Friday, June 19, 2009

The Daily Strike-6/19/09-Fatherly Guidance

Good Friday evening and welcome to the Daily Strike. It's been a tough week for Barack Obama, so he's probably not happy that he has to pretend to be funny in front of a bunch of radio correspondents tonight.

HEALTH CARE: After a week of setbacks and false starts, we finally got a bit of good news on the health reform front. House Democrats released their version of comprehensive reform, and it looks pretty good on the surface. The plan includes the all-important public option, it expands Medicaid coverage for lower middle class families, and requires employers to either provide insurance or pay fees. The bill is the creation of three old Democratic bulls, Ways and Means committee chairman Charles Rangel, Energy and Commerce chairman Henry Waxman and Education and Labor Chairman George Miller. It is certainly more liberal that the draft bill emerging from the Senate Finance Committee, and is probably more liberal than the nebulous proposal coming from the Senate HELP committee.

The one problem (AGAIN!) is that the outline tells us nothing about how we're going to pay for reform. In some ways, this is frustrating, because no bill that doesn't account for cost can be taken too seriously at this point. On the other hand, it probably makes sense to sell the positive aspects of the bill first, and introduce the painful sacrifices later. At least the Democrats today did more than bicker and engage in turf battles. Hopefully House committees begin marking up the bill soon. In the meantime, it's critically important that House Democrats rally behind the plan and promote it in their home districts. A political proposal is only as good as the actors willing to promote it.

THE HOUSE: The House today considered the 2nd of the 13 annual appropriations bill. This time, they didn't have to deal with 8 hours and 52 votes of unprecedented Republican delay tactics. I guess the Republican strategy of forcing votes on everything was so successful that they don't need to use it anymore! (Or they just realized how utterly pointless it was, and how it would have cut into their valuable district time). This bill is one is my favorites, because it's the one where they get to vote on funding themselves. Yes, it's called the "Legislative Branch Appropriations Bill." The best/worst part about this bill is that many members use it for political posturing. It's so politically easy to attack Congress for spending too much of the taxpayer's hard earned money on their own business. On the other hand, serious legislators understand that Congress needs money to operate. The bill passed by a vote of 232-178. 18 Republicans voted yes, and 27 Democrats voted no.

A long time ago, Democrats and Republicans agreed not to allow amendments to this bill, because members would just use it as an opportunity to score political points by proposing to cut silly-sounding items. Unfortunately, Republicans always have the right to recommit the bill before final passage. Their motion to recommit today would have cut about $100,000 from the bill that would have been used to continue funding a House bicycle program. They think they're so cleaver. Democrats wanted to pick their battles on this one, so they largely let the motion slide. It passed 374-34, with all no votes coming from Democrats.

The House then moved onto an impeachment case (you rarely see those anymore!) against a Texas district judge who was convicted of obstruction of justice in a case involving the sexual abuse of two female employees. Judge Samuel Kent is in prison, but is still receiving a federal paycheck. In a rare moment of bipartisan consensus, the House unanimously approved four articles of impeachment against Judge Kent. His case now goes to the United States Senate. If 2/3rds of the Senators vote to convict him, he will officially be removed from office. It seems like that's a foregone conclusion at this point. Ironically, the last federal judge to be impeached was Alcee Hastings of Florida, who now serves as a Democratic representative of Congress.

The House also interrupted business to vote on a resolution expressing solidarity with the political protesters in Iran. The bill, introduced by Republican Mike Pence (IN), originally contained harsh language calling out the Iranian regime. The White House requested that the resolution be toned down, and Pence obliged. The only member to vote no on this was Ron Paul of Texas. Dr. No lives up to his name.

THE WHITE HOUSE: The big event today at the White House was a town hall style meeting at the White House to discuss the importance of fatherhood. Several celebrities and sports stars were in attendance. Obama, like he did last year in his great father's day speech, used his own experience growing up virtually father-less to underscore the importance of being a responsible Dad.

The President tonight, as we indicated, is telling jokes at the annual Television and Radio Correspondents Dinner. I'll say it again: Less of this stuff, more selling health care.

The Big Picture got it exactly right today. The effort Obama must take on this issue must resemble the effort Bush undertook to sell the Iraq war. Members of the administration were out there everyday scaring the living daylights out of the American people, and convincing them that urgent action was necessary. Just because the ends were wrong doesn't mean we can't employ the means.

COMMENT OF THE WEEK: It's been a couple weeks since we included this feature in our blog, but it's back! This week's featured comment comes from anonymous, who was talking about Indiana Rep. Steve Buyer's ridiculous tirade against the tobacco bill.

Anonymous said...

Steve Buyer is the recipient of the largest amount of tobacco money of any Congressman in the history of Indiana. He is especially favored by Smokeless Tobacco PACs. He is nothing but a spokesperson for his corporate donors. He's the same guy who said we should use nuclear weapons in Afghanistan and who lied to Congress that he had been called to active duty in Iraq and then took a 3 week leave of absence at his home.

That's it for tonight, join us tomorrow for another edition of Wouldn't Go As Far as THAT!

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