Obamas Open Mic Night

Terrance Heath

Of the two top items in my newsreader, I’m not sure which I like best. First, there’s President Obama’s open-mic incident after his big speech. Apparently, Obama had what he thought was a private conversation with campaign donors, but it turned out the microphone was on for part of his remarks.

Mark Knoller of CBS News listened to and recorded the president’s remarks, and the result is a surprising picture of Obama as a tough negotiator.

Jed Lewison at DailyKos posted this selection from Obama’s comments.

  • What he told GOP hostage-takers during budget battle: "I said to them, let me tell you something: ‘I spent a year and a half getting health care passed. I had to take that issue across  the country and I paid significant political costs to get it done. The notion that I’m going to let you guys undo that in a 6 month spending bill?’ I said, ‘You want to repeal health care? Go at it. We’ll have that debate. You’re not going to be able to do that by nickel-and-diming me in the budget. You think we’re stupid?’"
  • On putting GOP on defense over Planned Parenthood defunding: "As soon as we started advertising that a spending bill might end up being a women’s health bill, and the scrutiny started pouring in, you noticed they backed off pretty quick.
  • He expects GOP to continue trying to take hostages: "We’re going to see this again. We’re going to see this on the debt limit vote. This is going to be the strategy going forward. Trying to do things they can do legislatively under the guise of cutting spending."
  • What he told the GOP on Planned Parenthood defunding: "You guys want to have this debate? We’re happy to have that debate. We will have the debate on the floor of the Senate or the floor of the House. Put it in a separate bill. We’ll call it up. And if you think you can overturn my veto, try it. But don’t try to sneak this through."
  • On the decline of social wedge issues: "I think there’s a generational change taking place in part where people say, ‘You know what, we may have disagreement about his, but this is not what we’re worried about. We’re not worried about the gay family next door. We’re not worried about what women are doing in terms of maintaining their health. We’re trying to figure out how to move America forward.’"
  • He hasn’t forgotten Paul Ryan’s fiscally irresponsible track record: "When Paul Ryan says his priority is to make sure, he’s just being America’s accountant and trying to you know be responsible, this is the same guy that voted for two wars that were unpaid for, voted for the Bush tax cuts that were unpaid for, voted for the prescription drug bill that cost as much as my health care bill — but wasn’t paid for. So it’s not on the level."

Lewison, says if this was a classic open mic incident, it was a convenient one for the president, probably because it could help counter suspicions that he’s a weak negotiator. Granted, this is a recording of Obama telling donors what he said to Republicans, rather than a recording of the actual negotiation sessions. So, how sure are we that things when down like Obama said?

Maybe Fox News or some of the Republicans who were in the room will come forward and say otherwise. Somehow I doubt it.

Leave it to Obama to have a open mic incident and actually come out of it looking a bit better. Frankly, I’d like to see and hear more from that Obama publicly.

Democrats As Parliamentary Pranksters

In my college days, I was part of a literary and debate society that ran according to Robert’s Rules of Order. Serving as a justice and even president of the society during that time, I learned my way around parliamentary procedure.

I also learned that someone who knows their way around parliamentary procedure can wreak all kinds of havoc in a meeting, and have fun doing it. Goodness knows, I did.

And it sounds like Democrats played parliamentary pranksters and nearly punk’d Republicans into voting for their own party’s budget.

House Democrats showed Friday that they, too, have it in them to pull the kinds of parliamentary tricks on the House floor that Republicans mastered when they were the minority.

During a series of votes on alternative budget proposals, Democrats made a play to sucker GOP lawmakers into passing a proposal from the conservative Republican Study Committee that calls for dramatic cuts that even some GOP Members would find too drastic.

At one point during the vote, a majority of Republicans were on record in favor of the RSC budget. Democrats then began casting votes as “present,” rather than “no,” as they would be expected to do. Without the Democratic "no" votes, the amendment would be adopted and would supersede Budget ranking member Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) ballyhooed budget.

After time for the vote expired, Republicans held it open so that enough of them could switch their votes to prevent the RSC budget from passing.

In the end, only 119 of the 176 RSC Members voted for their own budget proposal, authored by Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.). Because so many Democrats voted "present," meanwhile, the final tally was 136-119 against – a bizarre total in a chamber with 435 members. Had nine Republicans not switched sides, the measure would’ve passed. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) switched her vote from "aye" to "no" at the last minute, as did Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.), the chairman of the House Rules Committee.

A total of 172 Democrats ended up voting "present" instead of "no."

Steny Hoyer, Minority Whip, tweeted on the kerfluffle.

Watch the fun.

Now, why would House Republicans not want their own party’s budget to pass?

This is getting reported, and is likely to spread. So I don’t think the GOP dodged a bullet here. Some of them are going to have to explain why they voted against the kind of cuts the Tea Party was clamoring for.

They did pass the Ryan Budget, even though Boehner and the rest of the GOP were kinda lukewarm in supporting it.

Oh well. It’s nice to know Democrats have some fight left in them.

UPDATE:

Wait, there’s more. Also via DailyKos, this time from Joan McCarter, comes fun clip of Rep. Keith Ellison stumping GOP Rep. Todd Rokita (IN) on the details of the Ryan budget proposal, which Republicans did pass.

He he got in a plug for the Congressional Progressive Caucus’s budget, too. And all in just over a minute.

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