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I Don’t Think 50 Votes Means What They Think It Means

Shortly before the list of 50 names was "leaked" yesterday, nyceve, Hilda Sarkisyan and I spoke with Jerrold Nadler at length. I asked about the mysterious internal whip count list of 50 members that was rumored to exist.:

JH: The fifty members who have committed to vote against anything that doesn’t have a public option.  What do they mean by "public option?"  I mean, what qualifies?

JN:  The whip question we asked was "robust public option."  We didn’t describe it more than that.  We asked three questions.  We said, "do you favor a public option," "will you insist on a public option," and "will you vote against anything without a public option."

JH:  We like that.

JN:  And there were some people who said yes, yes and no.  Or yes, yes undecided.  But others said "yes, yes yes."

JH:  How many people said "yes, yes yes?"

JN:  Somewhere between fifty and sixty.

McJoan then reported that "As of last week, a total of 50 CPC members vow to vote against any bill that did not meet their criteria for a public option."  There’s a long list of CPC criteria.  None of which, as far as I can tell, has been whipped — and certainly not according to Nadler, who was very specific about the questions that had been asked.

Lynn Woolsey caused a lot of confusion on June 24 when she gave a press conference and represented that the eighty plus members of the progressive caucus would vote against any bill that didn’t have a robust public option.  I asked Nadler about that, too, who said "no caucus speaks for every single member."  Woolsey later indicated she had 60 votes, but refused to produce the names.  We were skeptical.

We’re still skeptical.  That language, to the best of my knowledge, is Woolsey’s.  I don’t know any other member of the progressive caucus who has said they’d vote against a bill that didn’t include that criteria except for Woolsey.

I just don’t think there is any agreement about what "public plan" means. I asked Nadler if Kent Conrad’s co-op plan was acceptable to him under a definition of "public plan," and he said it wasn’t.  But when I later asked Eric Massa — whose name also appears on the whip list — if he’d vote for Conrad’s co-op, he wouldn’t say no:

He did, however, say that he wouldn’t vote for "Massachusetts lite."

I’ll also remind people that we got our hands on an internal whip count list on the supplemental before the final vote. 

Six of the ten votes we lost came from that list. 

I think it’s great that it came out, and everyone who called can take a bow.  Our phones have been ringing off the hook from members’ offices for days now, complaining about how uncomfortable this whole effort is making them.  (As I told Ryan Grim, I strongly suspect it was Mike Stark’s recent efforts on the Hill that prompted the release of the list today.)

I admit I don’t understand why it should make anyone uncomfortable that people should want to know what their position is on one of the most important issues of our lives, especially since they all crumble like wet paper bags when the arm twisting starts. 

Well, that’s what the videos are for.  They will live on, long after this effort is done.  And if people act like dickheads when the camera is running or make promises they don’t keep, what can I say.  They may find themselves revisiting the matter in 2010 entirely independent of our efforts.

Marisa McNee and Dave Meyer are going to spend the day calling members’ offices and asking for statements confirming that every single member listed actually does sign on to this.  So hopefully we’ll have a better idea of who intends to stand by this commitment, and what exactly they mean by it soon.  If you’d like to call and ask to, I’m sure they’d love the help.

Seventy-six percent of the country wants a real, meaningful public option.  There is not a reason in the world why the progressives should refuse to hold the line on that.  And by the way, good for Jerold Nadler for whipping on this for the past month and a half.  Why the rest of the people on the list are being so opaque about their is something of a mystery, but it does not inspire the confidence I think we’d all like to feel.

Nadler definitely deserves positive reinforcement for his hard work and leadership on this issue. If anyone is so inclined, you can say thank-you here.

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Firedoglake.com. Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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