As the clock began to count down the minutes that members of the House had to cast their vote on a war-funding bill topping $100 billion, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) waded into enemy territory.
The anti-war Democrat, who'd been whipping hard against the measure, stood behind a klatch of Republicans, watching the GOP computer and taking notes. It's not often that Kucinich and House Republicans find themselves on the same side. But the GOPers were determined to oppose what they call a bailout for foreign banks, and antiwar Democrats hoped to ally with them to block funding for wars they've long opposed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), meanwhile, hovered by the front desk, beaming. As the 15-minute vote wound down to zero, she was still far from the 218 she needed for passage, but she showed no sign of concern. The vote was held open as enough Democrats stepped forward to vote for the war money.
Fifty-one Democrats opposed the war funds the last time it came before the House. There was little pressure on them one way or the other. But when the Senate added the line of credit for the IMF and Republicans announced opposition, votes that had previously been worthless took on heightened value. The White House and Democratic leadership went into high gear, threatening and offering deals in exchange for a yes vote. This time around, 32 Democrats stayed as no votes.
Democrats who switched tapped Pelosi on the shoulder before walking back to their seats, swapping smiles, as Pelosi studied the lit-up board on the wall that displays the votes.
The tally hit 218, but Democrats seemed not to notice. When Pelosi looked up and saw it reading 220, she left the well of the floor and found Rep. Dave Obey (D-Wisc.), the Appropriations Committee Chairman, in his seat. The two shared a congratulatory handshake.
The vote was gaveled to a close, with five Republicans joining 221 Democrats. Pelosi turned her gaze back to the board, studying her members' votes.
She was no doubt pleased to see that these names sported a green box next to them this time, reversals from their previous no votes...
And those who stuck with their no votes...
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