Monday, November 9, 2009

The Weekly Strike-11/9-11/15

Good morning and welcome to the Weekly Strike. It was an exciting weekend in politics, as the House of Representatives passed comprehensive health care legislation. Make sure you read our recap of the vote. Also, scroll down on the right side of the page to see a widget of our live Twitter feed. I'll try not to get too into it, hopefully you all will keep me measured.

HEALTH CARE: After Saturday's huge victory on health reform, we are forced to sober up and realize that the fight now turns to the United States Senate, where all good legislation goes to die. Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) is expected to get a CBO estimate of his bill by the end of the week, which would ideally move the start of the debate to early next week. Republicans though will try every legislative maneuver available to slow down the process, so we could be looking at 3-4 weeks of debate. Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), the guru of legislative delays, has even threatened to have the entire 2,000 bill read on the Senate floor.

Then there's the question of whether we can get 60 votes to BEGIN the debate (likely) and 60 votes to end the debate (less likely). Senator Joe Lieberman (?-CT), the biggest current obstacle to providing health care to millions of Americans reiterated this weekend that he still plans to filibuster health care reform if it has a public option. We'll have more on his hypocrisy and selfishness in tonight's entry.

Even after the bill passes the Senate, there will be some contentious battles in conference. First, conferees must determine how to pay for the bill. I prefer the House version, which adds a surtax on millionaires. The Senate version includes an excise tax on high cost insurance plans. Second, there will have to be some sort of resolution on the abortion issue. An amendment passed by the House prohibits any beneficiaries of federal subsidies from having insurance that covers abortion. Liberals swallowed this language so that they could move the bill forward, but I expect them to fight hard for its removal in conference.

The bottom line is that we have a long way to go, and the road ahead will be difficult and frustrating. We shouldn't lose track of how significant Saturday's vote was. We did something that didn't happen under Truman, Nixon or Clinton. We passed health reform out of one chamber of Congress. Hopefully Saturday's vote will inspire Obama's progressive base to get more involved as the fight moves to the Senate.

THE WHITE HOUSE: President Obama doesn't have much time to celebrate Saturday's vote. He will spend this week dealing with a whole host of other problems. Today, the President will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss ongoing Middle East peace discussions. He will also issue an executive order related to veterans employment.

Tomorrow, Obama travels to Fort Hood, Texas to commemorate the victims of last week's shooting. More disturbing details are emerging about the alleged perpetrator. Nidal Malik Hasan apparently tried to have contact with Al Qaeda before going on his deadly rampage last week. Obama will have to thread the needle carefully here. He has to properly express his anger at what happened, but he can't make sweeping statements before we know all the facts of the case. This, I think, is what separate Barack Obama from John McCain. Had this event happened on McCain's watch, we would have bombed some country already.

Thursday, the President embarks on a one week trip to Asia to do some diplomatic stuff I guess.

THE SENATE: Before the Senate gets to health care, it will try to take care of some other business. This evening, the Senate will vote on the nomination of Andre Davis to be a Circuit Court Judge in the 4th Circuit. I expect his nomination will be approved pretty easily. The Senate then moves on to its 10th of 12 appropriations bills, the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs bills. This is usually among the least controversial of the appropriations measures. If Republicans don't use any delay tactics, this bill could be finished by Wednesday, when the Senate will take the day off for Veteran's Day. After that, we could either see another Appropriations bill, or the start of the health care debate.

So far, President Obama has signed 5 of the 12 appropriations bills into law. It is entirely possible that Congress will have to combine the other appropriations measures into an omnibus package before the end of the year.

The House is out of session until next Monday.

That's it for now, see you this evening!

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