Bye, Bipartisanship: Reid’s gambit forces centrists to choose sides

By Gorman Gorman

Oct 27, 2009 8:30am

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports: There won't be a press conference to announce its victory. There are too many lobbyists to thank, anyway.

Nearly a year after the American people voted to kill it, partisanship not only still lives — it thrives, and it may never have been healthier than at this moment.

The White House hesitancy to go this route on health care had everything to do with the desire to keep Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, on board. Now that she's gone, this becomes a purely partisan exercise: Every one of those 60 votes in the Senate will have to be Democratic votes, and you can pretty much forget about 61 or 62.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's decision to include a public option in his version of the health care bill is a major victory for the left — one that almost certainly wouldn't have come without grass-roots pressure on a majority leader who's facing a tough reelection fight himself.

Votes 58, 59, and 60 are critical, of course, but this does less to empower centrists than to challenge them: Will senators Ben Nelson, Blanche Lincoln, and Mary Landrieu (and maybe even Snowe herself) vote for a filibuster? Now that the key vote will come not on whether to have a public option (since that's already in the bill) but on the whole package of health care reforms?

And, if GOP calculations are even close to correct, and Democrats will fully own something the public doesn't really want, this is a major win for the right as well. (If Reid can get to 60 — big if still, we know — it's not like the bill is going be pushed rightward when it goes through the House and conference.)

It all comes while President Obama spends another day on the campaign trail — campaigning on Tuesday for a candidate his political team has already deposited under a bus marked "hopeless."

And while a tough road in Afghanistan adds speed bumps: With a resignation further limiting the president's running room, ABC's Jake Tapper reports that the president is likely to seek more troops — though not 40,000 of them.

These are tough games — none tougher than the Senate game where Reid, D-Nev., now has to make those D's next to his colleagues' names mean something.

"The announcement was a turning point in the debate over how much of a role government should play in an overhauled health care system, and it set the stage for a test of Democratic party unity," The New York Times' Robert Pear and David Herszenhorn report. "With his action on Monday, Mr. Reid showed liberals he was doing all he could to achieve their goal. If his effort falters, he could propose other variations of a public plan, like one with the trigger mechanism Ms. Snowe proposed."

"U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid is gambling that he can keep his party's votes together as he pushes for a government-run health-insurance program that's likely to alienate the one Republican on his side," Bloomberg's Laura Litvan and James Rowley.

Liberal activists had their say, and their day: "For Reid, it was an admission of the formidable power of liberal interest groups," Dana Milbank writes in his Washington Post column. "Now, if the public option unexpectedly survives in the Senate, Reid keeps his hero status on the left. If it fails, he at least gets credit for trying. By the Nobel committee's revised standards, his aspirations might even earn him the prizes in medicine and economics."

Out in the cold: "It's regrettable, because I certainly have worked in good faith on a bipartisan basis," Snowe tells ABC News.

"Whether or not Reid has the votes to get this done in the Senate is something that not even he knows," ABC's Jonathan Karl reported on "Good Morning America" Tuesday.

"In making it part of the official Senate bill, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has aligned himself with frustrated liberals and majority public opinion, and he has given President Obama and other Democrats an opportunity to do the same," Politics Daily's Jill Lawrence writes. "You could argue that the potential loss of Snowe over a public option is a down side. But who really thinks one Republican equals a bipartisan bill? And isn't it crazy to give her veto power over what's in it?"

It gives "new life to a contentious idea that has divided the country and members of Congress who are wary of government involvement in health care," The Boston Globe's Susan Milligan and Lisa Wangsness report.

Keeping the pressure on: on Tuesday will release figures from a survey of its membership.

As shared with The Note: "Nationwide, 93% of MoveOn members said they would not support their Senator again for re-election if they joined with Republicans to filibuster health care reform. In the email to their members MoveOn states, ‘that means no donations, no volunteering, and no help getting out the vote.' "

At the state level — it's 93 percent in Nebraska, 89 in Louisiana, and 93 in Arkansas.

From the fund-raising appeal going out Tuesday: "Any senator who helps Republicans block an up-or-down vote on a health care bill with a public option will lose the support of five million of us — that means no donations, no volunteering, and no help getting out the vote."

New pressure on the White House, too: "It's time for your close-up, Mr. President," Politico's Glenn Thrush and Carrie Budoff Brown report. "Now that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has announced he'll try to push through a health care reform bill with a public option, liberals are turning their focus — and their frustrations — on Barack Obama, the man who brought them to the outskirts of the progressive promise land."

Over on the other side — a new moment of ascendancy? "The GOP is going to be pretty unapologetically conservative," Bill Kristol writes in his column. "There aren't going to be a lot of moderate Republican victories in intra-party skirmishes. And — with the caveat that the political world can, of course, change quickly — there will be a conservative Republican presidential nominee in 2012."

Back on health care — now the hard part:

"Harry Reid demonstrated today that he believes that forward momentum is more important than absolute certainty when it comes to passing health reform with the public opti on," ABC's George Stephanopoulos writes.

And: "Meantime, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is considering a name change.  Appearing in Florida today, Pelosi referred to the  government-sponsored health plan proposal as ‘the consumer option' – not the ‘public option' as it has come to be known," he writes.

The focus now shifts, back: "At this point, it appears that Reid could be three votes short, with most of the focus centering on Senators Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Ben Nelson of Nebraska," Time's Karen Tumulty writes.

"Make no mistake: The centrists have the power to kill the public option. And they may still wield it," The New Republic's Jonathan Cohn writes. But "progressives have influence. And if progressives have influence, they may yet prevail on this issue. After all, they've been counted out before."

"In the Senate, this is about to become the ‘liberal' half of the debate. But it's not very liberal at all. It is a compromise, and a conservative one at that," Ezra Klein writes at

All credit due: "If an immediately available — no trigger — public option makes it to President Obama's desk, the member of Congress who may deserve the most credit for making it happen is Sen. Chuck Schumer," ABC's Teddy Davis reports.

"The goal was to make it a default choice available to anyone who wants it," said a Democratic Senate aide. "Even if you have a Republican governor and live in a Red State, the public option will be available right away and you can fight to keep it."

"The announcement was a dramatic triumph for the progressive community, which had howled and hissed for months as the prospects for a government-run plan dimmed," per Huffington Post's Sam Stein. "But the story behind Reid's decision has more to do with backroom negotiations behind a hastily proposed idea than with backroom negotiations behind a hastily proposed idea than with a change in political temperament."

President Obama's political day takes him to Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., for a 4:55 pm ET appearance with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds. (Should be a great conversation backstage about how his top political advisers think the race is already over.)

Nothing to dispute that assessment here — but enough in this poll for the White House to wash its hands of a loss: "Republican Robert F. McDonnell carries a double-digit lead over Democrat R. Creigh Deeds in the final week of the campaign for Virginia governor, according to a new Washington Post poll," Jon Cohen and Rosalind S. Helderman report in The Washington Post.

"McDonnell is also buoyed by support outside Northern Virginia, where he is outperforming all other top-of-the-ticket Republican candidates this decade. Statewide, McDonnell leads Deeds among likely voters by 55 to 44 percent. McDonnell, who narrowly defeated Deeds in the race for attorney general four years ago, has been above 50 percent among likely voters in all four Post polls in the campaign."

Get your Virginia and New Jersey pre-game analysis, from the DGA's Nathan Daschle and the RGA's Nick Ayers, on's "Top Line" Monday.

The New York Times' Jeff Zeleny checks in on the trail: "Yes, Mr. Obama is embroiled in a health care debate. He is also moving closer to saying whether he intends to send more troops to Afghanistan. But despite those tasks, other challenges weigh on the White House: protecting Democrats in Congress and fighting the curse of history, where the party in power traditionally loses seats in the midterm elections."

"Just because I'm skinny doesn't mean I'm not tough," the president said.

Expectations: "If elections are the ultimate beauty contest, President Obama next week will have his first major turn on the catwalk since his inauguration," the Washington Times' Stephen Dinan writes. "Having campaigned with the Democrats running for governor in Virginia and New Jersey and for the Democrat running in a special election in New York's 23rd Congressional District, Mr. Obama has put his prestige and momentum on the line."

What else do you need to make this a 2012 battle? (And how long can Mitt Romney stay out of this?)

Gov. Tim Pawlenty, R-Minn., joins Sarah Palin in endorsing the Conservative Party nominee over the Republican candidate in New York's 23rd congressional district: "We cannot send more politicians to Washington who wear the Republican jersey on the campaign trail, but then vote like Democrats in Congress on issues like card check and taxes," Pawlenty said in a statement released to the conservative blog

Pawlenty's first contribution from his new PAC will be to max out to Hoffman, per an aide.

And former Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., is featured in Hoffman's latest ad: "We can send Washington a message — about Doug Hoffman," Thompson says.

Tea parties in a petri dish: "The conservative rebellion in northern New York is showing that the anger among disaffected voters, which became prominent this summer during the ‘tea party' anti-spending rally in Washington and at town hall meetings on healthcare, has become a baffling political force that even Republicans are having a hard time harnessing," Janet Hook writes in the Los Angeles Times.

Rallying the troops — while raising $1.5 million in Miami Monday night: "I promise you, members of Congress listen to you a lot more than they listen to me. And so the more that you guys are mobilizing and organizing and understanding our job is not done, it's barely begun, the better off we're going to be," the president said, per ABC's Sunlen Miller.

About those other troops: "Sources tell ABC News that as of now President Obama will likely announce his decision about a new strategy in Afghanistan at some point between the Afghan run-off election, November 7, and the president's departure for Tokyo, Japan, on Wedne sday, November 11," ABC's Jake Tapper reports. "Sources emphasize that no decision has yet been made, but as of now it looks as though the president is leaning towards sending more troops to Afghanistan, though not as many as Gen. Stanley McChrystal requested, 40,000."

Limiting the president's maneuvering space — a resignation: "When Matthew Hoh joined the Foreign Service early this year, he was exactly the kind of smart civil-military hybrid the administration was looking for to help expand its development efforts in Afghanistan," Karen DeYoung reports in The Washington Post. "But last month, in a move that has sent ripples all the way to the White House, Hoh, 36, became the first U.S. official known to resign in protest over the Afghan war, which he had come to believe simply fueled the insurgency."

"I have lost understanding of and confidence in the strategic purposes of the United States' presence in Afghanistan," Hoh wrote.

ABC's Martha Raddatz: "It is really the conclusions he comes to that are so disturbing. This is someone on the ground. This is someone who served as a civilian, served in the military. They're going to pay a lot of attention to this resignation."

Is Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry charting the path? (It's becoming harder to imagine that Obama would do something that doesn't have Kerry's support — given his role in securing support for the run-off election, and the heat the president will take on the left and the right almost no matter what path he chooses.)

Kerry, D-Mass., said in a speech Monday that Gen. Stanley McChrystal's plan "reaches too far, too fast," and called for a narrower mission:

"I believe that, if we redefine our strategy and objectives in order to focus on what is achievable, as well as critical, and empower the Afghans to take control of their own future, we will give all of us the best chance to succeed," said Kerry, per ABC's Kirit Radia.

"Sen. Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is the latest in a series of high-profile Democrats to come out against a buildup. His comments threw into sharp relief the political difficulties President Barack Obama faces as he winds up a review of Afghan war strategy," The Wall Street Journal's Peter Spiegel reports. "The deliberations continued Monday with the sixth cabinet-level meeting of Mr. Obama's war council; for the first time, however, the White House meeting didn't include senior military officials."

(Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, will be a guest on "Top Line" Tuesday, live noon ET at

Before the president heads back to the trail — Tuesday is a big energy day in a big energy week.

 The president will be in Arcadia, Fla., to deliver a speech at 12:25 pm ET speech announcing Recovery Act funding for "smart grid" technologies that, according to the White House, will "modernize the nation's electricity grid, enhance reliability, promote efficiency and allow for the integration of clean, renewable energy — all while helping consumers save money."

ABC's Rachel Martin: "The president will announce a $3.4 billion investment in 100 different projects in 49 states (the White House would not say which state was inadvertently left out). These projects will be awarded up to $200 million each in federal grant money that comes from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. That money is then matched by private investors at least one to one."

"The clean-energy push comes as the administration is working to respond to a national unemployment rate hovering near double digits," the Los Angeles Times' Jim Tankersley reports. "Vice President Joe Biden today will announce the reopening of a former General Motors plant in Delaware to produce more efficient cars. And several Cabinet secretaries are scheduled to testify before a Senate panel in support of sweeping legislation to curb emissions that contribute to global warming and to encourage renewable energy development."

Sending a message: "Nothing says all-in like having the president, the vice president, three Cabinet secretaries, and two agency heads send the same ‘we care' message on the same day. It's all about achieving liftoff for the Senate energy and climate bill that's in the spotlight this week," Politics Daily's Jill Lawrence reports.

Why a message needs to be sent: Politico's Ben Smith posts the video that tells the story (as of now) on cap-and-trade — featuring Democratic senators Jim Webb, Evan Bayh, Ben Nelson, Mark Warner, and Claire McCaskill, and Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich.

Somebody wants a second stimulus: "If anything, ongoing economic problems are a sign that stimulus needs to be bolstered," reads The New York Times editorial. "Deficits are a serious issue, but the immediate need for stimulus trumps the longer-term need for deficit reduction. A self-reinforcing stretch of economic weakness would be far costlier than additional stimulus."

Coming Tuesday — with a first glimpse on the "World News" broadcast and Webcast:

"ABC News' Charles Gibson will conduct a joint interview with philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates on Tuesday, October 27. The Gates Foundation recently launched the Living Proof Project, a campaign to raise awareness about success stories of health initiatives around the globe. On Tuesday evening in Washington, D.C., the Gates will address policy makers, members of the international aid community, and a global audience via webcast, but first they'll sit down with Gibson to discuss the real impact of U.S. investments around the world and why they consider themselves ‘impatient optimists' hoping to encourage even more action."

More to come at

Taste of 43: "Former President George W. Bush told more than 11,000 people at the Fort Worth Convention Center that he was confident he made the right decisions as president, even if it hurt his popularity," Aman Batheja writes in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Said Bush: "Every single day I was honored to be your president by bringing honor and dignity to the office," Bush said Monday afternoon, during his first foray into motivational speaking, at the day-long "Get Motivated" seminar.

The Dallas Morning News' Wayne Slater: "Bush left office amid two unpopular wars, low approval ratings and an economy in collapse. He has given a few paid speeches, but Monday marked perhaps the most public address of his post-presidency and a visible launch of the Bush Legacy Project, an effort by loyalists to burnish the administration in history."

Said Bush: "Some days were great. . . . Some days were not so great."

Taste of 47?: George P. Bush may be going to Iraq or Afghanistan, Bryan Curtis reports for The Daily Beast.

"Lt. Junior Grade Bush, 33, joined the Navy Reserve in 2007 as an intelligence officer. The Navy recently told him, like thousands of others, that the two ongoing wars required him to go active-duty overseas, potentially in Iraq or Afghanistan," Curtis writes.

"It's been communicated to me that it's not a question of ‘if,' it's a question of ‘when,' " "P" told The Daily Beast. "It's just a matter of time."

The Kicker:

"So we hope that Olympia will come back." — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, probably knowing better.

"This lobbyist, this K street whore, is trying to teach me about economics." — Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., making another highlight reel, referring to Federal Reserve senior adviser Linda Robertson.

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

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