8 a.m. ET: If yesterday's health-care narrative was all about message, today's is focused on legislative tactics, not about selling a reform bill but the mechanics of getting one passed.
The Wall Street Journal writes, "The White House and Senate Democratic leaders, seeing little chance of bipartisan support for their health-care overhaul, are considering a strategy shift that would break the legislation into two parts and pass the most expensive provisions solely with Democratic votes." Under that scenario, Democrats would move a big chunk of their bill under reconciliation, which would only require 51 votes to pass. The Journal pegs the chance of that happening at an oddly specific 60 percent. But are leaders really that serious about this idea, or is it another threat designed to increase pressure on Republicans and moderate Democrats? The Washington Post reports leaders "have not, however, stepped up preparations to draft a Democratic bill or to use ... reconciliation" to get a measure through. Politico notes President Obama "would face a minefield of obstacles under the reconciliation process because opponents could strike anything from the bill that the Senate parliamentarian deems not directly related the budget."
Perhaps instead of two bills, Democrats just need to move a smaller bill. Chuck Grassley told the Post that after seeing so much anger at town-hall meetings, he believes "lawmakers should consider drastically scaling back the scope of the effort." Kaiser Health News says that many experts agree with Grassley that "Democrats will have to scale back the cost and scope of the legislation to get something through Congress this year." Obama, meanwhile, said Wednesday that passing health-care reform was "“a core ethical and moral obligation.” He will attempt to reach two different audiences on health care today, reaching out to conservatives through Michael Smerconish's radio show before preaching to the choir a bit at an Organizing for America rally.
How many senators will be present for the health-care debate? Edward Kennedy wants to make sure Massachusetts has two senators present, writing to the governor this week, according to the Boston Globe, to ask that state law be changed to allow for the appointment of an interim senator to succeed him. Under current law, Kennedy's seat would remain vacant until a special election could be held. The Globe adds that "Kennedy advisers were adamant yesterday that the timing of the letter did not reflect any imminent emergency in the health of the senator," and that his wife, Victoria Reggie Kennedy, is not interested being appointed to or running for the seat.
Electoral politics is much in the news today, not just in Massachusetts but on the other side of the world. Voters are going to the polls in Afghanistan to choose a new president, and it turns out that that the cliche most often used in the U.S. -- turnout will be key! -- is just as appropriate there. The BBC reports, "Militants have threatened to disrupt the polls [and] voter turnout appears to be patchy, with fewer voting in the south, where militant influence is greater." Time writes, "Despite its frustrations with Karzai, however, the U.S. is not pinning its hopes on the incumbent being replaced." At the same time, the new Washington Post-ABC News poll found, "A majority of Americans now see the war in Afghanistan as not worth fighting, and just a quarter say more U.S. troops should be sent to the country." Only 42 percent of respondents believed the U.S, is winning the war.
The New York Times broke the story Wednesday night that the CIA in 2004 "hired outside contractors from the private security contractor Blackwater USA as part of a secret program to locate and assassinate top operatives of Al Qaeda." Beyond that basic, fact the Times account and others don't make it clear whether Blackwater personnel were to have carried out the assassinations themselves, or simply provide support to government-employed operatives. But the involvement of controversial Blackwater helps explain why House Democrats were so incensed about a program that never really went operational.
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