The PJ Tatler

So, Just How Does President Obama Define a 'Strong Majority'?

Here’s an amusing exchange from Wednesday’s very amusing White House press briefing. Jay Carney does his best to make a silk purse out of the president’s sow’s ear remarks on Monday.

MR. CARNEY:  And I’m telling you, and he told you, and others like me have said actually on the day of as well as after that what he meant, and what he made clear yesterday —

Q    Okay, so what did —

MR. CARNEY:  And he was a law professor.

Q    Right.

MR. CARNEY:  And he understands constitutional law and constitutional precedent and the role of the Supreme Court —

Q    Okay.

MR. CARNEY:  — was a reference to the Supreme Court’s history in its rulings on matters under the Commerce Clause.

Q    On what Norah quoted about the President saying Monday, a strong majority of the democratically elected Congress — as you know, the House passed the health care bill 219 to 212.

MR. CARNEY:  There you go.

Q    And the Senate — it’s a fact.  I know, here we go — here we go with a fact.  Imagine that.  (Laughter.)  It was not  — it was not a strong majority.  I mean, the Republicans just pushed through the Ryan budget with Republican votes.  You guys would not call that a strong majority, would you?

MR. CARNEY:  No.  But here’s the environment that we live in, Ed.  In order for a budget agreement to become law, right — the Republicans don’t control both the executive branch and the legislative branch, and the Democrats don’t control both.  In order for the absolute necessity of dealing with our deficit and debt challenges, we need a bipartisan compromise.  The only path, as evident to anyone who thinks about this matter, the only path to that is a balanced approach.  There is — Republicans in the House know that.  Democrats in the Senate know that.  The President knows that.  That’s why he has embraced a balanced approach.

Carney’s job isn’t easy, but he deserves no sympathy or deference. He isn’t very good. Neither affable nor likeable, Carney comes off as bluffing while holding a weak hand most of the time. His handling of the press is as arrogant and condescending as any we’ve seen from a White House press secretary, using phrases like “anyone who thinks about this matter” to kick reporters in the crotch for asking reasonable questions he doesn’t want to answer.

But just what is a “strong majority” in the president’s mind? ObamaCare passed the House by seven votes, and narrowly dodged a filibuster in the Senate. Sen. Scott Brown won Ted Kennedy’s old seat, in fact, by running as the vote for a filibuster of that bill. It ended up passing 60-39 with one abstention. At the time of that vote, the Democrats fought to keep Brown out of the Senate so that he could not join a filibuster. The pre-existing condition of a Democrat supermajority, which had not been won on ObamaCare but on opposition to the Iraq war, enabled passage of the bill.

By way of contrast, the Ryan budget passed the House this week, 235-193. The president’s budgets have been voted down 97-0 and 414-0. But those apparently do not constitute “strong” majorities.