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Presidential Influence


When President Obama went up to Capitol Hill earlier this week to meet with Republicans, I thought to myself that it must mean his legislative affairs team has a respectable number of Republicans in the bag and they want to build on it and attribute whatever Republican votes they get to the president’s effective advocacy. That’s how the White House legislative staff tends to work, in any White House: when the team has done its job, they send the boss up to “lobby” so he can get the credit. In dealing with Congress, much like in global diplomacy, you generally don’t send the president himself on a high visibility mission that could plausibly fail completely.

But then it turned out that not a single Republican actually voted for the bill. After Obama spent a good bit of time with the Republican caucus, and then invited some key members to the White House for drinks, no one at all among the House GOP voted with him, and even a few House Democrats voted against him. That either means something happened during the day yesterday to move the more squishy Republicans to oppose the bill, or (more likely) the White House never had any votes in the bag and sent the president on a futile mission, needlessly wasting and diminishing his personal capital. Very odd.


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