The End Of The Filibuster
July 28, 2010

Not surprisingly, numerous Democratic Senators have come out against eliminating or scaling back the Senate's supermajority requirement: Five Senate Democrats have said they will not support a lowering of the 60-vote bar necessary to pass legislation. Another four lawmakers say they are wary about such a change and would be hesitant to support it. ... “It won’t happen,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who said she would “probably not” support an effort to lower the number of votes needed to cut off filibusters from 60 to 55 or lower. Sen.

Categorical Thinking And The Deficit
June 02, 2010

Judith Shulevitz's article in the print magazine about salt is well worth reading on its own. But I was struck by this passage, about the difficulty of making consumers understand the drawbacks of excessive salt without putting them off salt altogether: Reeducation programs focused on a single ingredient almost always confuse people. No matter how careful education campaigns are to stress that salt is essential to life in small doses, some Americans will demonize the condiment, rather than its industrial overuse.

Beating the Street
May 05, 2010

Shortly after nine on a Monday morning in late April, Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) Chairman Gary Gensler filed into a meeting room with nine senior aides. The aesthetic was what you might call “bureaucratic drab”—fluorescent lights, beige carpeting, American flag—and the mostly middle-aged men did not seem out of place. Their suits ranged from gray to charcoal and the complexions were varying degrees of pasty.

BREAKING: An Ugly Scene
March 21, 2010

You may have heard or read about the ugly scenes on Capitol Hill yesterday, when a few conservative activists shouted racial and homophobic epithets at Democratic lawmakers. Today the conservative activists are back. And so is the ugliness--only this time, a few Republicans were actually encouraging them. That's an incendiary charge, I know. But let me describe what just transpired here inside the House of Representatives: Moments ago, while members were on the floor for a vote, a protester stood up in the visitor's gallery and began shouting "Kill the bill! Kill the bill!

What's the Matter With Arkansas (and Idaho, and Oklahoma, and…) With Maps!
March 20, 2010

I noted in a previous post that wavering House members represent districts that have the most to gain from health reform. Thanks to my colleague Louis Woynarowski, we can see this in mapped form. He mapped uninsurance rates for every district represented by a wavering House member, as listed in FiredogLake's invaluable whip count. Each district is shaded to represent the percentage of nonelderly people who lack health coverage. The data comes from the Census Bureau's 2008 American Community Survey, as reported by Genevieve Kinney and colleagues.

A Plea to Liberals
March 13, 2010

Most progressive members of the House will vote for health care reform. But there are a handful of liberals making loud noises about rejecting it. They may not be bluffing. Some of them, like Dennis Kucinich, actually cast nay votes against the House bill last November. But this time, every vote will count. So, those liberals may be the difference between success and failure. Why would any liberal vote against this bill, a bill that Democrats have spent a year toiling on?  Because at its core, the legislation is a centrist plan that achieves liberal ends.

How To Deal With Recalcitrant House Dems
March 10, 2010

Now this is the kind of Democratic primary challenge I can get behind: Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy Democrats in safe seats like Kucinich would be insane to vote against this bill. Of course, Kucinich is insane, but that's all the more reason to replace him with a Democrat who isn't. Meanwhile, even non-Kucinich Democrats need some pressure. They all clearly have a strong political interest in passing. The trick is to get House members, especially ones who voted against the first bill, to support it this time around.

Health Care Reform And Our Myopic Polity
March 08, 2010

One day, I hope, we will look back at the health care debate as a low point in our national political psyche. The Obama administration and its allies in Congress are on the cusp of bringing some measure of reason to the health care system -- a system so profligate, irrational and cruel that nearly any reform born of deliberate intent could not help but improve it significantly. It's a reform designed in the mold of classic moderate Republicanism, melding fiscal responsibility and compassion for the poor and sick with a series of bold experiments to nudge medicine toward efficiency.

A Reality-Based Answer to Stupak
March 07, 2010

Passing health care is going to require convincing Representative Bart Stupak, or at least his would-be allies, to vote for the bill despite their concerns that it is tantamount to federal funding of abortion services. Slate's Timothy Noah has come up with a novel argument that might help. It isn't tantamount to federal funding of abortions: A central puzzle of the health reform debate is why Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., keeps saying that the Senate-passed bill allows taxpayer dollars to be spent on abortions. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops says it, too.

Ten House Dems Are Persuadable
March 01, 2010

Important health care reform update from the Associated Press: Ten House Democrats say they have not ruled out the possibility of switching their earlier "no" votes to "yes" on the big health care overhaul. That's giving Democrats a glimmer of hope in the face of unyielding Republican opposition. The House members commented in interviews Monday with The Associated Press. The article does not include any names, presumably because the members all spoke with the A.P. on condition of anonymity. But this makes the information a lot more valuable.