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Mitch McConnell on the Cloture Votes Ahead, and Which Senators To Contact To Urge A “No” Vote On Cloture

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I interviewed GOP Senate Leader Mitch McConnell yesterday on the health care bills and the looming cloture votes. (Transcript here.)

There will be two cloture votes, but by far the most important one is the first one. The first will, if passed, allow debate on the “merged bill” to begin. Once a “merged bill” is on the floor, the process towards the radical and destructive overhaul of American medicine becomes much more difficult to stop.

A second cloture vote will be necesssary to bring the debate to a close on whatever the floor amendment process produces.

Here’s the key excerpts of the conversation on the procedural points:

HH: Now yesterday, Joe Liebermann said that he would not vote for the Baucus bill. Do you think that means he’ll also vote against cloture?

MM: Well, I don’t know what the Democrats will do on procedure. But let’s assume we do get on the bill. I don’t think we should get on this bill, and we will try to defeat cloture, which for your listeners, is try to prevent them from getting sixty votes to get on the bill. But let’s assume we do get on the bill. We’re not going to allow this to be jammed through. In the last eight or ten years, we’ve spent eight weeks on an energy bill, seven weeks on no child left behind. Just in the last Congress, we spent four weeks on a farm bill. Any effort to try to jam this thing through before everybody’s had an opportunity to read it, before we’ve had a chance to have numerous amendments, will be viewed by the American people as a railroad job. And I don’t think they’re going to take it on an issue this important. I mean, this is one of those unique issues that everybody in the country cares about-health care-every one. And I don’t think they’re going to be able to jam this through the American people without full-fledged discussion and debate.

HH: Now Senator McConnell, this audience, at least, and I think generally in the United States, are very aware of the cloture vote. They believe that is the vote. I believe that’s the vote. I believe this is a lost cause if they get sixty votes.

MM: Well, there’ll be two. There’ll be cloture on motion to get on the bill, and then there’ll be cloture on the, you know, to get off the bill. So there’ll be two opportunities at a minimum for the majority to demonstrate they can produce sixty.

HH: And so, when does that first vote come up? Because that, to me, is…

MM: Well, that’ll be up to Reid, and what we’re insisting on is that before we even get to the issue of whether we proceed to the bill, it needs to be on the internet a minimum of 72 hours. It needs to have a score from the Congressional Budget Office. Bear in mind, what they scored was a concept paper in the Finance Committee. That matter that they voted out of committee yesterday was not a bill. It was a concept paper, which then has to be produced, has to be reduced to bill language. I don’t think they’ll ever even reduce that bill, that concept paper to bill language. The one they’re going to do is the one that’s in Reid’s office right now being written in consultation with the White House.

HH: But to gear up America to resist the first cloture vote, to get on the bill, people need to kind of have a sense of when Harry Reid’s going to try and slip it through. And do you have any sense of that?

MM: I think he’ll probably try to go to the bill sometime before the end of the month. That would be my guess.

HH: And how much are you talking with those 10-12 Democrats, who you may or may not want to name, about stopping it right then?

MM: Yeah, well, I’m not going to name them, but you know, they’re looking at the public opinion polls, too, and I’m sure you’ve reported to your listeners how the public is dramatically turning against this bill. And we don’t operate in a vacuum up here. You know, everybody’s interested in public opinion, and public opinion has an enormous impact on what we do. And there’s a whole lot more queasiness on the Democratic side on this debate than there is on the Republican side. I can tell you that.

My strong belief is that the GOP must work hard to stop the first cloture bill, and define it in the minds of the public as the first and most important make-or-break vote in the Senate, and to send the message that anyone who votes for it in the hope of “moving the process along” is really voting for the massive cuts to Medicare, the huge premium hikes and the wide array of taxes that the Baucus bill includes. The idea that any senator can vote for the first cloture motion with the hope of significantly improving the bill is not credible as leverage to exact serious changes to the bill exists before the first cloture vote.

Senators Reid, Bacus and Dodd met with Rahm Emanuel at the White House yesterday, but what really matters right now is what Senators Joe Lieberman, Ben Nelson, Blanche Lincoln and Evan Bayh want in the health care bill, or if they want a health care bill at all. These four Democrats, plus a handful of others, control the entire board, and they are already responsible for any bill that emerges because they have the power to stop it. Bayh and Lincoln especially –they are both up for re-election in 2010– are keys to the next ten weeks. Please call and e-mail them and the others listed below and urge a no vote on cloture unless and until the bill is fundamentally altered to remedy its many devastating impacts to America medicine.


Sen. Blanche Lincoln

DC Phone: (202) 224-4843

Local Phone: Dumas (870) 382-1023, Fayetteville (479) 251-1224, Little Rock (501) 375-2993, Jonesboro (870) 910-6896, Texarkana (870) 774-3106

Link to E-mail

Sen. Mark Pryor

DC Phone: (202) 224-2353

Local Phone: Little Rock (501) 324-6336

Link to E-mail


Sen. Michael Bennet

DC Phone: 202) 224-5444

Local Phone:
Denver Metro Office: (303) 455-7600 Toll Free: (866) 455-9866 Fax: (303) 455-8851
Colorado Springs Office: Phone: (719) 328-1100

Link to E-mail.


Sen. Joe Lieberman

DC Phone: (202) 224-4041

Local Phone: (860) 549-8463

Link to E-mail


Sen. Bill Nelson

DC Phone: (202) 224-5274

Local Phone: Orlando (407) 872-7161, Miami-Dade (305) 536-5999, Tampa (813) 225-7040, West Palm Beach (561) 514-0189, Tallahassee (850) 942-8415, Jacksonville (904) 346-4500, Broward (954) 693-4851, Fort Meyers (239) 334-7760

Link to E-mail


Sen. Evan Bayh

DC Phone: (202) 224-5623

Local Phone: Evansville (812) 465-6500, Fort Wayne (260) 426-3151, Hammond (219) 852-2763, Indianapolis (317) 554-0750, Jeffersonville (812) 218-2317, Southbend (574) 236-8302

Link to E-mail


Sen. Mary Landrieu

DC Phone: (202) 224-5824

Local Phone: Baton Rouge (225) 389-0395, Lake Charles (337) 436-6650, New Orleans (504) 589-2427, Shreveport (318) 676-3085

Link to E-mail


Sen. Jon Tester

DC Phone: (202) 224-2644

Local Phone: Billings (406) 252-0550, Bozeman (406) 586-4450, Butte (406) 723-3277, Glendive (406) 365-2391, Great Falls (406) 452-9585, Helena (406) 449-5401, Kalispell (406) 257-3360, Missoula (406) 728-3003

Link to E-mail


Sen. Ben Nelson

DC Phone: (202) 224-6551

Local Phone: Omaha (402) 391-3411, Lincoln (402) 441-4600, Scottsbluff (308) 631-7614, Kearney (308) 293-5818, South Sioux City (402) 209-3595

Link to E-mail

North Dakota

Sen. Kent Conrad

DC Phone: (202) 224-2043

Local Phone: Bismarck (701) 258-4648, Fargo (701) 232-8030, Grand Forks (701) 775-9601, Minot (701) 852-0703

Link to E-mail

Sen. Byron Dorgan

DC Phone: (202) 224-2551

Local Phone: Bismarck (701) 250-4618, Fargo (701) 239-5389, Minot (701) 852-0703, Grand Forks (701) 746-8972

Link to E-mail

South Dakota

Sen. Tim Johnson

DC Phone: (202) 224-5842

Local Phone: Aberdeen (605) 226-3440, Sioux Falls (605) 332-8896, Rapid City (605) 341-3990

Link to E-mail


Sen. James Webb

(202) 224-4024

Link to E-mail.

West Virginia

Sen. Robert C. Byrd

DC Phone: (202) 224-3954

Local Phone: Charlestown (304) 342-5855, Eastern Panhandle (304) 264-4626

Link to E-mail


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