If you are on the outside looking in, the scene in Washington can seem very chaotic right about now as the House Democrats and President Obama make their final push to gather the votes necessary to pass their healthcare reform legislation. Cable news networks exacerbate this frenzy by featuring every development as if it were truly breaking news, and not a regular part of the legislative process. In some ways this reminds me of the mortgage business, where the end of the process seems to be very chaotic to the borrower, but is just another day in the life of loan officers, closing attorneys, and closing departments.
The veterans in the House of Representatives understand the timeworn rituals that surround the vote on an important bill. Since work doesn’t stop on the other business before House members, the congressmen who are still undecided can delay their decision until the final hour by busying themselves with other matters on the floor. With votes planned for Sunday and Monday, the cancellation of President Obama’s trip to Asia, and the last minute surge by the House Republicans to try to thwart the Democrats, you are guaranteed to have all the political drama your TV can deliver this weekend.
“Well, it’s not so much this abstract notion of whether it’s good for the party, but the idea that people are finally starting to game out is: ‘Would things be better if you voted no?'” explained Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) “And look, I’ve compromised my compromised compromise, so I’m a good example of someone who’s given up a lot… But I think some of the more moderate or conservative members are starting to realize that they got elected because of health care, not in spite of it.”
“Dems Scared Into Action By Everyone From Donors To The Base”, Huffington Post
Despite all the last minute things that can and do go wrong in the process of closing a loan, there is always a point, even on the iffy ones, when the people working on a loan can see that enough of the approval stipulations have been met to achieve critical mass. At this point, they go from wondering “will this loan close” to anticipating “when this loan closes.” It is a moment when you realize, if you are in the mortgage business, that the only obstacles left are mostly procedural ones, obstacles everyone works harder to overcome when they realize the loan almost cleared to close.
At this moment the Democrats may not have a firm commitment for all 216 votes needed to pass the bill, but the House leadership has recognized that they have the kind of critical mass behind the healthcare reform bill needed to push forward, understanding implicitly the power of the herd to draw in the handful of “yes’ votes needed for the measure to pass.