Better is the Enemy of Good Enough

True to his word, Eric Massa voted against final passage of healthcare reform in the House. Earlier, he voted against the Stupak amendment which restricted use of insurance for abortions.

In the comments and via email, some readers are wondering if this was an "insurance" vote which would help Massa's re-election among conservatives. I doubt it, for a couple of reasons.

First, Massa spent much of the last few months stating his opposition to the first House version of healthcare reform. The bill that passed last night is not fundamentally different from that first version. A last-minute reversal on Massa's part would have been surprising and difficult to defend, regardless of the politics of the final vote.

Second, the conservatives who don't agree with Massa on healthcare also don't agree with him on other issues, such as abortion. They'll have no problem finding a reason to vote against Massa, even if they appreciate his vote last night.

Finally, the election is a year away. By then, all the fussing and fighting over this bill will be over. As this McClatchy summary points out, there's nothing hugely radical in the bill. And even if the same measure passes in the Senate (a big "if"), it still won't go into effect until 2013. It's hard to see how last night's vote will be the pressing issue of the 2010 campaign.


"Some readers are wondering if this was an "insurance" vote which would help Massa's re-election among conservatives. "

I can vouch for one conservative that is happy with Massa due to the fact that he has shown he is his own man and not owned by the party machinery.

Well, we can agree on that.

The vote wouldn't have mattered as much as if it happened, say, next September. However, the voters aren't THAT forgetful, and a "yes" vote would trigger more energy from the right (and maybe the left) early in the campaign. McClatchy saying the bill isn't radical won't exactly convince the sort of people who are likely to be donating time and money against Massa.

By Massa voting 'no' on this and on cap-and-trade it gives Reed less to hit him on. He can vote with the party 90% of the time, but if the 10% is on the right votes then he's hard to peg as a Pelosi puppet.

The reality is that this is nowhere near what the final HC Bill will look like. This is just a preliminary vote to get the ball rolling. At some point there will be another vote and that will be the one to watch. Massa may still end up voting no when the bill is in its final form, however, it is possible that some change may cause Massa to change his vote. If he votes yes on the HC bill in any form, I suspect he will solidify himself as a one-term congressman.

I doubt that the bill will get any "better" (from Massa's point of view) after going through the Senate, so I think "no" is his final vote.

I hope so. I'm on the fence about Massa. Overall, he is not the worst we could have had for a rep. We'll just have to wait and see.

I doubt the bill will make it through the Senate what with so many conservative Dems who oppose the public option, and Joltin' Joe Lieberman's threatened filibuster. It's going to be a long slog before anything worthwhile happens.

As a liberal I can also say I'm OK with Eric voting no for the very same reason as Elmer "he is his own man and not owned by the party machinery". If we had more in congress like Eric we would get some work done. I truly liked and admired Amo because he voted with his head and heart and broke with his party when he thought it was in the best interest of the district and the country. I didn't like every vote Amo made and I don't like every vote Eric makes but I know he's done his own research and made up his own mind and votes with his head and heart. Eric is a very smart guy, as hard a worker as you'll ever get and a fighter. I like that. Eric doesn't have to vote my way every time, I just want to know he's done his own research and made up his own mind. Randy on the other hand just liked being the "Ceremonial Congressman", that kind of Congressman we can do without.

Kucinich on his no vote:

It sounds a lot like what Massa has been saying.

Would the 29th re-elect a Kucinich?

Good question -- my take is that it wouldn't elect one in the first place.

Never - his stands on Israel (among many other things) would keep him from being elected here

I think it goes without saying that Kucinich wouldn't get elected in the 29th. My point is that if Massa behaves like a Kucinich -- by taking principled stands that are not supported by the majority of Democrats in the House and by not supporting major initiatives of his party --- then he will be marginalized. If he can't be relied upon to support a bill that is imperfect by his standards, even though it moves in the direction of his concept of the right law, then he will be just as ineffective and useless to his constituents as the guy he replaced.

In two powerful speeches he has in effect aligned himself with probably the most radical left wing member of the House on health care and on the Afghan surge. He isn't there yet, but if Pelosi didn't have 219 votes lined up and she had asked Massa for a yes on the health care bill, I would hope that he would have been be able to hold his nose and give her his vote. Otherwise he would be cutting himself off from his own party. No matter what your politics, do you want to be represented by someone who is not taken seriously by his party or by the opposition?

There's a long way from a couple of votes to a full-fledged Kucinich or Ron Paul situation. You need a track record of bucking leadership on big votes, plus you need to occasionally thumb your nose to them on procedural votes. I believe Ron Paul voted with Democrats on one of the procedural votes to start debate on healthcare, which is a big no-no, loyalty-wise. Massa has not done that.

On the healthcare bill, my take is that it was fine for some members who didn't think the bill had a strong enough public option to counter-balance those who thought it was too strong. The closeness of the vote indicates that the compromise Pelosi worked out among the members was a "just right" one. It had as strong a public option as Blue Dogs could tolerate. If Massa and a few others hadn't backed up their words with a refusal to vote, the public option would have been even more watered down.

As for the Afghan War, I think the recent revelations about the thoroughgoing corruption of the Karzai regime makes it a fine time to re-evaluate that enterprise, and scaling back from nation building makes a lot of sense. His position won't be on the edge for long.

You may be right on the marginalized question. Time will tell, but he has only a few months to avoid an onslaught from the Read campaign. He's being canonized in the Nation:

On the war. The administration is clearly on the way to a surge. With them the issue is the possible fall of Pakistan and its nukes to the terrorists. The Pakistanis still think that the enemy is India, which is not incidentally backed by the US. Will Massa be a leader of the opposition or just left out is a question, as you say, to be answered.

For the record, I am really impressed with the depth and clarity of his positions, I just hope that he doesn't end up as a one termer like Randy in spite of himself.

Randy was a two-termer.

I still think Massa will win easily in 2010. He has the respect of most of us conservatives down south. My favorite politician was Ronald Reagan yet I am a avid Massa supporter. He is a principled man and articulates his beliefs very clearly.

I hope you're right.

Perhaps you should define conservative. I do not believe that Massa has done much to keep the conservatives in tow. However, I do not believe there is a real difference between him and his challenger, Tom Reed. Massa has definitely made some strategic votes that have the appearance of a centrist and Reed's track-record as a one-term mayor along with his questionable business deals leads this libertarian to believe that Reed stands a snow-ball's chance in hell of unseating Massa. Based on 2008's numbers it appears that a lot of people simply did not pull the lever for a a congressional candidate. I have heard Republicans state that Massa won on the coat tails of Obama. That is an outright un-truth because McCain still won the district. It may be true in other districts where Republicans were unseated, but not here in the 29th. Apathy and a disdain for Mr. Kuhl gave Massa the push he needed.

If it walks like a duck...