The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Bankruptcy: a two-handed salute from Senate Democrats on cloture

I leave open the possibility that Harry Reid, down in his War Room, knows what he is doing. Perhaps rolling over on confirmations, the tort reform bill, and now bankruptcy is all supposed to lull the GOP into a false sense of security. And then he'll pounce and snatch victory from all that defeat.

If that's the plan, he's certainly succeeding - in making Senate Dems look like a well-oiled losing machine.

The box score on the cloture (RC 29) for S 256: 69-31! That is so far from not even close, it's embarrassing.

The roll of shame, 14 strong, for the record:

Biden (D-DE)
Byrd (D-WV)
Carper (D-DE)
Conrad (D-ND)
Johnson (D-SD)
Kohl (D-WI)
Landrieu (D-LA)
Lieberman (D-CT)
Lincoln (D-AR)
Nelson (D-FL)
Nelson (D-NE)
Pryor (D-AR)
Salazar (D-CO)
Stabenow (D-MI)

The GOP managed a full complement; 30 Dems plus Jefford voted against cloture.

Rejecting for a moment the hypothesis that Reid decided to throw the game, one's left to ponder how hard and how cleverly he sought to secure the 41 votes necessary to beat off the cloture motion; and what motivated the 14 renegades (if that's what they are) to flip him the bird (if that's what they did).

Of his pack of 45, the Senators from MBNA, Biden and Carper, could have been let off the hook, plus two more - perhaps Nelson (NE) and Johnson, who had the biggest number of roll call votes with the GOP on S256 amendments voted on in the last few days - and still the requisite number would have been available.

The outstanding case is that of Stabenow - of continuing senators, the 16th most liberal according to her DW-NOMINATE 1st dimension ranking. And, most bizarrely, in every previous roll call vote starting with RC 12, she opposed the GOP position!

Of course, Stabenow was far from the pivotal senator: Baucus (42nd most liberal) voted against cloture (despite having cast 5 votes of 16 with the GOP before cloture), but Lincoln and Landrieu (41st and 40th respectively) slept with the enemy, though with only two and one pro-GOP vote prior to cloture. Neither faces re-election in 2006, and neither has a large banking sector in her home state [1].

The pivotal, 41st, Yea-voting Dem senator by 108th 1st dimension - assuming that Biden and Carper were given get out of jail free cards - would have been Lincoln [2].

Further speculation would be fruitless: let's hope some actual journalism occurs on the ins and outs of this sordid affair.

  1. In her 2004 campaign, Lincoln, it seems, took around $150,000 from commercial banks, 10th in industry category of donor, from a total of around $6 million categorised by sector. Her total for finance, insurance and real estate was around $964,000.

    In the breakdown by industry of Landrieu's 2002 contributions, the heading commercial banking doesn't figure (the top 20 shown). And the total for finance, insurance and real estate was around $810,00 of a $7.8 million total.

  2. That is, if every Dem voting for cloture with a lower 1st dimension score had changed his vote to Nay, her Nay vote would have put the Nays over the top. (The 1st dimension score is a measure of where a pol is on the liberal-conservative scale, from -1 (extreme liberal) to +1 (extreme conservative).)


[My spreadsheet for this exercise - caveat more than usually appropriate! - covering Democratic senators' votes on all the recent roll calls on S 256 you can find online at my new and self-explanatorily named Yahoo Group Lincoln Plawg Stuff. [Amended March 27!]]


A couple more thoughts occur:

First, could all that time DEWDROPs spent yucking it up over Gannon/Guckert have been more profitably spent lobbying Dem senators on bankruptcy bill cloture?

Second, could the Dem leadership (if that's not a contradiction in terms) be obsessed about upcoming confirmation fights for judicial nominees, their views on Roe v Wade and a set-piece battle over the nuclear option - to the exclusion of all else?

In particular, it would be so much easier to win public sympathy on the substance of the bankruptcy bill - its effect on families hit by medical catastrophe, for instance - than over judges where one is second-guessing possible future decisions - and concentrating on a hideously complex question of law to which most folks might well not want to address their minds.

And one has the abortion triangulation factor: with Hillary, Dean and the Pennsylvania Dems reaching out to anti-abortion voters (March 6), the line that the Dems can draw on abortion gets less bright all the time.

Whereas the stories that a campaign against the bankruptcy bill would have brought out would have appealed more or less across the political spectrum. And would have touched that FDR/New Deal nerve that evokes a fantasy of the Dem good old days.

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