Thursday, March 22, 2007

Congress Daily: Iraq Supplemental Vote Tomorrow

Congress Daily ($) reports that House Democrats are pushing off the vote on the Iraq supplemental until tomorrow. It has nothing to do with the fact that Speaker Pelosi and DCCC Chair Van Hollen are supposed to be at a fundraiser in NY tonight. Rather, it's all about the fighting that's erupted within their conference and their inability to get the votes they need to pass the bill:

House Democrats are heading into debate on the $124.3 billion Iraq emergency war supplemental spending bill this afternoon still unsure if they have enough votes to pass it. But leadership aides continued to predict a tight victory on the final vote, which is expected Friday. "We're very close; 217 are all we need and we've got a little breathing room, 215 will probably get us there," said one senior leadership aide. House Democratic and Republican leaders are working under the assumption that at least two or three Republicans will vote for the supplemental, including Reps. Wayne Gilchrest of Maryland and Walter Jones of North Carolina. With diehard anti-war members like Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif., guaranteed to oppose the bill, leadership sources said the focus continues to be getting the votes of the dwindling universe of still undecided members, mostly liberals like freshman Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn. But senior aides familiar with the "Out of Iraq" caucus strategy said that group has been working its membership on the assumption that Ellison will vote for the bill.

Leading anti-war members Reps. Maxine Waters and Barbara Lee, both D-Calif., along with Woolsey, failed in their effort Wednesday night to get the Rules Committee to allow a floor vote on their amendment limiting the use of funds to only protecting soldiers on the ground and the "safe and complete withdrawal" of all troops in Iraq by the end of the year. Aides said the three had a sharp exchange with Rules Chairwoman Slaughter over the proposal. With tempers clearly frayed after weeks of intra-caucus fighting over the bill, Democratic leaders are using various avenues to press the undecided, including one-on-one conversations with top leaders as well as from other members and Democrats off Capitol Hill. Democratic leaders had hoped to hold the supplemental vote today, but aides said the additional time was needed to ensure they have the votes. Complicating matters is that House Speaker Pelosi and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen of Maryland are scheduled to appear at a DCCC regional fundraising event in New York City tonight. Van Hollen confirmed that he and Pelosi are scheduled to attend the event, but said the floor situation will determine if they make it or not. "It will not get in the way of the vote," Van Hollen said. "If we're able to go, we will go."

As I have noted before, a key to the intra-party tension is that for every liberal member of the Out of Iraq caucus who votes against the bill, the Democrats need to find one more moderate Blue Dog to vote in favor. And moderate Democrats like Heath Shuler, Brad Ellsworth, Dan Boren and the rest of the Blue Dogs tend to have tougher races than people like Lynn Woolsey. They're not at all happy to have to take a hard vote while liberals get an easy one.

Note too, that Democrats don't need to get 218 votes; they only need to get a majority of those voting yes or no. So if they can convince a Member who would have voted 'no' not to show up for the vote, that makes the job easier. And they will also 'benefit' from the fact that Charlie Norwood's passing means that there is one fewer 'no' vote on the Republican side. Thus they might be able to prevail with only 215 votes, as the article notes.

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