Obama finally delivers a health roadmap
By Ben Pershing
It may have taken over a year, but President Obama finally told Congress and the public Wednesday what he wants in a health care bill, when he wants it and how he thinks it should pass.
"An impassioned President Obama on Wednesday challenged Congress to vote on sweeping healthcare legislation 'in the next few weeks,' even if doing so means having to maneuver around the Republican minority," the Los Angeles Times ledes, adding: "It was the strongest, most specific language the president has used to drive his healthcare plans forward. And he set a clear timeline for wrapping up the drama that has now run for more than a year." The New York Times notes that "in his remarks, the president refrained from using the word 'reconciliation,' the parliamentary tactic that Democrats are expected to employ to avoid a Republican filibuster and win passage with a simple majority. But he made clear that was his intent, and reminded Americans that despite current Republican objections, other major bills had been passed using the same tactic." The Wall Street Journal writes: "Democrats and the White House are balancing high risks and rewards. Passing the health overhaul would fulfill a decades-old Democratic dream, bringing insurance to some 30 million Americans, and represent the greatest expansion of coverage since Medicare was created in 1965. But if the public judges the overhaul harshly, it is likely to cost some Democrats their seats, and the party's majority in the House could be at risk."
The Washington Post says "Obama's endorsement Wednesday of a risky legislative maneuver to complete health-care legislation sent Democratic leaders scrambling to settle policy disputes and assemble the votes necessary for passage in the coming weeks." How is the White House pitching the plan? "Two senior administration officials said the White House is telling Democrats reconsidering their support for health care reform that they will pay the price for their original vote no matter what happens, so they should reap the political benefits of actually passing a law," Politico reports. On the abortion question, Bart Stupak said on "Good Morning America" Thursday that "he and 11 other Democrats will vote against the overhaul unless a provision subsidizing abortion is removed." Roll Call says "Senate Democratic centrists aren't saying 'yes' just yet, but when it comes to passing a crucial piece of the health care reform puzzle, party leaders have reason to be optimistic that enough of their most fickle Members will put them over the top." Bloomberg focuses on the the tricky timing: "Obama's push to get health-care legislation passed in the next few weeks might collide with his planned visit to Indonesia and Australia, creating a schedule conflict that concerns some Democrats, including White House aides. Obama's top aides have discussed whether to postpone the overseas travel in case the timing for a vote on the president's signature legislative priority slips, according to a person familiar with the discussions. For now, the trip is on."
Get ready to read a lot more profiles of Alan Frumin, the Senate parliamentarian. Time writes that "when it comes to the complex budgetary procedure known as reconciliation, the filibuster-proof process which Democrats hope to use to make certain fixes to the Senate bill, Frumin is 'the defense counsel, he's the prosecution, he's the judge, he's the jury and he's the hangman,' says Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, the top Republican on the Budget Committee." Politico says "Senate Republicans are waging a pre-emptive strike against the Senate's parliamentarian -- a hitherto little-known official who could determine the fate of the Democrats' health care reform efforts." USA Today reports, "In a letter e-mailed today to political supporters, Obama wrote that health care 'deserves the same kind of up-or-down vote that has been routinely used and has passed such landmark measures as welfare reform and both Bush tax cuts' -- both items that just happened to have passed as part of reconciliation bills. So this sets up days of debate over both the merits of the Obama health care bill and the congressional process by which it is considered."
Joe Klein thinks that Democrats have made many missteps along the way, "And yet, miracle of miracles, it may pass. And if it passes -- contrary to the conventional wisdom -- it will work to the Democrats' advantage. Next fall, their candidates will be able to say, "Because of us, no one can ever take away your health insurance. My Republican opponent voted against that." That is, if they have the brains to make the argument." The New York Times editorial board writes, "House Democrats who say they cannot accept the Senate's abortion provisions must ask themselves a fundamental question: Are they willing to scuttle their party's signature domestic issue and a reform that this country desperately needs, rather than accept the almost-as-tough language of the Senate bill?" Jonathan Cohn thinks that "if Obama on Wednesday was implicitly giving up on his hopes for constructive, bipartisan governing, he wasn't giving up on his hopes for what governing would achieve. He ran for president on a promise to tackle the nation's most challenging problems--and, since winning election, he's gleefully defied those who warned him he was trying to do too much. On Wednesday, he made clear that he hasn't changed his mind about that."
March 3 was likely Charles Rangel's last in a position of power in the House. "Rangel stepped down on Wednesday as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee after losing support within his party because of ethics violations, shaking up the Democratic power structure in the House and costing New York a powerful seat of influence in Congress," the New York Times writes. But as the Wall Street Journal writes, In reality, the move is much more likely to be permanent, and it could augur the beginning of the end of Mr. Rangel's storied political career. As a matter of House procedure, it would be difficult for Mr. Rangel to win the support of his colleagues to return to the chairmanship, even if he is cleared by the House ethics committee on all remaining matters." The Washington Post says, "the move created immediate ripples throughout the chamber. The chairmanship would normally be passed to Ways and Means' next-most-senior member, Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.). But rank-and-file committee Democrats clamored Wednesday for a more robust and long-term leader of what is traditionally one of the most powerful panels on Capitol Hill." National Review profiles Rangel's super-longshot GOP reelection opponent.
Michael Steele got another headache Wednesday, courtesy of Politico: "The Republican National Committee plans to raise money this election cycle through an aggressive campaign capitalizing on 'fear' of President Barack Obama and a promise to 'save the country from trending toward socialism.' The strategy was detailed in a confidential party fundraising presentation, obtained by POLITICO. ... One page, headed 'The Evil Empire,' pictures Obama as the Joker from Batman, while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leaders Harry Reid are depicted as Cruella DeVille and Scooby Doo, respectively." The Washington Post writes: "Raynard Jackson, a GOP activist who has worked to attract blacks and other minority members to the party, was outraged by word of the presentation. 'This is just beyond the pale,' he said. 'And the best we can get is Michael Steele issuing a statement through a spokesman? And they wonder why they can't get minorities, especially black people, involved in the party?' GOP aides privately said that the document might hurt the RNC because it suggested that its major donors may be 'ego-driven' to give to the party and that they might be motivated by 'tchotchkes.'"
Karl Rove's new book also drew attention Wednesday, as he writes "that the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq badly damaged the Bush administration's credibility and led to dwindling public support for the war," AP reports. The New York Times says "Rove's book offers the most expansive account yet of the Bush presidency by one of the people most responsible for it. Addressing the most controversial and consequential moments of Mr. Bush's eight years in power, Mr. Rove takes responsibility for the widely criticized Air Force One flyover after Hurricane Katrina and writes that he secretly cried in his White House office when he learned he would not be indicted in a C.I.A. leak case. For the most part, his book ... is an unapologetic defense of Mr. Bush and his presidency, and takes aim at Democrats, the news media and disloyal Republicans for what he describes as hypocrisy, deceit and vanity. He also recounts his hardscrabble upbringing in a family broken by divorce and his mother's suicide." The Washington Post notes this tidbit: "In one passage, Rove accuses former Virginia congressman Tom Davis of repeatedly trying to get Jeannemarie Devolites, a former state senator in Virginia, appointed to the board of Sallie Mae. Rove writes that he finally gave in and recommended her appointment, only to discover through news reports that the pair were romantically involved -- even though Davis was married at the time. He said that he confronted Davis, who denied the allegations, and that their relationship was difficult from that point on."
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