Conservatives: Don't Embrace Massa

| Tue Mar. 9, 2010 10:59 AM PST

Former Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y) is going on Glenn Beck's Fox News show tonight, presumably to peddle his latest explanation for his abrupt departure from Congress—that he's the victim of a vast left-wing conspiracy to pass health care reform. Originally, you'll remember, Massa claimed he was retiring due to health problems. But when reports surfaced last week that he had been accused of sexually harrassing a male staffer, Massa said the ethics issue "is my fault and mine alone." On Sunday, the story changed again, as Massa accused prominent Democrats of orchestrating a vendetta against him because of his health care stance.

John McCormack, an editor at the conservative Weekly Standard, isn't buying it. His sources on Capitol Hill say that Massa's ethics issues are real. So McCormack's warning other conservatives to refrain from embracing Massa, a former Republican who switched parties because of his opposition to the Iraq War. In a post on the Standard's blog, McCormack summarizes other conservatives' worries about Massa:

It was already self-evident that Eric Massa's story didn't add up. As Jonah Goldberg notes, it doesn't pass the smell test: If Massa admits he "tousled" the hair of a male staffer and told the staffer he ought to be "fracking" him, the whole story is probably much, much worse. And as Michelle Malkin says, "Don’t trust Democrat Rep. Eric Massa any further than you can throw him."

McCormack goes on to cite a post by the Atlantic's Chris Good pointing out that Massa's departure didn't actually help the Dems' health care head-count very much. I explained the math last week:

The vote in the House stood 216-215 against the bill.

Then came the news that Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.) plans to resign in the wake of allegations that he sexually harrassed a staffer. Despite his avowed liberalism, however, Massa voted against the health care bill the first time around. That makes the vote count 215-215. So while the Massa sex scandal is terrible news for the Democrats narrative-wise, it's actually good news for the health care vote count. It takes away a no vote.

But even Massa's resignation won't be enough to pass the bill. Pelosi will still have to find at least one Democrat who voted against the bill the first time around to switch his or her vote. She'll also have to prevent any Democrats from switching their "yes" votes to "nos"—or find no-to-yeses to offset them.

The broader point here should be obvious. While every vote is incredibly important right now, there are a lot of votes in play. The math changes all the time. It would be crazy for the Dem leadership to concoct an elaborate scheme to boot Massa out of Congress just to get rid of one "no" vote. I'll give McCormack the last word:

Massa has changed his story—at first he said he was retiring because of health reasons, and then he resigned because he said Rahm Emanuel was out to get him. If the ethics charges are trumped up, why didn't Massa stay in the House another month to vote against health care?

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