FOX News' Chad Pergram offer's his owner’s manual to the House floor vote Friday on the $700 billion financial bailout bill, an adventure he calls, "Episode IV: A New Hope."
It is a period of civil war.
Rebel Blue Dogs, striking from a fiscal base, have…
Well, it's not quite "Star Wars." But struggle over the financial crisis legislation is just as dramatic. And as episodic in nature.
But here’s what you need to know about how things will unfold in the House on Friday as we try this yet again.
Where are the votes?
No one really knows. Frankly, they are like phantasms at this point. "Blue Dog" Democrats are incensed over the new bill. We don’t know if they will bow to leadership. Also, it appears that House Minority Whip Roy Blunt, R-Mo., has again failed to convince hardly any of the die-hard conservatives in the House to vote for the bill. And House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., implies that his side has lost some votes.
As I reported multiple times Monday, my sources told me that the Republicans in the House never thought they had much more than 60 votes. They ultimately got 65. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., affirmed to me tonight that Blunt told him he thought he could get "into the high 80s" with Republican votes. That would have been enough to pass the bill. It never happened.
Monday’s tally and breakdown
There were 205 yeas and 228 nays. Rep. Jerry Weller, R-Ill., did not vote. Of the yea votes, 140 were Democrats and 65 were GOPers, while 95 Democrats and 133 Republicans voted nay.
The magic number is 218 if every member of the House votes. Remember, there are only 434 Members in the House now because of the death of Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, D-Ohio. And if it’s 217-217, remember that by rule, tie votes lose in the House. There is NO tie-breaker, unlike in the Senate.
The House is scheduled to meet at 9 am ET Friday. It will move quickly to consider what is known as "the rule." These are the parameters which the House must first establish to bring the actual financial crisis bill to the floor. Nearly every piece of legislation in the House gets a rule. Usually we don’t worry about the rule. But this time, it might get dicey.
Moderate Blue Dogs (the coalition of fiscal-minded Democrats) are all up in arms about what the Senate did to the bill Wednesday, adding in tax cuts that aren’t paid for and other goodies.
The House will begin debate on the rule. That could take an hour. And then the House could vote. But Blue Dogs have signaled they might vote against the rule. If the Blue Dogs blow up the rule on the floor, the ACTUAL bill can’t get to the floor. You have to establish a rule FIRST before considering the actual bill.
The House will debate the rule for an hour, and then take a vote on whether to adopt it. If they defeat the rule, we’re done. The bill is done. And frankly, the market could crater.
If they adopt the rule, a vote can proceed. This puts us in the 10:30 a.m. ET range.
Potential problem with votes and the market
But we could have a problem here.
Both House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., are on the record multiple times Thursday as saying they wouldn’t put a bill on the floor they don’t think they have the votes to pass. So, if they have indications at that point, they could yank the bill off the floor, bringing things to a screeching halt.
The leaders are worried about bringing a bill to the floor and having it go down, thus driving the markets into the tank.
Here’s what you need to know about the rule:
It allows the House to debate the actual bill for an hour and a half. One hour is given to Financial Services. Thirty minutes are given to House Ways and Means. No amendments are in order. It is take it or leave it.
Once the bill gets to the floor…
So then they debate the bill.
Watch for Pelosi
During that debate, look to see if House Speaker Pelosi speaks. On Monday, Republicans tried to pin the defeat on the speaker for giving a speech that was "too partisan," which caused some members to go "berserk" and not vote for the bill.
Pelosi’s aides tell me they expect her to speak.
That puts us at noon ET. And prospectively ready for a final up-or-down vote on the bill.
What to look for during a vote
There could be a major wave of "yea" votes right off the bat. If that’s the case, and victory is well in hand, expect many of those "yeas" to turn to "nays" later on. That does not mean the bill is jeopardy of failing. That is simply the leadership of both parties knowing they have passage in the bag and they are "releasing" lawmakers who were willing to "take one for the team" and vote against their conscience or district. By releasing these votes, these members can vote the way the really want to.
Members who switch their votes
Look for the way individual members of Congress vote: We expect switches from nay to yea from Reps. John Shadegg, R-Ariz., Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., Shelley Berkeley D-Nev. and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla.. But we could also have a lot of the Blue Dogs voting nay: Reps. Allen Boyd, D-Fla., Zach Space, D-Ohio, and Mike Ross, D-Ark.
And then you have members like Rep. David Hobson, R-Ohio, and the top GOPer on the House Financial Services Committee, Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., switching from a yea to a nay. Significant that Hobson would vote no. He’s retiring. But still standing on principle.
Certain Members switching their votes
Also, it will be a good sign that both sides have rounded up some extra votes if certain blocs of lawmakers vote yea. For instance, a number of Democratic committee chairs like Veterans Affairs Committee head Bob Filner, D-Calif., and Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., vote yea. Or if leaders can convince members who represent their regions to vote in favor. For Pelosi that would be Barbara Lee, D-Calif.. For Hoyer that would be freshman Donna Edwards, D-Md. For Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, that would include almost any Ohioan or his acolytes, like Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., Tom Latham, R-Iowa, Thad McCotter, R-Mich., or Devin Nunes, R-Calif.
Phone a Friend
Expect some lawmakers to sit on the sidelines and not vote, waiting to see which way it goes. Or perhaps waiting for a phone call in the cloakroom from the White House. Or even, in these conditions, Barack Obama or John McCain.
Leaving the vote open
Also, the Democratic Leadership has one more option in its hip pocket that it did not have the other day: Leaving the vote open. While House rules dictate that most votes must run for no less than 15 minutes, they usually run about 20 or so. The one Monday ran about 39 minutes.
History of long votes
If the leadership of both parties thinks it can get the votes, they will leave the vote open (the record is 2 hours and 50 minutes, set in November 2003, during an overnight vote on a Saturday morning to create a prescription drug benefit for seniors). The Democrats closed the vote at 39 minutes Monday because it was clear no one was moving and they were getting people on planes for the Jewish holiday.
They won’t be under that pressure again this time.
If it passes
The clerk’s office tells me it is "pre-enrolling" the bill. That means they are putting the legislation on parchment paper and will be ready to deliver it to the White House if the House passes the same version of what the Senate adopted Wednesday. If that’s the case, they can send the bill to the White House within a couple of hours of the House vote for President Bush’s signature.