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Health fight continues on the trail

By Ben Pershing
Election Day is more than seven months away but it may as well be tomorrow, as President Obama's signing of a sweeping health-reform bill Tuesday shifts a fight that has raged in the halls of the Capitol onto the campaign trail.

"The vote is over. The fight is just beginning," USA Today ledes, adding: "In the East Room this morning, President Obama will sign the most comprehensive changes to the health care system in American history -- and with that launch a fierce battle leading up to November's elections to define the law as either a crucial, overdue reform or a dangerous, Big Government power grab." On Monday, Politico writes, "both sides in the bitter health reform debate proclaimed victory -- with the confidence of actors who still have a final climactic act in which to sway the audience. Republicans predicted the new law would enact the demise of the Democratic-led Congress in November. President Barack Obama and fellow Democrats began the tough work of flipping the negative polls upside-down -- a goal they say will be realized when the first few benefits of the new law kick in." Dan Balz says "Democrats and Republicans began shifting their focus to November elections that seem certain to become a referendum on the most significant social legislation enacted in half a century. ... As Republicans prepared to campaign on a pledge to try to repeal the legislation, Obama and the Democrats will work to keep voters focused on the new benefits, rather than the size, cost or complexity of the bill."

Having spent months getting the bill passed, the Associated Press writes, "Act II begins Thursday when Obama visits Iowa City, Iowa, where as a presidential candidate he announced his health care plan in May 2007, to talk about how it will help lower health care costs for small businesses and families." David Brooks writes from the perspective of a former Democrat: "For apostates like me, watching this bill go through the meat grinder was like watching an old family reunion. One glimpse and you got the whole panoply of what you loved and found annoying about these people. ... Members of the Obama-Pelosi team have spent the past year on a wandering, tortuous quest -- enduring the exasperating pettiness of small-minded members, hostile public opinion, just criticism and gross misinformation, a swarm of cockeyed ideas and the erroneous predictions of people like me who thought the odds were against them. For sheer resilience, they deserve the honor of posterity. Yet I confess, watching all this, I feel again why I'm no longer spiritually attached to the Democratic Party." Michael Gerson says Obama showed his determination, and that "[i]t is possible for a president to be strong -- and badly wrong."

Looking across the aisle, Adam Nagourney writes: "Passage of the health care legislation challenges the heart of the Republicans' strategy this year: To present a unified opposition to big Democratic ideas, in this case expressed in a stream of bristling anger and occasional mischaracterizations of what the bill would do. From a legislative perspective, the Republican strategy did not work, despite months of predictions from Republicans that the bill would fail and that that would cripple the Obama presidency. ... In political terms, Republicans face strong crosscurrents. Polls suggest that a sizable part of the nation is unenthusiastic about the bill or opposed to it. ... But at the same time, many provisions of the bill that go into effect this year -- like curbs on insurance companies denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, or the expansion of prescription drug coverage for the elderly -- are broadly popular with the public."

Similarly, Mark Halperin reports: "In the 7½ months between now and November's midterm elections, millions of Americans will be whipped into a frenzy over the purported evils in the Democrats' health care bill, egged on by Fox News chatter, Rush Limbaugh's daily sermons, threats of state legislative and judicial action and the solemn pledge of Republicans in Washington to make the fall election a referendum on Obamacare. But in doing so, they may be playing right into the Democrats' hands." The Boston Herald quotes Republican strategists suggesting that "'a perfect storm' of conservatives and independents outraged over President Obama's partisan health-care win will sweep GOP congressional candidates to sweet victory in November."

The Wall Street Journal notes that "Republicans weren't of one mind on another part of the strategy, that of pushing for a repeal of the legislation. The Republican National Committee raised more than $400,000 off a 'Fire Nancy Pelosi' Internet fund-raising drive. But some Republicans acknowledged it was a long shot or wanted little to do with it. A few questioned the past year's strategy of all-out resistance to Democrats' effort to overhaul the system." Reuters reports that "Republican attorneys general in at least 12 states warned on Monday that lawsuits will be filed to stop the federal government's healthcare reform bill from encroaching on states' sovereignty. ... Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff told Reuters the lawsuit will probably be filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida. ... State officials have cited potential commerce clause violations as well as the bill being at odds with the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That amendment says that "powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states."

Next stop, the Senate. The New York Times says that "there were no signs of a cease-fire. Senate Democrats said they would take up a budget reconciliation containing the final revisions to the health care measure shortly after Mr. Obama signs the main bill on Tuesday. Far from sounding a conciliatory note, Senate Republicans said they would employ every procedural maneuver available to derail the reconciliation bill, or at least knock out main provisions. At the top of their list of targets are changes to a proposed tax on high-cost employer-sponsored insurance policies." The Hill reports that Harry Reid "wants to bring the reconciliation package to the Senate floor by Tuesday afternoon. A senior Democratic aide said the goal is to pass the bill by Friday or Saturday. Republicans are planning to object to much of the 153-page bill, threatening to make 'Swiss cheese' out of the legislation that Democrats will try to move under the special rules that require only a majority vote."

The first part of the GOP's plan already appears to be off the rails. Bloomberg reports: "The Senate parliamentarian dealt Republicans a setback in their bid to derail the Democratic health-care overhaul package, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said. Parliamentarian Alan Frumin issued informal guidance to Republicans yesterday that he doesn't agree with them that a proposed tax on high-end health insurance plans violates Senate budget rules." CongressDaily calls Frumin's decision a "clear victory" for the majority, adding: "'Clear precedent prevailed,' a Democratic aide said, and even Republicans conceded their argument had little chance. But GOP aides said there would be other opportunities to bring down the bill on points of order. 'They have to win them all,' one GOP aide said. 'We only have to win one.' But another GOP aide conceded Democrats could clear the package quickly. 'It could be done by Friday,' the aide said." McClatchy writes: "Republicans plan a two-pronged effort to stop the Democratic plan, through parliamentary challenges and amendments. ... Amending the reconciliation bill is expected to be difficult, but Republicans see political gain from forcing Democrats to go on the record on controversial issues. Republican leaders are discussing amendments that would reduce the size of proposed cuts to Medicare , cut back the Medicare tax increase and scale back the bill's $938 billion price tag."

As the bill moves forward, the media is still reconstructing what happened Sunday. Roll Call breaks down the whip strategy: "House Democratic vote-counters started their calculus about cobbling together a majority for a sweeping health care overhaul with a reasonable assumption: that the four lawmakers who had announced their decisions to retire since voting on the original House version back in November were ripe targets. Leaders were facing the seemingly impossible task of persuading House Democrats to pass a Senate bill stocked with provisions they viewed as politically toxic. The retirees, freed of worry about their re-elections, should have an easier time coming aboard and giving leadership a much-needed, if narrow, cushion. But in the late-night 219-212 vote for the bill March 21, only two of those members -- Brian Baird (Wash.) and Bart Gordon (Tenn.) -- voted in favor, while Marion Berry (Ark.) and John Tanner (Tenn.) were opposed. And Baird only announced his support the day of the vote."The Wall Street Journal looks again at the dealmaking: "For many of the lawmakers who helped pass the historic health-care bill Sunday, the measure meant insurance coverage for 32 million people. For several who were last-minute converts, it was also about more-parochial concerns, such as almonds, heart stents and winning re-election."

The Washington Post offers a lengthy reconstruction of "the drama that unfolded behind the scenes in the effort to pass legislation that will extend insurance coverage to 32 million Americans and dramatically alter how health care is provided," leading with a dramatic meeting between Obama, Pelosi and Reid the night of Scott Brown's victory in Massachusetts. Joshua Green focuses on the Speaker: "Last night's Democratic triumph may have saved Barack Obama's presidency, but it's Nancy Pelosi's moment right now. Glowing profiles of her appeared in The New York Times and Politico, even before the vote. History will remember her as the Speaker who ushered in this era's landmark social reform, and did so against great odds. And yet for all that, she's an enigmatic figure. ... I thought [Pelosi and Reid] lacked the salesmanship to rally the broader public behind the Democratic agenda. In hindsight, my mistake is clear. I made the common media error of placing too much weight on public relations, and too little on legislative skill. Obama took care of the salesmanship, and Pelosi's underappreciated experience as whip has proved instrumental to her success. The interesting thing now is understanding how she's operated in Congress." Pelosi sat down for an interview with Diane Sawyer, telling the anchor it was "ridiculous" to suggest that she had put the "steel" behind Obama's push for reform.

One lingering mystery from Sunday has been solved -- Randy Neugebauer admits he was the one who yelled "baby killer" at Bart Stupak on the House floor. Neugebauer claims he said "it's a baby killer," referring to the health bill, not Stupak himself. Stupak said on Larry King Monday night that he doesn't "buy it."

Roll Call sees a bigger problem: "House Democratic leaders may have succeeded in passing health care reform but somewhere along the way they lost control of the chamber, where the traditional rules of decorum appear to be crumbling. Between dozens of Republican Members cheering on a heckler in the gallery as he was being arrested, photos of Democratic Members defeated in 1994 being placed on Democrats' seats prior to the health care vote, and conservative lawmakers egging on tea party protesters outside the Capitol who hurled racial and homophobic slurs at Democratic lawmakers, the House of Representatives has sounded more like the British House of Commons." Politico writes: "The only thing worse than winning ugly is losing uglier. The Democrats' ungainly march toward a victory on health care reform Sunday night provoked a graceless response from angry House Republicans, who shouted insults across the chamber, encouraged outbursts from the galleries, brandished "Kill the bill" placards from the Speaker's Balcony and, apparently, left veiled threats of electoral retribution on the benches of undecided Democrats. And that all came before Texas Republican Rep. Randy Neugebauer shouted "baby killer!" as anti-abortion Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) spoke on the House floor."

By Ben Pershing  |  March 23, 2010; 8:10 AM ET
Categories:  Health Care , The Rundown  
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Posted by: theoldmansays | March 24, 2010 10:09 AM | Report abuse

What I really like is how Congress can justify their vote. Most often heard is I don't want the President to Fail. Or it isn't what I wanted but is the best I could do and I still feel overall the plan is best for all etc. I say it is like a big Hollywood Movie, all acting, in the end the most arm twisting was given to the ones who held out till last, then got the most. I only wished they could have put in the $400 Billion they are going to vote on later for the Doctors. I also think they should have put the cost of 16,000 IRS Cops to enforce the plan. I also think somewhere is the bill the costs of all the back door buyouts should be shown and costed out. I think they have avoided the Supplemental Health Care plans for those on Medicare which was left as is so there will not be easy to buy other policies with no pre existing conditions and are the no drop clauses (My statement here is becuase all my mail to my senators and Reps have categorically declined to address this issue. ) If incorrect please correct if not then assume there will be no caps on costs from insurers also in Supplemtal and Regular Health Care Plans. A flawed bill bought and paid for with our tax money to force the country to buy what they cannot afford. We can only tax 2 trillion a year, our budget this year w/0 Health Care is 4 trillion--Must borrow 2 trillion. I am sure those who can add and subtract can see ahed what is coming--A big tax to pay for this and also inflation.

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Posted by: mmmitkonlyyou | March 23, 2010 11:54 PM | Report abuse

The Repeal will be easy as Millions are harassed by the IRS or threatened with Jail time. Americans will discover their power of religious exemption and choose to opt out of Big Government in the same way that the Amish do. The courts likewise will revisit the fundamental question of whether an individual has freedom over their own bodies in the same way that a woman today has the right to choose an abortion or not. The conclusion will be that the governance of our own bodies can not be legislated. The Courts will annul the legislation without anybody having to lift a finger. The Devil worshippers in Washington will have to do bettor than using the race card, or Republicans, to overcome the tidal wave of arguments in Support of Freedom. Yes, the People wanted HealthCare Reform but through privatization, not a Communist revolution. The Obama power play is based on a false Marxist belief that you can convince the people that God does not exist and therefore personal rights do not exist. The greatness of America however is that our Constitution gives us a Framework to believe in Ourselves and the God who made us. As the encroaching boot of Socialism presses against all Americans throats the people will rediscover the law of our forefathers and reject the George Soros concept of Hope and Change under a puppet Marxist dictator.

Posted by: givenallthings | March 23, 2010 5:48 PM | Report abuse

I just can't wait to get me some of that new socialized medicine. I never did like the taste of that old unsocialized stuff.

And now that we have a complete government takeover of health care, can we get us a single payer system too?

Posted by: mainestreeter | March 23, 2010 2:39 PM | Report abuse

ObamaCare Is Good Politics and Bad Medicine

Credit to President Obama and the Democratic Congress? They’ve succeeded in giving Americans so-called healthcare reform politically-motivated and politically-manipulated instead of scientifically-based and scientifically-driven.
Do politicians, either Democrats or Republicans, really want to deliver optimal medical care?
The politics of the Democrats are clear. Since FDR, they’ve pushed America toward a socialistic, trans-national state. ObamaCare is the latest jewel in their crown or, perhaps, the latest nail in our national coffin.
But what about the Republicans? In 1994, after the defeat of ClintonCare, did they pursue a comprehensive, scientifically-based review of medical delivery in America? Did they formulate an explicit plan to deliver optimal medical care to all Americans that would be affordable and constitutional? No. Instead, they adopted a politically-motivated patchwork-approach catering to specific groups that only worsened a bad situation.
Then, they passed power back to the Democrats in 2006 and 2008. Now, they want power again, claiming to have seen the light.
Mr. and Ms. Republican, when you do regain power, how about this alternative to ObamaCare? Universal coverage. Single-payer but through the private sector with competition. Scientifically-based and scientifically-driven. Constitutional. Acceptable to most third-party payers. Would you support such a plan today? If you’d supported it when you had it in your hands in 1994,* we might not have ObamaCare today.

*Moss, GR: Healthcare Reform D.O.A. (1994); nominated for two national awards by the American Risk & Insurance Association (1995). For an updated version in the form of a novel, visit - .

Posted by: Lorelei_K | March 23, 2010 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Here come the frivolous lawsuits!!

Posted by: thebobbob | March 23, 2010 10:53 AM | Report abuse

Here's where the real need for "health care reform" resides -- in a callous bureaucracy that violates a basic precept of humanity: "FIRST, DO NO HARM."


* Thousands of Americans slandered as "dissidents" or undesirables, targeted by Bush legacy program for debilitating, cell tower- based precision-targeted microwave//laser assault, held hostage in their homes to fed-supported vigilante "community policing" stalking units equipped with warrantless GPS devices, who vandalize and terrorize as local police look the other way.

* Electromagnetic radio frequency microwave/laser/RF weapon system -- a nationwide installation employing cell towers and satellites -- silently, invisibly induce weakness, exhaustion, mood changes, pain, head and body aches, physical and neurological impairment, strokes, aneurysms, sickness, cancer -- and many victims do not realize what is making them sick.


* Regional Homeland Security- administered "fusion centers" reportedly serve as command centers for covert electromagnetic radiation attacks, pervasive surveillance, financial sabotage of those identified as "dissidents," "trouble-makers" or slandered as threats to society.

* Use of microwave weaponry to torture and impair political opponents recently confirmed by deposed Honduras President Manuel Zelaya.

"These are crimes against humanity and the Constitution, being perpetrated under the cover of national security and 'safe streets' by multiple federal and local agencies and commands -- an American genocide hiding in plain sight, enabled by the naivete of those who think 'it can't happen here.'" -- Victor Livingston, former reporter for WTXF-TV Philadelphia, Phila. Bulletin, N.Y. Daily News, St. Petersburg Times; producer/host, MSG Network Sports Business Report; columnist,

BUCKS COUNTY, PA- BASED MAGLOCLEN FUSION CENTER -- "Centom of a Mid-Atlantic States Fed- and Police-Protected American Gestapo."

OR (see "stories" list).

Posted by: scrivener50 | March 23, 2010 10:53 AM | Report abuse

Obama is going out to sell this plan? Are you kidding? He has been selling this pathetic health care takeover and no one is buying it for the last year. This is a social engineered plan that is so stupid that the words just fail me. I am so sick of this that just hearing Obama's voice or seeing Pelosi's face sends chills down my spine.
The Dems made it ugly by shutting out the Republicans. I am writing a check today and mailing it in to the Republicans. They acted far more civil and made more sense. We need to send these arrogant deaf liberal, radical and moderate Democrats home that gave us this massive maize of new government agencies we all know will be a cesspool of waste, this unnecessary government control on our choices, and the government red tape we all know is so much fun working with people who could give a rip roaring rats behind whether they help you or not since they work for the government. Oh great, Obama is out there trying to sell me this garbage again.

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Posted by: aqwohennia | March 23, 2010 10:16 AM | Report abuse

Did any of these passed without opposition?
- Emancipation Proclamation by Lincoln
- Women's suffrage by Wilson
- Lend/Lease by FDR
- Desegregation of the military by Truman
- Civil Rights Act by Johnson

Who would stand against those today?

Posted by: RainyDayIntern | March 23, 2010 9:50 AM | Report abuse

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