Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Daily Strike-6/10/09-Health

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike. Obviously a difficult day today in Washington, with the tragic events at the Holocaust museum. It is a pretty shocking story. But there is still a lot to talk about in less morbid world of national politics.

One quick note: One of our readers mentioned today that our entries are a little too long to read. I understand your frustration! That's the good thing about having section headings. If you only have a little bit of time, scroll down and read the sections you're interested in!

HEALTH CARE MEETINGS: The health care debate was front and center today in a series of White House meetings. This morning, the President met with Senators Baucus (D-MT), Dodd (D-CT), Grassley (IA) and Enzi (WY), the bipartisan leadership of the committees of jurisdiction. Basically, all that came out of the meeting is that Senators still want to get the bill done in July, and that Obama wants the bill to be "bipartisan." Senator Grassley even had the chutzpah to say that a bipartisan bill can't be "a Democrat bill that gets 5 Republican votes." What's the point of having elections if the winners don't decide what's in the bill? I'm frankly disturbed that the President seems to be more interested publicly in getting a "bipartisan bill" than a good bill. The Republican party has political incentive to see the bill fail. They have opposed and demagogued every Democratic idea, including the public option. The editorial board of the Wall Street Journal, which is where a lot of Republican ideas come from, came out today and basically said that there isn't a health care problem in this country. Enough with the bipartisanship. Even if Democrats don't use reconciliation procedures, they need at most 1 Republican vote. I say, focus on negotiating with centrist Democrats and the few moderate Republicans so that you can get the best possible bill 60 votes can get you. The times are too serious to play these "bipartisanship" games.

I think the real battle is to unite all factions of the diverse Democratic caucus. In the House, conservative "Blue Dog" Democrats say they are against a public health plan that plays by different rules than private companies. On the other hand the Congressional Black Caucus says they're against any plan that doesn't include a robust Medicare-like public option. Both coalitions are big enough to prevent Democrats from passing a bill. President Obama needs to figure out where the common ground is between THESE groups, not between Democrats and Republicans. Both the Blue Dogs and the CBC believe there is a health care crisis, and both would benefit from a strong, successful reform effort. I say, leave Grassley and his teenage-like "tweets" in Iowa. Let's get the Blue Dogs and other centrist Democrats in a room with Obama and Congressional liberals, and lock the door until they agree on something.

EXECUTIVE PAY: The one other big event at the White House today was Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner's announcement of a plan to curb executive pay. The Geithner plan cap executive pay, unfortunately. Geithner said that the administration doesn't want to dictate the private market. The plan does give shareholders the right to vote on executive compensation, which is a step in the right direction. The proposal would have to be codified in a legislative proposal, which probably won't happen this summer because of Capitol Hill's packed schedule.

THE SENATE: The Senate had to take yet another cloture vote today on the bill that puts tobacco under the authority of the FDA. The previous cloture vote was on the Dodd substitute amendment, which was basically the underlying bill with some minor changes. Today's vote was to cut off debate on the bill itself. The Senate voted 67-30 to advance the bill. Once again, the only Democrat in opposition was Kay Hagan, from tobacco-rich North Carolina. Republicans Collins (ME), Corker (TN), Cornyn (TX), Grassley (IA), Gregg (NH), Hutichson (TX), Johanns (NE), Lugar (IN), Snowe (ME) and Thune (SD). It looks like we'll have a vote, finally, on the bill tomorrow, which should pretty much mirror today's vote exactly. I expect the bill to go back to the House next week, where the lower chamber will likely accept the Senate's changes and send the bill to President Obama for his signature.

THE HOUSE: The House spent the day working on a bill that authorizes funding for the State Department and related agencies for 2010 and 2011. An authorization bill sends guidelines for spending money, which must be appropriated in later legislation. The bill, as we've mentioned, contains a few policy changes that mostly consist of adding new review boards and and advisory commissions. See for yourself. The bill passed by a vote of 235-187. The vote was mostly along party lines. 7 Republicans voted for the bill, and 18 Democrats voted against it. The main objections to the bill was that it authorizes too many additional federal programs which will require additional government spending. A Republican motion to recommit that would have imposed sanctions on Iranian petroleum failed by a vote of 174-250. 5 Democrats crossed over and voted yes, while 8 Republicans voted no.

The House considered a boatload of amendments to the bill, which I won't go into right now. Read today's floor summary if you want an idea of what was considered.

We neglected to mention yesterday that the House passed a so-called "Cash for Clunkers" bill yesterday. The bill would allow people to turn in old (post-1984) high emissions cars and get a $4500 credit towards the purchase of a new car. The bill is a great idea, because it would stimulate car sales (which is desperately needed right now) and would also get old gas guzzlers off the road. The Senate is expected to take up the measure in the next couple of weeks. The bill passed 298-119 with 2 members voting present (it required a 2/3rds majority vote since it was under suspension of the rules). 59 Republicans joined all but 9 Democrats in supporting this common-sense measure.

WAR FUNDING: No word yet on when we'll get a final version of the war funding bill. Democrats in the House are still trying to round up votes for a version of the bill that includes money for the IMF, and does NOT include a Senate amendment prohibiting the release of those torture photos. The liberals like the IMF funding and the absence of the Senate amendment, but don't want to fund the wars. The moderates have the exact opposite view. This is a great example of how tough it must be to be a party whip. Building coalitions for anything is a delicate balancing act.

VIRGINIA: As we mentioned last night, state Senator Creigh Deeds has won the Virginia Democratic primary for governor, and will face Republican Attorney General Bob McDonnell in the fall. Deeds is a promising candidate because of his roots in conservative Southwest Virginia. The race will get extra national attention because it is one of only two governors races this November, and will be an early referendum on President Obama. We'll have more on the race in the coming months.

That's it for another long day in Washington. Leave us some comments and join us again tomorrow!

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