A story in the Hill this morning lets us know that Obama is very much aware of Pete DeFazio's votes against his legislation:
Obama himself has taken notice. "Don't think we're not keeping score, brother," Obama told DeFazio during a closed-door meeting of the House Democratic Caucus, according to members afterward.
That's pretty powerful. The President of the United States calling you out for disloyalty in front of your peers.
Of course, DeFazio is the one floating this story, entiitled "Pelosi, Rahm do not scare Rep. DeFazio." DeFazio is in a potentially tough (D+2) district in 2010, given the current lack of Democratic enthusiasm for showing up at the polls (which Rahm Emanuel thinks will be fixed by a "win" on health care).
There are three things interesting about the story. One, Obama himself is once again arm-twisting someone NOT named Lieberman, Nelson, Landrieu or Lincoln. Two, DeFazio is already running against his own party in a tough district. And three, he's not "running to the right" but rather using a populist message to do it:
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His populism has played well back home. DeFazio won his 2008 election with 82 percent of the vote, even though his district isn't overwhelmingly Democratic. Obama won it by 11 percentage points, but President George W. Bush won nearly as many votes as Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) in 2004.
Eric Massa made a very shrewd move on the first health care vote, when he pleased both liberal and conservative voters in an R+2 district by voting "nay" because he said the health care bill wasn't strong enough.
I wonder how many others will start to see that a party "w" for a bill that mandates paying 8% of your income to private corporations and using the IRS as a collection agency is political suicide for them, and come to the same conclusion as Massa before we're through.
DeFazio told Mike Stark he would vote against any bill that does not have a strong public plan in July, and signed a letter saying would do so. So we'll probably soon see whether DeFazio's actions match up with the populist rhetoric.