I'll give Joe Biden this: he is making me seriously re-examine my pre-election statements that he was a terrible pick for Vice President. Did you know he went to the House Democratic retreat the other day, and warned them that their vote for the Obama-Reid-Pelosi debt bill would be used against them in 2010?
Democratic Members and staff were grumbling about the path that the House-passed stimulus measure had taken in the Senate, where a coalition of moderates from both parties worked to strip politically embarrassing spending items that House Democrats approved, several senior Democratic aides said.
Others were frustrated that Republicans appeared to be winning the messaging war over the package, having hijacked the debate by focusing on those items. That was a sentiment echoed by President Barack Obama on Thursday night in a campaign-style speech that sought to put the party back on offense by taking sharp aim at GOP critiques.
Still, some House Democrats were quietly wondering what took the president so long, since they have spent the past two weeks taking fire over the measure.
“Everyone is really unhappy on the messaging,” one senior Democratic aide said. “Members are apparently getting beaten up badly on the package at home and don't think the president is doing enough to sell it...”
Vice President Joseph Biden, addressing Democrats earlier in the day, offered an assessment more in line with what several who support the package fear: that their votes could become a political liability.
“If it works, as I’m absolutely convinced it will ... when we do, I’m sure you’re gonna be nailed in ads, ‘Well they voted on that’ 30-second ads,” he said.
Well, Barack Obama picked him because he tells hard truths: Obama's youth and inexperience will invite serious challenges from American enemies; Hillary Clinton would have been a better vice presidential pick; and, the Obama-Reid-Pelosi debt spending plan will be a political millstone for the Democrats who support it.
But while Biden may sound like a wet blanket, I have good news for Congressional Democrats. If this vote turns out like Bill Clinton's 1993 budget package (as plummeting poll numbers suggest), there is one thing Democrats can do to protect themselves against defeat in 2010. They can vote against it. When Bill Clinton's unpopular budget package passed in August, 1993, 41 House Democrats voted against it. Of those 41, just 6 were defeated in the 1994 election.
So Congressional Democrats who want to stay in office past next year's elections might want to take a lesson from history: if you vote against this package you have a chance; if you vote for it, you might join Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky in the history books.