Monday, March 8, 2010

The Weekly Strike-3/8-3/14

Good morning and welcome to the Weekly Strike. The weather is beautiful on the East Coast, Spring is in the air, and there is at least some small reason to be hopeful in the world of politics.

HEALTH CARE: There are new signs of hope in the ongoing health care saga, though I've learned over the past year never to get my hopes up too much. In the Senate, it appears as if Harry Reid (D-NV) has locked down the 50 votes needed to pass a package of fixes to the main health care bill via reconciliation. Even moderate rascals like Senators Nelson (NE) and Landrieu (LA) don't seem too opposed to the reconciliation idea. Amazingly, Harry Reid may actually have some votes to spare when this is all said and done. Senate Democrats need to produce a piece of paper signed by 50 Democrats that they will support the reconciliation bill. If they do that, nervous House members will know that their difficult votes in the coming weeks won't go to waste.

Over in the House, there are some signs that some of the Democrats who voted no on the original health bill may cross over to the yes side. The biggest block of potential switchers are the 5 or 6 previous "no" votes who have since announced their retirements. With nothing to lose this election season, they may be willing to do the right thing. A couple of other moderate Democrats that voted no on the original bill, like Reps. Boccieri (OH) and Altmire (PA), seemed to indicate over the weekend that they would be willing to support the Senate bill as long as it comes with the package of fixes. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) will need to pick up some previous "no" votes to push the bill over the finish line. Since the vote in November, 2 yes votes have resigned, and another passed away. Other members who previously voted yes may switch their votes to "no" if there isn't strict anti-abortion language in the bill.

The President will be doing his part this week to move the ball forward. Today, he will hold a rally in a suburb outside Pennsylvania, where he will reignite his sales pitch. He has a powerful new argument to make today. Investment firm Goldman Sachs has recently been seen encouraging investors to buy stock in health insurance companies because prices are skyrocketing and competition is decreasing. This seems like a pretty powerful argument for comprehensive reform, though it might ring hollow coming from an administration full of former Goldman Sachs brass. Later this week, he will be traveling to St. Louis, MO to give a similar speech.

This effort is all geared towards securing passage of health reform, at least in the House, by March 18th. To do this, Democrats will need a cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office this week, which in turn means that they will have to find some general consensus among 216 members in the next few days. We'll keep you posted.

THE HOUSE: The House this week has a relatively light schedule. Tomorrow and Wednesday, the House will take up a series of suspension bills. On Thursday, the House will take up a measure offered by Rep. Kucinich (D-OH) that would require all troops to be removed from Afghanistan by the end of this year. The bill has no chance of passing, but the Democratic leadership wants to give anti-war members a chance to voice their concerns with President Obama's war strategy. My guess is that a loose coalition of about 100 Democrats and 10 or so Republicans vote for the measure.

The House will also vote on an impeachment resolution on G. Thomas Porteous, an Alabama District Judge who has been accused of high crimes and misdemeanors as a result of corruption charges.

THE SENATE: The Senate this week will be attempting to take action on two pieces of the so-called jobs agenda. By Tuesday, the Senate should pass a bill that extends unemployment benefits, COBRA benefits and various expiring tax provisions through the end of this year. Despite some Republican opposition, I don't think the bill should have any trouble passing. It might have trouble passing promptly if Republicans decide to pursue more reckless procedural delays.

The Senate is also expected to give final approval to the first jobs bill, the $15 billion package that passed the House last week. This bill originated in the Senate, but since the House made some changes to it last week (more money for summer jobs programs and some spending offsets), the Senate will have to take up the revised version. I expect them to do so by week's end.

That's it for now. We'll see you this evening! Please leave comments!

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