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Harry Reid

Saturday video break: We’re at an impasse here

Am I the only one who sees this as a metaphor for the debt ceiling hostage crisis situation?

I can totally see John Boehner, or more accurately Eric Cantor, singing that to Harry Reid. Can’t you?

DREAM drama

In theory, there will be a vote in the Senate on the DREAM Act during the lame duck session. I don’t have a whole lot of faith that the usual Republican intransigence can be overcome, but it’s well worth the effort and great to see the White House and Harry Reid work to keep their promises on this. In case you hadn’t heard, there’s been some drama here in Texas over this, as a number of students and other activists got themselves arrested outside Kay Bailey Hutchison’s office while waiting for a chance to speak to her about it. They’ve since been released, and it’s unclear why they were arrested in the first place. You know how that can go. Anyway, NewsTaco and Dos Centavos have been following this, so check in with them to keep up with what’s going on. And even though she’s pledged to vote against the DREAM Act in a pathetic and ultimately futile attempt to keep from being teabagged out of her seat in 2012, give a call to Sen. Hutchison’s office at 866-996-5161 to tell her that you support the DREAM Act and she should, too.

Opening thoughts on the carnage

In no particular order…

– Republicans gain 22 seats in the State House, for a 99-51 advantage. That’s with Pete Gallego, Hubert Vo, and Donna Howard, all of whom had been trailing early, coming back to win. Howard’s margin of victory is a microscopic 15 votes, so she’ll have to survive a recount. No Republican seats flipped.

– Among many other things, I strongly suspect that’s a death blow for expanded gambling this session. Which is ironic, since polls pretty consistently showed that people prefer expanded gambling to nearly any other choice for bridging the budget gap. With this partisan margin in the House, you’ll need a majority of GOP legislators to favor a joint resolution for expanded gambling, and I don’t see that happening; if there had been as much as one third of the GOP caucus in favor of it in 2009, it would have passed then. Sam Houston Race Park may have a new, deep-pocketed investor with a record of getting other states to allow slot machines at racetracks, but I don’t think that will do them any good here.

– The good news, I suppose, from a Democratic perspective is that even with another Republican-drawn legislative map for 2012, there will be no shortage of takeover targets and quite a few Republicans who likely can’t win outside of such an extremely favorable environment. The bad news, part of it anyway, is that the ceiling is now much lower due to the wipeout in rural districts. If Democrats net 10 seats in 2012, they’re still short of where they were in 2002.

– Speaking of redistricting, the Republicans are now in the position of having to draw at least one of their members out of a seat next year, as West Texas will lose a district. The West Texas delegation comprises one former Speaker (Craddick), one potential future Speaker (Chisum), and a bunch of freshmen, all of whom are Republicans, so options like “target the Democrat” and “convince one of the old coots to retire” aren’t on the table. They may face a similar dilemma in East Texas, it’s too early to say.

– Dems may have targets a-plenty in two years, but where will the money for those races come from? The Mostyns spent a gazillion dollars and have less than nothing to show for it. Annie’s List saw nearly its entire slate erased. Losing a bunch of incumbents means losing a lot of fundraising capability.

– I don’t mean to be indelicate, but party chairs usually don’t survive results like these. I hope whoever succeeds Boyd Ritchie has a strategy in mind.

– Despite losing four State House members, Dallas County remained blue.

– In Harris County, Democrats did in fact do better on Election Day than in early voting, by about six points. Outside of Bill White, who ultimately did carry the county, and Loren Jackson, that wasn’t enough for a majority of the Election Day votes, let alone a winning total.

– Final turnout in Harris was over 779,000, which will likely stand as the high-water mark for several cycles. I think it’s safe to say Republicans got a significant number of people who don’t normally vote outside of Presidential years to come out this time. Two thirds of all votes cast in Harris were straight ticket votes, with Republicans reversing a two-cycle trend and taking a 50,000 vote advantage there. Democratic turnout overall wasn’t terrible – vote totals in the 310,000 to 340,000 range would have meant big wins in 2006, and would have won most races in 2002. Not this year.

– Among other things, Sheriff Adrian Garcia’s job just got a lot harder now that he’s lost his strongest ally on Commissioners Court. I don’t see a whole lot more progress being made on reducing jail overcrowding at this point.

– Despite trailing in early voting, Prop 1 (Renew Houston) squeaked through, for one of the very few good results of the day. Prop 3, to keep red light cameras, lost in a fairly close vote. If you had told me on Monday that only one of these two would pass, I’d have bet a lot of money on it being the other way around. Prop 2, which would have allowed for a six-month residency requirement for Council in the 2011 election only, lost big. That will make City Council redistricting more challenging.

– Red light cameras also lost in Baytown.

– Judith Cruz and Juliet Stipeche will face each other in a runoff for the open HISD Trustee seat. The lone Republican in that race, Dorothy Olmos, finished fourth. All things considered, you have to wonder if that represents a missed opportunity for the local GOP.

– The city of Dallas got wet. Good for them.

– The city of Austin had its own somewhat controversial ballot proposition to fund infrastructure improvements. It wound up passing easily.

– Harry Reid won re-election. In some ways, that may be the weirdest result of all. By all rights, Republicans should have taken the Senate, but Democrats held on there and in West Virginia and apparently Colorado, while being gifted Delaware after basically writing it off when Mike Castle jumped in.

– Finally, in regard to polling, Rasmussen Reports had a bad cycle, which included producing the single worst result, by a large margin. Polling in Texas understated Rick Perry’s margin by a bit, and overstated, in some cases by a lot, the performance of third-party candidates.

I’m sure I’ll have more later.

Can we call this a bipartisan agreement?

From last week.

As Democrats in Congress push harder for a government-run health insurance plan that would compete with private insurers in some reform bills, Sen. John Cornyn said it remains a “deal-breaker” with Republicans.

From this week, via Kos.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Tuesday ordered Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) to drop a proposal to tax health benefits and stop chasing Republican votes on a massive health care reform bill.

Reid, whose leadership is considered crucial if President Barack Obama is to deliver on his promise of enacting health care reform this year, offered the directive to Baucus through an intermediary after consulting with Senate Democratic leaders during Tuesday morning’s regularly scheduled leadership meeting. Baucus was meeting with Finance ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) Tuesday afternoon to relay the information.

According to Democratic sources, Reid told Baucus that taxing health benefits and failing to include a strong government-run insurance option of some sort in his bill would cost 10 to 15 Democratic votes; Reid told Baucus it wasn’t worth securing the support of Grassley and at best a few additional Republicans.

OK then. The Democrats can pass a better bill, and the Republicans can sit on the sidelines instead of “negotiating” a “compromise” that they’d all then vote against anyway. Works for me. Ezra notes the political calculus of it:

The story doesn’t say this, but the likely concessions would also have another effect: They would make the bill less appealing to the public. Taxing employer health benefits, which I support, is a wildly unpopular idea. So too is eliminating the public insurance option, which commands large majorities in polling (much larger majorities, actually, than health-care reform as a whole). A bipartisan bill, in other words, will probably attract three to four Republicans, and in return, sacrifice a half-dozen Democrats, demoralize the liberal base and create a plan that’s harder to sell to the public. It’s hard to imagine the cost-benefit calculus that could bring those sides of the ledger into balance.

He also thinks that this story was put out by a Democratic Senate staffer who opposes the idea of telling Baucus to ignore the Republicans, probably from one of the usual suspects. I have a feeling that it won’t play out the way that person hoped it would. I sure hope so, anyway.