No appetite for procedural hurdles

NO APPETITE FOR PROCEDURAL HURDLES…. It’s not especially realistic to think voters will appreciate the nuances of congressional procedures. Words like “filibuster,” “cloture,” and “motion to proceed” are not well understood.

That said, when one breaks down the concepts for the public, voters’ instincts tend to be pretty sound.

New polling in Nebraska, Louisiana and Arkansas commissioned by Health Care for America Now (HCAN), a liberal interest group pushing President Obama’s plan, and obtained by [Chris Cillizza] shows huge majorities of voters in all three states favor the bill being debated on the floor.

Eighty-eight percent of likely 2010 Nebraska voters, 84 percent of likely Arkansas voters and 82 percent of likely voters in Louisiana told Democratic pollster John Anzalone that regardless of whether they supported the health care legislation, they believed it should get a full floor debate. (Those numbers include more than two-third support among Republican and independent voters.)

This is encouraging, and not particularly surprising. The poll described the motion to proceed, for example, and asked respondents, “In the Senate, before a bill can be voted on, there must be a vote to allow it to be debated. Regardless of whether you support or oppose the health insurance reform plan itself, do you believe that it should be debated on the floor of the Senate?”

Support was overwhelming in all three conservative “red” states — 88% of Nebraskans, 82% of Louisianans, and 84% of Arkansans all agreed that health care reform should be debated. (It makes one wonder how voters in, say, Maine might feel if they knew that both of their “moderate” Republican senators are opposed to even letting the bill comes to the floor for a debate.)

The poll then asked about cloture: “Once a bill has been debated in the Senate, senators must then vote on whether to allow the bill itself to be voted on. Regardless of whether you support or oppose the health insurance reform plan, do you believe that senators should allow it to be voted on?”

The numbers weren’t quite as strong, but again, support was largely one-sided — 80% of Nebraskans, 77% of Louisianans, and 77% of Arkansans agreed that senators should let health care reform come up for a vote.

I suspect that for most typical Americans, this is a no-brainer. Should the Senate be allowed to debate health care reform on the floor? Should senators be allowed to vote yea or nay on the health bill? Of course they should.

There’s been a behind-the-scenes debate in recent months about whether to separate policy votes from procedural votes. But a report like this one suggests the public already makes the distinction just fine.

It also suggests senators panicky about their standing back home should take comfort — support cloture, let the bill come up for a vote, and then come down on whatever side you want. Their constituents already expect health care reform to come up for a vote, so there’s no reason to side with Republicans in blocking one.