8 a.m. ET: The Senate Finance Committee's stint in the driver's seat of the health-care debate is nearing its end, as the panel will vote Tuesday at long last to approve its reform bill and send it out to compete with the other four measures already approved by congressional committees.
The vote "is expected to underscore the deep partisan divisions that have emerged and hardened over five months of debate," the Washington Post writes. After all that work by Max Baucus in public and private to court Republicans, the only member of the minority who may vote with the majority is Olympia Snowe, and she has yet to telegraph her intentions. Politico Pulse goes through all of Snowe's considerations and how a yes vote or a no vote would be covered, and then concludes: "Snowe has left herself enough room that no matter how she votes today she’ll be able to change it later." The Hill warns that Snowe could be "risking a shot" at the top GOP slot on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee if she votes with Democrats on health care.
Given that four other committees have already approved legislation, why all the fuss over Finance? The Associated Press reminds us that Finance's "moderate makeup most closely resembles the Senate as a whole. And the committee's centrist legislation is seen as the best building block for a compromise plan that could find favor on the Senate floor." Looking ahead, the New York Times examines the controversy over a proposed tax on "Cadillac" plans, which has drawn particular criticism in the House. The Wall Street Journal points out that once the two Senate bills are blended, they have to be vetted "with all Senate Democrats and analyzed by the [CBO], steps that would push back debate in the full Senate until the week of Oct. 26."
Before Tuesday's vote came Monday's storm, as a criticial report commissioned by America's Health Insurance Plans shattered whatever peace existed between the industry and Democrats. "Not only did the report land many months into the debate ... it infuriated some of the very people the industry group hoped to influence," Politico writes, quoting various Democrats dubbing AHIP's move stupid and worse. Ezra Klein notes that the White House already has its own set of numbers to rebut the PWC study.
For all the blowback against the report, its effectiveness won't be clear unless or until AHIP puts money behind it, and warns television viewers that their premiums will go up. Complaints about PriceWaterhouseCoopers' methodology would be tough to convey in a 30-second ad war. Time writes, "But no matter how flawed it may be, the decision to unveil the study could pose a real threat to passage of health reform: it marks an end to the White House's long-prized détente with a special interest group that has lots of money ready to get its message out." Like AHIP, the Hill says, "Powerful health industry groups that have held back in their criticisms of specific reform proposals will soon have to choose whether to endorse, or formally oppose" Obama's plans.
Politics can make for odd partnerships, and on Afghanistan policy, an alliance has emerged in the White House between Hillary Clinton and Robert Gates. As Obama weighs how to proceed, the New York Times writes, "the secretary of state and the secretary of defense will once again constitute a critical voting bloc, the likely leaders of an argument for a middle ground between a huge influx of soldiers and a narrow focus aimed at killing terrorists from Al Qaeda." (ICYMI, the former option is being touted by Stanley McChrystal, and the latter by Vice President Biden.) The Washington Post notes that the numbers being deployed in the debate over troops can be misleading, as in addition to the 21,000-troop increase that was announced in March, the Pentagon is also deploying another 13,000 support troops to Afghanistan. In a tough piece, Michael Scheuer opines that the strategy announed by Obama in the spring has already failed: "The United States' latest Nobel Prize winner now has a choice: He must act quickly on the advice of McChrystal and the U.S. intelligence community to save a marooned U.S. Army, or dither behind the harebrained split-al-Qaeda-from-the-Taliban strategizing and let more overmatched U.S. soldiers and Marines die amid the ego-building praise of effete Americans, pacifist NGOs, and the Nobelistas."
Does the White House hate bloggers? (The Rundown certainly hopes not, as he is unqualified for other professions.) Huffington Post sums up the controversy with this headline: "Bloggers Furious At White House For Anonymous Ridicule." John Harwood started the kerfuffle on CNBC, amidst criticism of the White House by the gay and lesbian community, by quoting an unnamed administration aide as saying "those bloggers need to take off their pajamas, get dressed and realize that governing a closely-divided country is complicated and difficult." Parts of the liberal blogosphere, angry and clad in adult clothing, erupted in response. Jane Hamsher said "old anonymous is, of course, full of [expletive]," and others wrote much worse.
But some voices urged caution. Greg Sargent writes, "Whatever you think of the White House’s record on gay rights issues or the respect it does or doesn’t have for the blogosphere, paraphrased second-hand claims from a single anonymous adviser don’t really seem like grounds for sweeping conclusions about the White House’s alleged disdain for the online community." And Nate Silver adds: "On the one hand, the whole 'Internet left fringe' remarks are a nonstory -- a bright, shiny, and possibly misreported object on a slow news day. On the other hand, Obama's promises are becoming a nonstory too, except to the extent he's failing to make an active effort to fulfill them."
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