Brief of the Week Jan. 25, 2010

WHAT’S WITH GEORGE? For much of the afternoon of January 19, speculation in Washington about the winner of the Massachusetts Senate race that evening was rivaled by widespread wondering about what Sen. George Voinovich (R.-Ohio) was up to. A private meeting that the quirky 73-year-old senator held with President Obama at the White House sparked speculation that, if Scott Brown became the 41st Republican senator and effectively shut down the Obama-backed health care plan, Voinovich would drop his long-standing opposition to the measure and thus break any filibuster. There was even considerable talk that Voinovich (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 79%) would follow the path taken by Pennsylvania’s Arlen Specter last year and switch to the Democrats. “I wouldn’t put it past him for a minute,” one cynical conservative said of Voinovich, recalling how the Ohio senator (who is not seeking re-election this year) had repeatedly opposed extending tax cuts in March 2005 and had effectively blocked President Bush’s nomination of John Bolton as U.N. ambassador in ’06. As it turned out, Voinovich told reporters after meeting with Obama that when it came to changing his vote on health care, “That’s out of the question — I am not a vote for the health care bill, period.” We called Voinovich spokeswoman Garrett Silverman about a possible party switch by the senator, but she did not call us back at presstime.