Blanche Lincoln’s odd strategery

BLANCHE LINCOLN’S ODD STRATEGERY…. When the Senate passed its health care bill in December, it did so with a 60-vote supermajority. With a reconciliation package headed back to the Senate, and the Democratic caucus down to 59 members, there was never any expectation that the budget fix would receive the same vote totals as before. Indeed, it’s not necessary — the reconciliation bill passes with a simple majority.

Instead, we can watch center-right Democrats figure out a way to oppose health care reform they’ve already supported. For example, Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D) of Arkansas announced today she will oppose the reconciliation fix.

She has been threatening for weeks to oppose the measure, saying she did not favor using reconciliation to pass it. But she has also said she wanted to take a look at the bill.

“Now that the Senate bill has passed both houses and the President will be signing it into law, the Senate will consider additional changes this week that were adopted by the House tonight as Budget Reconciliation,” Lincoln said in a statement released Sunday. “The Reconciliation package devised by the House includes matters unrelated to health care and employs a legislative process that wasn’t subject to the same transparency and thorough debate that we used in the Senate. I cannot support this process.”

I have a vague sense of Lincoln’s motivations. She is, after all, running an up-hill re-election fight in a state that will greatly benefit from health care reform, but which is dominated by voters who hate the legislation anyway. Perhaps Lincoln thinks she’ll get bonus points for opposing the final package from conservative voters who already plan to vote against her, and hope Democratic primary voters cut her some slack.

But the senator’s strategy here really is foolish. Indeed, it’s arguably even dumber than Republicans’.

For the GOP, they’re stuck trying to protect special deals — “Cornhusker Kickback,” et al — that they and everyone else find offensive. And that’s odd enough, though Republicans are at least consistent in saying “no” to literally every question, whether it makes sense or not.

But Lincoln is positioning herself for the worst of both worlds. She voted for the reform bill with the controversial provisions — drawing the ire of conservatives who think they don’t like the bill — and now she’ll vote against an effort to get rid of the controversial provisions, hiding behind a silly procedural explanation. This, she believes, will make her more popular.

It’s hard to get worked up over this — Lincoln’s opposition is inconsequential unless she has 10 Democratic friends — but her thinking is nevertheless incomprehensible to me.