Ruth Marcus writes: “It would have been hard to predict, as the stimulus debate began, that President Obama would end up losing more Democratic votes than gaining Republican ones.”
I dunno. It’s true that this outcome wasn’t widely predicted. And I don’t think I even thought about it seriously. But it also strikes me as pretty predictable. When a bill becomes controversial, your goal as a mover of legislation is to get all the votes you need. And in the House, the leadership can afford to lose some Democrats and to not pick up any Republicans. Given that, I think we should expect it to happen pretty frequently on controversial pieces of legislation. In purely cynical terms, if there are members from vulnerable districts whose votes aren’t needed to secure a majority it makes perfect sense for the leadership to even instruct them to vote “no” in order to bolster their independence credentials so that they’ll be better positioned to take a tough vote if they’re really needed on some future bill.