likely just trying to get current or future concessions in return for their cloture vote.

Nope, Bayh probably just wants to be paid off. (4.00 / 2)
As I said above, this is my best guess. He probably wants some sort of funding for programs in Indiana so he can go back to voters next year and say, "Looky here! I fought for you and got this shiny new program for Indiana!" I have a feeling that he and Ben Nelson are probably just looking for that. Landrieu and Snowe may also be playing the same game as well, but they're playing much harder to get.

Yes, Virginia, there are progressives in Nevada.

[ Parent ]
agree completely (0.00 / 0)
that's what I meant by "current or future concessions."

[ Parent ]
Not so... (0.00 / 0)
Apparently, he wouldn't be standing against Obama, he'd be standing with him... as Obama (according to TPM, Politico, CNN) is apparently pushing triggers.

[ Parent ]
Bayh is bought (4.00 / 9)
His wife pulls in a million a year as a director for several companies, including a healthcare company that appointed her one month before his election to the Senate. It's a very cushy job.

Perhaps the most blatant corruption in Congress.

If TPM is right... (4.00 / 1)
Then Reid will have to FIGHT the white house now on the Public Option.  That chances of that happening are almost nil...

Plus, if the WH is pushing behind the scenes for triggers, then this just gives even more reason for the conservadems to hold out.  I have a bad feeling this number (58) will go down before it goes up now.

Weird day for news from WH (4.00 / 2)
Valerie Jarrett comes out with her strongest statement for the PO in a long time while we hear reports of Obama pressuring Reid to back down and cave to Empress Snowe.

I don't know what to believe.

John McCain won't insure children

[ Parent ]
The "anonymous sources" saying the WH is pushing back (4.00 / 1)
are apparently not from the White House, because if they were, they'd be quoted as "WH sources"

Instead they're "sources close to negotiations"

Another words, a Senator's staffers

Baucus' staffers...Baucus is upset all the work he did to get Snowe on board is being thrown out the window, so he's using his staffers to keep the idea of a bipartisan bill alive.

You believe what's said on record...WH sources are on record, in name, denying they are pushing triggers, while anonymous sources who are "close to negotiations" say otherwise...there's a reason they don't want to be named.  

[ Parent ]
Blanche Lincoln (4.00 / 2)
Blanche Lincoln almost certainly is part of that crew, no? If we count each senator on the fence as half no and half yes, then together, Evan Bayh, Ben Nelson and Blanche Lincoln would put us 1.5 votes away from 60, which would fit in the "one or two votes away".

Conduct your own interview of Sarah Palin!

More clarity needed (4.00 / 2)
Bowers (and the HuffPo piece) talks about 'cloture on the PO'.

But - assuming that Harry will put his PO in the bill he brings to the floor, there will not be a separate vote on the PO requiring cloture.

The need for cloture will arise (a) on the motion to proceed (if unanimous consent not given) and (b) on passage.

An NBC journo said yesterday that Ben Nelson, Snowe and friends were talking together about voting against cloture on the MTP.

That wouldn't be a one-shot deal: a Nelson might want to "vote against cloture before he voted for it", to see how firm support for the opt-out was. Or drag the process out. (And cloture on the passage vote might also be voted more than once.)

Plus - that TPM story on the WH favoring the trigger (0.00 / 0)
This story that others in this thread have linked suggests another angle for the Nelsonites - what sort of love might the WH be offering in exchange for putting a spoke in the wheel of Harry's opt-out juggernaut?  

[ Parent ]
WH shuffling on PO - a reference (0.00 / 0)
I love it when some other guy does the work.

Like this guy at Firedoglake, who links all kinds of WH twists and turns on the PO so I don't have to.

[ Parent ]
TPM TITLE :White House working to WEAKEN public option (4.00 / 2)

This is not from Politico but from Brian Beutler of TPM. A newsite but one who's been part of the progresive infrastructure since its internet inception.


Multiple sources tell TPMDC that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is very close to rounding up 60 members in support of a public option with an opt out clause, and are continuing to push skeptical members. But they also say that the White House is pushing back against the idea, in a bid to retain the support of Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME).

"They're skeptical of opt out and are generally deferential to the Snowe strategy that involves the trigger," said one source close to negotiations between the Senate and the White House. "they're certainly not calming moderate's concerns on opt out."

This new development, which casts the White House as an opponent of all but the most watered down form of public option, is likely to yield backlash from progressives, especially those in the House who have been pushing for a more maximal version of reform.

It also suggests for perhaps the first time that the White House's supposed hands off approach that ostensibly allowed the two chambers in Congress to craft their own bill has been discarded.

High level White House officials have floated the trigger idea a number of times, and it seems they continue to do so, even at this, crucial stage of the health care reform process, when their involvement is greatest. That has senators who support the public option concerned

It may not be remembered but when Barack Obama ran, in early 2007 he released his health care plan, after Edwards but before Clinton.  Initially the plan had no mandate and no public option. Krugman wrote about this.  health care economists went into an uproar and he reissued the plan, still no mandate but with a public option.  So he may be in violation of his own campaign promise but not one he was really ever emotionally tied to.  I am not surprised...

"Incrementalism isn't a different path to the same place, it could be a different path to a different place"

Why won't TPM name the sources? (0.00 / 0)
because they're not White House sources, they're Senate staff members pushing an agenda.

[ Parent ]
Everybody is getting the same leaks-Beutler, Klein, Sam Stein, the cables (0.00 / 0)
the leaks are from people who were in the room...some are WH with an agenda of wanting a trigger...they want people like the media and the moderate Senators to know that the President wants a trigger.

If there are Senate sources they come from people who were in the room or direct communication from people who were in the room.  They were reporting what happened.

The WH leakers don't want Reid to succeed, they want a trigger..and they have managed for the moment in pushing people like Nelson back.

"Incrementalism isn't a different path to the same place, it could be a different path to a different place"

[ Parent ]
Then why are WH sources (0.00 / 0)
going on record saying they DON'T support a trigger? While unnamed sources, who aren't even from the White House, are saying they do?

[ Parent ]
but have you seen anything that says (0.00 / 0)
that they are pushing a non-trigger po?

[ Parent ]
Valerie Jarrett said it (4.00 / 1)

[ Parent ]
yes, maybe the press is playing us (0.00 / 0)
I don't trust politico's mike allen for a moment

but I got nervous when I saw tpm reporting it

[ Parent ]
but then jarrett's comments aren't denying (0.00 / 0)
that obama is pushing a trigger public option to appease snowe

did anyone ask what kind of po they are pushing?

[ Parent ]
jarrett's comments (0.00 / 0)
   JOE SCARBOROUGH: Hey, Valerie, we had Mike Allen from Politico on earlier this morning, he said Nancy Pelosi didn't have the votes for a public option and said that there was some suggestion that the President wants a health care reform bill that doesn't have a public option, but has a trigger in case the insurance companies don't start playing ball. Is that a fair description of the President's current position?

   VALERIE JARRETT: No, I think the President has always said that he's committed to the public option. Why? Because he thinks it will create competition and therefore bring down costs. He's always said he's open to new ideas, but at this late stage in the game, he still thinks it's the best option. So I don't know whether Mike Allen can actually count votes or not. A lot of people said President Obama didn't have the votes to win, but he did. So we'll see. He's committed to it, he's pushing for it, and he's absolutely committed to delivering on health care reform this year.

   SCARBOROUGH: So, by the White House's count, do you believe you have enough votes to pass a public option in the House and the Senate?

   JARRETT: You know, we'll see. I think it's too soon to tell. All I know is that we're going to keep pushing until the very last moment. But I think it's important to understand why. We want to bring down the costs. Joe, there's some states, such as Maine or Alabama, where you only have a couple of insurers, and in those states, you see that the prices are going up. And so what we want to do, on behalf of the American people and our taxpayers, is to bring down those costs so that it's more affordable. That's what we think the public option will do.

jarrett denied that "the President wants a health care reform bill that doesn't have a public option, but has a trigger in case the insurance companies don't start playing ball"

she didn't deny that 'the President wants a health care reform bill that has a public option, but has a trigger in case the insurance companies don't start playing ball'

[ Parent ]
Call in the Big Dog on Bayh? (4.00 / 2)
Perhaps Bill Clinton can bring Bayh over the line for us. The Clintons have pretty close ties to him. You'd have to think that strong party unity appeals from Obama (assuming he's not selling us out to Snowe) and Clinton would be hard to resist.

In any event, we've got to call his bluff. Make him actually vote to filibuster their own caucus and president. If this guy really sees himself on a national ticket someday (and he does) he can't vote no. He'd be finished on the party.

Self-refuting Christine O'Donnell is proof monkeys are still evolving into humans

Great Idea. (4.00 / 1)
You are right.

[ Parent ]
White House wants assured passage (0.00 / 0)
What Chris is reporting and what TPM and Ezra Klein are reporting are all consistent.  The claims that Obama wants triggers or wants to weaken the Public Option does not seem credible, but the claims Obama wants guaranteed passage does seem credible.  If Bayh, Nelson and the other 58 all promised not to support a filibuster I don't think the White House would have a problem.  Apparently, though, they are unwilling to play chicken.

Shorter White House (4.00 / 2)
We don't think Reid has the stones to enforce caucus discipline on cloture votes. And we're not going to help because we don't want to own Reid's failure.

Self-refuting Christine O'Donnell is proof monkeys are still evolving into humans

[ Parent ]
I suspect... (0.00 / 0)
... Blanche is the "One" while either Bayh or Nelson are the "or Two".

I don't see either Bayh or Nelson going it alone.  They would want cover.

Bayh would really, really, really want to have a Gang for coverage.  He's rather exposed as Senator Wellpoint and filibustering the vote would leave him completely exposed as being bought out.  Even if it were just he and Blanche, I tend to think he would be nervous, which is why he would be an "or Two": at crunch time if it were just Blanche joining the GOP, he'd get weak kneed and vote with the other 58.

Nelson does have some backbone, and probably would be fine filibustering if it was even just Blanche.

Chris: what does Blanche have to lose if she filibusters?  He shot at getting re-electing are slim.  At the moment, there's nothing from the left of any strength threatening to primary her.  She's at risk from the right.  I don't see it savign her, but it doesn't look like it will cost her gettign to the General Election.  And in the end if she loses, we all pretty much know that Big Health, Big Energy and the Walton Family have something special in mind for her Senate Retirement Package that will tide her over for decades to come.  She has very little to lose, and quite a bit to "win" by killing and/or watering down this bill, and then playing a similar roll in the Global Warming bill, and on down the line.

When looking for "who done it", always look for who has the most to gain.


I agree (0.00 / 0)
I think Lincoln is probably the most likely to filibuster, and am surprised that Chris Bowers doesn't mention her.

I also think that Ben Nelson will likely filibuster if it has a PO and if he has at least one Democratic buddy to join him.

[ Parent ]
1993 budget vote in Senate (4.00 / 1)
"President Clinton, if you're watching now, as I suspect you are, I tell you this: I could not and should not cast a vote that brings down the presidency..."  -- Sen. Bob Kerry

This idea that any Democratic Senator would join a Republican filibuster over what the White House has described as only a small part of a bigger bill is just ridiculous.   Obama should have held the congress in session to deal with this before the summer.  And drop this 2013 stuff.  We need this NOW.


Seeing The Forest -- Who is our economy FOR, anyway? Twitter: dcjohnson

The long and short of it is... (0.00 / 0)
...the White House doesn't trust Reid to be able to hold his caucus together.  The White House has done a whip count of its own.  Considering Reid's past performance, I'd trust the White House's count more than his.

Reid's ineffective past is coming to haunt him... his recent loss on on the doctor fix is really weighing heavily right now, and probably killed the public option for us.  Thanks for nothing Harry.  I can't wait to see you gone!

REID: Voting against us was never part of our arrangement!
SPECTER: I am altering the deal! Pray I don't alter it any further!
REID: This deal keeps getting worse all the time!

Why my owner? (0.00 / 0)
I don't understand why owner would want to hold out. I will have to give him a talk.

Filibuster vote = passage vote? (0.00 / 0)
I know we're all jumping on Bayh's comment that a procedural vote on filibuster/cloture has to be treated the same way as a final vote on passage.  But in all fairness, isn't this how we treated cloture votes during the Bush years?  And wouldn't we support a Democratic Senator filibustering a PO-less bill?

As much as I think Bayh is a pompous asshole who needs to lose his Senate seat by whatever means necessary, he is right on this one, in that he can't in good conscience vote yes on cloture if that means it will win on passage.

Reconciliation (0.00 / 0)
If it is true that Bayh considers a procedural vote against any PO to be a "conscientious" decision, then one would not expect Reid to have the power to "whip" him into line.

In that case, the conscientious decision for Democrats is to include a PO provision by using the reconciliation option. I continue to think it most likely to happen after the House-Senate conference. That way it only has to be done once. A Senate bill without an adequate PO is not the end of the line for us.

When the legislation reaches the House-Senate committee, I believe the White House will exert considerable pressure to move the conference in the direction of an un-triggered PO. The alternative would be to allow the GOP to run against either: 1. the absence of healthcare legislation, or 2. the enactment of ineffectual and unpopular legislation.

In either case, the GOP would make substantial electoral gains. I doubt whether Obama, who is a formidable electoral strategist, will allow this to happen. In addition, I continue to believe that he opposes insurance company injustices at a "gut" level, as he made clear during the campaign, and more recently in a speech in response to insurance company propaganda.

[ Parent ]
I agree, but (0.00 / 0)
that wasn't the issue I was writing to in my comment.  What I was asking was whether it was fair for us liberals to consider a cloture vote to be a separate issue from a passage vote, when we have a history of considering them one and the same when it suited our needs.

IMO, it's fair for Evan Bayh and others to treat a cloture vote the same as a passage vote if liberals have done it and will do it when it suits our purposes.  What I object to is Bayh and Co. calling themselves "Democrats" when they oppose monumental legislation out of a combination of conservative anti-government philosophy completely antithetical to the modern Democratic Party and a slavish obedience to their corporate donors.

[ Parent ]

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