Democrats vow to move forward with health reform
By John Amick and T. Rees Shapiro
ABC: THIS WEEK - Axelrod: Brown win was product of slow health care progress
White House senior politcal adviser David Axelrod countered critics that believe Scott Brown's win in the Massachusetts special election for Senate Tuesday was a blow to Democrats' efforts to reform health care by saying that polls show the opposite sentiment.
"I must tell you that, if you look at the polling in the Washington Post yesterday on the Massachusetts race, it's very clear, people don't want us to walk away from health care," Axelrod said. "They want us to address their concerns with the program, and they want Brown to come and work with us and not be obstructionist. That was very clear in the polling."
In asserting that the White House will not walk away from health-care reform, Axelrod said those who believe one Republican victory in Massachusetts means the death of reform are mistaken.
"The bill that the House and the Senate passed ... were patterned in many ways on the Massachusetts health care plan, which is a unique plan in that state," he said. "And 68 percent of the people who voted last week said they liked the Massachusetts plan. Senator Brown said he wouldn't change it."
He went on to insist that any politician that initially supported the bill but is now thinking of changing their view of reform should think twice.
"As a political matter, the foolish thing to do would be for anybody else who supported this to walk away from it, because what's happened is, this thing's been defined by ... insurance industry propaganda, the propaganda of the opponents, and an admittedly messy process leading up to it."
When asked if, following Obama's enthusiastic speech in Ohio Friday, the president ("Barack Obama 2.0, the populist crusader" in ABC's Terry Moran's words) is shifting to a more populist tone after the Massachusetts election, Axelrod vehemently countered, saying the president has not changed his sense of urgency.
"What he said in Ohio on Friday is completely consistent with what he's been saying for two years," Axelrod said. "We have to make this economy work for all Americans and not just for a fortunate few. We've got to make sure that work pays, that people who work hard and meet their responsibilities get ahead, and we have to insist on responsibility from our institutions, whether it's on Wall Street or in Washington."
CNN: STATE OF THE UNION - Axelrod: No regrets, but economy still needs work
In the face of a Republican win in the Massachusetts special Senate election and an increasingly urgent employment climate in America, President Obama's chief political adviser defended the White House strategy to combat a floundering economy by implementing a stimulus package and tackling health-care reform during Obama's first year in office.
"A year ago, I said to the president, 'A year from now, your numbers are going to be much different than they are right now because of the economic forecast that we were hearing,'" White House adviser David Axelrod said. "And we knew that, even as the economy started growing, it would take time for the jobs to follow. That's the nature -- nature of the economy."
Obama's State of the Union speech Wednesday will focus on further job creation, an issue the president understands is of paramount importance right now, Axelrod said.
"In this recession that began at the beginning of 2007, we've lost 7 million jobs," Axelrod said. "Now, the Recovery Act the president passed has created more than -- or saved more than 2 million jobs. But against 7 million ... it is cold comfort to those who still are looking."
Axelrod rejected any notions that the White House should ask for any resignations following the Brown victory in Massachusetts and other electoral and legislative setbacks in recent months. He said he expects the addition of David Plouffe, Obama's top campaign strategist in 2008, as an outside adviser to the White House to help Democrats as the 2010 election nears.
"David is value added, we love him and he has been off writing a book for a year," he said. "We are happy to have his talents back with us on a more regular basis."
An audio message claiming to be from Osama bin Laden was released Sunday in which bin Laden took credit for the failed attempt to blow up an airliner headed for Detroit on Christmas. Axelrod said that the sentiments of the message are hollow and all too familiar, if it was indeed from bin Laden.
"I can't confirm that, nor can we confirm the authenticity of the tape," Axelrod said. "The irony: In the name of Islam, he (bin Laden) has killed more Muslims than people from any other religion. He is a murderer. And we are going to continue to be on the offense against bin Laden, against al Qaeda, to protect the American people."
Axelrod also defended the Obama administration from critics, including senator-elect Scott Brown of Massachusetts, for trying terrorism suspects like Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in federal court, which he said has long historical precedence and was formerly praised by Republicans when done by the Bush administration.
"That's why the 20th (9/11) bomber, Zacarias Moussaoui, was tried in a civilian court," Axelrod pointed out, saying detractors were simply playing politics. "The shoe bomber, Richard Reid, was tried in a civilian court. And understand that many of the people who are criticizing this now were celebrating this then. Rudy Giuliani called the Moussaoui conviction a "triumph of American justice."
Menendez: We did all we could in Mass.
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, defended the committee's work in the Massachusetts special election that resulted in a Republican takeover of liberal icon Ted Kennedy's former Senate seat.
"Clearly we did everything we could in Massachusetts," Menendez said. "I think the big takeaway from Massachusetts, however, is that in fact there is enormous economic angst in the country, both people who have lost their jobs, have a family member who lost their jobs.... It is something that I expect the president to deal with in the State of the Union speech."
Menendez was less clear on his support of creating a bipartisan commission to assess deficit reduction, a move President Obama has supported. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) sees any such commission as an excuse to raise taxes, despite the presence of Republicans on the commission.
"He (Obama) ought to be putting pressure on the Congress to face these problems, and we ought to do something about it, rather than push it off again to another commission that never seems to work anyway," Hatch said.
On the landmark decision by the Supreme Court Thursday to repeal existing campaign financing restrictions on corporations and labor unions, Menendez called it a "dark day for democracy in our country."
"The last thing we need is big oil, big health insurance companies, big banks being able to spend unlimited amounts of money from their treasury to influence the result of elections," he said.
Hatch believes the decision is a win for free speech in America.
"Do these people have a right to participate in the political process? And the answer is yes," Hatch said. "I think the unions should. I think the corporations should, and the fact of the matter is, there are ways that we can curtail offensive action if we want to."
In response to Menendez's claim that Democrats will "stand with the average citizen" against the Court's decision, Hatch insisted it is Democrats who feast on the largesse of big business.
"The point I've been making is that the big business interests have been Democratic," Hatch said. "The big union interests are all Democratic. In all honesty, they don't have trouble raising money."
Menendez replied, "I don't think the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is Democratic."
FOX NEWS SUNDAY - Gibbs: Progress takes time
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said that the economy turned out to be much worse than was first perceived when President Obama came into office, and he had to make unpopular decisions when bailing out banks and car manufacturers in order to stabilize the economy.
Gibbs said the election of Republican Sen. Scott Brown in Massachusetts was not a clear defeat for Democrats or the administration. "People are angry," Gibbs said.
But progress has steps, Gibbs said, and among the president's moves to promote economic growth was his recent bank plan to recoup invested money for taxpayers, and to ensure investment firms cannot own banks and profit from their control.
Gibbs said the FBI's decision to charge alleged Christmas day bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmuttalab as a civilian in criminal court was the correct one.
Asked if he thought the 50 minutes of FBI interrogation the suspect endured under FBI custody before being given his Miranda warning was sufficient, Gibbs said yes and that "we got all we could get out him."
CBS: FACE THE NATION - McCain uninspired by counters to Supreme Court decision
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), co-crafter of landmark campaign finance legislation in his career, said he thought not much could be done to counter the Supreme Court's decision Thursday to lift long-held restrictions on corporate donations to political candidates.
"I think that there's going to be, over time, a backlash," McCain said. "Because, when you see the amounts of union and corporate money that's going to go into political campaigns -- but, in the short term, the Supreme Court has spoken. I respect their decision."
McCain said he expected the reversal to happen, and thinks the lack of political experience on the court affected some justices.
"I was not surprised at the Supreme Court decision," he said. "I went over to observe the oral arguments. It was clear that Justice Roberts, Alito and Scalia, by their very skeptical and even sarcastic comments, were very much opposed to BCRA (Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act)."
He added that justices of the past that supported financing limits, despite their usual conservative positions, had experience in politics and knew the ramifications of their decision.
"I would point out that both Justice Rehnquist and Justice O'Connor, who had taken a different position on this issue, both had significant political experience," McCain pointed out. "Justices Roberts, Alito and Scalia have none. But it is what it is."
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) also lamented the decision, hoping that Republicans will work with Democrats to try to restore some of the limits through legislative means. In the meantime, he said "political extortion by big business, big oil, big banks" is on the horizon.
"We're considering a tax on the multimillion dollar bonuses of the executives at banks who receive bailout money," Durbin said. "Those banks can now come and say to senators and congressmen, incidentally we want you to vote against this tax and we're going to be big players in the next election."
Amid the clamor for Democrats to rethink their approach on health-care reform, Durbin said starting over, as McCain suggested Congress should do, would be a severe blow to reform period.
"For those who say, start over, let's start at the beginning, let's do a little bit, let's maybe do nothing, some say, I would just tell them, if we do nothing, the Medicare trust fund will be exhausted in seven years," Durbin said, insisting that Republicans were allowed in the process but never seriously engaged.
Durbin would not speculate on when reform might land on Obama's desk for final passage.
"I think what we have to do is honestly sit down with our membership and decide the best course of action to move forward," he said.
NBC: MEET THE PRESS - White House is confident in Bernanke confirmation
Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett said she was confident Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke would be reappointed, despite buzz that Republicans are moving to have him replaced.
Jarrett said Sen. Scott Brown's election does not necessarily mean the health-care reform bill is dead. She said Brown voted for Massachusetts universal health-care and said he would not vote to repeal the state's successful system, and that the bill is built on the framework of the Massachusetts system but that the bill's infrastructure has been "distorted," through Republican rhetoric in the media.
It's "hard to get our message through," Jarrett said.
Jarrett said President Obama understands the American people's frustration with the current course of the country but that significant progress takes more than one year in office.
"We have not delivered yet," Jarrett said, but noted the global view of America has improved since Obama took office because he made a big effort to "establish relationships with leaders around the world."
"I think he's going to be confirmed," minority leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said about Chairman Bernanke's chances of reappointment to his position. But McConell was adamant that no party's rule is a permanent fixture in the mind of the American.
McConnell said 48 percent of Massachusetts voters picked Brown because of his stance against the health-care bill, which McConnell called a $2.5 trillion mistake.
"This particular bill deserves to be stopped," McConnell said, imploring President Obama to encourage Democrats to start the bill over with more Republican input.
C-SPAN: NEWSMAKERS - Cornyn: Republican Party re-energized
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said he would not vote to confirm Chairman Ben Bernanke for another term at the head of the Federal Reserve. Cornyn said the "Federal Reserve would benefit from a fresh start."
Republicans deserve a seat at the table during negotiations on the health-care bill and the American voting public is tired of "behind closed doors" discussions among Democrats leading to "sweetheart deals."
Cornyn said Democrats were caught napping and that's why Sen. Scott Brown was able to secure former Sen. Ted Kennedy's seat in the special election last Tuesday. He said the result has "energized folks in my party and across the country," with the "hope to take their country back."
"What a difference a year makes," Cornyn said referring to the Republican victories in New Jersey, Virginia and now the "Massachusetts Miracle."
Cornyn said the voters' action spoke loudly against the health-care bill and that Democrats should not ignore the American public and "force things we don't like down our throat.
January 24, 2010; 12:33 PM ET
Categories: 44 The Obama Presidency , Sunday Talkies
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