Monday, December 21, 2009

What is the Critical Vote that Restructures Health Care, 1/6 of the Nation's Economy, 60-40, 9,162, 3,953, 3,128, 325, or 1?

We are witnessing an historic moment in American history. The Senate is approving the health care reform package by the minimum vote margin necessary to invoke cloture and stave off a filibuster, 60-40. All 58 Democrats and two independents are voting to invoke cloture and all 40 Republicans are opposed.

Anything else than 60 Democrats and independents, and the Bill would be in trouble. We can assume that the Democrats would try to persuade Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine to go along if they needed their votes. The final bill would look different than the current one to get their vote.

If the Senate majority were 55-45, the health care Reform Bill would probably either be dead on arrival in the Senate or a truly bipartisan compromise.

Let’s see how the Democrats got their margin in the Senate, supposedly as the result of landslide victories in 2006 and 2008. The landslide was actually more of a trickle than tsunami, but every vote counts.

Incumbent Republican George Allen of Virginia was comfortably in the lead for reelection in 2006, and favored as the conservative Republican going into the 2008 Presidential election. Unfortunately, he had a “Macaca” moment. He referred to S. R. Sidarth, a campaign volunteer for Jim Webb, his opponent, as a “Macaca,” a slur for persons of Indian descent in America. The Washington Post, which has strong influence in Northern Virginia, pilloried Senator Allen for his racism.

Senator Allen lost by 9,162 votes out of over 2.3 million votes cast. Senator Webb received slightly less than 50% of the vote. That’s hardly a landslide.

Republican Senator Conrad Burns of Montana also lost reelection in 2006. He suffered from chronic hoof and mouth disease, which is neither good for cattle nor politicians in Montana, and was also tarred by the Jack Abramoff scandals. He lost reelection to John Tester by 3, 128 votes. That’s hardly a landslide.

Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska lost his reelection bid in 2008 by 3,953 votes to Mark Begich. The Republican Senator with “The Bridge to Nowhere” had been indicted for corruption and then convicted on 7 counts the week before the November election.

A federal judge later threw out the convictions for prosecutorial misconduct, and the Justice Department subsequently dropped the charges.

Former Secretary of Labor Ray Donovan asked in 1987, after being acquitted of charges of collusion with the Mafia, “Which office do I go to get my reputation back?”

Which office does Senator Ted Stevens go to get his reputation back, and which office does he go to get his Senate seat back?

Senator Begich received less than 48% of the vote. That’s hardly a landslide.

And then we have Al Franken, a Harvard educated, tax dodging comedian, defeating incumbent Republican Senator Norm Coleman for reelection in Minnesota in 2008. Senator Coleman was leading on election night by 215 ballots, but then the recount and canvassing corrections gave Senator Franken a 325 vote victory out of roughly 3 million ballots cast. Senator Franken received led than 42% of the vote.

That’s hardly a landslide, but a clear victory for Acorn, which in the preceding Minnesota election, got its man, Mark Ritchie, elected Secretary of State.

Finally, we have Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania switching his party registration in April 28, 2009 from Republican to Democrat. The political weather vane figured he could win the general election in Pennsylvania, but would probably lose the Republican primary to former Congressman Pat Toomey. Thus the switch.

The irony is that Senator Specter may lose the Democratic nomination to Congressman Joe Sestak, and in the current mode of Pennsylvania voters, the general election if he gets past the primary.

I feel for Senator Specter in his Last Hurrah. He’s been an independent voice on many issues, and showed great courage in fighting cancer, but now he must toe the liberal line to have a chance for reelection.

Senator Specter is hardly a landslide.

The Senate margin is 60-40, but it could just as easily be 55-45. No landslide there, but the only vote that matters now is 60-40.

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