Trigger Happy: Will those who’ve dug in be able to walk back?

By Gorman Gorman

Sep 4, 2009 8:03am

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports:
Did that feel like a congressional break? Does it feel like a trigger has already been pulled?

Here on another jobs day, with Vice President Joe Biden setting that bar high — and the unemployment rate up to 9.7 percent, creeping toward double digits – the anticipation begins to build over President Obama's new, new approach to health care.

But who's ready to listen?

The summer has had the impact of moving the two sides farther apart, not closer together. The floating of possible compromises has prompted those on the left and the right to sink in their feet.

And we're still digging: The mere hint that President Obama might not insist on a public option has provoked the kind of quotes that are hard to walk back from.

But first, a longstanding policy is being shifted by the White House — after years' of legal wrangling and complaints.

"The Obama administration plans to change White House policy by releasing the names of thousands of visitors whose comings and goings traditionally are kept secret by presidents," USA Today's Richard Wolf reports. "The new policy would begin in mid-September. Electronic visitor logs maintained by the Secret Service would be released three to four months after visits are made. The disclosure would include who set up the meeting, where it was held and for how long. Specific requests for visits before Sept. 15 would be dealt with individually."

"Exceptions would be made in cases of national security, extreme confidentiality — such as a visit by a future Supreme Court nominee — and strictly personal visits to the first family, including daughters Malia and Sasha."

"We will achieve our goal of making this administration the most open and transparent administration in history," Obama will say, per ABC's Jake Tapper. "Americans have a right to know whose voices are being heard in the policymaking process."

Back on health care — where every quote on the public option should be parsed for wiggle room these days:

"Any real change requires the inclusion of a strong public option to promote competition and bring down costs," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. "A bill without a strong public option will not pass the House."

"A health reform bill without a robust public option will not achieve the health reform this country so desperately needs," members of the House Progressive Caucus wrote President Obama. "We cannot vote for anything less."

A break in labor's ranks? "We've got to find out what's doable," Teamsters President James Hoffa said on Bloomberg TV's "Political Capital with Al Hunt." "I think it's important to get something done this time and declare a victory."

Looming over a frustrating debate: "Top Democrats should be very frightened about the sharp drop in support among independents, because it could ultimately threaten their party's hold on the House and shrink their majority in the Senate," Charlie Cook writes in his National Journal column. "Voters see Obama as having sent suggestions rather than proposals to the Hill, staking his future and reputation on a body that they hold in low regard."

He continues: "With 14 months to go before the 2010 midterm election, something could happen to improve the outlook for Democrats. However, wave elections, more often than not, start just like this: The president's ratings plummet; his party loses its advantage on the generic congressional ballot test; the intensity of opposition-party voters skyrockets; his own party's voters become complacent or even depressed; and independent voters move lopsidedly away. These were the early-warning signs of past wave elections. Seeing them now should terrify Democrats."

Trigger the trigger — the only plausible negotiated settlement to this long battle.

"The idea of such a backup plan or ‘trigger mechanism' has emerged in negotiations between the White House and the one Republican willing to engage with them on the issue, Senator Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, on whom the White House rests its hopes of finding a middle ground," Robert Pear and Jackie Calmes write in The New York Times. "If Mr. Obama has new ideas about the public plan, he has not shared them with his allies in Congress."

"The plan might win over moderate Republican and wavering Democratic senators, who do not want to give the government blanket authorization to enter the insurance market and compete with private companies," the Los Angeles Times' Peter Nicholas and Christi Parsons report. "At the same time, President Obama could make the argument that he has not abandoned the prospect of a government-run plan, also called a ‘public option,' which liberals contend is needed to inject competition into the insurance industry."

"We don't even know what this buys us," said one Democratic senator. "Does it get us to 58 votes? And if that's all it does for us, why do we want to go down this route?"

House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., is floating an idea that goes down a similar route: "We ought to set up some pilot programs regionally around the country," Clyburn told McClatchy's James Rosen. "What you're trying to do is find out what works and what doesn't work."

Other concessions? "Nancy-Ann DeParle, Obama's health care adviser, said that outrage over insurance company practices has grown so great that Congress could quickly pass legislation to fix the problem, with or without broader proposals such as requiring people to obtain coverage," Michael Kranish reports in The Boston Globe.

"I think the insurance market reforms are so deeply thought to be needed that I think the Congress would be willing to enact those apart from the increases in coverage,'' DeParle tells Kranish.

Don't give up on the Gang of Six — yet: "All six of the Finance Committee negotiators – three Republicans and three Democrats – are expected to take part in a conference call scheduled for 90 minutes on Friday at 10:30am. While the lawmakers have been in their respective states during the August recess, staffers have reportedly been hard at work on the secretive compromise," ABC's Z. Byron Wolf reports.

Can you get people together in this climate? "Though favoring one proposal over another carries political risks, potentially limiting what Obama might be able to claim as a victory, senior administration officials said the speech will satisfy demands that he clarify which provisions he supports and which he could jettison," Anne E. Kornblut writes in The Washington Post. "Advisers said Obama will address the question [of the public option] — setting the stage for a showdown between liberal Democrats insistent on a public option and conservative Democrats and Republicans who oppose it.

"Conservatives plan to run new advertisements on Tuesday arguing that Democrats' health proposals contain no guarantees to prevent government from rationing health care and creating long waits for treatment," Janet Adamy writes in The Wall Street Journal. "White House allies on Capitol Hill expect the president will scale back some of his ambitions, without going as far as Republicans such as [Sen. Chuck] Grassley are seeking."

"Interest groups are unleashing a torrent of modern and old-fashioned lobbying tactics at members of Congress returning for the autumn battle over health care, from spending sky-high amounts on TV ads to staging rallies in the capital and perhaps outside insurance company offices," per the AP's Alan Fram.

Think the temperature's cooled out there at all? "An already ugly health-care debate got even uglier on Wednesday evening when a 65-year old opponent of Democratic reform proposals had his finger bitten off at a vigil organized by MoveOn.org in Thousand Oaks, Calif.," per ABC's Teddy Davis.

David Brooks' latest prescription: "This is not the time to get incremental. It's the time to get fundamental. Reform the incentives. Make consumers accountable for spending. Make price information transparent. Reward health care, not health services. Do what you set out to do. Bring change." The upshot? "He's become ordinary," Charles Krauthammer writes in his column. "The spell is broken. The charismatic conjurer of 2008 has shed his magic. He's regressed to the mean, tellingly expressed in poll numbers hovering at 50 percent."

Coming up on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" Sunday: White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, plus a special health care roundtable with former Sen. Tom Daschle, former Sen Bob Dole, Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., and Rep. Mike Pence, D-Ind.

Your stimulus salesman, maybe overselling: "Vice President Joe Biden proclaimed success beyond expectations for the $787 billion economic stimulus, but his glowing assessment overlooks many of the program's problems, including delays in releasing money, questionable spending priorities and project picks that are under investigation," the AP's Brett J. Blackledge reports.

Look forward to seeing these numbers: "Mr. Biden predicted that the stimulus package will have created or saved a total of 750,000 jobs since it was passed in February. The president's Council of Economic Advisers on Sept. 10 will issue its estimates of the number of jobs saved and created with stimulus spending," Louise Radnofsky and Elizabeth Williamson report in The Wall Street Journal.

Back to school — for a schooling: "President Obama's plan to deliver a speech to public school students on Tuesday has set off a revolt among conservative parents, who have accused the president of trying to indoctrinate their children with socialist ideas and are asking school officials to excuse the children from listening," James C. McKinley and Sam Dillon report in The New York Times.

"As the statement drew attention from blogs and cable TV news shows, some conservative sites began calling for a ‘national skip day' to prevent children from being exposed to ‘Obama propaganda,' " per the Los Angeles Times' Kristina Sherry.

Per the AP: "Districts in states including Texas, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Virginia, Wisconsin have decided not to show the speech to students. Others are still thinking it over or are letting parents have their kids opt out."

The text will be released a day earlier, so schools can decide in advance whether to let their students watch.

The third branch speaks: ABC's Jan Crawford Greenburg has details of C-SPAN's interviews with Supreme Court justices, as they get ready to welcome a new member. "I suspect it's like people look at their families. You know, this is the family how could it, you know, be different," Chief Justice John Roberts said.

Van Jones, in deep: "A top environmental official of the Obama administration issued a statement Thursday apologizing for past incendiary statement and denying that he ever agreed with a 2004 petition on which his name appears, a petition calling for congressional hearings and an investigation by the New York Attorney General into ‘evidence that suggests high-level government officials may have deliberately allowed the September 11th attacks to occur,' " ABC's Jake Tapper reports. "A source said Jones did not carefully review the language in the petition before agreeing to add his name."

Big week for George Will: First he wants out of Afghanistan, now it's Iraq. "As Iraqi violence is resurgent, the logic of triumphalism leads here: If, in spite of contrary evidence, the U.S. surge permanently dampened sectarian violence, all U.S. forces can come home sooner than the end of 2011. If, however, the surge did not so succeed, U.S. forces must come home sooner."

The Kicker:

"I'm surprised people consider it unusual that a former politician would be on a dancing show. . . . Politics is also show biz." — Tom DeLay, new "Dancing with the Stars" contestant.

"I have spoken to every single governor, except one, who's now a former governor." — Vice President Joe Biden, not the first or the last to have trouble connecting with Sarah Palin.

The morning Note will not publish on Monday, Sept. 7. Enjoy your Labor Day weekend.

For up-to-the-minute political updates check out The Note's blog . . . all day every day:

You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus