Monday, March 15, 2010

The Daily Strike-3/15/10-The Waiting Game

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike. Health care judgment week continues. Let's get right to it.

HEALTH CARE: Today, House Democrats took the first procedural step necessary to ensure health reform's passage by the end of the week. The House Budget Committee, led by Rep. John Spratt (D-SC) held a hearing to vote on a reconciliation bill to send to the House Rules Committee. The bill they were voting on is not the actual reconciliation bill that will come before the House (we explained this morning). Nonetheless, the vote on the committee today gave us some indication that Democrats are ready to move forward. The committee voted 21-16 to move the bill forward. Of course, all Republicans voted no. Two Democrats, Reps. Boyd (FL) and Edwards (TX) voted no as well. Every other Democrat on the committee supported it, which is a good sign. Among the supporters were Reps. Berry (AR) and Kaptur (OH), two pro-life members who were wavering about whether to support a bill without the Stupak anti-abortion language. If this vote is an indication, it looks like they are willing to move forward. No amendments are allowed to reconciliation bills in committee, but Republicans are currently wasting time by proposing "motions to instruct" the Rules Committee. These are non-binding motions instructing the Rules Committee to do things like "stop the government takeover of health care" and "allow people to not lose the coverage they currently have." In other words, Republicans are using this hearing to make political statements.

The reconciliation bill full of fixes to the Senate bill should finally be released tomorrow. The Congressional Budget Office has been dithering a bit on a cost estimate, much to the frustration of House Democrats, who want to see the bill before indicating how they will vote. Once that language is released, the bill will go the Rules Committee. It looks like the Rules Committee is leaning towards considering the bill under a self-executing rule. In other words, the rule will stipulate that if the House passes the reconciliation bill, the Senate bill will be deemed passed as well.

Once the Rules Committee finishes its work, the bill will come to the floor. I'm still thinking that should be Saturday. There aren't any significant updates on where the swing voters stand. I expect we'll get a better indication in the next couple of days. I hope members aren't swayed by the throng of tea-party protesters that are supposed to arrive tomorrow. That might be a real pain in the neck, because they know how to get a lot of media attention.

Meanwhile, the President continued his very strong effort to sway public opinion. At an appearance in Strongsville, OH, the President implored Congress to show courage and get the job done. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who is inexplicably opposing the bill because he doesn't think it is liberal enough, was present at the rally. When the President pointed out Kucinich, someone in the crowd yelled out "vote yes!" President Obama told the person to repeat that message directly to the Congressman. I wonder if Rep. Kucinich can be persuaded that killing the most sweeping progressive bill in a generation is actually not good for progressivism.

THE SENATE: The Senate voted 61-30 tonight to end debate on that $15 billion jobs measure. As we said this morning, this is the measure mostly made up of tax credits for businesses that hire new workers. It also contains increased highway funding and grants to states for infrastructure projects. The Senate approved the bill few weeks ago, but the House has since amended the measure. According to an agreement between the party leaders, a vote on final passage of the bill will occur on Wednesday morning. President Obama will likely sign the bill into law by the end of the week. It will hopefully be a legislative appetizer for health reform.

Every Democrat besides Ben Nelson (NE) voted to cut off debate on the bill, as did Republicans Brown (MA) (ha!), Burr (NC), Collins (ME), Inhofe (OK) and Snowe (ME).

The Senate will continue work on an FAA authorization bill tomorrow.

That's it for tonight. See you tomorrow! It's an exciting week, isn't it?

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