Monday, October 12, 2009

The Weekly Strike-10/12-10/18

Happy Monday morning and welcome to the Weekly Strike, where we preview the week in politics. We should get at least some movement on health care this week (finally). Let's get to it!

HEALTH CARE: Today, the insurance industry has ended the cease fire on health reform. For much of the past year, President Obama and Senator Baucus (D-MT) have tried to neutralize the insurance companies, who were so key in killing the Clinton plan in 1993. They had succeeded until this point. The insurance industry had not run any ads in opposition to health reform. Today, that changed. The industry has released a "report" claiming that the Baucus bill will raise insurance premiums. I think this is the biggest gift the White House could have gotten, frankly. The insurance industry is about the best villain one could possibly have during a fight over health reform. Both the White House and the Senate Finance Committee have already blasted the report, saying that the numbers are false.

A few thoughts on this:

1. We should have never trusted the insurance industry. This bill threatens their interests, pure and simple. If it didn't, it wouldn't be a bill worth passing.

2. This underscores the importance of a public option. Without a public option, insurance companies could indeed raise premiums at will, and with the individual mandate, would have millions more customers to rip off. In other words, premiums will rise most if there isn't public competition with the insurance companies.

3. Democrats need to come out hard against this report. This report gives us an opportunity to re-frame the debate as "Democrats and the People" vs. "Republicans and the Insurance Industry." Make it happen.

Tomorrow, the Senate Finance committee will likely vote to approve their version of the bill. The committee has 13 Democrats and 10 Republicans. It is pretty much certain that 11 Democrats will vote for the bill, and 9 Republicans will vote against it. Democrats Rockefeller (WV) and Wyden (OR) have legitimate concerns that the bill does not go far enough to bring down costs and increase competition. I think they're right, but I also think they should vote for this bill to keep the ball rolling. Senator Snowe (R-ME) is a complete mystery. I still say it's about 50-50 whether she supports this bill. After tomorrows vote, Senate leaders will begin melding the Finance and HELP bills with an eye on bringing the bill to the floor next week. I think it is more likely we'll see a bill on the floor at the end of the month. The House is still working to merge its bills, with next week as a potential (but unlikely) target for floor debate.

THE WHITE HOUSE: The White House has a busy week apart from the continuing health care push. Today, the President takes the day off to celebrate Indigenous People's Day (that's right, the Strike supports political correctness). Tomorrow, the President holds a meeting with Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero at the White House, and then hosts a concert featuring Latino Music. On Wednesday, the President holds a meeting with his national security team on Afghanistan. I'm glad the President is taking his due time in making a decision on whether to send additional troops to the region. I hope he continues to be deliberative despite the pleas of neo-conservative hawks.

Thursday, the President travels to New Orleans for the first time as President. He will hold two town meetings there, presumably on Katrina and Health Care. The President has so far done little during his Presidency to address the rebuilding of New Orleans. This is a good chance to start that process. Friday, the President hold a forum on community service in Texas with Former President George H.W. Bush. That should be awkward and fun.

THE HOUSE: The House is still in a bit of a holding pattern this week as it waits for health care legislation to emerge from negotiations. The House will consider suspension bills tomorrow and Wednesday. On Thursday and Friday, the House will vote on an extension of the Bay Area Water Recycling Program, a relatively non-controversial bill that has been held up by a couple procedural hurdles. I expect the bill to pass easily (it got a majority a couple of weeks ago, but not with enough votes to pass it under suspension of the rules). Next comes another appropriations bill conference report, this time on the Department of Homeland Security funding bill. It's also possible we'll see the conference report on the Department of Interior funding bill. The House has approved 4 of these conference reports, while the Senate has thus far only voted on two of them. The Senate, of course, still needs to finish their own versions of 5 appropriation bills.

THE SENATE: The Senate will try to finish the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations bill tomorrow. A cloture vote is scheduled in the afternoon. I assume they will then move on to one of the other unfinished appropriations bills. We'll keep you posted as we get more information.

Thanks for reading, and leave some comments! See you tonight!

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