8 a.m. ET: The major political debates of the moment suddenly appeared small Thursday, after an army psychiatrist walked into a medical building at Fort Hood and opened fire, killing at least 13 and wounding 30.
The Texas army base is roughly 1,500 miles from Washington, but the reverberations were quickly felt in the nation's capital. Statements poured forth from members of Congress, the Pentagon became a vital source of information and reporters worked the local angle, as the suspect hailed from Virginia, worked at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and attended mosque in Silver Spring. Nidal Malik Hasan "began having second thoughts about a military career a few years ago after other soldiers harassed him for being a Muslim, he told relatives in Virginia," the New York Times reports. "He had also more recently expressed deep concerns about being sent to Iraq or Afghanistan." The Washington Post writes that Ft. Hood "has been hard hit by the growing strain on the Army from multiple combat deployments" and that "Army personnel are experiencing record rates of suicide, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and other mental health problems, as well as worsening alcohol and drug abuse." The New York Daily News reports that "Arab and Muslim groups were quick to condemn the Fort Hood massacre on Thursday - and to warn against anti-Muslim retribution."
The root causes of Thursday's shootings will certainly be ths subject of investigations and hearings in Washington for months to come. Both chambers of Congress observed moments of silence Thursday, and the House will vote Friday on a resolution honoring the lives that were lost in the attack. President Obama, who had been planning to visit the Hill Friday to rally Democrats on health care, will instead make that trip Saturday. He will go to Walter Reed Friday to see wounded troops, though the White House says that event was scheduled before the incident at Ft. Hood.
Obama changed his plans but House Democrats haven't, as they still intend to push forward with a vote on health care Saturday. Party leaders are still working to overcome internal disagreements over abortion and immigration, the Washington Post writes. The Hill says the immigration issue is "emerging as the biggest threat" to the House bill, as Hispanic lawmakers threaten to vote against it if in includes a provision that would prevent illegal immigrants from buying health insurance on the new exchanges, even if they pay with their own money. Democrats did pick up key endorsements Thursday from AARP and the American Medical Association, but they will still likely need every minute between now and this Saturday's (Sunday's?) vote to get to 218. The New York Times notes, "In an effort to attract votes, House leaders revised their bill to help certain doctor-owned hospitals that serve large numbers of low-income people on Medicaid." Politico reports that "the White House will come out strongly in support of the House bill on Friday" in a statement of administration policy.
In the Senate, the Wall Street Journal writes, leaders "must satisfy 60 Mary Landrieus," using the Louisianan as the archetype of a lawmaker who has her own unique set of demands before she will consent to voting "aye." CongressDaily reports that the public option opt-out provision "is not certain" to be included in the Senate bill, though it is still widely expected. The New York Times looks at the costs and benefits of pricey medical devices, noting that there is little reliable data on how effective or durable many of them are. Outside the Capitol Thursday, House Republicans had a health-care "press conference" with thousands of protesters (as Dana Milbank reports, organizers did not have the proper permit to actually hold a rally). The "press conference" included people holding signs accusing Obama of being part of a Jewish conspiracy and comparing Democrats' health-care plans to Nazi concentration camps. The idea dir the event originated with a comment by Michelle Bachmann on Fox News Channel, and "by the time activists started arriving at the foot of the Capitol around 8:30 a.m., it was clear no Republican leader could stay away," Politico writes.
November 6, 2009; 8:00 AM ET
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