About this Blog
About The Author
Email Me

RealClearPolitics HorseRaceBlog

By Jay Cost

« Will Nancy Pelosi Find the Votes? | HorseRaceBlog Home Page | Stupak Bloc is Critical To Passage »

Why Was Pelosi Talking to Stupak?

People must have been surprised last night to learn that Nancy Pelosi was talking to Bart Stupak as early as this morning. The talks are apparently off. But still, it's interesting. And it's a puzzle, considering the apparent momentum the leadership had built by flipping members.

But "momentum" is a concept that relates to physical science. When we're talking about politics, we're using it as a metaphor, and sometimes it can be misleading. In this instance, I think it was. If Pelosi was talking to Stupak, it's because her head counts are awfully close.

Here's why.

Let's use The Hill's whip count to count votes. And remember that a perfect re-vote of November would result in a count of 217-214. But we already know that Joseph Cao, the sole Republican to support the bill in November, is going to vote no. That means that the count would be 216-215.

This sets up the follow guidepost: to pass the bill, Speaker Nancy Pelosi must match every yes-to-no flip with a no-to-yes flip. So, for instance, if 9 no votes flip to yes but 10 yes votes flip to no - the bill fails 215-216.

With this in mind, let's look at The Hill's count.

I've organized it into several categories. (1) Yes votes who have indicated they could flip to no (excluding Peter DeFazio, who I think will vote yes). (2) No votes who have indicated they'll flip to yes. (3) The remaining no votes who are still undecided at this late hour. (4) The undecided yes votes who might be allied with Stupak. Remember, Pelsoi needs to pull in - at a minimum - the same number of no-to-yes flips as she suffers yes-to-no flips.

Hill Math.jpg

Right now, there are three more yes-to-no votes than there are no-to-yes votes. This means that:

-If all the remaining undecideds vote the way they did in November, the bill will fail.

-If three of the yes-to-undecided votes flip to the no category, the bill will fail even if Pelosi pulls in all the remaining undecided votes.

-If three of those no-to-undecided votes stay a no, the bill will fail even if Pelosi pulls in all the remaining undecided votes.

I believe that this is why Pelosi was dealing with Stupak. She needs the no-to-yes to at least be even with the yes-to-no, and right now she's at -3 (assuming The Hill's count is accurate).

Yet the negotiations are now off. Why? I see three possible explanations:

(a) After initiating the talks with Stupak, she found other votes. Some members whom The Hill currently has as no votes have told her that they can vote yes if she really needs them. Pelosi accordingly re-did her math and realized she doesn't need the Stupak bloc.

(b) The pro-choice caucus made a credible threat that it would vote no if Pelosi caved to Stupak. She factored that into her calculations and discovered that she would lose net votes if she gave Stupak what he wants. So, she broke off the talks with him. She is going to keep hunting for votes among those undecideds, and try to flip a few of those no votes to yes. In other words, she's betting that if she takes it to the floor, she can pull an inside straight.

(c) The pro-choice caucus made a threat that Pelosi can't determine is credible or not. She's holding Stupak off for a little bit to see if the pro-choicers blink. If they do, she'll go back to the table to deal with him.

Follow me now on Twitter!

-Jay Cost