Now, it seems, not only is the White House threatening Democrats who didn't toe the Party Line, but a number of unions, including SEIU, are threatening, too:
Senior White House and organized labor officials are warning the handful of House Democrats who supported health care legislation last year only to oppose the final measure on Sunday that they shouldn’t expect assistance for their reelection campaigns this fall.
The five who switched from yes to no — Reps. Michael Arcuri of New York, Marion Berry of Arkansas, Daniel Lipinski of Illinois, Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts and Zack Space of Ohio — have so annoyed top Democrats that there is also open talk of finding opponents to ensure they pay a steep political price for changing their vote.
“We’re looking at candidates we can trust to run against them, either through a primary or in the general election,” said Service Employees International Union Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger, noting that recruitment conversations were already under way.
Of the five who switched, Burger said flatly, “They should not expect help from us.”
Karen Ackerman, political director of the AFL-CIO, said local union members were deeply disappointed in the vote-switchers — and that the locals will determine whether to endorse the incumbents.
“There are no guarantees, and they have a lot of work to do to attempt to repair that relationship. It may be repaired or it may not be repaired,” Ackerman said.
Top aides to President Barack Obama also made clear that they’ll prioritize their political time and resources this year with an eye on those who did or did not stand with them on the toughest vote of the election cycle.
“There is not a whole lot of Barack Obama and Joe Biden to spare on a good day,” said one senior White House official. “We’re going to have to focus on our friends.”
Another top Obama aide, asked about the group of five, responded simply: “We appreciate the people who hung with us.”
Yikes. Yep, those sound like threats to me. And that's not all:
In the West Wing, where aides spent hours pleading with the members to stick to their original votes, there is a feeling that the group unnecessarily imperiled passage of the bill for reasons that defy political logic.
White House officials and other party leaders say that, having already supported health care once, the members will still be attacked by Republicans for the original vote and will now face additional anger from their own political base for opposing the final version of the historic bill that is now law.
“They have the vote, but now they lack the accomplishment,” said a senior Obama aide, adding that the group’s members have endangered their own prospects at the polls because the so-called “surge voters” who came out to back the president in 2008 will be tougher to motivate.
“The prescription for winning tough races is to generate turnout from many of the folks that came out in 2008,” the aide said. “I would think this would make it harder to do that.”
Another White House official made the case that “the public is not going to make the distinction [between the two votes], and they’re going to get hammered.”
On Capitol Hill, there is a sense of puzzlement mixed with frustration among colleagues of the five.
One senior Democratic House member was withering: “They were without backbone.”
I'm sorry, WHO was "without backbone"?? The people who were bought by the White House? The ones who bucked the will of their constituents? Or the ones who did as their constituents wanted? Perhaps this is the problem with many in DC - they do not understand basic English. Maybe they just don't know what the term means. That might explain it. There's more:
And, this member said, the group made an already difficult election cycle for House Democrats that much more difficult.
“That group that said ‘yes’ and then ‘no’ are the most challenging members now for us [to defend in November],” the member said.
Chris Van Hollen, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, didn’t defend the political calculus of those in the group but said that his focus was solely on keeping the seats in Democratic hands and that he’d stand by the incumbents.
“We will help all our guys,” said Van Hollen. “If others want to pick and choose, that’s up to them. Our job is to make sure that we remain in the majority.”
Of the five, Berry, who is retiring after this term, is the only one who will definitely not be on the ballot in November — and seemingly the one with the least to lose by staying in the “yea” column.
But the strong suspicion among top Democrats is that Berry switched his vote as a favor to his chief of staff, Chad Causey, who is running to succeed him and has indicated that he would have opposed the legislation.
Yeah, okay, that makes sense - not.
Now the unions start weighing in:
Alan Hughes, president of the Arkansas AFL-CIO, said his organization was “highly disappointed in [Berry’s] vote” and noted that Causey and the other Democrats running for the seat Berry is vacating would be sitting for interviews at the state federation’s convention this weekend in Hot Springs.
“We’re going to drill the hell out of them,” Hughes said, alluding to their positions on health care and other issues important to labor.
Arcuri and Space, both second-term members from districts previously held by Republicans, are widely viewed as having switched for the most purely political reasons.
“Fear in politics is a very powerful thing, and these guys were just fearful of losing their seats,” a top White House aide said.
In New York, liberals have already begun wooing one of Arcuri’s former primary opponents to run against him.
Les Roberts, a Columbia University professor, has said that he’s considering running in the Democratic primary as well as on the Working Families Party ballot line.
In the run-up to the vote, Arcuri said he was unhappy that Medicare was still not allowed to negotiate drug prices with the pharmaceutical industry and had worries that taxes on medical devices may have an adverse impact on his district.
Well, those sound like good reasons to me. Taxes ARE going to go up, as are insurance premiums, and drug prices. All thanks to Obama pandering to Big Pharma. But hey - why let some facts interfere with threats, right? Right:
In Ohio, local chapters of SEIU and UFCW announced Monday that they would no longer support Space, who already faced a difficult reelection in his rural eastern-Ohio-based district after he supported the energy bill last year.
Space indicated he was concerned that the final version of the bill might tax the health care benefits of his middle-class constituents.
Lipinski and Lynch are the most puzzling switchers in the group — both hail from heavily Democratic, big-city districts.
Lipinski cited concerns about abortion, but his position was undercut when Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) and other anti-abortion Democrats still voted for final passage of the bill after Obama issued an executive order reiterating the ban on federal money being used on the procedure.
What angers Democrats about Lipinski is that he suffers from diabetes, and it has long been thought in Chicago political circles that he is in Congress in part to have access to a gold-plated congressional health care plan.
The view among party officials is that Lipinski’s father, a conservative-leaning Democrat who previously held his son’s seat and engineered the succession, thought it would be good politics to oppose the bill.
“He could not articulate to us why he was doing this,” a senior White House official said of Lipinski.
While the Illinois primary has already taken place, an independent could still file to run against Lipinski this fall.
As for Lynch, Democrats believe he’s still bitter over the lack of support he received when he considered running in the special Senate race for the seat of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy and thought that, by changing his vote, he could separate himself from other 2012 primary hopefuls vying for the seat now held by GOP Sen. Scott Brown.
But it’s difficult to see how such a position could be advantageous in a Democratic primary in a state such as Massachusetts.
“John Kerry tried to disabuse him of that notion but could not,” said a senior White House official, referring to the Bay State’s senior senator.
“Everyone I talk to is baffled by Lynch’s votes,” said the AFL-CIO’s Ackerman, noting that the congressman, a former ironworker, comes out of the labor movement.
Lynch, for his part, said he opposed the bill because it didn’t do enough to crack down on insurance companies.
But progressives in Massachusetts are already courting a potential primary opponent, Harmony Wu, to run against Lynch.
Well, considering by some estimations premiums are going to go UP $2,100 not DOWN $2,500, as Obama claimed they would, I can see why these representatives are concerned. Heck, taxes ARE going to go UP to, exposing another Obama lie. There is GREAT concern about the cost of this bill for New York City, for example. Why? Because NYC will have to pay $6.5 BILLION a year to DC in taxes as a result of this bill:
That figure is JUST for the city, not including the rest of the state. Holy moley. That's a big chunk of change. $200,000, as Megyn Kelly pointed out, is NOT a lot in the city. No kidding. Oh, what a great bill this is.
So, yes, these folks are indeed being threatened. By their own party members, I might add. Just more of the Obama Hope-y, Change-y Unicorn Rainbow - Chicago style. I can't wait to see what's next...