Could Democrats vote "present?" 

Some Republicans are suggesting that in light of the fact that the administration's Medicare and Medicaid actuary was not able to estimate the cost and impact of the health package some conservative Democrats might be tempted to vote "present" today.

Plus, with plenty of uncertainty about the impact of a proposed executive order blockading federal funding of abortion, there's lots that Democrats don't know about the impact of their votes.

Congress doesn't have the same provisions for voting present as some state legislatures, lawmakers have, from time to time, used their votes to make statements -- recall Sen. Arlen Specter's vote of "not proven" in the Clinton impeachment trial.

Any Democrat who did vote "present" or anything other than "yes" would be counted the same as a "no," just as Specter's Clinton vote was.

I suspect that few Democrats would like to antagonize the president by alluding to one of his less winning biography points, but for a retiring member like Rep. Marion Berry, D-Ark. it would have some appeal. Similarly, for liberals worried about the Obama-Stupak abortion deal, it would be a strong protest.

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Chris Stirewalt

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Washington Examiner Political Editor Chris Stirewalt, who coordinates political coverage for the newspaper and ExaminerPolitics.com in addition to writing a twice-weekly column and
regular blog posts.

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