The meeting was supposed to last one hour. It lasted more than two hours and twenty-five minutes. Vice President Joe Biden worked and talked to bring as many Democrats as possible over to the administration's side, and to back the debt deal.
"I didn't go to convince," he said on the way out. "I went to explain."
The most talkative people in situations like these are the Antis. Media-friendly Democrats like Eliot Engel, D-NY, and Sheila Jackson-Lee, R-Tex., chatted with reporters at length, decrying what they were supposed to vote for. "I didn't come here to cut Medicare," Engel groaned. Rep. Dennis Kucinich left the meeting with an armful of printed-out copies of the debt deal's CBO report, with the section about war funding highlighted. Would he vote aye? "You'll hear about it later."
But there were yesses, and they included members who have not voted for previous debt deals. Rep. Chakka Fattah, D-Penn., a liberal from Philadelphia, told reporters he'd reluctantly back the deal. After her spiel, Jackson-Lee said she was undecided. Rep. Dan Boren, D-Okla., who voted for Cut, Cap, Balance, admitted that he was trying to dodge reporters with a fake phone call; he was undecided, but you could see him voting yes. It was just clear that more than half of the party would not back the deal.
"It's between our consciences and the president," said Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn. "This is a Trojan Horse with Scylla and Charabis inside of it."
Nancy Pelosi entered the meeting telling the press that she would talk up how Democrats had kept entitlement cuts out of the bill. But she left without saying she, or Democrats, would back it. She wouldn't say if it had the votes to pass."
"You'll have to ask the speaker," she said. "He has the majority."