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Republicans, White House draw battle lines in advance of health care summit

1. The political positioning for Thursday's televised health care showdown -- er, summit -- began in earnest on the Sunday talk shows as Republicans sought to stake out their rhetorical ground and set expectations for what is surely the most anticipated health care event in modern memory. (Post columnist E.J. Dionne -- a Fix favorite -- wrote in a piece today that the summit "will determine the shape of American politics for the next three years." WOW.) Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), appearing on "Fox News Sunday", said that he would attend the session in "good faith" but also noted that the best solution would be to scrap the current health care bill, citing a January NPR poll that, he insisted, showed the American people "really want to us to shelve this bill and start over." The White House meanwhile, largely stayed off the Sunday chat circuit -- Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell appeared on "This Week" but he is far from a top administration surrogate -- choosing instead to focus their energies today. In advance of the release (at 10 a.m.) of the president's health care proposal, administration officials will brief reporters on its contents -- an attempt to frame the day (and week) around the notion that the White House is offering solutions while Republicans are simply roadblocking progress for political gain. Looming over the run-up to the proceedings -- and the summit itself -- is an increasing pile of evidence that voters believe the federal government is failing them. In a new CNN poll, 86 percent of those tested said the system of government is broken -- a remarkably high number that speaks to the dissatisfaction with Washington coursing through the country right now. Both Republicans and Democrats want -- and need -- to get out in front of that anger for fear that if they don't they'll find themselves on the business end of it. ALSO READ: The takes of Time magazine and the Economist on what's wrong with Washington (and how to Fix it.)

2. Retiring Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) penned an op-ed in the New York Times Sunday offering a series of suggestions about how to reduce the bitter partisanship that, he says, drove him from office after two terms. Bayh's ideas: 1) A monthly lunch of all 100 Senators aimed at fostering some level of non-political interaction between the members; "any improvement must begin by changing the personal chemistry among senators," wrote Bayh. 2) Campaign finance reform measures including broadened disclosure of contributions and more incentives for candidates to opt-in to the public financing system in states: "If fund-raising is constantly on members' minds, it's difficult for policy compromise to trump political calculation," said Bayh. (The irony of that statement given Bayh's $13 million war chest -- among the largest in the Senate -- is not lost on us.) 3) Change the filibuster rule so that 35 Senators must not only make public their plans to talk a bill to death but also follow through with an actual filibuster rather than blocking things up with the mere threat: "Those who obstruct the Senate should pay a price in public notoriety and physical exhaustion," according to Bayh. He also advocates 55 votes -- not 60 -- to break filibusters. (Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) said recently he has no plans to schedule debate over filibuster reform.)

3. Iowa, one of the states that moved strongly to Democrats in 2006 and 2008, has moved squarely back into the toss up column, according to a new Des Moines Register poll. In the 13 months since taking office, Obama has gone from 68 percent approval among Iowans to just 46 percent in the latest poll; the numbers are equally stark among independents -- roughly two thirds (64 percent) of whom approved of how Obama was handling the job in January 2009 as compared to less than half (48 percent) who said the same earlier this month. Obama's policies are equally unpopular with independents as three in ten approve of his handling of health care and just one in three like the way he is handling the economy. (The struggles among independents mirror similar struggles for Democratic candidates in gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia last fall and in the Massachusetts Senate special election last month.) The erosion in Obama's numbers is especially remarkable that the president has made no secret that he feels a special bond to the Hawkeye State due to his victory in the 2008 caucuses and double-digit win in the fall campaign over Sen. John McCain (R). While the numbers -- if they stay so low -- dont bode well for Obama in his 2012 re-election bid, the real danger is for Iowa Democrats who must run this fall. Gov. Chet Culver (D) is trailing former governor Terry Branstad by a whopping 20 points in a recent Register poll and Democrats are privately concerned about the re-election prospects of 3rd district Rep. Leonard Boswell.

4. Joyce Murtha, the wife of late Rep. John Murtha (D), will announce today that she will not run for her husband's 12th district in a May 18 special election, according to a source familiar with her decision. Joyce Murtha's decision not to run likely turns the fight for the Democratic nod into a two-person affair between former lieutenant governor Mark Singel and former state treasurer Barbara Hafer -- two longtime players in Keystone State politics. Hafer was a Republican until 2003 (and was the GOP nominee for governor in 1990) after switching from the Democratic party in the mid 1970s; Singel was lieutenant governor under Gov. Bob Casey in the mid 1980s and early 1990s but lost a Democratic Senate primary in 1992 and the governor's race to Tom Ridge (R) in 1994. Although Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) narrowly carried the southwestern Pennsylvania 12th district in 2008, Republicans downplay their chances in the special election; Bill Russell, who ran and lost against Murtha in 2008, and businessman Tim Burns are in the race. ALSO READ: Rep. Jim Gerlach, who dropped from the governor's race earlier this year, has cleared the Republican primary field in his 6th district.

5. New York Gov. David Paterson formally announced his plan to seek a full-term this fall, a candidacy widely viewed as hopeless in the face of polling that suggests the incumbent is ripe for defeat in a primary or general election. "After all you have heard, there's one rumor I will confirm: I am running for governor this year," Paterson told an audience of several hundred gathered at Hofstra University on Saturday. Paterson's reelection announcement came just days after the New York Times published a devastating profile of the governor's first two years in office that cast him as disinterested in even the most basic elements of the job. (Note to politicians: it's never a good story when, in defending oneself, you unleash this quote: "I resent this sort of, in my opinion, and I'll be frank with you, kind of profiled way that it appears that all I'm doing is drinking, chasing women, doing drugs.") Whether or not Paterson stays in the race -- and the White House has made clear they would like him to get out -- is somewhat immaterial. State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, the well-liked and well-funded son of a former Empire State governor, is widely expected to enter the race this spring and, barring some sort of political cataclysm, will beat Paterson in the primary. Polling suggests Cuomo would be a major favorite against former representative Rick Lazio in the general election as well. Democrats consider keeping the New York governorship in their hands as critical with the state expected to lose at least one seat in the 2011 redistricting process. ALSO WATCH: Paterson will sit for an interview today with Andrea Mitchell on her eponymous show that runs from 1 to 2 p.m. daily.

By Chris Cillizza  |  February 22, 2010; 5:44 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Fix  
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Next: Republicans weigh the political implications of the Bush legacy


People are mistaken - the Republicans are "the party of KNOW".
They are standing between us and a future which, by the Dems own admission, is designed to transform our country to their own liking.

Posted by: leapin | February 22, 2010 5:45 PM | Report abuse

"The Republicans have said "Americans don't want health care reform" for so long that they might actually believe it, and it's possible to word poll questions in such a way as to get that result. These Republican legislators need to pay attention to their constituents, particularly those who are unable to obtain health insurance. If the Republicans choose to be obstructionists, the voters should turn them out at the next election. Posted by: jlhare1"

The simplest way to get such results is to ask how many people want exactly the bill in question. Of course when you ask, "Does the bill go too far, is about, or does not go far enough and the largest pluralityis that the bill doesn't go far enough, like CBS made the mistake of doing, just once, you see that most of the opposed are opposed because they want more, not less, Health care reform.

Go back and check the CBS numbers. In that poll 75% of respondents wanted the bill, opr more than the bill offered. But adding the mores to the too muches you could get about 61% against the bill.

Posted by: ceflynline | February 22, 2010 5:01 PM | Report abuse

Is there anyone who is not shaking their heads at Obama's new actions?

Obama is basically saying - if the Republicans do not agree to MY VERSION of health care, he is going to call them out, say the Republicans are the ones not being bipartisan - and then attempt to JAM the health care bill down the throats of America.

Obama is leaving the American People out of that equation - the American People do not want the bill - and Obama has DECLARED WAR AGAINST THE AMERICAN PEOPLE - LET ME BE CLEAR.

They are going to say - no no no we have a poll which says this......

Obama is in the process of sparking EVEN MORE ANGER - this is not something a smart politician does -

How could Obama, who is supposed to be so smart, be making so many mistakes?

Look at Obama's resume, he really hasn't done anything in his whole life. You can chalk up the last year as more of the same.

Obama is a disaster.

If Obama knew what he was doing, he would be running from health care right now - and looking for something else.

People do NOT want to hear any more speeches from Obama - they do NOT want any more lectures -



What the democrats need is a group of moderate democrats who are elder statesmen, to go to Obama - and tell him where he stands -



Posted by: 37thand0street | February 22, 2010 4:47 PM | Report abuse

McConnell's announcement suggests that he is going into this contest looking twenty moves behind. He somehow seems to feel that it is arrogant of democrats, who have put the better part of a year into getting a basis for health care reform written, are better off to chuck it all and give the republicans another year to stall health care reform.

When Obama presents him, one item at a time, with Republican suggestions that DID make the bill, he can look like an idiot and say he didn't know they were there, or look like a Republican and declare that those aren't really Republican Ideas and he is agin' 'em.

He can't negotiate, because he has already planted his roots in obstructionist fertilizer and has had plenty of time to eliminate all possibility for fancy foot work.

Posted by: ceflynline | February 22, 2010 4:12 PM | Report abuse

Post columnist E.J. Dionne -- a Fix favorite -- wrote in a piece today that the summit "will determine the shape of American politics for the next three years."

Eggads. E.J. Dionne became a partisan cheer leading hack and lost his political acumen years ago. The column you refer to might as well be a WH press release or the talking points for Robert Gibbs.

Posted by: tobetv | February 22, 2010 4:07 PM | Report abuse

Bayh - in his letter - says that all 100 Senators should get together for lunch every month - BUT HE DIDN'T SAY WHICH LOBBYISTS SHOULD PAY FOR THOSE LUNCHES.



Posted by: 37thand0street | February 22, 2010 3:02 PM | Report abuse

I've wondered from the beginning whether the strategy hasn't always been let's get the Rs to sign on and if not do it all thru reconciliation. even with 60 Ds etc (which includes "independent" Lieberman) it was always a long-shot that they'd all march in lock-step. that's an R characteristic, especially these days.

I think they knew darn well it would be difficult at best to get Rs to sign on. and since the Rs insist on not being onboard and pulling at the oars, there's no longer any reason to hold back on a public option (and one which will be everything the Rs hate). but the Rs have brought that on themselves.

Posted by: Ichristian | February 22, 2010 2:23 PM | Report abuse

It is a mark of how clueless the Democrats are that they have never managed to frame health care with some simple statistics which might well put the Republicans on the defensive. For example, according to the CIA Factbook, the US ranks #49 in life expectancy- behind Jordan and Bosnia. Our infant mortality rate is worse than 44 other countries, including such universally acknowledged paradises as Slovenia, the Czech Republic, and Cuba.

I suspect that if the Democrats actually talked about figures such as these, asked what can be done to reduce infant mortality and increase life expectancy, and linked their proposals to these larger issues, they might well get some serious traction. However, they appear to be more comfortable with the Sock Puppet Theater approach both parties have come to rely on.

Posted by: jhherring | February 22, 2010 2:12 PM | Report abuse

There is one question that puts the whole gridlock thing in perspective for me: How did Obama plan to reform health care if Franken's seat HAD NOT fallen into his lap?

The 60th seat was manna from heaven. There is no way that health care reform had to be contingent on getting 60 senate seats. So what was his original -- now backup -- plan?

The problem isn't that Congress is dysfunctional. The problem is that the Democrats are dysfunctional. The Republicans have hardly covered themselves with glory but the Democrats have humiliated themselves. Complaining about "gridlock" when you hold the Presidency and both houses of Congress doesn't pass the snicker test -- Especially when you have even had a fillibuster-proof majority for 6 months or so.

America loves plucky losers but it hates incompetent winners.

Posted by: anon99 | February 22, 2010 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Trying to save face by pushing through any scraps of the HC bill is another example of this administration's bad choices.

They could preserve some credibility (if any is left) by simply taking it on the chin and admitting that the process was flawed and in the interest of taxpayers, it will not be pursued.

But, they can suggest doing some significant changes that are simply directed at making HC affordable.
Forget the other stuff and deal with the problems that actually exist. Obama wants to remake the wheel so he can get some amazing credit. WRONG.

Posted by: pjcafe | February 22, 2010 1:19 PM | Report abuse

It is stupid to call our system broken. Checks and balances are working as designed: Obama dictatorship is being prevented.


if we have moderation now why would obvious trolling like this still get through?

Posted by: Noacoler | February 22, 2010 1:11 PM | Report abuse

There is a very dangerous thread running thrugh the political dialogue, which is ignorant people calling Obama a 'dictator' or 'tyrant.' Not only is this absurd and insulting to people who have lived under such regimes, it is an incentive to violence.

Posted by: drindl | February 22, 2010 12:58 PM | Report abuse

It is stupid to call our system broken. Checks and balances are working as designed: Obama dictatorship is being prevented.

Posted by: ravitchn | February 22, 2010 12:17 PM | Report abuse

We need real reform with toothy regulations on insurance providers, not bipartisan garbage. Let's do what the more mature nations do: making a profit on basic healthcare gets a prison sentence.

Posted by: Noacoler | February 22, 2010 11:45 AM | Report abuse

From my understanding they both live in the district, but I may be mistaken.

Posted by: AndyR3 | February 22, 2010 11:44 AM | Report abuse

Speaking of the President's plan.

I'm not sure if this will make it past the filters, but Ezra Klein's blog is excellent. Unfortunately it doesn't make for as good comment section discussion since it's a lot easier to pull things out of our arses on a politics board than a policy board.

Posted by: DDAWD | February 22, 2010 11:35 AM | Report abuse

Both Singel and Hafer are western PA or southwest PA political figures of note. The Murtha district has changed in the redistricting through the years, as it is more geographically expansive than during the 1970s and 1980s due to lack of population growth in the area. Singel is clearly from the district, not sure about Hafer. I always thought Hafer was from suburban area around Pittsburgh which is largely outside the district. Singel is likely to win union support if those two face off in a primary, but Hafer might get pro-choice womens' groups support though the district tends to be culturally conservative.

Posted by: OHIOCITIZEN | February 22, 2010 11:25 AM | Report abuse

I am a leftist but I am embarrassed by what my "liberal" counterparts do with politics. It's all about appearance and nothing about policy. As a New Yorker, I have watched Patterson make all the hard choices as his term is beset by financial disaster- NYS cannot run a deficit, so everything has to be cut. He has made all the hard choices, including the hard left choices, such as supporting gay marriage, transportation, health, education and energy ideas. He is a true liberal- yet the liberals have abandoned him for the shinier object (A. Cuomo- someone who I like a lot, but why are we undermining a good governor?) People are mad at him for not putting the ENTIRELY unqualified, other than her last name, Carolyn Kennedy in the Senate spot. Gillibrand has been a good senator, but of course the libs are going to support the more conservative Harold Ford- with his antichoice and other postitions.

This is all similar to NOT reading policy proposals or voting histories for the Dem presidential primaries (or more caucuses) and jumping on the bandwagon of the extremely moderate and unambitiously progressive candidate who now, even with his soaring rhetoric, can't seem to make liberal/left policy happen

When will there be a third party?

Posted by: NYClefty | February 22, 2010 10:48 AM | Report abuse

The Republicans have said "Americans don't want health care reform" for so long that they might actually believe it, and it's possible to word poll questions in such a way as to get that result. These Republican legislators need to pay attention to their constituents, particularly those who are unable to obtain health insurance.
If the Republicans choose to be obstructionists, the voters should turn them out at the next election.

Posted by: jlhare1 | February 22, 2010 10:39 AM | Report abuse

Mark, Hafer lives in Indiana and Singel is a Johnstown boy. If you look at the hilariously-shaped PA 12th CD you'll see that both live in the district.

The district was shaped this way in the last redistricting in order to keep Murtha in Congress (even the Republicans respected the incredible flow of Federal dollars into Pennsylvania that Murtha maintained). Speculation is that PA will lose a CD again this census, and this district, which touches 5 other districts, will be the one that goes.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | February 22, 2010 10:30 AM | Report abuse

all the pundits and pols love summits because they make big news and you get to go on TV and bloviate. It also eliminates the need to actually do your job and get some work done.

In the end, nothing ever comes of it.

Pretty much the story of the Obama administration.

Posted by: drivl | February 22, 2010 10:21 AM | Report abuse

Anytime the American people are a "captive audience" - whether it's utility rates, insurance profits, or gasoline prices - the federal government is needed to "level the playing field". Let the Republicans scream socialism all they want; they think their job is to ensure corporate profits. I want government to protect Americans under circumstances where there is potential for exploitation by the rich and powerful.

Posted by: bamccampbell | February 22, 2010 10:08 AM | Report abuse

Paul Krugman always speaks plainly, but he is the plainest when contemplating health care reform, and what the GOP is willing to put us all through in order to regain power:

"Why are Republicans reluctant to sit down and talk? Because they would then be forced to put up or shut up. Since they’re adamantly opposed to reducing the deficit with tax increases, they would have to explain what spending they want to cut. And guess what? After three decades of preparing the ground for this moment, they’re still not willing to do that...

At this point, then, Republicans insist that the deficit must be eliminated, but they’re not willing either to raise taxes or to support cuts in any major government programs. And they’re not willing to participate in serious bipartisan discussions, either, because that might force them to explain their plan — and there isn’t any plan, except to regain power.
But there is a kind of logic to the current Republican position: in effect, the party is doubling down on starve-the-beast. Depriving the government of revenue, it turns out, wasn’t enough to push politicians into dismantling the welfare state. So now the de facto strategy is to oppose any responsible action until we are in the midst of a fiscal catastrophe. You read it here first."

Posted by: margaretmeyers | February 22, 2010 10:00 AM | Report abuse

Will McConnell and the Republicans come to the summit with a draft of their plan in good faith?

Posted by: DGSPAMMAIL | February 22, 2010 9:52 AM | Report abuse

#4 - I assume that these Ds, former statewide office holders, lived in the CD when they held office. Did they carry the CD then? Or were the boundaries of the CD completely different?

How well known and liked are the two Rs?

Posted by: mark_in_austin | February 22, 2010 9:45 AM | Report abuse

Still the only problem facing the Republican Rising! is their leadership.

When Fareed Zakaria says,

"It's getting tiresome to keep pointing out her serial gaffes, but Palin does appear to be running for president."

at the same time CPAC says Ron Paul is their have to wonder where the Republicans are going. If the economy improves, evidently the answer is nowhere.
It it does not, we can only hope.

Posted by: shrink2 | February 22, 2010 9:08 AM | Report abuse

I'm glad that Mrs. Murtha has passed on her husband's congressional seat. I suppose it was nice of the Democrats to offer it to her, but that day has passed.

The May special election is going to be run hard, like it's November, and the seat will not be won by a "place holder."

Posted by: margaretmeyers | February 22, 2010 9:02 AM | Report abuse

As I have said before Mith McConnell needs to come with more than just scraping the plan if he wants to win the debate on healthcare. If he comes with four specific changes to whatever Obama proposes with the understanding that he will get only three of them than I think he will find the President ready to deal, which would be a win for both of them.

If he comes in and is only an obstructionist than the president will pass the basic components of his bill through reconcilliation, which in the end will make the Republicans look bad, IMO.

BTW, I am tired of hearing Evan Bayh talk about how to fix the Congress when he is quiting instead of actually working on fixing the problem. I have a suggestion for Senator Bayh, why don't you use that 13 mil you got to have these little lunchs you propose.

Posted by: AndyR3 | February 22, 2010 8:36 AM | Report abuse

The GOP should stand by its starve-the-beast principles and terminate Medicare and Social Security.

Otherwise, they are socialists, just like the Dems.

Posted by: lichtme | February 22, 2010 8:08 AM | Report abuse

Obama needs to make Republicans an offer they shouldn't refuse, but will. The GOP is going to walk away from anything for the simple reason that it is Obama and the Dems proposing it.

Say that tort reform and some other centrist measures will be in a final bill and publicize it, then let the GOP deal with the consequences.

Posted by: parkerfl1 | February 22, 2010 8:00 AM | Report abuse

The Bayh piece is a good read.

Posted by: DDAWD | February 22, 2010 7:46 AM | Report abuse

#1: public discussions are good, in a democratic republic. This one may not change any votes, but it is better to have public discussions from time-to-time than to have the Parties isolated in their own echo chambers.

There is a fault to be found with the "Economist" link. I suspect life in a parliamentary system can lead to the thinking that the President is somehow the president of the legislature. He is not. The Congress are cats in a bag, and the Prez is outside the bag.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | February 22, 2010 7:19 AM | Report abuse

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