8 a.m. ET: Speaking in the Rose Garden Tuesday, President Obama demanded "action over inaction" on health-care reform. But does that action have to happen by Aug. 7?
As Obama himself has said, without deadlines, "nothing gets done in this town." Absent the urgency of a defined timeframe, the House and Senate could well have punted on health care by now. But at the same time, the White House's insistence on a deadline has helped fuel the current, widespread storyline that the reform effort is struggling. Is it true that health care reform is further along on the Hill than it has been in decades? Yes, but that's not the barometer the administration has established for itself. Because Obama has imposed a deadline and stuck to it publicly, it will look like a setback for him if and when Congress fails to meet it. Obama holds a press conference tonight at 8 p.m. ET, and both foes and allies will be watching to see if he starts laying the groundwork for an extension of the deadline.
That debate over timing arises as yet another day dawns dominated by Democratic divisions on health care. The Senate Finance Committee, at least, believes it can finish a bill before Obama's deadline. In the House, Henry Waxman struck a deal Tuesday with the Blue Dogs on giving an outside panel the authority to cut government health-care costs, though Politico calls the agreement "a pint-sized breakthrough in an ocean of concern" and "a concession to one subgroup ... that’s likely to inflame others." The New York Times goes big-picture, saying Obama is at a "pivotal moment," as his handling of health care "over the next several weeks could shape the rest of his presidency, shedding light on his political strength, his relationship with both parties in Congress and his appetite to fight for his own agenda." Is that all?
Congressional Republicans, for their part, are planning to keep the pressure on for the rest of the summer, but in the wake of Jim DeMint's "Waterloo" comments, another possible path has opened for the GOP. "Quietly now, the crowd is growing in the GOP camp to shush up -- unlike DeMint -- and let the Democrats sink the Democratic healthcare reforms," writes Andrew Malcolm.
As a political rule, it's probably a bad idea for the administration to do anything that will invite comparisons to Dick Cheney, so in that respect it's interesting that Team Obama won't disclose which health care industry executives have come to the White House to talk reform. Since Obama didn't create a separate "health care task force" the way the Bush administration did with energy, it's unclear whether this story will get much traction in the courts or the press.
The health care debate has sucked up so much attention that Obama's fight to end funding for the F-22 largely flew under the radar until this week, and the Senate backed the administration Tuesday in voting to remove money for the program. (It's still not on some front pages today.) The vote represented a genuine victory for a president that needed one right now, as the White House -- led by Robert Gates -- overcame the combined opposition of defense contractors and unions as well as the parochial concerns of lawmakers. As Ruth Marcus writes, the F-22 "offers an instructive example" for how the administration could approach health-care reform, specifically reining in the cost of Medicare. Maybe Gates should be enlisted to help with that effort too. And though it mocks "the familiar sight of 535 procurers in chief out to save their pet projects," the Wall Street Journal editorial board hastens to warn "that the F-22 vote isn’t a sign of new fiscal discipline."
In Alaska, Sarah Palin faces yet another potential scandal, as an independent report found that she may have violated state laws in raising money for her legal defense fund. In addition to denying wrongdoing, Palin's lawyer also complained about the fact that the report was leaked. An important question: Can she use money from her legal defense fund to defend against an investigation of her legal defense fund? This is getting too complicated. No wonder she's resigning.
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