Guy Benson

Three stories to start your weekend off right...


(1) Democrats are abandoning the president on Keystone, thanks to Republicans doggedly refusing to let the issue die:
 

President Obama is finding himself increasingly boxed in on the Keystone pipeline fight as more Congressional Democrats are joining Republicans in backing the project, which has strong labor support and could generate significant numbers of jobs in economically hard-hit states. On Wednesday, the House passed a short-term transportation bill that included a provision that would pave the way for the construction of the next stage of the oil pipeline, a measure that Mr. Obama has said he would veto. The bill passed 293 to 127, with 69 Democrats supporting it.

It is the fourth time the House has passed a measure to expedite the project; one failed narrowly in the Senate only after Mr. Obama personally lobbied some Democrats to vote no. With the House vote, Mr. Obama finds himself, for the first time in his presidency, threatening a veto on a significant piece of legislation that enjoys the support of an increasing number of Democrats, as well as the vast majority of Republicans in Congress.


But what about the Senate?
 

Then there is the Senate. Democrats are using the filibuster to stop the pipeline, which means 60 votes are required to pass it. (Some Democrats who bitterly opposed the filibuster when Republicans used it against Obama initiatives are notably silent these days.) In a vote last month, 11 Senate Democrats stood up against Obama to vote in favor of the pipeline. Add those 11 to the Republicans' 47 votes, and the pro-pipeline forces are just a couple of votes away from breaking Harry Reid's filibuster. "We're right around the corner from actually passing it," says a well-informed Senate source. "Two-hundred-ninety-three votes in the House is a gigantic number. People want this thing."


(2) Democratic buyer's remorse on Obamacare isn't limited to Barney Frank these days:
 

An increasing number of Democrats are taking potshots at President Obama’s healthcare law ahead of a Supreme Court decision that could overturn it.  The public grievances have come from centrists and liberals and reflect rising anxiety ahead of November’s elections.  “I think we would all have been better off — President Obama politically, Democrats in Congress politically, and the nation would have been better off — if we had dealt first with the financial system and the other related economic issues and then come back to healthcare,” said Rep. Brad Miller (D-N.C.), who is retiring at the end of this Congress. 

Miller, who voted for the law, said the administration wasted time and political capital on healthcare reform, resulting in lingering economic problems that will continue to plague Obama’s reelection chances in 2012. Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-Calif.) also criticized his party’s handling of the issue, and said he repeatedly called on his leaders to figure out how they were going to pay for the bill, and then figure out what they could afford.  Cardoza, who like Miller will retire at the end of the Congress, said he thought the bill should have been done “in digestible pieces that the American public could understand and that we could implement.” Most of the second-guessing has come from retiring members such as Frank and Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.), who this week predicted the law will be Obama’s “biggest downside” heading into the November elections. Such members can afford to be more candid in speaking their minds without offending their leadership, but are also likely to reflect the feelings of other lawmakers in the House and Senate.


(3) "Moderate" West Virginia Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin is grappling with his biggest re-election liability -- namely, Barack Obama's name sitting at the top of the ticket:
 

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who has done more than any other Democrat up for reelection this year to distance himself from President Obama, said he does not know if he will vote for Obama or presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney in November. “I’ll look at the options,” Manchin said this week. The last three years “have made it pretty rough” for his state, he said.

That stance is at odds with almost every other Democrat who is up for reelection this year or is from a state that Romney is likely to win. And it’s an indication of the unique effort Manchin has made to establish his independence from Obama and other Democrats. The senator has regularly used floor speeches and closely watched votes to, as he puts it, “respectfully” highlight differences with Obama, especially on environmental issues. He said Obama has never called him or sought a one-on-one conversation. Manchin said his own vote will depend on how his constituents view the contest.


Let's be honest: Manchin's gonna vote for Obama.  He's proven himself to be a partisan Democrat when it really counts, but you've got to give him some credit for this clever bit of political hide-and-seek.  He's pretending that he may not vote for a president who is deeply unpopular in his home state, in order to win another term in office.  Once victory is secured, he'll be free to revert back to embracing his true blue Democrat identity.  Will West Virginia voters be fooled again? 


Guy Benson

Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Senior Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson.

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography