Cracking the Whip

| Thu Oct. 15, 2009 1:30 PM EDT

Is it really true that the Democratic leadership acts like a high school social club while the Republican leadership acts more like the mafia?  Step out of line in GOP-land and they'll make you pay dearly: money, committee assignments, and more will be savagely withdrawn if you vote the wrong way.

Maybe.  But Politico reports that Republicans might not be quite the tough guys they were a decade ago:

Mitch McConnell and his deputies in the Senate Republican leadership are responding very cautiously to Olympia Snowe’s decision to become the first GOP vote for a Democratic health care reform bill.

....Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) [...] said a heavy-handed approach “doesn’t work.” And indeed, it could backfire — not just with Snowe but with other Republicans who’ve indicated that they could cross over to help Democrats pass some of President Barack Obama’s top domestic policy initiatives.

....Republican leaders know that if they crack down hard on Snowe, they risk pushing her and other wavering Republicans into the arms of the Democrats. So, instead, they’ll lobby their own intensely in order to keep the GOP united and force the Democrats to find 60 votes by themselves.

Well, it's tougher to maintain discipline as a minority party than it is when you're in the majority.  And John Boehner is no Tom DeLay.  In any case, maybe they've given up: healthcare reform now seems to have devolved into a furious battle over last-minute goodies, which is probably good news.  That's what usually happens when a bill actually looks likely to pass and everyone wants to make sure they aren't left off the gravy train.  They wouldn't be bothering if they thought the whole thing was never going to see the light of day.

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