Our TPMCafe pitch (hint, hint, hint) may have temporarily displaced the links to our Fainthearted Faction and Conscience Caucus, but that doesn't mean we've stopped keeping score.
In fact, in our next update you'll see that the Conscience Caucus list continues to grow, mostly <$NoAd$> out of sight of the national press.
But there's an article today in Roll Call (subscription req., unfortunately) which sheds some new light on happenings in the Fainthearted Faction. Under the headline, "White House, Democrats Meet, Quietly," Emily Pierce reports ...
Although Republicans have been publicly hammering Democrats for refusing to âcome to the tableâ on a plan to overhaul Social Security, many moderate Senate Democrats have been meeting privately with White House officials to talk about what they may or may not be able to support.
On balance, when you get through the whole story, it's basically the same old story: lots of meetings, but no sign of real movement.
Of interest to TPM Readers, though, will be Pierce's list of the three senate Dem gettables. Sens. Conrad and Nelson of Nebraska are already down in the Senate Faction. But she also lists Sen. Pryor of Arkansas ...
âI have not yet heard an idea that I can vote for,â said Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), who noted that he met with Bush administration officials to discuss Social Security two weeks ago. âIâm someone who is open and listening, but not someone who is supportive at this point.â
Pryor and Conrad, along with Nelson, are seen by the White House as the three Democratic Senators most likely to be persuaded to back President Bushâs proposal to allow workers to divert a portion of their Social Security payroll taxes into private investment accounts.
Though he refused to confirm which Members the Bush administration is targeting, White House spokesman Trent Duffy said conversations that administration officials have had with select Democrats âhave been very positive discussions and active discussions, which we view as very encouraging.â
Duffy added that the Democrats who have come to White House âwant to keep the lines of communication open so we can solve the problem now.â
âThey were still at a conceptual stage. Itâs not like they had a real firm proposal,â said Pryor. âI told them, âYou all need to come to Congress with a proposal, even if you have to use a back channel.ââ
Now, as I said, Conrad and Nelson are old Fainthearted Faction regulars. And Sen. Lieberman has remained there not so much because of new statements or actions (most of which have been pretty supportive of Social Security) but what we might call accumulated soft-on-Social-Security mojo. Actually, I think Lieberman is the only member of Congress who's gone on and then back off of the list multiple times. But with this new information, we're taking Lieberman of Connecticut off the list and replacing him with Sen. Pryor (D) of Arkansas.