Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 3, 2010

CRAVEN, CONFUSING COWARDICE.... I can appreciate why there's at least some optimism in progressive circles about health care reform's chances. The odds of success are clearly better than they were, say, six weeks ago.

But it's important to remember Democrats' capacity to shoot themselves in the foot.

By all appearances, the margin will be razor-thin in the House, where it will be imperative to keep as many Dems who voted for reform the first time on board with final passage, while reaching out to Democratic opponents to change their minds. When weak-willed incumbents like this one show almost comically-bad judgment, the task is all the more difficult.

Rep. Michael Arcuri (D-NY) voted for House health care legislation in November. But he says he's almost certain to vote no on the Senate bill when it comes up for a vote in the House later this month, according to a report in the Utica Observer-Dispatch.

"There would have to be some dramatic changes in it for me to change my position," Arcuri said.

Back in November, he was saying somewhat different things. "There are some parts of the Senate bill I like better, and some parts of this bill I like better than the Senate version. I look at this as piece of the whole -- this is the first step in a process."

And why, pray tell, would Arcuri vote for health care reform before voting against it? He apparently has three reasons.

The first is that he thinks the health care reform bill should be broken up into parts, and considered piecemeal. Whether Arcuri realizes it or not, this is absurd -- reform doesn't work piecemeal; the parts are interdependent.

The second is that he doesn't like reconciliation. This, too, is a rather pathetic excuse. Not only does reconciliation exist for budget fixes, but Arcuri is in the House, where there's already majority rule and no need for reconciliation.

The third is Arcuri's concerns about the excise tax, which is at least coherent. But keep in mind, under the White House approach, the excise tax's eligibility threshold is raised, and implementation would be delayed until 2018, which is intended specifically to address concerns like Arcuri's.

In truth, Arcuri's opposition sounds like someone searching desperately for an excuse. He's just scared. I understand why -- Arcuri represents a swing district in central New York, and he doesn't want to lose his job for doing the right thing.

But it gets us back to the same inescapable electoral dynamic: Arcuri already voted for health care reform. He has, in other words, already taken the proverbial hit. Arcuri can reap the possible reward only if he helps deliver on the promise. If he turns tail now, the political problem doesn't get better for his re-election campaign; it gets considerably worse.

Later this year, Arcuri is going to see one of two television attack ads in his district: (1) an ad that tells voters, "Arcuri voted to pass a liberal health care reform bill"; or (2) an ad that tells voters, "Arcuri voted to pass a liberal health care reform bill -- and then ran anyway when things got tough."

His fear notwithstanding, Arcuri will be in a much stronger position to defend himself on the heels of success, not failure. I'm not suggesting he take one for the team and vote for reform regardless of the consequences; I'm suggesting that it's in Arcuri's own self-interest to support good legislation that will help his constituents.

Cowardice always seems easier, but the consequences are usually far more severe.

Steve Benen 11:15 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (24)

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Note to Arcuri: We fight the battles worth fighting. This isn't about you, or your job, or anything the filthy little smear-mongers acros the aisle from you have peddled into your constituency's thoughts; it's about the honest, reality-based needs of that constituency.


Posted by: S. Waybright on March 3, 2010 at 11:25 AM | PERMALINK

As a politcal researcher, this is just mind boggling. He already proved his communist credentials. He can do all he wants to backtrack, but once a commie, always a commie.

When will these idiots ever learn. The nicest thing the GOP will say about him is that he was for it before he was against it.

Likely they'll update it with: he wanted to kill your granny before he was against it.

Posted by: Argle Bargle on March 3, 2010 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

Dems are going to be easy targets in red-leaning districts this cycle regardless, and Dems who voted for the bill first time around are, in Republicans' eyes, dead men walking. They're not going to save themselves by trying to back out now. Their only hope is to go all-in, and fight for what they say they believe. Do what we elected you to do.

Posted by: Snarky Bastard on March 3, 2010 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

I'm not sure what good it will do, but please consider calling Congressman Arcuri and politely asking him to vote for health care reform. It's especially helpful if you live in his district. Here's the number:


Posted by: Daryl McCullough on March 3, 2010 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

You never see shit like this on the R side of things. Because they know how to run a caucus.

Posted by: Dems lose huge in 2010 on March 3, 2010 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

Can I write these people from my federal tax return yet? One guy calls me a "retard", another "hobo", another spinelessly twitters back and forth on important issues; why shouldn't I be able to deduct most or all of these talking anuses whom we all underwrite from my federal tax return?

Posted by: Trollop on March 3, 2010 at 11:37 AM | PERMALINK

What is worse, supporting the popular president's major policy initiative or being pilloried for:
1. supporting HCR and allowing it to go forward
2. visibly and forcefully flip-flopping on one of the most important policy debates of the year.

Note that 1 will happen in any case, but this fool is bringing 2 on all on his own.

Does this qualify him for a primary challenge on this issue?

Posted by: beyond left on March 3, 2010 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

Tried the phone number you gave, Daryl. It was busy. Dare we hope that maybe the line is clogged with people across the country giving Arcuri an earful?

Posted by: wildone on March 3, 2010 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, it was disheartening to read that my Congressman has turned into a wuss. I have already sent faxes to his offices, and am about to start calling to register my extreme displeasure!

Posted by: jess on March 3, 2010 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

Scratch that -- I got through. The aide asked me if I was a constituent, and when I told her I wasn't, she said that she would be "sure to pass on" my message. I'll bet.

Posted by: wildone on March 3, 2010 at 11:48 AM | PERMALINK

Is there any organization that's promoting primary challenges to spineless bastards like Arcuri? I'd love to donate some time to a phone bank or an online effort.

Posted by: Cap'n Chucky on March 3, 2010 at 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

This one boggles the mind. The guy voted for the house bill, but isn't going to vote for the senate bill now? He isn't going to vote for the reconciliation fix bill?

The only chance he and the other swing district Democrats have is to pass HCR and spend the next months touting it's virtues. Otherwise it would be wise for his staff to look for new jobs.

Posted by: Ron Byers on March 3, 2010 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

Steve writes: "he doesn't want to lose his job for doing the right thing."

Ahem. Wasn't he elected to 'do the right thing?'

Posted by: DAY on March 3, 2010 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

This article is nearly identical to one written by Josh Marshall at TPM at 9:45am. Do great minds think alike or what?

See: http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/2010/03/painful_2.php?ref=fpblg

Posted by: oldtownlawyer on March 3, 2010 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

I just got through to his Utica office, the lady told me he hadn't really decided to vote "no" yet.I told her I hope he does the right thing. Keep the calls coming!

Posted by: Jess on March 3, 2010 at 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

"Cowards die a thousand deaths..."

Posted by: Th on March 3, 2010 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

The fact that Republicans have been able to turn access to decent healthcare for 93%-96% of Americans into a horrid thing to be feared, scorned and derided is a testament to their endless capacity to call day, night and get away with it.

It's also a testament to the Democrats' endless determination to pooh-pooh and badly miscalculate the sheer viciousness of their "friends across the aisle."

Al Gore said it best at the beginning of the century -- the GOP has taken politics to a level where we're in a "kind of cold civil war."

It is so frustrating to watch Democrats like Arcuri decide that the best way to be a foot soldier in this cold war is to run for the hills.


Posted by: June on March 3, 2010 at 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

Arcuri also voted against the climate change legislation, despite the fact that his predecessor, Sherwood Boehlert, had been the strongest Republican voice on behalf of the environment for the past quarter century. Arcuri has been given plum committee assignments like Rules and Transportation and Infrastructure, but he can never be relied upon to do something for the good of the Democratic Party.

Because of Members like Arcuri, I will donate generously to individuals, but I never give to the Democratic Congressional (or Senatorial) Campaign Committee.

Posted by: Vadranor on March 3, 2010 at 12:24 PM | PERMALINK

And another thing: If Arcuri votes NO on the Senate bill, he will not get any additional support from the grassroots. People won't suddenly start visiting his campaign offices to help, wanting to work with the "24th District Coward." No, they'll stay home and not give a damn. But if he votes YES, people might actually want to help him get reelected, might hold house parties to raise money, set up ActBlue pages, and so on. It's amazing the he could think that a NO vote could be a political winner.

Posted by: meander on March 3, 2010 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

Arcuri is a wuss! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on March 3, 2010 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

"Cowardice always seems easier, but the consequences are usually far more severe."

Why aren't you a paid advisor to house and senate Democrats? They could use your spine, to great effect, to benefit the lives of millions of people.

BTW, not to gush or anything, but this is my favourite blog, by far. It's always informative and exhaustively researched, and it's always brutally frank.


Posted by: MattZ on March 3, 2010 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

Why, oh why, do Democrats keep repeating Republican narratives? It's disgustingly obsequious!

Posted by: AlphaLiberal on March 3, 2010 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

It looks like the laws of natural selection will weed this one out of Congress.

What a dummy.

Posted by: Naveen on March 3, 2010 at 5:34 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks, Daryl, for Arcuri's number..I just called his office and talked to Colby and made my request for him to vote for the Senate Bill. I said..Please just do what's right for the People.

He got my name and address.

Posted by: Cha on March 4, 2010 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK
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