UPDATED: How Washington Really Works

I’m not a politician, so when an essay or a blog like this comes along, my eyes open up a little bit wider, and I can finally see how the games are played deep in the recesses of our Government’s sanctum sanctorum.


Mark Evanier is an incredible writer in Hollywood, and his blog is one I read every day. (He’s also very smart, and a very nice guy: he feeds the possums and the cats who drop by his back door on a regular basis.) Here’s a link to his latest post, about backstage politics in Washington. Because it’s short enough, I’ll also reprint it here, along with some important links he provided:

Years ago, I saw this wonderful interview with Tip O’Neill, who was then the Speaker of the House. The following is a paraphrase from memory.

O’Neill said that in Congress, the job of each party’s leader was to be able to count; that if you were ever surprised by any vote by more than a margin of more than one in the Senate or three in the House, you were utterly incompetent and should resign. And the importance of being able to count was that there are often (quite often) bills that you want to vote against and still see pass or vice-versa…so you have to make sure you don’t accidentally pass or defeat a bill just because you’re voting in opposition to the way you want to see it go.

He told a story about a Congressman from one state. There was a bill pending that would have been very good for this guy’s state and he thought it should pass…but the hardcore part of his base back home was opposed to it. They were a small minority but he couldn’t afford politically to tick them off. So he kept coming to O’Neill and asking, “Have you got the votes, Tip?” Meaning, “Will it be safe for me to vote against it so I can please the nut jobs?” And he was a happy man when O’Neill informed him there were enough votes to pass the bill even without his.

You get the feeling that’s what we just went through with the Stimulus Bill? Arlen Specter made a statement the other day that an unnamed Republican senator who’d voted against it told him how pleased he was that it had passed. This article says a lot of G.O.P. legislators are delighted with portions of the bill they voted against.

Obviously, it’s possible to be happy about one piece and unhappy with the whole. But it’s also possible that the Republicans didn’t dare obstruct this bill and that they were always going to deliver enough moderate votes to pass the thing. You think maybe?

• Posted Saturday, February 14, 2009 at 11:48 AM
Mark’s latest book, on the life and art of comics legend Jack Kirby, is available at Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

UPDATE: Given what Mark’s blog reveals about how the Republitards are hiding behind numbers — their vote of zero — while secretly happy that their portions of the Stimulus Bill went through, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Drudge slants their headline to do damage to the democrats:
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One thought on “UPDATED: How Washington Really Works

  1. It’s all about the numbers. Even for lobbyist. I use to go to Washington in the 70’s for Common Cause and Greenpeace to lobby. Underground train, suit and tie, waiting, handing out petitions, brief meetings, then down the hall to another office. The response was, “Who are you with and how many are there of them?”

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