The Campaign Spot

Are Some House Democrats Trying to ‘Just Say Nothing’?

John Fund of the Wall Street Journal offers this intriguing tidbit, via the WSJ Political Diary e-mail:

A Congressional Budget Office estimate on the cost of certain proposed House changes to the Senate bill is late. Sources tell me that the original scoring of the bill tripped the psychological barrier of $1 trillion in costs for the program’s first years, forcing a last-minute scramble for even more tax increases to pay for it. One option — accelerating imposition of a tax on high-cost “Cadillac” health care plans — will anger labor unions whose members often enjoy such plans.

Rounding up the votes for health care has also proven difficult. House Democratic Whip Jim Clyburn told McClatchy Newspapers that final consideration of the bill may not occur until Easter (April 4) or later. He is dealing with dozens of members who refuse to commit to a firm position in hopes their silence will force the leadership to pull the bill and move on to other issues. “Just say nothing,” is how one Democratic staffer explained the strategy being taken by many members. “Maybe it will just go away, and we can avoid a tough vote this close to the election.”

On the one hand, if this mentality is widespread, it might explain why we have so many undecided (or at least claiming to be undecided) folks — 77 by one count! — with the final vote coming up in two days and change. And it’s not that hard to imagine a nervous House Democrat thinking they can escape a tough spot by refusing to take a position.

But is it really conceivable that Pelosi would scrap the president’s signature legislative agenda item without a vote? If these folks wanted the bill to go away, wouldn’t they be better off privately indicating to Pelosi that if it comes to a vote, they’ll have to be a “no”?

And what happens when “just say nothing” is no longer viable? “Just vote present”?