Monday, June 25, 2007

The Perception Game: Will the cloture motion needed to bring the immigration bill to the floor not even pass? From an email from a Senate source (emphasis added):
I can’t emphasize enough to you how important the perception game is in this town...I’ve heard that they only have 55 votes on this, and no one wants to be the 58th or 59th vote for amnesty.
And how do we get to this 55? From this Roll Call story (hidden behind a subscription wall and emphasis added):

Even so, Durbin has warned Republicans repeatedly that Democrats will be able to muster no more than 37 votes of the 60 needed to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to the bill.

Thirty-seven votes is our high-water mark,” said Durbin on Friday. “We may not be able to get that again.”

But even if Democrats can deliver those votes, Republicans will still have to produce at least 23 votes — a feat GOP backers of the bill said is doable but not assured.

Is Durbin trying to play the expectations game himself here and lowball the support for cloture among Democrats, or is he offering an accurate estimation of Democratic support? If so, presuming that there are 49 Democrats (and 2 Independents), that means 13 Democrats may vote "no" on cloture (or 12 may vote "no" and Tim Johnson [D-SD] may not vote at all). Last time, 37 Democrats voted in favor of cloture, so is anyone switching one way or another? Or is Durbin being coy....or is he counting Lieberman and Sanders as "Democrats"**? Last time, 7 Republicans voted in favor of cloture, so they may need 16 more Republican votes...And if my Senate source has heard right, and there are only 55 pledged votes in favor of cloture, have only 18 to 16 Republicans pledged their votes? 18's still 5 votes away from 23....

But back to the "perception game." Norm Coleman (R-MN) and Bob Bennett (R-UT), who both voted against cloture last time, may be susceptible. A lobbyist emails Mark Krikorian about them (e.a.):
they pretty hopeless but that we should continue to pound them as if they are a possibility. If they feel cloture is close to failing they may decide they are politically better off to switch.
So do Coleman and Bennett want to be votes 58 and 59 for cloture? Especially now that Sen. Voinovich (R-OH), who voted in favor of cloture last time, may now be unsure about voting in favor of cloture (H/T Malkin)?

**Counting Lieberman as a "Democrat," 38 Democrats voted in favor of cloture. Sanders seems, from reports, to be a cloture skeptic, but I don't know for sure.