Monday, July 20, 2009

The Daily Strike-7/20/09-Battle Lines

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike. Before reading on, make sure you catch our Weekly Strike, and The Big Picture's great evaluation of the past week in politics. Tonight's entry will be on the shorter side.

HEALTH CARE: The battle of the hour waged on today, as President Obama continued to speak out forcefully in favor of health reform. After meeting with a group of insurers in the morning, Obama made a strong statement and used a bit of positive polarization. The President cited comments by Republican Senator Jim DeMint, who said that if they can bring down health care, it will be a "Waterloo" moment for the President. The President used DeMint's rhetoric as an example of what he's up against: people who want him to fail for their own political benefit. The President reminded the American people that it's not about Barack Obama. It's about the American people. It may sound cheesy, but it's important to remind voters of the motivations of the opposition.

DeMint isn't alone in his ill-informed, politically motivated opposition. There are two types of opponents that Obama must confront. First, there are the intellectual conservatives who know that the Democratic party will have lasting majorities if health care succeeds. Today Bill Kristol, the man who helped derail the Clinton health plan with a memo instructing Republican leaders not to compromise, wrote another memo calling for the Republicans to "go for the kill" against Obama's health plan.

Then, there are people who are just stupid and nihilistic. I really don't want to be calling people names, but it's hard to argue that some of these people just have no idea what they're talking about. Take Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican National Committee. He gave a speech today at the National Press Club slamming Obama's health plan. Once he was forced to stray from his talking points during Q & A, he revealed a startling lack of knowledge about the basic details of health reform. He didn't seem to know what an individual mandate is, even though it's a major tenet of current health reform plans. He said Obama's plan amounted to "socialism" and when confronted about the success of Medicare and Social Security, which were called "socialist" in their time, Steele said that the jury is still out on those programs. He even admitted at the end of the event that "he doesn't do policy."

I then listened to some of the House Energy and Commerce committee markup on the health care bill, and was astonished at how ignorant members of Congress were. Republican Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon tried to argue that the incentive structures in the bill were skewed, because small business owners would rather pay a 2% (of total profit) fee for NOT providing health insurance than pay 12% to provide health insurance. I can't believe how stupid that argument is. For one, right now businesses are punished ZERO percent, so they have absolutely no incentive to provide health care. Also, in the process of arguing that we should do nothing, he admits that businesses currently pay too much to provide health insurance to their workers.

None of these people have a lot of power, but they are able to frame the terms of the debate. Their ideas are picked up by the mainstream media as the "reasonable" opposition to Obama's health plan. As Fox anchor Shepard Smith might say, "sometimes, it just gets scary."

Nothing of substance really happened today on the health care front. The Energy and Commerce committee continued its markup, and is still on scheduled to vote on the bill Wednesday. No word from the Senate Finance committee about their proposal.

CONGRESS: As usual, it was a quiet Monday in Congress. The Senate continued consideration of the Defense Authorization Bill. The big amendment we were looking for, the one that will strip funding from the costly F-22 fighter jet program, will come tomorrow afternoon. The only amendment vote that occurred today was from Senator Sessions (R-AL). The amendment prohibits assault or battery of a United States Service Member on account of his or her service in the military. In other words, it extends hate crime protection to our soldiers. Pretty hard to resist politically. It passed by 92-0.

The House went through suspension bills today, and will do so tomorrow. Real legislative business resumes on Wednesday.

That's it for tonight, see you tomorrow!

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