The White House and organized labor are claiming to be really steamed at members of Congress who voted against the preferred Democratic position on health care. They single out particular scorn for “vote-switchers,” those who voted Yes in November, but No last week.

Senior White House and organized labor officials are warning the handful of House Democrats who supported health care legislation last year only to oppose the final measure on Sunday that they shouldn’t expect assistance for their reelection campaigns this fall.

The five who switched from yes to no — Reps. Michael Arcuri of New York, Marion Berry of Arkansas, Daniel Lipinski of Illinois, Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts and Zack Space of Ohio — have so annoyed top Democrats that there is also open talk of finding opponents to ensure they pay a steep political price for changing their vote.

Open talk!

Well, let’s examine this a bit. Marion Berry is retiring. My handy Congressional filing deadline tells me that Illinois already had their primary election and the deadline for Ohio to get on the ballot has passed. So of the five targets cited for a primary challenge, only two – Lynch and Arcuri – are even eligible for such a challenge.

It’s possible that labor and the White House will not actively help any of these members in their re-election races, or that they’d support a third-party challenger that would make it more likely for the seat to flip to Republicans.

Hold on, I had to stop laughing after writing that. OK, I’m composed, now.

Certainly the White House and labor can prioritize their time in such a way that vote-switchers like Arcuri and Space become lesser in importance. But Chris Van Hollen was pretty clear in the article:

Chris Van Hollen, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, didn’t defend the political calculus of those in the group but said that his focus was solely on keeping the seats in Democratic hands and that he’d stand by the incumbents.

“We will help all our guys,” said Van Hollen. “If others want to pick and choose, that’s up to them. Our job is to make sure that we remain in the majority.”

Again, if Democrats and their allies wanted to make a credible threat, they would have put Pentangeli’s brother in the Senate hearing room, setting up primary challengers BEFORE the vote. But they didn’t. And so this claim of “accountability” doesn’t really connect.

That said, there are lots of primary challengers across the country who will hold members of Congress accountable. But most of them have been forwarded by progressives.

And one other thing: if the White House is targeting “vote-switchers,” who changed their vote from the first health care legislation to the second, does that mean that Blanche Lincoln no longer has their endorsement? She just voted against the reconciliation package, and she has a credible primary opponent.

David Dayen

David Dayen

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