Democrats' happy Monday
By Ben Pershing
No one likes Mondays, but it turns out that Feb. 22 was one of the brightest days Democrats have had in months.
On one end of Pennsylvania Avenue, President Obama released a compromise health-care plan that drew almost no criticism from his own party. On the other, Harry Reid muscled his $15 billion jobs bill past a Republican filibuster, paving the way for easy bipartisan passage this week. Given Democrats' recent record, two pieces of good news in one day qualifies as a veritable flood.
"President Barack Obama is upping the ante on health care," the Wall Street Journal ledes. "In a last-ditch effort to salvage his overhaul of the sector, the president unveiled a $950 billion plan that lays the groundwork for his party to try pushing its legislation through Congress without Republican support." While the measure was released ahead of Thursday's bipartisan summit, the audience that matters is Obama's own party. "Congressional Democrats cautiously embraced President Barack Obama's new health care plan as their last hope for enacting a comprehensive overhaul," the Associated Press reports, while "Republicans trashed it, dimming prospects for any deal at the bipartisan health care summit that Obama has scheduled for Thursday to try to jump-start the debate." The New York Times says "Obama appeared intent on forcing the Republicans into a choice: either put a specific alternative on the table, giving Democrats a chance to draw pointed contrasts between the parties' approaches, or be cast as obstructionist and not serious about addressing an issue of great concern to voters."
McClatchy writes that Obama's effort "may restore Democratic momentum for the bill by placing the president squarely at the center of the messy process of drafting legislation." The Washington Post notes "the president's proposal is striking for the extent to which it hews to the basic scale and framework of the bills on which Congress has toiled for months. That decision -- to go big one last time, rather than small -- emerged quickly inside the White House after senior advisers to President Obama concluded privately that his goals for comprehensive changes to the health-care system could not be done piecemeal." Politico says Monday's bill "is the latest salvo in a yearlong volley between the insurance industry and Democrats at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. Every time public opinion flags, Obama and his congressional allies train their sights on those well-recognized villains at the big insurance companies."
David Brooks is worried about the pay-for: "The odds are high that the excise tax will never actually happen. There is no reason to think that the Congress of 2018 will be any braver than the Congress of today. It will probably get around the pay-go rules or whatever else might apply and it'll postpone the tax again. The excise tax will turn into another 'doc fix.; This is a mythical provision in which doctors are always about to get their reimbursements cut. But somehow they never do because the cuts are always pushed back, year after year." Jonathan Cohn thinks Obama should reach out to Republicans on one of their favorite issues -- malpractice reform: "There are ways to break the impasse. While malpractice may not be a major factor in rising health care costs, the system is clearly broken." Megan McArdle says, "If the Democrats use budget reconciliation to bypass the Republicans, they will be making a big mistake. Reconciliation is not meant to handle these sorts of problems; it's meant to help Congress get revenues in line with outlays without letting protracted negotiations push us into a budget crisis. It's not possible to do any sort of comprehensive, rational overhaul of the Senate health bill -- which after all, was intended to be the opening salvo in a negotiation, not the final bill."
What does the voters want? The latest Kaiser Health Tracking Poll "finds the public still split on health care reform legislation, with 43 percent in favor and 43 percent opposed. However, the poll also finds that majorities of Americans of all political leanings support several provisions in the health reform proposals in Congress and most attribute delays in passing the legislation to political gamesmanship rather than policy disagreements." The Fix notes: "Heading into Thursday's health care summit, President Obama's job approval numbers are steady if unspectacular in the latest data out of Gallup. Over the past week, Obama's job approval sat at 49 percent -- numbers virtually unchanged in Gallup surveys conducted over the past three months."
Harry Reid may have had the best day of all Monday. "Five Republican senators broke ranks with their party on Monday to advance a $15 billion job-creation measure put forward by Democrats, a rare bipartisan breakthrough after months in which Republicans had held together to a remarkable degree in an effort to thwart President Obama's agenda," the New York Times reports. The Washington Post calls the vote "a vindication for Reid, who is grappling with a tough reelection race in Nevada and faced questions in Washington over whether he mishandled the jobs issue." Bloomberg says "Republican leaders had demanded a chance to restore provisions Reid dropped earlier this month, including a package of business-related tax cuts. Reid's decision amounted to a bet that at least a few Republicans wouldn't vote against his stripped-down bill in an election year when the economy is at the top of the list of voters' concerns."
The man of the hour -- for Democrats, anyway -- was Scott Brown. The freshman "came into office as someone who could deliver the pivotal vote for the GOP to halt Democratic initiatives. But yesterday, Brown delivered for the Democrats, helping them advance a jobs bill President Obama and his party seek," the Boston Globe writes. The Boston Herald says "Brown's support counts as a win for ... Reid, who pressured the new senator heavily. Reid indicated the vote is a symbol of Brown's commitment to breaking the Capitol Hill logjam." But the bipartisan goodwill only goes so far; in a separate story, the Herald notes that "Brown yesterday warned the Obama administration against using the 'nuclear option' of ramming through Congress a revised $1 trillion health-care bill outlined yesterday by the White House." Dana Milbank says Brown's election "was supposed to bring a seismic change to national politics. It did just that Monday night, but not in the way Republicans had hoped."
Nate Silver looks ahead: "Is 56 is the new 60? If the Democrats can keep 56 of their own seats in the new Senate -- which will be a bit tough, but is far from out of the question -- then they may frequently be able to cobble together a coalition between the 56 Democrats and the four moderate Republicans -- Brown, Collins, Snowe and Castle." As for the merits of the jobs bill, The Hill reports "labor unions and liberal groups downplayed the significance of the Democratic victory, complaining the legislation is not ambitious enough. Lawrence Mishel, head of the union-affiliated Economic Policy Institute, called the Senate jobs bill 'small, puny.'" Robert Barro looks back and concludes "the fiscal stimulus package is a way to get an extra $600 billion of public spending at the cost of $900 billion in private expenditure. This is a bad deal. The fiscal stimulus package of 2009 was a mistake. It follows that an additional stimulus package in 2010 would be another mistake."
And here's who hasn't been having many good days lately -- Toyota. The Wall Street Journal reports that "Toyota Motor Corp.'s U.S. sales chief, James Lentz, plans to tell members of a House panel investigating the auto maker's handling of sudden acceleration complaints that the company is 'confident that no problems exist with the electronic throttle control system in our vehicles.'" AP has a different kind of preview: "Rhonda Smith's story of six miles of interstate terror, as her Lexus suddenly zoomed to 100 miles per hour, will set the mood Tuesday for the first congressional hearing on Toyota's acceleration problems. The Sevierville, Tenn., woman shifted to neutral. She tried to throw the car into reverse. She hit the emergency brake. Nothing. Then, her Toyota-made car miraculously slowed down before she crashed." The Washington Post lays out the charges: "Congressional investigators Monday accused Toyota officials of making misleading public statements about the causes of its runaway cars and faulted federal safety regulators for conducting 'cursory and ineffective' investigations because of a crippling lack of expertise."
February 23, 2010; 8:25 AM ET
Categories: The Rundown
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