Hard Counts: There’s a big ‘I’ in ‘Win’ as Reid shops for votes

By Gorman Gorman

Oct 28, 2009 8:13am

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports: Who can count around here? (And who would want to know the results right now, anyway?)

Surely Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid didn't go through all that trouble just to give Sen. Joe Lieberman (or, in truth, any other senator in the Democratic caucus who feels like it at any given moment) the leverage once enjoyed by Sen. Olympia Snowe.

This is what it's going to be like finding 60 votes — just like it's been from the start. Senators aren't wowed by a sense of inevitability, not when they can debate something forever by being one of 41.

Reid, D-Nev., delighted the left by injecting the public option into the Senate debate. Maybe he'll get points for trying. But the math is no less stubborn than it was before we had a Senate bill.

Building up will probably mean buying off — and it's a seller's market when every vote means everything. (And does the price rise the longer this goes on — and the more the pressure builds from the other side?)

If this is true (and it just might be) … "Joe Lieberman is the least of Harry Reid's problems," said Reid, sounding like Bob Dole for the moment.

Gotta love Indy Joe (or not): "I will not support cloture on a bill I don't support," Lieberman, I-Conn., told reporters, per ABC's Z. Byron Wolf. (The "I" deserves boldface type, both in his quote and his party label.)

"Democrats expect Reid to spend the days ahead attempting to secure commitments from all 60 members of his caucus to allow the Senate to begin debate on the legislation, aimed at lowering health-care costs, reforming insurance practices and expanding coverage to about 30 million uninsured Americans," Shailagh Murray and Lori Montgomery write in The Washington Post. "But lawmakers said that if moderates' concerns do not prevent the Senate bill from advancing next month, the opt-out provision could be ditched on the floor."

"In the near term, at least, Reid will be judged on whether he can persuade his 60-vote, filibuster-proof majority to hold tight. He has one simple refrain that he repeats in private conversations with senators and that he repeated at Tuesday's Democratic luncheon: The caucus must stick together on health care reform," Politico's Carrie Budoff Brown reports.

"An air of jumpy uncertainty pervaded the Senate side of the Capitol yesterday, as packs of reporters surrounded senators on their way to their weekly luncheons to ask them about Reid's proposal," The Boston Globe's Lisa Wangsness and Susan Milligan report.

"Retreating on the public option would be embarrassment for Mr. Reid. But his effort has political merits, too. Most Democratic senators support a public option, and Mr. Reid may have believed that it was better to make a strong push, even if it fails, than not try at all," The Wall Street Journal's Janet Adamy, Patrick Yoest and Greg Hitt report.

Everyone has a price — and for some, it's lower prices: "Outsized influence is falling to Democrats who are on the fence," the Los Angeles Times' Janet Hook and Noam N. Levey report. "They are being courted with possible concessions not just in broad policies — such as ways to reduce the impact on the budget deficit — but in provisions affecting home-state industries."

Forget 60 — how about 55? Aside from Lieberman, "At least four Senate Democrats criticized the idea and won't commit to backing their party, and the two Republicans who have signaled a willingness to support health-care legislation said they won't vote for the program," Kristin Jensen and Brian Faler report for Bloomberg.

Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., on whether he's changed his view on whether 60 is possible for a public option: "I don't know. I don't know. I don't know."

Bob Shrum says Democrats should just be Democrats: "Unlike 1994, this time both liberal and moderate Democrats understand the danger if they don't pass a credible health-care bill. That's why, in the end, they will. And they may be propelled in that direction by reading not just the history of 1994, but the election returns of 2009 in Virginia and New Jersey," Shrum writes for The Week.

And cue the assault: The US Chamber of Commerce is launching a new TV ad campaign Wednesday, on national cable and in seven key states.

From the script: "Washington's latest health reform idea? An $800 billion health care bill… and a government run ‘public option.' With big tax increases… over $300 billion… even on health benefits. The Wall Street Journal says larger deficits are guaranteed… Inflated taxes… increased spending… and expanded government control over your healthcare. Call your senators. Tell them to say no to a government-run health care bill."

Can the House save it? "House Democratic leaders are preparing to unveil a health care overhaul including a version of the public insurance option favored by moderates that would allow the federal government to negotiate rates with doctors and hospitals, top Democratic aides said," Roll Call's Tory Newmyer writes. "The development is sure to anger some leading liberals, who have drawn a line in the sand on a public insurance option pegged to Medicare rates. But it comes after leaders determined through a rigorous, weeklong whipping effort that the approach fell far short of gathering the support it needed."

And can the president save his Afghanistan strategy?

A bombshell in The New York Times makes it a bit harder to find our friends: "Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of the Afghan president and a suspected player in the country's booming illegal opium trade, gets regular payments from the Central Intelligence Agency, and has for much of the past eight years," Dexter Filkins, Mark Mazzetti and James Risen report in The New York Times.

"The agency pays Mr. Karzai for a variety of services, including helping to recruit an Afghan paramilitary force that operates at the C.I.A.'s direction in and around the southern city of Kandahar, Mr. Karzai's home. The financial ties and close working relationship between the intelligence agency and Mr. Karzai raise significant quest ions about America's war strategy, which is currently under review at the White House."

Pressing the strategy: "October became the deadliest month for U.S. troops in the eight-year-old war in Afghanistan when two bombs killed eight soldiers and an interpreter in separate attacks Tuesday," Joshua Partlow reports in The Washington Post. "This time of year typically brings a decline in violence as insurgents regroup with cold weather approaching. Instead, the bloodiest days this month have displayed both the range of threats American soldiers face and the persistent danger of the most basic weapons."

"Combined with the deaths Monday of 11 U.S. servicemen and three agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration in separate helicopter crashes, 22 Americans have been killed in Afghanistan in the past two days," per ABC's Luis Martinez.

"The White House says that there's no way that these attacks are going to influence the president's decision," ABC's George Stephanopoulos said on "Good Morning America" Wednesday.

"There is an emerging consensus among Obama's team," he said — including no "precipitous withdrawal"; a focus on protecting cities, building up the Afghan army and government; attempts to turn the Taliban; and new targeting of al-Qaeda.

Per The New York Times: "President Obama's advisers are focusing on a strategy for Afghanistan aimed at protecting about 10 top population centers, administration officials said Tuesday, describing an approach that would stop short of an all-out assault on the Taliban while still seeking to nurture long-term stability."

The political fight will come home, regardless of what path Obama chooses regarding combat forces: "There's an emerging consensus that additional trainers have to be deployed, because the key in the long term to avoid the repetition of this cycle is an Afghani security force that is capable and can provide basic stability," Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., said on ABCNews.com's "Top Line" Tuesday.

Tom Friedman, on Afghanistan: "It is crunch time on Afghanistan, so here's my vote: We need to be thinking about how to reduce our footprint and our goals there in a responsible way, not dig in deeper. We simply do not have the Afghan partners, the NATO allies, the domestic support, the financial resources or the national interests to justify an enlarged."

Big stakes for the secretary of state. ABC's Nick Schifrin: "Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Pakistan today for one of the longest visits by an American diplomat in years, an attempt to combat rising anti-Americanism here and convince a skeptical Pakistani public that the United States is a long-term, dependable ally. . . . Her 3-day visit, conducted under extraordinary security, comes in the middle of one of the Pakistani military's most important operations since 9/11 – a 30,000 troop offensive into South Waziristan, where Pakistan says more than 80 percent of the attacks in the country are planned."

Clinton told Pakistan's leading English newspaper, Dawn: "I hope on this trip I will be able to start that ball rolling, so to speak, so that maybe some in your country will say, ‘I really didn't have a good opinion before — I thought it was all about, "Are you going to be with us or against us on the war on terrorism?"

A special moment at the Capitol, at 11 am ET Wednesday: 90-year-old former Sen. Ed Brooke, R-Mass., receives the Congressional Gold Medal at the Rotunda. President Obama will be there, making it the first (and perhaps the only) time the nation's first popularly elected African-American senator meets the nation's first African-American president.

Also on the president's schedule: "President Obama today will trumpet his administration's efforts to slash wasteful projects from defense spending when signing the Defense Authorization bill approving the Pentagon's funding blueprint," Christina Bellantoni reports for Talking Points Memo. "At 2:30 in the White House Rose Garden Obama will sign the measure authorizing 2010 spending of $680 billion. The president will laud Defense Secretary Robert Gates for helping him remove funding for F-22 fighter jets and a new fleet of presidential helicopters."

This one will be huge with talk radio: The Washington Times' Matthew Mosk has a long piece taking apart the Obama money operation.

"During his first nine months in office, President Obama has quietly rewarded scores of top Democratic donors with VIP access to the White House, private briefings with administration advisers and invitations to important speeches and town-hall meetings," Mosk writes. "High-dollar fundraisers have been promised access to senior White House officials in exchange for pledges to donate $30,400 personally or to bundle $300,000 in contributions ahead of the 2010 midterm elections, according to internal Democratic National Committee documents obtained by The Washington Times."

He continues: One top donor described in an interview with The Times being given a birthday visit to the Oval Office. Another was allowed use of a White House-complex bowling alley for his family. Bundlers closest to the president were invited to watch a movie in the red-walled theater in the basement of the presidential mansion."

Flashback to the campaign: "The argument is that I know it's muddy, and I want to clean it up," Obama said.

It looks like the administration is going to like Friday's numbers: "States have reported using stimulus money to create or save more than 388,000 jobs so far this year, buttressing the Obama administration's claim that the $787 billion plan has had a significant impact on the economy," Brad Heath and Matt Kelley write for USA Today. "That total, based on a USA TODAY review of reports from 33 states and Puerto Rico, includes teachers, construction workers, and others whose jobs were funded by stimulus money awarded to states. The administration plans Friday to release reports from all 50 states, providing the broadest accounting yet of the stimulus plan's impact."

Bill Gates' new mission: Telling the public that foreign aid to health programs works.

"It's not often you hear about a government program that's gone so well, in fact, even better than expected," said Gates, interviewed alongside his wife, Melinda, by ABC's Charlie Gibson on "World News" Tuesday. "We think when people hear about that, they'll support what's only a quarter percent of the budget being continued and even increased."

The Gates' new venture, The Living Proof Project, is an outlet for "impatient optimists."

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, R-Calif., not mincing letters: "It reads like an innocuous letter from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, explaining why he vetoed a wonky piece of legislation that would have made changes to ‘infrastructure financing districts,' " the Los Angeles Times' Michael Rothfeld reports. "But hidden in Schwarzenegger's text is another message: an obscene phrase apparently directed at the bill's author, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), who ridiculed the governor earlier this month."

"A straight reading of the guv's letter laments ‘the fact that major issues are overlooked while many unnecessary bills come to me for consideration,' and concludes, ‘I believe it is unnecessary to sign this measure at this time,' " Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross write for the San Francisco Chronicle. "But a vertical read of the far-left-hand letters in each of the missive's eight lines offers a more blunt explanation: ‘I f— you.' "

ABC's Teddy Davis: "The bill was unobjectionable to legislators of both parties: it sailed through the Assembly and state Senate on unanimous votes. It was vetoed, however, by Schwarzenegger who said in his message that he considers it ‘unnecessary' to sign the bill at this time because another year has gone by without the legislature tackling big issues such as water reform, prison reform, and health care."

Tight in New Jersey: "New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine leads Republican challenger Christopher Christie for the first time in their five-month slugfest, on top 43 – 38 percent among likely voters, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.  Independent candidate Christopher Daggett has 13 percent, with 5 percent undecided."

Is there even a Republican candidate anymore in NY-23? Accountable America gets into the outside-group spending game (take that, Club for Growth) on Wednesday, with an ad attacking Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman.

Learning a lesson? "Rep. Alan Grayson, the Florida Democrat who became a hero to some liberals by standing by his remark that Republicans want sick people to ‘die quickly,' issued an apology on Tuesday evening for calling a senior Federal Reserve adviser a ‘K Street whore' in a radio interview," ABC's Teddy Davis reports.

Let us know when she accepts (then let us know again when she actually shows up): The Iowa Family Policy Center has invited former Gov. Sarah Palin, R-Alaska, to keynote an event next month. "Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, would be making her first visit to Iowa since campaigning here last year for candidate John McCain, should she accept the invitation," Tom Beaumont writes in the Des Moines Register.

Talking baseball: the AFL-CIO has placed print ads in the Hill papers, with MLB players including LaTroy Hawkins, Torii Hunter, John Lannan, Andrew Miller, J.J. Putz, Jimmy Rollins, Mark Teixeira, Justin Verlander, Shane Victorino and Adam Wainwright endorsing the Employee Free Choice Act.
 
"It makes sure everyone plays by the same rules," the ad says. "That's as important in the workplace as it is in baseball."

Fine, but does Jill Biden dare where a Phillies hat Wednesday night? "First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden will be in the stands at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday night for Game One of the World Series between the New York Yankees and the Philadelphia Phillies," ABC's Karen Travers and Yunji de Nies report.

The Kicker:

"I wanted women to still hold their heads up so I didn't want to shoot triple bogies every hole." — Melody Barnes, White House chief domestic policy adviser, to Maureen Dowd, after breaking the gender barrier in one of the president's foursomes.

"A lot of people are saying the polls don't look the way we want them to." — President Obama, not mentioning that some of those people are on the White House payroll, and are talking, anonymously, to The Washington Post about it.

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

http://blogs.abcnews.com/thenote/

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