House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is becoming frustrated with centrist Democrats for casting votes that may suit their individual political considerations, but undermine the interest of the party as a whole. The difficulty she’s running into is complicated by the legacy of Obamacare.
House Republicans have been wielding what little power they have in the minority to force Democrats to cast difficult votes that split their caucus. On Wednesday, Republicans employed a parliamentary tool known as a ” motion to recommit,” to get centrist Democrats to add an amendment to a gun control bill to notify Immigration and Customs Enforcement if an illegal immigrant tries to purchase a gun. That meant the rest of the caucus had to vote for the ICE provision, which they hated, to secure passage of their gun control legislation.
As my colleague Susan Ferrechio reported, Pelosi has now been telling her caucus to, as a rule, just vote against all Republican motions to recommit. Meanwhile, she is working with other party leaders to come up with a way to limit the ability of the minority party to offer such votes. But even if she succeeds in weakening this particular tactic, it doesn’t change the more fundamental problem facing Pelosi.Would Trump’s national emergency really be an “emergency”?Watch Full Screen to Skip Ads
Though Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., has become the face of the party, the reality is that she isn’t the one that put Democrats in the majority. That is, Ocasio-Cortez and her young band of socialists, all represent districts that were already held by Democrats. Her district went 78 percent for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and won’t ever be in danger. It was the dozens of Democrats flipping Republican seats in swing districts, some of which voted for President Trump, who gave Democrats their majority.
It isn’t surprising then that Rep. Conor Lamb, a Pennsylvania Democrat representing constituents who voted for Trump, supported the ICE amendment, telling the Hill, “I vote my district.”
So regardless of how Pelosi changes the rules, if Pelosi wants to move legislation supported by the liberal base, she’s going to have to convince centrists to take a plunge. This is where the bad experience of Obamacare comes in.
In 2009 and 2010, when Pelosi was twisting arms of centrist Democrats to get them to vote for Obamacare, she insisted that it would be a political winner once it passed. When she said, “we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy” it was misrepresented as her calling for people to not bother reading the bill until after they voted for it. In reality, she was trying to argue that Obamacare would become popular once it passed.
We all know how that turned out. In 2010, Democrats lost 63 seats and control of the House. It wouldn’t be until 2018 that Obamacare could be seen as a net vote-getter for Democrats, but before that point, the careers of dozens of centrist Democrats were destroyed because they listened to Pelosi instead of their constituents.
As Pelosi tries to unite disparate factions within her caucus, the memory of Obamacare will make it a lot more difficult to convince Democrats in swing districts to vote for sweeping liberal legislation.