A voice from Inside

September 17, 2010 11:42 a.m.

From TPM Reader JH

I’m sure I’m not the only note you’ll get on this, but (as yet another ex hill staffer) I don’t think the “expiry over $250K” vote is nearly as easy a vote as you make it out to be. Certainly it polls well, but a lot of members see the $250K+ people as their donors, coevals, colleagues, friends, etc. Most of the people (lawyers, lobbyists, business owners, PR people) who walk through the door of your average congressional office on a daily basis (excepting constituent tourist visitors) are making well over $250K.

Moreover, this kind of black or white vote pushes a lot of the general business lobbies (NFIB, Chamber of Commerce etc.) into ideological attack mode — lots of $ flows to the R opponent, independent attack ads appear, D members are suddenly “against jobs” and “against recovery.” With Citizens United, it’s even a tougher vote now. One thing the Koch brothers and their Tea Party minions have shown is that they can indeed mobilize lots of angry, ignorant voters, give them “homemade” placards and papier-mache hats, and get them to the polls to win elections.

I’m an ultra progressive, so I agree that it SHOULD be easy; and from a policy point of view, it’s a softball. But as you know, the upper income brackets mobilize more effectively than the lower ones, and with all the money starting to wash through the system via Citizens United (which presumably can be used both for TV ads and GOTV), I’d be crapping my pants over a vote like this. So your correspondent’s concern with the leadership’s trying to provide political cover (via parliamentary sleight of hand, admittedly) is not off topic or unwarranted in the least.

A couple quick thoughts in response.

Easy is a funny standard. Nothing’s easy or should be. And as others have pointed out, the House leadership needs to make sure enough Blue Dogs or Squeezed Dogs (those who are becoming Blue Dogs under extreme electoral pressure) don’t vote with Republicans on a motion to recommit — thus preventing the whole vote from happening at all. For my part, I think they can push it through without them. But my overriding point is that you need strategic clarity about what you want before you can do anything else. And I think that if you have that, the procedural and vote counting issues get much easier. What I see is a lack of strategic clarity, in part because of concerns like JH notes. But those don’t get brought out into the open. So the whole thing remains a muddle. And a muddle empowers those who just want to hunker down and do nothing. And so nothing happens.

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