11:05 a.m.: Cross-posted from 44
House Pledges July 31 Deadline to Pass Health Care Reform
By Scott Wilson
House leaders pledged today to pass comprehensive health care legislation by July 31, a deadline President Obama said showed the "urgency" needed to fulfill his signature reform measure this year.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced the deadline after meeting with Obama and other House Democratic leaders at the White House this morning. The president linked the pledge to other progress he said he has made this week on sweeping health care reform, a goal that has proven elusive for decades. If it stays on deadline, the House would send legislation to the Senate after the August recess, improving its chances of passing this year.
"We don't have any excuses," Obama said. "The stars are aligned."
8:00 a.m.: Cross-posted from The Fix, by Chris Cillizza.
White House Cheat Sheet: Commencement Speech Controversy
President Obama travels to Arizona today for the first of three college commencement addresses he'll deliver over the next 10 days, two of which have been marred by controversy.
When tonight's speech at Arizona State University was initially announced, a spokeswoman for ASU said no honorary degree would be conferred to the president since "his body of work is yet to come." The school refused to back down despite evidence of the far less accomplished people who had received honorary degrees.
While White House officials dismissed the Arizona State incident as nothing more than a public relations mix-up, the ongoing fight over Obama's commencement speech at the University of Notre Dame, which is scheduled for Sunday, is far more complicated -- and high profile.
At issue is whether Obama, a supporter of abortion rights, should be given such an honored speaking slot at the nation's second most prestigious Catholic university. (If you have to ask what the number one university is, you don't read the Fix much.)
The bishop of South Bend, Ind., where Notre Dame is located, as well as some students have said they plan to skip the commencement to protest Obama's views on abortion.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs sought to downplay the size or impact of the protests in Tuesday's daily briefing, noting that one group was organizing in opposition to the speech while nearly two dozen were actively supporting it.
"The president understands the right of anybody in this country to disagree and to exercise their disagreement in that way," said Gibbs. "I think it's important to understand it appears as if the vast majority of students and the majority of Catholics are supportive of the invitation the president accepted and I know he's greatly looking forward to it."
Why all the back and forth over a simple speech?
First, a bit of context is necessary.
Protests and controversies surrounding speeches by presidents and other top administration officials are nothing new. Remember back to 2005 when President George W. Bush addressed the graduating seniors at Calvin College and a third of third of the faculty signed a letter protesting his visit as in violation of the school's core principles vis a vis the war in Iraq.
And, who could forget the scene at the New School in New York City in 2006 when students spoke out loudly in opposition to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) as their commencement speaker?
Former Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey (D), the president of the New School who extended that invitation to McCain, defended Obama as a commencement pick. "Obama's speaking skills, his original thinking and popularity with students practically guarantee a smashing success that makes the university and its president feel and look good," said Kerrey.
The second factor to consider when analyzing the controversy surrounding Obama's commencements is that the massive level of attention he draws wherever he goes provides an attractive platform for individuals or groups looking to raise their profiles by a well-timed protest.
"I suspect we'll see more controversies manufactured by opponents, because they get some of the spotlight when they engage President Obama," predicted Democratic strategist Doug Hattaway. "They don't bask in his glow, but they definitely get more air time."
In other words, there's more where these controversies came from.
Wednesday Fix Picks: Ever wish there was a political Hall of Fame? Us too. And we are creating one on the Fix. Stay tuned.
Obama Revs Up Organizing Arm for Health Care Fight: In a sign that the White House knows it is in for a fight on the president's plan to reform the health care system in the country, Organizing for America -- the group within the Democratic National Committee that owns the email list built by Obama during the 2008 campaign -- sent out a call for support to its grassroots army last night. "Last fall millions of regular people came together and did the impossible," wrote OFA director Mitch Stewart in the email appeal. "Now, we've got to roll up our sleeves, join hands with those new to our movement, and do it again." Stewart asks recipients to sign a pledge supporting the basic principles underlying Obama's efforts on health care, noting: "The more signatures we have, the more powerful our message will be." The transformation of Obama's political infrastructure to policy fights remains a work in progress as it is far harder to mobilize volunteers for a complicated fight on the budget or health care than it is to turn out people for a campaign rally. The health care fight this fall will put the OFA list to the test. Can it deliver votes in Congress like it delivered votes on election day 2008?
Speaking of Health Care...: A broad coalition that includes members ranging from PhRMA to the Service Employees International Union is spending more than $500,000 on ads tying health care reform to an overall economic recovery. Sponsored by Healthy Economy Now, the ad's narrator calls on viewers to "fix health care, it's a big part of fixing the economy." The commercials are set to run in Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Ohio, Tennessee and Wyoming -- all states with persuadable senators -- as well as Washington, D.C.
Click It!: Always wondered what women are thinking? (Guilty). Slate has the answer in their new "XX Factor" blog written by Emily Bazelon and Hanna Rosin among others.
A Primary Shapes Up in Utah: Utah's status as among the most Republican states in the union means that GOP primary races are where the action is. Witness Sen. Bob Bennett's reelection bid in 2010 where he could face not only Tim Bridgewater, who dropped his bid for state chairman to focus on a run against the incumbent, but also state Attorney General Mark Shurtleff who appears to have accidentally announced his candidacy via Twitter. (In a separate tweet Shurtleff says he will make a formal decision on May 20.) Recent political history suggests Bennett, who has been derided by conservatives for voting for the first TARP bill, could struggle in a party primary. In 2008, then Rep. Chris Cannon was soundly defeated by Jason Chaffetz, a former chief of staff to Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, in a primary that was a referendum on Cannon's conservative credentials. Bennett, a close ally of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), is clearly aware of his potential vulnerability and has cast a series of conservatives votes during the first few months of 2009.
Say What?: "Enjoy, be loose and let's start the show." -- First lady Michelle Obama kicks off an evening of poetry and spoken word at the White House on Tuesday.
May 13, 2009; 11:05 AM ET
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