8 a.m. ET: At some point in the last few months, Max Baucus apparently decided to test the cliche that a true compromise should irritate everyone.
One day after Baucus released his long-awaited compromise health care measure, the most common theme in the coverage is just how unhappy all sides are with both the bill and its author. "It appears that no one is happy with ... Baucus -- and that may be the best news President Obama has had in months," the Washington Post writes. The White House gave a tepid response, but the administration is certatinly happy to have a bill that moves the process forward. And business groups and other private-sector stakeholders either responded positively or were muted in their criticism. The bill, the Associated Press reports, "gives health insurers, drug makers and large employers reasons to heave sighs of relief, sparing them the higher costs and more burdensome rules included in other Democratic-written alternatives."
The bill's price tag -- $774 billion -- is either the best or worst thing about it, depending on whom you ask. Fiscal hawks will cheer that it meets Obama's goal of expanding coverage without adding to the deficit, but many Democrats complain that it mandates individuals buy health insurance while providing inadequate subsidies to help them pay for it. Kaiser Health News writes that the question of how much people can really afford to pay for insurance is "at the heart of the current debate" and "there is not a firm consensus" among any of the players involved on the answer.
Jay Rockefeller and Ron Wyden, two key Democrats on the affordability issue, dislike the bill but sounded encouraging words after meeting with Obama Wednesday. Orrin Hatch asks Democrats to "take a deep breath and start over on a truly bipartisan bill." And Karl Rove thinks divides within Obama's party "will likely widen unless the president shows that his policies will do what his campaign did -- expand the pool of voters in favor of Democrats."
Baucus' bill might not increase the deficit, but would it actually "bend the curve" down for health care costs, as Obama and Peter Orszag have repeatedly said is necessary? Of the cost control measures contained in the new proposal, the Wall Street Journal writes, "it would be years before they kick in, and many may only put a dent in spending." As a sidenote, what does the health-care bill mean for another one of Obama's priorities -- the climate change measure? With health care taking up so much time on the schedule, "it's becoming increasingly difficult to see how cap and trade could be finalized before the Copenhagen summit begins in December," Time observes.
As the race story continues to mushroom, the most important actor in it -- Obama himself -- is trying desperately to stay above the fray. The New York Times writes that "Obama has long suggested that he would like to move beyond race. The question now is whether the country will let him." The Washington Post suggests that "at the White House, the official line is: Race issue? What race issue?" But the Washington Times says Obama "has been unable to escape the country's awkward dialogue about race during his first months in office, a conundrum that has been imposed by members of the political left and right who increasingly appear to feel comfortable using the race card to score political points."
The president ignored a reporter's question Wednesday about Jimmy Carter's provocative remarks on the subject, while Robert Gibbs repeatedly averred that 44 did not agree with 39's views. Joe Klein explains Obama's strategy: "If everything he does is seen through the prism of race, if he becomes a 'black' President, he loses." (Obama would much rather talk about bringing the Olympics to Chicago.)
On the subject of race, that is surely one unspoken element of the burgeoning ACORN controversy. After months of concerted effort by conservative groups to put ACORN on the media's radar screen, this week marked when the story finally broke through. Efforts are afoot on the Hill to block any more government money from going to the group. The Fix says the current controversy "has emboldened Republicans to use the group's troubles as a political cudgel against Democrats." Do Republicans believe that ACORN systematically uses public funds to commit voter registration fraud and other questionable activities? Yes. Would Republicans also alike to disarm an organization that helps increase Democratic turnout, particularly among minorities in urban areas? Of course.
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