Painful

In addition to the arm-twisting and pleading that will be necessary to get the Senate health care bill through the House, there’s another thing that will have to be endured: the painfully lame explanations we’ll hear from people in marginal seats as to why they won’t vote for it. Some always opposed and for pretty straightforward reasons. But some have themselves in a considerably tighter bind: they voted ‘yes’ last year for the considerably more liberal House bill and now need to explain their reason for flipping and voting ‘no’ for the more conservative Senate bill.

This morning TPM Reader NB sent me this article about Rep. Michael Arcuri (D) from Utica. He voted yes the first time but now says that without “dramatic changes” he’ll vote no. Why?1. He doesn’t want to see reform passed as a “mega bill.” It’d be better passing it as a bunch of little pieces. Call me cynical but that strikes me as nonsense. Even if it has some logic as a legislative strategy, clearly at this point it’s reform or no reform.

2. He’s not comfortable with using ‘reconciliation’. This one is really for the ages. He’s a member of the House. But his principles apparently bar him from voting for a bill in the House that the other body would also pass on a majority vote.

3. Here his arguments make some sense or are at least logical on policy grounds. As the Utica Observer-Dispatch puts it, stating Arcuri’s objections: “The Senate bill differs from the House bill in ways Arcuri said he dislikes. He cited a provision that would tax benefits on insurance policies, expand Medicaid eligibility, provide an unfairly low amount of funding to the state and not allow for negotiations on prescription drug prices.” Some make sense. Others don’t. But each is at least an actual policy point — unlike the others which seem like desperate attempts to come up with a reason not to have to make the same vote again.

In any case, for what it’s worth, it seems clear to me that Arcuri is in the same position as the entire Democratic party. He already voted for it once. The lesson of 1994 was that even those who opposed reform got slaughtered. Ironically, they were the ones who took it most on the chin since they were often opposing it because their districts were more conservative. But in this case, he’s already voted for it. In other words, he owns all the potential downsides of reform (and in his district there could well be a lot). The only question now is whether he gets any of the upside.