8 a.m. ET: Remember those innocent days of spring -- before the health-care reform debate heated up and Afghanistan deteriorated so much -- when the political world was preoccupied by executive bonuses on Wall Street?
That issue is back, but now with two twists: the economy has shown signs of recovery, and Wall Street firms are actually making a profit. With financial firms, most of which benefitted from a government bailout, planning to pay out billions of dollars in bonuses, top White House officials fanned out to the Sunday shows to get the message out that these companies need to show some restraint. David Axelrod called the bonuses "offensive" and Rahm Emanuel chastised the firms for fighting new regulations and said the bonuses were "frustrating." The Wall Street Journal notes that "the administration's tone appeared muted compared with attacks made earlier in this year, as Democrats -- with an eye toward the 2010 midterm elections -- seek to put a positive spin on recent economic developments." The Journal also points out that neither Axelrod nor Emanuel "suggested any new, concrete measures to clamp down on compensation packages."
The salvo against Wall Street serves as a reminder that the administration's sweeping financial regulatory reform package, which has mostly been overshadowed by health care, is starting to move on Capitol Hill. The House Financial Services Committee is in the midst of marking up the package, and the full House is expected to vote on the measure in November. And just as insurance companies and other concerned stakeholders have begun digging in their heels and opening their wallets to fight health-care reform, so too have financial firm begun a lobbying onslaught that will intensify as the year goes on. "We are disappointed by the lobbying of anyone in the financial industry against regulatory reform, considering the obvious need for change on that front,” Valerie Jarrett said, according to Bloomberg. The Washington Post says that big financial firms may already be losing power on the Hill, as "large banks are on the verge of losing a key legislative battle over the shape of financial reform" in a Tuesday vote on state banking regulations. In the Senate, Politico reports, Chris Dodd and Richard Shelby have been working together on a regulatory overhaul.
Health-care reform also continues its march through the legislative process this week, with Senate negotiators continuing to huddle in Harry Reid's office and House leaders gathering in Nancy Pelosi's suite. The Speaker hopes to send the final version of the House bill to the Congressional Budget Office for scoring this week, though no vote will take place until at least early November. The Senate timeframe is even less clear. The New York Times does the Odd Couple story Monday -- Reid and Pelosi, working together to get a health-care bill despite their differences. Guess who else is injecting himself into the health-care debate? Roland Burris, who says he won't vote for a Senate bill that doesn't include the public insurance option. Since Democratic leaders may need every one of their 60 votes to get a bill passed, "Burris is like the house guest who couldn't be refused, won't soon be leaving and poses a plausible threat of ruining holiday dinner," the Associated Press writes.
The Wall Street Journal says that CEOs are poring over the health-reform proposals trying to determine where they stand, with the drug industry in position to gain and the insurance industry poised to take hit. (In a related story, the former group cut a deal with the White House months ago, while the latter one didn't.) At the same time, the Washington Independent reports, "Senate Democrats are taking daring steps to rally the backing of another powerful medical lobby: doctors." Politico surveys message experts and writes that Democrats would do well to focus their health-care pitches to women, who "don't know what's in it for them" even though they "typically make most of a family’s decisions on health care and have historically been more concerned about health care and supportive of making changes to the system."
Across the street from the Capitol, John Paul Stevens is the focus of intense attention, as Supreme Court-watchers try to divine whether he plans to retire from the bench. In a rare interview with USA Today, the 89-year-old Stevens says of retirement speculation: "That can't be news. I'm not exactly a kid." But he won't make a definitive statement on his plans, only, "We'll wait and see."
On Afghanistan, Emanuel said Sunday that Obama won't make a final decision on sending more troops until the country's election issues are resolved and it becomes clear the government is credible and can function. John Kerry met with Hamid Karzai on Sunday, the Boston Globe reports, and urged the Afghan president to accept a runoff election. Speaking earlier in the day on Face the Nation, Kerry sounded skeptical of sending more troops and emphasized the need for "the Afghans themselves are going to define what happens here."
October 19, 2009; 8:00 AM ET
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