Reid Has the Votes, At Least Tonight

by Jonathan Cohn | November 21, 2009

Tonight, at around 8 p.m., the Senate will vote on a "motion to proceed" with the debate over health care reform.

To be clear, this isn't actually a vote on whether to pass health care reform--or even a vote on whether to hold such a vote. It's a vote on whether to begin talking about whether to have a vote on whether to pass health care reform.

And yet the outcome is not a foregone conclusion. (Now it is--see update below.) The Republicans will filibuster, which makes them quite literally opponents of an open debate but which also means the Democrats need sixty votes to proceed.

Yes, it's crazy. But, then, so is the design and modern function of the United States.

As of last night, Senate Majority Leader had commitments from fifty-eight Senators, thanks to announcements from Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Ron Wyden of Oregon. That left just Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas.

Landrieu just announced she'll vote "yes," so that just leaves Lincoln, who is likely to support the motion as well. She's facing a tough reelection fight in her home state, where support for Obama is notoriously low. She undoubtedly feels the need to make a public show of her angst and reluctance, before voting to proceed. Reid is, I'm sure, more than happy to accommodate that.

Substantively, there's really not much to say at this point. But I'll be posting updates on my twitter feed, @jcohntnr, in case anything significant happens on the Senate floor--or at Michigan Stadium, where, to my chagrin, the Wolverines aren't faring as well as the Democrats.

Update: In a floor speech just now, Lincoln just announced that "Although I don't agree with eveyrthing in his bill...it's more important to begin this debate. ... I will vote in support of cloture on the motion to proceed on this bill." She went on to note that, when it comes time to move a bill off the floor--that is, to end debate in order to have an actual up-or-down vote on the proposal--she would not support a government-run plan. She was pretty emphatic about that point, too.

Source URL: http://www.newrepublic.com//blog/the-treatment/senate-vote-tonight-looks-good-the-dems