Tuesday 6 October 2009

Who to watch in the next few days

OBAMA. The latest Gallup poll shows that support for health reform increased, and the latest AP poll shows Obama’s approvals are rising; likewise his approvals for handling the economy and health care. His approvals among the all-important independents is up too. Obama steps directly into the health care fray this week, Finance or no Finance: Senate Democrats do want Obama to steer on key issues such as the public option. But some of his key efforts are happening out of our view: in addition to lobbying Senate Blue Dogs to support cloture, Obama is also working behind the scenes to attract non-Washington Republicans to the cause. As a result, more Republicans are coming out for health reform: three former Senate GOP leaders, Mike Bloomberg, former HHS boss Tommy Thompson, and now Arnold Schwarzenegger. Buncha communists, right?

PETER ORSZAG. The White House team helping to shape the Senate bill will be Rahm Emanuel, health care adviser Nancy Ann DeParle, and OMB chief Peter Orszag. Having Emanuel in the room means we could get a trigger option; having Orszag in the room means a lean system which could win over deficit hawks like Bayh and Conrad. Orszag also said that the public option isn’t essential, and that he was okay with triggers and coops, so we’ll need to watch him to see how wobbly he really is. The GOP is watching him too: they demand that he be there for the Finance Committee vote on the Baucus bill, so they may be planning to ambush him.

HARRY REID. Reid is already beginning the effort to merge the two Senate bills; he’s not even waiting for Finance to vote anymore. Finance is delaying its vote, either due to Baucus’ glacial pace of operations as chairman, or because Baucus doesn’t have the votes to pass it. The Blue Dogs are demanding 72 hours to read floor bill before voting; I’m surprised they didn’t demand 72 years. Fine, gives Obama more time for arm-twisting. Meanwhile, Reid is moving forward.

CHUCK SCHUMER. Today we heard a cautionary tale about state-level health care plans, from the guy who ran the Texas plan. He said Texas tried to set up a state-run exchange, but it failed because because the plan was so small that the private insurers could undercut it and cherry-pick it to death, targeting companies with young, health employees and dumping the older folks out. The public exchange was swamped with old, sick people, prices rose, and it collapsed. Such cherry-picking by insurers also killed the systems in Florida, North Carolina and California . This is why we need a national plan, even if it’s just a coop, and we need provisions to prevent the insurers from gaming the system or exploiting adverse selection. If we reach a compromise on a plan that is a coop, but a national-level coop, watch for Schumer to be the architect of the deal, possibly working with Conrad.

KENT CONRAD The North Dakota Democratic party has passed a resolution demanding single payer, or at the very least the public option. It was unanimous. This is by way of putting more pressure on Conrad – vote with us or you’ll get a primary challenge! -- right after the Nebraska Democrats launched the same ambush against Ben Nelson.

RON WYDEN. Wyden wants to break the grip of the insurers. Wyden and other Democrats are furious at Baucus and Conrad for their obstructive behaviour in the Finance Committee. He and Rockefeller and Cantwell have been threatening to vote against the Baucus bill – perhaps they can force Obama to take a harder line on the public option on the Senate floor, in exchange for their acquiescence on the Baucus bill now. Wyden will vote for the public option if it comes to a vote.

BEN NELSON. A recent poll shows that if Ben Nelson supports a filibuster on health care, his support among Nebraska Democrats drops a staggering 17 points, thus paving the way for a long-overdue primary challenge. But Ben Nelson claims his leadership hasn’t even approached him on the cloture issue, which is bullcrap: he could still be planning to screw Obama over.

ALAN FRUMIN. He’s the Senate parliamentarian, and will rule on some critical issues once the health reform bill hits the Senate floor. He will uphold the rule that a conference report can be filibustered, which will put more pressure on Obama and Reid to hold the Senate Democrats together. He will probably support the notion that the Democrats, if need be, can overcome a filibuster not only by cloture or reconciliation, but also by leaving the bill on the agenda indefinitely, with nothing else on the agenda, so no other business can be conducted (the Republicans would try to play chicken and wait them out, but that’s a losing proposition). He may also have to rule on a tactic which the Republicans tried to use in 2005: the Democrats could threaten to use a chair ruling to kill a filibuster on the grounds that using the filibuster in such a case would be unconstitutional.

And of course THE REPUBLICANS; the air is slowing leaking out for them, and they know it:

Snowe is pushing to weaken insurance exchanges by forcing exchanges to allow any company into the exchange even if they have sky-high prices and lousy coverage like the existing firms. She is clearly not serious about either reform or bipartisanship. So she’s finally tipped her hand, and her influence will drop accordingly. Meanwhile GOP leaders are insisting that even if Snowe supports reform, it’s still not a bipartisan effort. As if anyone cares.

Earlier, the Republicans, on orders from their masters in the insurance industry, forced Democrats to amend the Baucus bill by adding an individual mandate forcing people to buy insurance. Now they are arguing exactly the opposite – now mandates allegedly are a bad idea -- in an effort to slow things down even further. Let’s just sit there and admire their chutzpah: slamming the Democrats for including something the Republicans demanded in the first place.

The conservatives are arguing, simultaneously, that “government can’t possibly compete with private enterprise”, and that “private enterprise can’t possibly compete with government.” Um, if government care is really that crappy, no will choose the public option, will they? You would think the Republicans would love to see the Democrats fall on their faces, right? But actually, the Republicans aren’t afraid that government health care will fail. They are afraid it will succeed. And if fact both of the arguments are wrong. As Bob Cesca pointed out, taking a private cab in New York costs four times as much as the public subway, but there are still more than 10,000 cabs on the streets – they didn’t disappear the minute the public trains began to run. .

Rasmussen, the Republican pollster, gets busted for lying again. At the same time, another right-leaning pollster, Strategic Vision, is also busted for cooking the books.

Fox anchor Shepherd Smith finally loses it and totally blows apart a Republican politician who was spewing lies about the “government takeover” of health care.

Republicans sucking up to the female voters again? The National Republican Congressional Committee just said "If Nancy Pelosi's failed economic policies are any indicator of the effect she may have on Afghanistan , taxpayers can only hope McChrystal is able to put her in her place." Another uppity liberal broad.

Limbaugh is trying to buy the St. Louis Rams. This guy is a drug addict who has failed in one field of endeavour after another, whose one brief flirtation with higher education was a laughable disaster, who only survives as a “pundit” because he never comes out of his sound booth where a real opponent could challenge his lies and his bullcrap, and who only has all those listeners because his company offers the show for free in many markets, in exchange for preferential advertising agreements. The man lacks the aptitude to lead flies to a pile of shit, and he’s going to turn around a team which is arguably the worst in football? And how could any black player possibly work for that guy? Or anybody who believes in labor unions? Or anybody with a brain?

Yet again, Republican governors who slammed the stimulus bill are now begging for stimulus money. As Kos implied today -- How about this? Any state whose Senators voted “no” on the stimulus gets no stimulus money. Call it The Hypocrisy Clause.

Pelosi is shooting for passage by Thanksgiving, so within milliseconds the Republican will make fools of themselves with a new wave of obstruction tactics, just so they can brag that they threw the timetable off track.

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