Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Daily Strike-3/17/10-Hurry Up!!!

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike. Another day in this painstaking health care marathon, and as of 6pm, we still don't have the text and score of the health care reconciliation bill. That means the earliest we'll see a vote is Saturday evening.

HEALTH CARE: The biggest news of the day on health care was mostly the lack of news. The Congressional Budget Office has not released a score on the health care reconciliation package of fixes because Democrats haven't figured out how to have the bill hit deficit targets. The bill must reduce the deficit relative to current law, meaning it does not benefit from the major deficit reduction already in the Senate bill. The major changes the Democrats wanted to make consisted of more spending on subsidies, and an easing of the proposed excise tax. Democrats need to offset this new spending. They tried to do that by including a student loan overhaul that is projected to reduce the deficit. Apparently, the loan measure doesn't reduce the deficit enough, so Democrats have been desperately trying to find other sources of revenue. President Obama is meeting today with Richard Trumka, the head of the AFL-CIO, to see if organized labor can accept a slightly increased excise tax on high cost insurance plans.

The House leadership is meeting right now. Rep. Rob Andrews (NJ) said that is still possible that we'll see a CBO score tonight. Either way, I would still guess that Democrats hold the final vote Saturday evening.

Cobbling the 216 together got slightly easier. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who stubbornly opposed the bill from the left, announced today that he will now support the measure. Kucinich said that he began to recognize in the past couple of days that this bill is an important step in getting to universal health care. He was also seemingly affected by a serious personal pitch from President Obama. At a rally in Ohio this week, President Obama pointed out Kucinich and noted how it has been so long since Congress passed a bill that gave relief to the American people. I think this hit a chord with the firebrand liberal.

Kucinich's announcement means that even if 2 Democrats who voted yes on the bill in November switch their votes to no, the bill would pass. I expect that the Democrats may be able to win 4-5 other former no votes. All we can ask for is that the new yes votes outweigh the Stupak bloc of 5-6 members who would oppose the new bill because of its abortion language.

In an interview tonight with Fox News' Bret Baier, President Obama said that he expects the bill to pass. He also defused Baier's question about the House's decision to use the so-called self-executing rule. He said, correctly, that we will know exactly where members of Congress stand after this weekend's vote. I sure hope they stand in the right place. I'm feeling increasingly confident that the bill will pass , probably by no more than 1 or 2 votes.

THE SENATE: It was one of those rare productive days in the United States Senate. Senators voted 68-29 to send a modest but important jobs bill to President Obama's desk. You know by now that the bill includes a payroll tax break for companies that have hired workers who have been unemployed for at least 60 days. It also includes an infusion of funding to state transportation projects. President Obama will sign the bill into law tomorrow. It will be his first legislative accomplishment since at least January (PAYGO?) but his first significant legislative accomplishment in a long, long time.

Every Democrat voted for the bill except for Senator Ben Nelson (NE) who was opposed to it from the beginning. The bill attracted some solid Republican support, including the vote of the newest Senator Scott Brown (MA). How do you like him now crazy right-wingers? Republicans Alexander (TN), Bond (MO), Burr (NC), Cochran (MS), Collins (ME), Inhofe (OK), LeMieux (FL), Murkowski (AK), Snowe (ME) and Voinovich (OH) also supported the legislation.

The Senate also voted 98-0 today to confirm O. Rogeriee Thompson to be a First Circuit Judge.

THE HOUSE: The House spent the day dealing with suspension bills. A bill honoring the University of Maryland Basketball Team (full disclosure: I'm a Terrapin now!) turned into a partisan grudge match (seriously. )Majority Leader Hoyer proposed the resolution, but Republicans criticized it because some of their similar resolutions haven't been given a vote. I sort of agree with them on this one. Maryland hasn't done anything yet!

The House is in a holding pattern until the health bill vote this weekend.

That's it for now. Leave comments!

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