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The Live Fix with Chris Cillizza: Hoya heartbreak, House health-care votes, Armstrong vs. Kornheiser, the next big legislative issues, more

Mar 19, 2010

Every Friday, The Fix goes live, as Chris Cillizza discusses the latest news about Congress, the Obama administration, upcoming elections and all the latest political news.


Sorry for the lateness -- name drop alert! -- I was on with DIANE REHM this morning.

I am here now and armed with a venti black tea lemonade. Let's do it.


There seem to be two very different narratives going around about the vote count. One is that Pelosi has the votes, and will thus be able to allow some members to vote against the bill---this narrative is the front page NY Times story, plus Nate Silver, plus the intrade markets and others. The other narrative is that she doesn't yet have the votes, and may struggle to get them. Is this division normal for votes like this?

I think it is because so much of the vote-counting is going on behind closed doors and, hence, not available for public consumption.

Remember that simply because there remain a number of undecideds publicly on the bill doesn't mean all of those ame people are undecided privately. My guess is that there are only a handful of truly undecided members at this point.

I have long believed that the White House simply cannot let this bill fail as it would fundamentally undermine the argument Obama made in 2008 that he could get Washington working again.

That said, there is at least one very smart observer of the House that I speak to regularly who insists it is going to be much harder for Pelosi to get to 216 than people realize.

Either way, C-SPAN on Sunday is going to be must-watch TV.

Which House Democrats by voting for the Healthcare Bill do you think will be effectively ending their chances of winning in November? Betsy Markey of Colorado and Tom Perriello of Virginia seem to be two of the most obvious choices.

With the caveat that it's tough to predict 6+ months into the future in politics, I do think that any one who chances from no to yes (or the other way around) has a major political problem.

Betsy Markey is probably the best example of "no to yes" and Republicans are already comparing her vote on health care to Marjorie Margolies Mezvinsky's vote for the Clinton budget that led to her defeat in 1994.

Members who change their votes have to come up with the reasoning quickly and make sure they tell as many of their constituent as possible.


According to your friend Tracee. So moving right along to politics. . .what similarities do you see between the push to pass health care reform and March Madness?

I'll get to the H0yas later...but there are lots of expressions of sympathy in the queue from chatters -- and it is much appreciated.


1. High stakes with potentially large implications for the future.

2. An abbreviated time line

3. The potential for people to soar/crack under pressure

4. Commentary by Verne Lundquist.

Ok, #4 is wrong. But it would be kind of fun if Vern-o was doing a little House vote play by play right?

"And here comes Tom perriello...he's got a lot riding on this vote...he a Yale grad..."

According to the WaPo Graphic, there are still about 74 Reps who have yet to announce their vote. About what percent of those are really undecided and how many are waiting for a deal?

I counted them last night. It's 64 according to my chart. I would say half -- or likely even fewer -- are definitely undecided.

Some are holding out to get something -- language in the bill, a provision that benefits their district etc -- while others are genuinely conflicted between their desire to do something big (in terms of impact and historical sweep) and the unpopularity of the bill at the moment.

Earlier this week, I looked at five House Democrats facing the most cross pressures politically on the legislation.

Fix super-producer Andrea can you link to that piece?

How does Washington State's Brian Baird vote? Yesterday an aide said calls from his district were running 50-50, calls outside the district were 90% against. Not sure how true the 50-50 is, but does a retiring Democrat really vote against the bill?

I'm with you. If you are the White House, you HAVE to get the four retiring Democrats who remain undecided on this bill.

None of the four have any known statewide ambitions and so this is a legacy vote for them.

I have 218 yes votes in my office pool. Do I win?

Not a bad # to take.  Remember they need 216.

And, I had the over/under on number of games the Hoyas would win in the tournament at 3.  Man, did the under win there.

Mr. Fix: C'mon: The pres. canceled a major trip; this is gonna get done. Assuming that it does; what actions will the states and groups like the US Chamber and AHIP do on Monday morning? Will there be another barrage of ads and calls to action?

Lots of questions running in this vein....

As I said before, I assume this thing goes through on Sunday/Monday solely because the White House views the stakes as SO high that they will do anything -- literally to get to 216. But, remember, this is politics and unpredictable things happen all the time.

As for what happens in the aftermath of the bill, I do think there will be a barrage of ads on both sides as each side tries to frame what the bill, presuming it passes, will do.

There's little debate that Republicans won the message war in the runup to the vote this weekend. Democrats MUST find a way to win it between now and November.

Chris thanks for the Fix, I recently (20 minutes ago) heard you on an NPR call in show. Between the callers and the host I thought I was listening to one of these late night conspiracy theory call in shows. I thought you and the other guests did a good job of keeping the show grounded in reality. Do you expect any fireworks from next weeks Senate Judiciary Committee hearing with Eric Holder?

Indeed, Chris was just on the Diane Rehm show.

Diane Rehm = my favorite show to be on.  An hour's worth of discussion among intelligent people engaged in public policy and politics.

Armstrong on bike vs Kornheiser in his car. I pick Armstrong because I think Kornheiser drives like my grandmother living in Miami.

I think Mr. Tony can win. I have made it a policy in life not to bet against the Orange One.


Venti black tea lemonade. Unsweetened. Very good on a hot day.

You probably heard that Sen. McCain is trying to stop businesswoman Nan Stockholm Walden from seeking the Democratic nomination. Is this just rumor mill Beltway based blogs and pundits, or have you gotten any word that she is seriously considering a run? I grew up in an Arizona Democratic family, so I always felt "Saint McCain" got an easy ride in his re-elections and that while there is much to admire in his own biography, he is more vulerable within Arizona that I think a lot of national press realize.

Democrats DO seem excited about Nan Walden's candidacy but I think they would acknowledge (privately of course) that their win strategy in the state is heavily dependent on Hayworth beating McCain in the primary.

Today, I think that's unlikely. There is a segment of Republicans in the state who won't vote for McCain under any circumstances but that's not 50 percent plus one of the primary electorate and Hayworth, to date, has shown little inclination to expand beyond that relatively narrow base.

His comments about President Obama's birth certificate strike me as a perfect example of a candidate who is playing to  a base that is already with him without understanding that that same base isn't big enough for him to win with.

But what's the deal with Bart Stupak? Why so recalcitrant? Doesn't he realize that access to prenatal care and abortion actually leads to FEWER abortions? Explain that man to me, if you can. (I liked your suit, btw)

I hear that ALL THE TIME. Obviously, my online/tv presence is that of a small man.  Although I am 6'2"-ish, rest assured I am very small on the inside.

I think Stupak would cast his opposition as a matter of principle -- the principle being that NO federal money should go to people to pay for abortions.

Don't get me wrong, I take the merit of your argument. But, this position is clearly deeply held by Stupak and he doesn't appear -- to me at least -- to be budging just yet.

What happens after the Sunday health care reform vote, either way? What is the next big issue that will absorb legislative attention?

1. Financial regulatory reform. Yes, it will bring sexy back.

2. Jobs bills. The president signed a jobs bill allocating $18 billion in tax breaks targeted at small businesses to try to encourage them to hire unemployed workers. At the signing ceremony yesterday, he indicated he though it was only the start of a series of measures to try and stimulate job growth.

So Michele Bachmann said another "Because you disagree with my politics, you hate Americans" nonsense soundbite the other day. I didn't see Minnesota's 6th congressional district on your list of house races to watch, so my question is it worth donate some bucks to State Sen. Tarryl Clark to ride us Michele Bachmann?

Remember that Bachmann imploded on national TV roughly a month before the 2008 election and Democrats, in a very good year for the party nationally, were unable to oust her.

What that tels me is that this is a very Republican district -- making it a tough sell for any Democrat.

I'm betting you saw that Betsy Markey Mezvinsky stuff from NRCC, right? FYI Marjorie Margolies Mezvinsky just goes Marjorie Margolies these days.

I did...and I mentioned it above.

I would recommend reading -- if you haven't -- MMM's op-ed in the Post advising members on how to make their minds up on health care.

Interesting stuff.

Vote your conscience on health care by Marjorie Margolies

"I do think that any one who changes from no to yes (or the other way around) has a major political problem." Yeah, Chris, but when do leaders decide to make history by breaking away from the status quo? It's pretty hard to drive forward when you have your eyes glued to the rear view mirror (and the polls).

Don't disagree.

But, remember that House members are on a very different political timetable than President Obama. While Obama has the luxury of time to see what he believes to be the positive changes in the bill implemented, Congressional Democrats don't enjoy that luxury as they have to face voters in les than eight months time.

Are you saying that there might actually be some House Republicans that vote FOR this bill?

No. Sorry. Undecideds are all on the Democratic side.

Democratic Rep. John Boccieri of Ohio just announced that he is switching his vote to "yes" on the health care bill. Has the CBO score given sufficient cover to fence sitting Dems?

The Boccieri switch puts him in with Betsy Markey as "no to yes" Democrats. 

I think CBO reporting that the bill will cost under a trillion dollars ($940 billion is the pricetag) and will allegedly cut the deficit by $138 billion does give wavering Democratic members cover.

But, vote switching is a dangerous business that causes LOTS of political problems.

Personally I believe it. The bill has never been as unpopular as your guys continue to say it is. It has basically polled at close to 50-50 since last August. The 50/50 in district and 90/10 outside is indicative of a very vocal minority jamming the phone lines. Frankly the right and the tea-partiers have been given an outsize voice in this debate from the beginning. But then the press tends to focus on the screamers (then laments that nothing ever gets done.

"Us guys" are just looking at the scads of national polling that shows low to mid 40's supporting the bill and a slight majority (usually in the lows 50s) opposing it.

That's not to say public opinion can't change. But it is to say that it's not the media pushing this storyline. The polls -- of every day Americans -- suggest a majority oppose it.

Fix, isn't that an oxymoron?


...and every Friday we could all play "Where's Chris?" and the winner (person who first announces they have found you) gets a Fix tee-shirt...

I LOVE that idea.  LOVE. Like Where's Waldo.

Dude. Seriously. Ohio?! Maybe listening to a little alt-country will make you feel better.

Ok. The time has come to address Georgetown's stunning and incredibly disappointing loss last night. My thoughts in no oparticular order:

1. They played great -- particularly their guards.

2. We played listlessly -- at best -- with the exception of Chris Wright (all heart) and, to an extent, Monroe.

3. Hoya fans cold have seen this coming. This is a team that beat Duke, Nova and Syracuse but also lost to Rutgers, South Florida, Old Dominion and a Harangody-less Notre Dame team. High highs, low lows.

4. I now can dedicate my sports obsession to two targets: a) boning up on soccer in advance of the World Cup this summer and b) bothering Mrs. Fix with incessant questions about the Catholic University field hockey team.

item #4 in today's Morning Fix - Ed Case ran against Sen. Akaka in the primary for Akaka's Senate seat in 2006

Absolutely. Fixing right after this chat. I would have fixed it earlier but I was busy being on with DIANE REHM.


Could you please send a rousing "Go Bears" from me to your colleague Ben Pershing, in anticipation of Cal's game against Louisville today? Thanks.

Ben Pershing and Post pollster Jon Cohen are both UC grads.

Since my team has ceased to exist, I will try to dredge up some excitement to root for them.

But, seriously, the Hoya loss ruined the tournament for me. When I think about college baskteball today I get the same feeling in my stomach you used to get in college when after a night of 10 shots of Jagermeister you see a bottle of the stuff the next day. was reported that President Obama is trying to convince undecided Democrats that regardless of how they vote on his healthcare proposal, the Republicans will still try to defeat them in November -- whereas if they vote against the healthcare bill, significant numbers of Democratic voters will vote against them as well. Have you heard this story, and do you think if it's true, that the President's assessment is accurate?

It's 100 percent accurate. Remember that the vast majority of targeted Democrats in the House and the Senate have ALREADY voted for this bill.

Whether or not they vote for final passage then is somewhat immaterial; they are going to own the bill one way or the other.

I also think that energizing the base is a critical piece for Democrats of limiting their losses in the House and Senate this fall. The Republican base is fired up and ready to go while the Democratic base has yet to find that fire.

Ah .... so your picture isn't life sized! I just assumed your were a recovering leprechaun.


Nice St. paddy's day reference. SIDENOTE: Is there ANYTHING worse than going to an Irish bar on St Patrick's Day? Anything?

But if a guy named Tinkelburg could come close....

Elywn Tinklenburg.

One of the best names ever to run -- right up there with Jack E. Robinson in my book.

Time to get over JTIII. The Princeton offense is used by teams that have limited offensive skills and if run perfectly it can cause problems. But no one else really uses it because it stifles the player's individual creativity and skill. Also, JTIII doesn't recruit all that well - which is inexcusable given how much talent there is in the area that gets exported.

Just disagree.

Yes, our results in the last 3 postseasons -- second round loss to Davidson in NCAA tourney, first round loss in NIT, first round loss to Ohio in NCAA tourney -- are not good. At all.

But, if you look at where the program has come since JTIII took over I just think you would be hard pressed to say he is overrated.

In that time we've not only made the final 4 but also recruited the top high school senior -- Greg Monroe -- in 2008 and landed two other McDonald's high school All Americans in the form of Chris Wright and Austin Freeman. (Both of whom are from the DC area.)

Am I frustrated and upset today about the team's loss? Yes. Does JTIII deserve some blame? Yes. Do I want him as the Hoya coach for as long as he'll do it? HELL YES.

Hi Chris, Thanks for taking the time to chat. It seems like there are going to be an unusual number of deadly serious primary challanges to Dem incumbents this cycle. Arkansas Senate is already a major race. Stupak looks like he will have to fight for his seat. What about Lynch, in MA? Anyone else we should keep an eye on? Also, speaking of Dem primaries, how about that Raj Goyle?

I think the Arkansas Senate primary between Blanche Lincoln and Bill Halter is one to watch for sure. Liberals nationally have decided to make Lincoln the poster girl for everything they think is wrong with the Washington Democratic party and are already dumping a ton of money into the state.

Other primaries I would keep an eye on:

1. PA Senate on the D side. Arlen Specter vs Joe Sestak

2. CO Senate on the D side. Michael Bennet vs Andrew Romanoff

3. KY Senate on the R side. Rand Paul vs Trey Grayson

This was my first Live Fix....I LOVED THIS.

YES! Victory.Spread the word.

And tell people this when they ask about it: "Look, it's not as funny as Weingarten or as insightful as Hax but it comes with all the free coffee,cupcake and alternative country music recommendations you want"

Do we get a live blog for the Sunday vote?

Still being debated...not sure a live blog works but may some live tweeting over @thehyperfix?

If people have ideas for what they want to see, shoot me an email at I'll read them and then go from there.

Who do you like in the World Cup?

I am a soccer recently as a year or two ago I was a hater but thanks to Travis "T Bone" Beauchamp -- the wildly successful coach of the mens' soccer team at Catholic U -- I am coming around as a convert.

I have a soft spot for Italy (obviously) and for England because of my main man Wayne Rooney. But I don't know enough to give you a legit handicapping.

Now that the Hoyas have lost, I will have more time to bone up...

I hope after watching yesterday's games, they come out strong tonight. Any advice for my favorite team?

Don't get behind by 19 points to a team that finished ninth in a ten team mid-major conference.

Except that Waldo wouldn't have to contend with stalkers jacked up on sugared caffeine beverages.

Oh well said. And stalker is such a harsh term. I prefer "Fix enthuiast"

"Democrats picked up two more votes in favor of their health-care package Friday, as Ohio Rep. John Boccieri (D) announced that he would support the final measure after having opposed the original House bill in November. Fellow Ohio Democrat Charles Wilson, who had been publicly undecided, also issued a news release saying he would vote "yes."" How do you spell "momentum"?


I wa the 6th grade spelling champion at Elmer Thienes elementary school in Marlborough Connecticut.

What WHAT!

Chris, as an Iowa State University fan who has endured years of exquisitely painful recall of the upset of #2 seeded ISU by #15 Hampton in 2001 (which was even mentioned in the this week's TIME magazine), you have my sincere condolences.

And do you know who Hampton played in the second round that year? My Georgetown HOyas. We made the sweet 16 despite having a not-so-good team.

10 shots of Jager is worse than any political story you could cover. That's how you prepare for a life of political journalism.


I think President Obama picking Kansas to win the tournament was his way of endorsing Raj Goyle.

College basketball and the obligatory Goyle reference in the chat.

Well played sir. Well played.

You know that this drink can also be called an Arnold Palmer (should you need to buy it somewhere other than Starbucks...)?

I do!

Fun fix fact: my drink of choice a a kid was a shirley temple. Would it be weird if I ordered that now in a restaurant? I may put that theory to the test.

Syracuse was vulnerable before its center was injured and Villanova has the same problems--namely a lack of big guys--that normally cause people to hate Duke's chances for a title. Having overhyped teams beating up on other overhyped teams does make a conference good.

Hard for me to argue after day 1 of the tourney that the Big East wasn't a little bit overvalued this year.

That said, I think Cuse and West Va are the real deal. I am more skeptical of Nova.

There are Fix tee-shirts? How do I order one?

There are!

And we are working on the ordering/buying process. At the moment you can only win one in my primary prediction contests.

Should be a great World Cup. Will be interesting to see how the African teams do - the farthest an African team has been is the quarterfinals. Teams like Spain and Chile play a wonderful brand of soccer. Or maybe England will (finally) win it again behind arguably the best player in the world at the moment, Wayne Rooney? Also, the fact that Argentina and France are underdogs is amazing.

Ongoing debate between me and the aforementioned T-Bone: Rooney or Messi.

I love Rooney because he is the unlikeliest of great athletes. Messi though plays more of the beautiful game.

Just like the Hoyas, my time has run out.

Thanks as always for spending an hour with me today. And stay tuned this weekend for one of the most historic votes in modern memory. It's going to be a doozy.

Have a great weekend.


In This Chat
Chris Cillizza
Chris Cillizza writes "The Fix", a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House for the newspaper and website. Chris has appeared as a guest on NBC, CBS, ABC, MSNBC, Fox News Channel and CNN to talk politics. He lives in Virginia with his wife and son.
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