This post appeared yesterday on RealMoney ; it has been updated. Click here for a free trial, and enjoy incisive commentary all day, every day.
Those supporting the Paulson plan (in its most recent incarnation) have adopted a new strategy. They elected to do three things: 1. Vote first in the Senate. This is a major change, since the Constitution requires that revenue bills begin in the House. Those favoring passage dodged this by attaching the Paulson program to legislation already acted on by the House. 2. Include other measures. The bills attached to this program include Alternative Minimum Tax relief for middle-class taxpayers, a popular program. There are also other specific measures providing benefits to certain groups. 3. Increase the FDIC limits. These are not major, substantive changes. They are included mainly to provide "cover" for legislators who might consider changing their minds.
The First Vote: What Went Wrong
I covered the vote in real time on RealMoney. Readers probably noted that, unlike TV experts, I never assumed that the bill would pass. The TV pundits followed a rule, usually reliable, that the leadership does not bring a measure to a vote until they have the votes. This time was a special challenge. Dare I say it was "different"? We were at the expected end of the legislative session, with everyone heading home for elections. There was no good way to delay the vote. In addition, the traditional whip structure was not really working. A whip is effective when able to get an accurate count, enforce party discipline and offer other inducements. These conditions were not in place. None of them. At the conclusion of the roll call, a shift of 10 votes would have been required for the bill to pass. I believed and stated that five GOP votes would have been matched by the Democrats. Later insider reports supported my guess. They just did not have the votes.