Monday, March 2, 2009

The Daily Strike-3/2/09-Health Nominees and Barking Republicans

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike. No votes in the House or Senate today, as members were digging out of a massive snow storm. Still much to talk about in the world of politics.

HEALTH NOMINEES: The President announced the nomination of Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius to be the next Secretary of Health and Human Services. He also announced the nomination of Nancy-Ann DeParle to be the head of the White House Office of Health Reform.

Sebelius has significant experience in health policy. She worked as the insurance commissioner of Kansas before being elected Governor. She also tried to spearhead health reform in her state by expanding public insurance, but she was thwarted by the Republican legislature. She was successful in lowering the price of prescription drugs by allowing imports from Canada, and in expanding coverage for low-income children. She seems like a good administrator, which is important for this position.

DeParle worked as the commissioner of the Department of Human Services in Tennessee before overseeing the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services in the Clinton administration. She seems like a bit of a policy wonk. Let's hope she has enough fight in her when the nitty gritty of a health reform plan makes its way through Congress.

KIRK: The other news of the day on the cabinet front was the revelation that U.S. Trade Representative-designate Ron Kirk (the former mayor of Dallas) had to pay some back taxes. No wonder his nomination had been held up for so long. Kirk's offense doesn't seem particularly egregious to me. Basically, he failed to report income on a $5000 speaking engagement. That doesn't raise my eyebrows the way Daschle's $200,000 limo driver did. While it's annoying to have another tax-troubled nominee, it looks like the nomination will still proceed, and it shouldn't be a major distraction.

REPUBLICAN BARKING PART I: One great thing about being a liberal these days is that we get to sit back and watch Republican infighting, which in turn, makes them less appealing to the average voter. Yesterday, Michael Steele said on D.L Hughley's CNN program that Limbaugh is an entertainer whose words might sometimes get a bit "ugly." This didn't sit too well with Rush, who admonished Steele by saying:

“So I am an entertainer and I have 20 million listeners because of my great song and dance routine,” Limbaugh said. “Michael Steele, you are head of the Republican National Committee. You are not head of the Republican party. Tens of millions of conservatives and Republicans have nothing to do with the Republican National Committee…and when you call them asking for money, they hang up on you."

Steele, of course, cowered from the mighty Rush and was forced to apologize. He said that he didn't mean to go after Limbaugh, and that he had enormous respect for him. This routine has now happened a few times: A Republican says something somewhat bad about Limbaugh, Limbaugh attacks him on the air, and the Republican is forced to shamefully apologize. Meanwhile, all of these people are becoming far more isolated with the American people, because they are more concerned about offending Rush's far-right base of dittoheads. The Big Picture came up with the perfect parallel to this situation. It's like in the movie "There's Something About Mary," when all of these guys engage in pathetic acts to tear each other down and it only makes them look worse to Mary.

REPUBLICAN BARKING PART II: John McCain is mad. He's REALLY mad. The venerable Arizona Senator took to the Senate Floor today to rail against the pending Omnibus Apporpriations Bill that would fund the government through September. He's particularly angry that the President has agreed to sign the bill even though it is filled with 9,000 earmarks. McCain apparently read Obama's words from one of their debates last year, when the then-Senator said that he would go through the budget line-by-line and eliminate wasteful spending. McCain then came up with the brilliant, original zinger: "This is change?"

While Obama did say that about earmarks, it was clear during the campaign that "fiscal restraint" would not be something he cared too much about. It was obvious that he was more interested in jumpstarting the economy through government action. It would be like if John McCain didn't let the ban on gays in the military expire, and Obama read a quote of McCain saying that he "respects gays and lesbians." Yes, he said it, but it didn't necessesarily mean he cared about it or was going to do anything about it.

That's it for today. Stay tuned tomorrow as the Senate begins to consider amendments to the omnibus budget package. The first one will be offered by McCain, and it would replace the bill with another stopgap measure that extends funding at current levels until the end of the fiscal year. I bet it gets defeated pretty badly.

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