Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Did the Democrats deliberately tank the bill?

After blaming the Republicans for the entire mortgage crisis, Pelosi and other Democratic leaders were all happy to blame the Republicans for not delivering enough votes to pass the bill. However, the real question is why more of the majority didn't vote for the majority's bill?

Why wasn't the Majority Whip, Jim Clyburn, even trying to whip up Democratic votes? The most important bill in years in the face of a threat that the entire economy will slip into a major recession where the value of people's pensions will drop precipitately and people can't get money for loans to buy cars, houses, or send their kids to college, or start a small business and Nancy Pelosi doesn't have her whip out trying to gain votes. Or even to count up how many votes she can depend on?

And couldn't the party's presidential nominee make a few calls to the Congressional Black Caucus members? Most of them voted against the bill. Even Jesse Jackson Jr., an Obama campaign co-chair voted against the bill. As Karl Rove pointed out, she let five of her committee chairmen vote against it as well as several subcommittee chairs. This clearly wasn't a bill that she was trying to pass.

And if Obama is the type of leader who lives up to his bragging about being able to bring all sorts of people together to solve difficult issues, why the blankety-blank didn't he call a single House member to try to get this bill passed? It's all well and good to blame John McCain for inserting himself into the negotiations last week, but without his efforts to bring the House Republicans to the table so that some of the most egregious parts of the bill like the money for ACORN, we wouldn't have seen the numbers from the GOP voting for the bill that we saw yesterday.

And the Democrats are showing a little too much of their electoral greed when the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was boasting on NPR that they would use this vote to hammer Republicans for the election. Way to put partisanship aside when your country needs it.

And if you buy Pelosi's argument that this was all the Republicans' fault, perhaps the media could check out this video of Democrats in the House in 2004 denying that there is anything wrong at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and chewing out the regulators and Republicans who wanted more oversight. Watch the video and see how far off Nancy Pelosi is in blaming the Republicans and the free markets.
This is why she wants to scream to high heavens that it is all the Republicans' fault. She knows how much of the blame falls on her own party.

I don't think any Republican should have changed his vote simply because of Pelosi's speech. But Pelosi is responsible for her leadership. She's leading, but in partisan attacks, not in getting anything done. As Megan McArdle writes,
Pelosi screwed up royally. She is the Democratic Tom DeLay. Newt Gingrich was an ideologue, but Tom DeLay was simply a partisan, most keenly interested in maximizing his party's political power. Pelosi cut a deal in which, as far as I can tell, every single Republican in a safe seat had to vote yes so that the Democrats could maximize their no votes. Given that the Republican caucus is pretty much in open revolt, this was beyond moronic. She then spent a week openly and repeatedly blaming the Republicans and the Bush administration for the current crisis. The way she set things up, it was "Heads I win, tails you lose": vote for the deal and I'll paint you as heartless reactionaries bailing out your fat cat friends. If you're going to do that, you'd better make sure you have some goddamn margin for error in your own party. She didn't. Then she got up and delivered yet another speech blaming the Republicans for the bailout deal she was about to pass.

Being in power means that you get to give your party special favors on many occasions--but it also means that you, yes you, have the ultimate responsibility for getting things done. She didn't particularly try to bring her party in line, and so of course as soon as a few Republicans defected, hers stampeded. The ultimate blame for this failure has to be laid at her feet.

That doesn't excuse the Republicans; I've already expressed my opinion of their conduct. If they do not understand that there are some things more important than reelection, they do not deserve to be in Congress. I'm not sure they deserve to be let loose in society. But Pelosi is the one who was vested with the ultimate responsibility for shaping the legislative process in the House. She not only dropped the ball; she picked it up and drop kicked it through her own goal.
So the cynical thought remains, was Pelosi secretly hoping that the bill would fail so she could blame the Republicans and then put forth some more liberal bill that she would pass with only Democratic support? The Wall Street Journal acknowledges that this may be the Democrats' next move.
What next? One option is that Democrats will tell Mr. Paulson that they can pass his plan with more liberal votes, but that their price has gone up. This would mean more of the tax, spend and regulate provisions that House GOP leaders stripped out before their rank-and-file headed for the exits. These would only raise the price for taxpayers of the Treasury rescue and, if the equity provisions were too onerous, make the Paulson plan far less workable.
The Republicans have to work to head off such a solution. Better to tinker a bit with yesterday's bill and send it back for a vote and see if the reaction from the markets has changed a dozen minds.

UPDATE: The Prowler reports on how the Democrats deliberately weren't whipping the bill.
"Clyburn was not whipping the votes you would have expected him to, in part because he was uncomfortable doing it, in part because we didn't want the push for votes to be successful," says one leadership aide. "All we needed was enough to potentially get us over the finish line, but we wanted the Republicans to be the ones to do it. This was not going to be a Democrat-passed bill if the Speaker had anything to say about it."

During the floor vote, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and House Democrat Conference chair Rahm Emanuel could be seen monitoring the vote on the floor, and gauging whether or not more Democrat votes were needed. Clyburn had expressed concerns, says the leadership aide, of being asked to press members of the Black and Hispanic caucuses on a bill he was certain those constituencies would not want passed.

"It worked out, because we didn't have a dog in this fight. We negotiated. We gave the White House a bill. It was up to the Republicans to get the 100 plus votes they needed and they couldn't do it," said another Democrat leadership aide.

Emanuel, who served as a board member for Freddie Mac, one of the agencies that precipitated the economic crisis the nation now finds itself in, had no misgivings about taking a leadership role in tanking the bill. "He was cheerleading us along, mothering the votes," says the aide. "We wanted enough to put the pressure on the Republicans and Congressman Emanuel was charged with making it close enough. He did a great job."

Pelosi and her aides have made it clear they were not going to "whip" or twist the arms of members who did not want to vote, but they also made no effort to rally any support for a bill they attempted to hijack over the weekend.

Further, according to House Oversight Committee staff, Emanuel has received assurances from Pelosi that she will not allow what he termed a "witch hunt" to take place during the next Congressional session over the role Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac played in the economic crisis.

Emanuel apparently is concerned the roles former Clinton Administration members may have played in the mortgage industry collapse could be politically -- or worse, if the Department of Justice had its way, legally -- treacherous for many.