Harry Reid's jobs strategy a puzzle
By Ben Pershing
Harry Reid has never been the most talkative or introspective of politicians, so interpreting his behavior and predicting what he'll do next has long been a popular, and difficult, Capitol parlor game.
Thursday was particuarly puzzling for Reid-watchers. Did the Senate have a bipartisan deal on a jobs bill, or not? Depends on what time during the day you asked the question. First Max Baucus and Charles Grassley rolled out a compromise package, followed quickly by statements of praise from key Republicans and even the White House. And then, within a matter of hours, Reid calmly knocked down the whole house of cards, dismissing a bill that many Senators thought he'd already signed off on.
So is Reid playing offense? "Senate Democrats scrapped a bipartisan jobs bill in favor of one they say is leaner and focused solely on putting Americans back to work, and they're all but daring Republicans to vote against it," the Associated Press reports. Or is the Nevadan just sowing confusion? "Reid led colleagues and the White House to believe he supported a bipartisan jobs bill -- only to scuttle the plan as soon as it was released Thursday over concerns it could be used to batter Democratic incumbents, according to Senate sources," Politico writes. Reid's move, according to the New York Times, "caught some lawmakers by surprise and threatened to undermine Republican support for the proposal even as members of Congress and the White House sought ways of working together across party lines after months of deep partisan division."
Maybe he was just concerned about appearances. Roll Call writes that "one senior Senate Democratic aide said part of Reid's decision rested on Member reaction to news reports earlier this week that made the Baucus-Grassley package seem more like a grab bag for lobbyists than a measure focused on job creation. ... The news stories pointing out that many of the provisions were tax cut extensions favored by business lobbyists alarmed some Senators, the aide said, because the measure would not be perceived 'as a clear victory [for job creation] if it's going to be portrayed as a lobbyist potpourri.'" The Washington Times points out that "minutes after he blocked the bipartisan proposal and introduced his own bill, Mr. Reid, who is in a difficult re-election race, took credit for the move in an e-mail to constituents back home. He said his version 'will help put Nevadans back to work, cut taxes for business, and invest in job-creating transportation projects in our state.'"
The two parties did manage to work together on another issue -- sort of. "The Senate confirmed 27 executive branch nominees Thursday after President Obama threatened earlier in the week to use recess appointments for some of the long-stalled picks," Federal Eye reports. Politico describes a dramatic confrontation on the subject between Obama and Mitch McConnell and writes that "Democrats say that McConnell blinked. Republicans contend that the list shows they're not obstructionist." Roll Call notes that Obama "warned that while he is 'gratified' that Republican Senators released some of his nominees, there are still dozens on hold -- and he won't hesitate to use his authority to use recess appointments the next time around if nothing changes." More broadly, Peggy Noonan looks at Obama and finds he "doesn't seem a man at sea who's flailing and trying to grab any deck chair that floats by. He seems a man who is certain he is right, in the long term if not in the day-to-day. And if the cost of being right is a single term, then so be it."
On national security, The Washington Post reports that Obama "is planning to insert himself into the debate about where to try the accused mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks" and adds that Eric Holder, "in an interview Thursday, left open the possibility that Mohammed's trial could be switched to a military commission, although he said that is not his personal and legal preference." Politico says that "Lindsey Graham has told colleagues that he's negotiating with the White House over legislation aimed at heading off the possibility of civilian criminal trials for suspects in the 9/11 attacks." Stuart Taylor weighs in on the Miranda rights controversy, arguing that "the rationalizations by ... Holder and other administration apologists have been so breathtakingly bereft of seriousness about the need for aggressive interrogation to protect our country." The AP examines "the first major victory in [Obama's] war on terrorism" -- the strike that killed Baitullah Mehsud -- and notes that "long before he went on the defensive in Washington for his handling of the failed Christmas Day airline bombing, Obama had widened the list of U.S. targets abroad and stepped up the pace of airstrikes."
Amid uncertainty over the fate of the health-care reform bills his group backed, Billy Tauzin is stepping down as head of PhRMA. The former Louisiana lawmaker "is resigning as president of the pharmaceutical industry's trade group amid internal disputes over its pact with the White House to trade political support for favorable terms in the proposed health care overhaul," the New York Times writes, adding that his "resignation is the latest unexpected fallout of the Republican upset in the Massachusetts Senate race, which abruptly transformed the health care overhaul from a near inevitability to a daunting cause." The Los Angeles Times says Tauzin "has been under fire from the left and the right of the political spectrum -- and from many of his fellow business lobbyists, of whom he was perhaps the highest paid, with compensation of more than $2 million a year." And Politico takes a shot: "Lobbyists familiar with the situation said Tauzin's departure has less to do with legislative strategy than it does with drug company chief executives who were unhappy with Tauzin's work ethic and management style."
Elsewhere on the health front, the Wall Street Journal reports that "the Obama administration is seizing on a big health-insurance rate increase by WellPoint Inc. in California as fresh evidence of the need for action as it tries to resuscitate its health-care legislation." Paul Krugman, shockingly, thinks Republicans are hypocrites when it comes to Medicare: "Furious denunciations of any effort to seek cost savings in Medicare -- death panels! -- have been central to Republican efforts to demonize health reform. What's amazing, however, is that they're getting away with it." Ezra Klein takes on the theory that it's all Rahm's fault: "it's a bit weird to see so much blame accruing to Rahm Emanuel for the administration's woes. Emanuel wasn't part of the campaign team. He was brought in to help govern. In that capacity, his primary job was shepherding the administration's agenda through the legislative process. Ugly as that process was, Emanuel -- and more to the point, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi -- did a fairly masterful job at it."
In Rhode Island, another chapter of the Kennedy saga is coming to a close. "Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy, the last member of his famous family still serving in elective office, has decided not to seek a ninth term in Congress," the Providence Journal reports, adding that Kennedy made the announcement "in an emotion-laden advertisement released by his office Thursday that will air Sunday night." The Boston Globe says "Kennedy made the decision based on 'some personal struggles,'' including the death in August of his father, Edward M. Kennedy, according to a Democratic official briefed on the decision." Across the aisle, The Washington Post looks at three recent Republican retirements and wonders "whether the GOP is losing momentum in its quest to score major gains at the ballot box this fall. "
In a story headlined, "Why the mainstream media loves Sarah Palin" (subhed: "We know how to get Web traffic"), Politico writes: "Fox News has been making a serious charge about mainstream political reporters: They hate Sarah Palin. This is not just wrong, it's absurd. The reality is exactly the opposite: We love Palin. And if Palin does not exactly love us, she's smart enough to recognize how quickly reporters devour every provocative remark she utters. She knows how to exploit our weakness to guarantee herself exposure far out of proportion to her actual influence in Republican politics. It's a tangled, symbiotic affair--built on mutual dependency and mutual enabling." Maybe it's not so mutual. The Orlando Sentinel reports that "Palin will make two high-profile, big-ticket appearances in Central Florida during the next month -- but she doesn't want any media coverage. The former Alaskan governor, ex-vice-presidential candidate and best-selling author has banned all video and sound recordings of her upcoming speeches in Daytona Beach and at the Lincoln Day dinner of the Orange County Republican Committee." The Fix argues that "while there's little question that Palin is a prime mover in the 2012 race if she decides to run, it's a far dicier proposition to describe her as the emerging favorite in the race."
February 12, 2010; 8:00 AM ET
Categories: The Rundown
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