How Did Bay Area House Members Vote on Debt Bill?; Obama’s Relationship With Liberals

Radio segment, message board: Obama, the debt ceiling, and the left – will liberal dissatisfaction over the compromise pose a political problem for the president?

Here’s the final roll call from yesterday’s House vote on raising the debt ceiling while mandating about $2 trillion in spending cuts over the next 10 years, legislation that many liberals consider a capitulation to Republican priorities.

From our neck of the woods:

Yes votes

Nancy Pelosi Anna Eshoo (statement) John Garamendi (statement) Jackie Speier (statement) Mike Thompson (statement)

No votes

Sam Farr (statement) Mike Honda (earlier statement) Barbara Lee (statement) Zoe Lofgren (earlier statement) Doris Matsui (statement) Jerry McNerney (statement) George Miller (statement) Pete Stark (statement) Lynn Woolsey (statement)

Carolyn Lochhead in the Chronicle’s Politics Blog reported yesterday on Pelosi’s role in lining up both Democratic votes and Republican concessions in the final deal.

Top White House economic adviser Gene Sperling said Pelosi won significant concessions, including protecting Medicare providers from a possible four percent cut should a super committee fail to agree on $1.5 trillion in further cuts to entitlements and tax increases by Nov. 23, just in time for Thanksgiving. At that point, programs would be cut across the board. Pelosi also won a 50/50 split on cuts to defense and domestic programs in the event that across-the-board cuts are triggered.

Pelosi also insisted that there be no cuts to the beneficiaries of any entitlement programs. All the cuts would occur to hospitals and doctors…

Liberals are outraged over the deal, but have reasons to support it. One key is Pelosi’s win of a 50/50 defense to domestic spending-cut ratio if the super committee deadlock. Republicans would face the choice of preserving corporate tax subsidies for such things as ethanol or submitting to automatic spending cuts that slash defense equally with domestic programs.

Respected polling and political analyst Nate Silver of the Times’ FiveThirtyEight blog had a similar take yesterday on the deal component that calls for defense cuts:

(B)y any reasonable standard, this deal was a “win” for Republicans on the policy merits.

But given that Democrats were willing to accede to the constraints demanded by Republicans, they were able to exert a lot of control over the substance of the cuts. In particular, the first round of cuts will include $350 billion in defense savings, while the second round would include between $500 and $600 billion in defense cuts if no bipartisan agreement is reached…

If you’re a Democrat and you must accede to $1.5 trillion in cuts — and that’s literally the situation that Democrats will find themselves in if the deal passes through Congress — it’s going to be hard to do better than this $1.5 trillion in cuts. They are very heavily loaded with defense cuts, while containing few changes to entitlement programs or to programs which benefit the poor.

Today, however, Silver writes that when taking into account who voted for and against the bill yesterday, the terms of the deal could have shifted “tangibly toward the left” while still managing to get it passed.

Specifically, it seems likely that Mr. Obama could have gotten an extension of the payroll tax cut included in the bill, or unemployment benefits, either of which would have had a stimulative effect…

With that payroll tax cut, the deal becomes a much easier sell to Democrats — and perhaps also to swing voters, particularly given that nobody spent much time during this debate talking about jobs. Plus, it would have improved growth in 2012 and, depending on how literally you take the economic models, improved Mr. Obama’s re-election chances.

Another take: Liberal blogger and commentator Glenn Greenwald in Salon argues that the narrative of Obama as a weak negotiator is misplaced, and that he actually desired the cuts that were in the bill:

It appears to be true that the President wanted tax revenues to be part of this deal. But it is absolutely false that he did not want these brutal budget cuts and was simply forced — either by his own strategic “blunders” or the “weakness” of his office — into accepting them. The evidence is overwhelming that Obama has long wanted exactly what he got: these severe domestic budget cuts and even ones well beyond these, including Social Security and Medicare, which he is likely to get with the Super-Committee created by this bill…

You can weigh in on what you think about the bill and about Obama’s relationship with the left on today’s Forum message board.

  • Rocky Balboa

    One to add: Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, voted no.

  • Jon Brooks

    Thanks Rocky.

Author

Jon Brooks

Jon Brooks writes mostly on film for KQED Arts. He is also an online editor and writer for KQED's daily news blog, News Fix. Jon is a playwright whose work has been produced in San Francisco, New York, Italy, and around the U.S.

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