Moving Days: Can Delicate Coalition Survive Thousand Cuts?

By Gorman Gorman

Oct 30, 2009 8:35am

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports: That probably won't be the last major unveiling on the steps of the Capitol. But now that it's all put together — watch it all get picked apart. Among the consequence of building two separate (shaky) houses from the bottom is that it leaves twice as many parts for opponents (or even allies) to try to take out. And in this instance, you have to move one of the houses to the left, and the other one to the right, while keeping everyone inside. In the broader political landscape, add in a tight calendar, an intervening Election Day, united Republicans, deep splits inside the Democratic caucus, and various other political challenges ranging from war strategy to economic unease. (And don't forget to check the math on the stimulus jobs report coming Friday.) Add to that new ethics revelations — showing far broader inquiries than previously known, though not a lot of actual action out of them — and maybe this isn't the best of days in the halls of Congress. But having actual, real-life health care legislation ready for a vote means it's decision time, at last: "So should progressives get behind this plan? Yes. And they probably will," Paul Krugman writes in his New York Times column. "The people who really have to make up their minds, then, are those in between, the self-proclaimed centrists. . . . History is about to be made — and everyone has to decide which side they're on." There's a broad case to be made, but this remains a bill defined by its particulars. Even beyond the $1 trillion price tag and the public option, you've got the PhRMA deal, abortion issues, the "Cadillac plan" tax, coverage for undocumented immigrants, hospitals' and doctors' rates, and 1,990 pages of goodies and not-so-goodies. The critics' round-up: "Doctors complained that lawmakers removed a provision that staved off deep cuts to physicians' Medicare payments. Hospitals fretted the new public plan would underpay them, despite increases in reimbursement rates," The Wall Street Journal's Janet Adamy writes. "The sharpest criticism came from employers, who say it will saddle them with higher taxes, and insurance companies, which say a new public insurance plan will drive them out of business." The Washington Times cobbles together some talking points: "House Democrats' health care bill runs to 1,990 pages, costs $1.06 trillion, covers 96 percent of eligible Americans and demands the production of 42 studies on everything from whether post-partum screening should be required to using student loan programs to help recruit doctors." A lot of noise for a small player: "An analysis of the House bill released late Thursday by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that 6 million people would choose a public plan, making it a relatively small player, despite the issue's outsize role in the health-care debate," The Washington Post's Shailagh Murray and Lori Montgomery report. Just a bit over that magic — while randomly chosen — number: "Throughout Thursday, news accounts, including our own, focused on $894 billion – which was the total cost given out by aides to the House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, before the official cost analysis was released by the Congressional Budget Office," David M. Herszenhorn and Robert Pear write for The New York Times. "But a closer look at the budget office report suggests that the number everyone should have reported was $1.055 trillion – which is the gross cost of the insurance coverage provisions in the bill before taking account of certain new revenues, including penalties by individuals and employers who fail to meet new insurance requirements in the bill." Plus: "None of the cost estimates of the bill included provisions to increase Medicare payments to doctors. Those provisions, which would cost more than $200 billion over 10 years, were put into a separate bill, also introduced Thursday." Getting more interesting in the Senate: Asked whether he's ready to join a Republican filibuster to sink the entire health care bill, Sen. Joe Lieberman tells ABC's Jonathan Karl: "Yes, that's right. . . . Bottom line: I'm saying this public option is so unnecessary to genuine health care reform and so bad for our Country and the people of our country that I would vote to stop final vote on this health care reform bill if the public option is part of it." Also in the interview, the latest installment of Karl's "Subway Series": "I probably will support some Republican candidates for Congress or Senate in the election in 2010. I'm going to call them as I see them." (Look for more online at, and with a clip on the "Top Line" political Webcast at noon ET.) Lieberman also thinks it's time for Obama to make up his mind on Afghanistan. Plus, he's supporting his old friend, Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn.: "I believe Sen. Dodd will get re-elected, but it's not going to be easy. This is going to be a tough year for incumbents." But Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., and Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., join a growing caucus of we-won't-filibuster-health-care Democrats, per The New Republic. In the House: "What I think everybody in the caucus sticks by is the notion that they understand how important it is to have healthcare reform," House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson, D-Conn., said on's "Top Line". "We're going to pass health care reform, and we've got the votes to do it." "I'm not big on showing weakness. It's not my thing," Speaker Pelosi tells Politico's David Rogers. From a memo to House Republicans going out Friday from the office of House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, R-Va.: "The Pelosi Bill:  It's still the same flawed bill. It is still a government takeover of health care. Totaling 1,990 pages, the bill completely rewrites nearly 1/6th of the nation's economy. Health care costs will go up, and the bill raises taxes, cuts seniors benefits, and doesn't come close to fulfilling the promise that if you like what you have you can keep it." Annals of diplomacy: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, to a Pakistani newspaper, Dawn: "Al Qaeda has had safe haven in Pakistan since 2002," she said. "I find it hard to believe that nobody in your government knows where they are and couldn't get them if they really wanted to." Clinton, to ABC's Jim Sciutto, in Pakistan Friday: "Trust is a two-way street. There is a trust deficit…it would be a missed opportunity and lack of recognition of full extent of the threat, if they did not realize that any safe haven, anywhere, for terrorists, threatens them, threatens us and has to be addressed." Is the US losing the war in Afghanistan? "No I don't think so… [But] the Taliban has some momentum." (And on the David Plouffe book — did her husband cost her the vice presidency? [Big laugh.] "I have no idea, but I really am satisfied and happy to be doing what I'm doing… I'm not somebody who looks backward — I look forward.") ABC's Kirit Radia: "Clinton made her sharpest comments during a three day diplomatic offensive in Pakistan, a U.S ally where she has generally praised Pakistan and its military for its willingness to take on the Taliban along its rugged frontier with Afghanistan."  "Clinton's three-day visit is her first to Pakistan since she became secretary of State, and its principal goal is to improve strained relations. On the first day of her visit, in Islamabad, she declared that she wanted to ‘turn a page' in the U.S.-Pakistani relationship," Paul Richter reports for the Los Angeles Times. Will this help drain any swamps? "House ethics investigators have been scrutinizing the activities of more than 30 lawmakers and several aides in inquiries about issues including defense lobbying and corporate influence peddling, according to a confidential House ethics committee report prepared in July," Ellen Nakashima and Paul Kane write in The Washington Post. "The report appears to have been inadvertently placed on a publicly accessible computer network, and it was provided to The Washington Post by a source not connected to the congressional investigations. The committee said Thursday night that the document was released by a low-level staffer." "Watchdog groups have accused the committee of not actively pursuing inquiries; the newly disclosed document indicates the panel is conducting far more investigations than it had revealed," they write. (But doesn't this confirm longstanding criticism that the process is broken? This is a whole bunch of open investigations that are leading to not a whole lot of conclusion, or discipline.) Based on the document obtained by the Post: "House investigators are looking into whether seven members of a powerful government-spending committee violated congressional ethics rules in their dealings with a lobbying firm that secured earmarks from the committee," Brody Mullins writes for The Wall Street Journal. "The document indicates the House Ethics Committee is looking into whether the lawmakers on the defense-spending subpanel of the House Appropriations Committee ran afoul of House rules by trading earmarks for campaign contributions, according to the newspaper." Bad news for Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y.? "Though the probe has not yet found any of these House members guilty of wrongdoing, this episode will place pressure on Pelosi and her colleagues to show they're not a party of sleaze. Consequently, Rangel is more vulnerable to the Republican's campaign against him," David Corn writes. New from the earmarks war: "As it turns out, President Obama's proposed spending cuts aren't entirely the kind of change Congress can believe in," the Los Angeles Times' Richard Simon writes. "A determination to protect the power over the purse — something Congress has fiercely guarded since the earliest days of the republic — was on display Thursday as the House and Senate approved a bill preserving funding for a number of programs the White House had sought to cut. It was the latest move by lawmakers in both parties to support projects they consider important to their states — and perhaps to their reelection prospects." The president's Friday, per ABC's Sunlen Miller: "This morning, President Obama will sign the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act of 2009, providing funding for low-income people with HIV/AIDS. … Later the president will hold his seventh formal meeting on Afghanistan and Pakistan and sit down with his Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Situation Room." The new stimulus jobs report is out Friday afternoon: "Obama administration officials expect new reports Friday to show that the government's fiscal stimulus program helped create or save about 650,000 jobs, a figure officials are prepared to tout as a significant sign of stimulus success," The Wall Street Journal's Maya Jackson Randall reports. A senior administration official e-mails Politico's Mike Allen: "We anticipate that these reports will credit the Recovery Act with directly creating or saving about 650,000 jobs. Because these reports show that less than half of the spending through that date created or saved about 650,000 jobs, they confirm government and private forecaster's estimates that overall Recovery Act spending has created and saved at least 1 million jobs." Pre-buttal statement from House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, as provided to The Note: "The trillion dollar ‘stimulus' isn't working, and no amount of phony statistics can change that. The President and his economic team promised the ‘stimulus' would create jobs ‘immediately' and unemployment would stay below eight percent  But America has lost more than three million jobs since then, and the unemployment rate is nearing double digits. While Washington keeps spending and piling more debt on the backs of our children and grandchildren, out-of-work families keep asking, ‘where are the jobs?' " A balancing act, on the economy: "Tugged in different political directions, the White House is seeking credit for good economic news and trying to escape blame for the bad stuff," the AP's Tom Raum writes. "President Barack Obama greeted as "obviously welcome news" a government report showing the economy grew 3.5 percent from July through September after four quarters of declines. That's unofficial confirmation that the long, harsh recession has ended. But he had to serve it up with a dose of political reality." Drawing close to Election Day — and maybe getting a little bit nervous: "One of President Barack Obama's key political advisers has become the central strategist in New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine's bruising campaign for re-election, a race the White House desperately wants to win to avert the consequences for its own agenda of a Republican winning in a traditionally Democratic state," Politico's Ben Smith reports. "The White House was so concerned about Corzine's chances during the summer that Corzine's aides feared the first-term governor was being pressured to step aside for a stronger candidate. Those fears turned out to be groundless, but were part of the reason Corzine hired Joel Benenson, who has helped impose discipline on a struggling campaign and crystallize Corzine's aggressive attacks on the character of his Republican opponent, former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie," he writes. "For the White House, it's a crucial symbolic prize." Don't read too much into the Big Three contests, Charlie Cook warns: "The most likely outcome this year is a split decision," he writes for National Journal. "Whatever the outcome of this year's New Jersey and Virginia governor's races, the results will depend on conflicting factors that are unlikely to be replicated in many contests next year. Beware, then, of drawing sweeping conclusions." "No matter how they are spun, rerun and overdone, the Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial races are not national referenda," writes Walter Shapiro, at Politics Daily. "But if you are stubbornly determined to try to find lasting answers in the 2009 results, then ignore the macro (counting up what party won what) and concentrate instead on the micro (small trends buried in the exit polls and the actual returns)." Pre-game spin from the Democratic side: "I think you are seeing play out this fight that's going on within the Republican Party nationally between those who believe that the Republican Party is not ideologically pure enough yet, that they're not holding to their ideals, and those who believe there should be greater pragmatism and breadth of opinion within the Republican Party," Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., told reporters at a Christian Science Monitor Breakfast, per ABC's David Chalian. Profiles in courage, in NY-23: "The House Republican leadership is prepared to welcome Doug Hoffman into its ranks, National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) said Thursday, a sign that the GOP establishment is recalibrating its approach toward the contentious New York special election and the Conservative Party nominee whose candidacy has divided the party," Alex Isenstadt and Josh Kraushaar write for Politico. The debate tells the story: "Now that Hoffman has emerged as the GOP's best bet for holding the Republican seat, the Democratic candidate, Bill Owens, used a Thursday debate to tie Hoffman to the Club for Growth, an anti-tax group which has backed Hoffman, and ignored the Republican candidate, Dede Scozzafava," ABC's Teddy Davis writes. How to become a celebrity in Congress without really trying (or, by trying just a little): "In today's Congress, the propriety of a gentleman and $5 will get you lots of committee work and a ham sandwich. Embrace the new media landscape, however, and you can break out in the national media fun house as an Internet and cable-news populist. Fame and campaign cash await," Time's Michael Scherer and Jay Newton-Small write. "Just take a look at this year's two great breakout stars of partisanship: Florida Democrat Alan Grayson and Minnesota Republican Michele Bachmann." Coming up on "This Week" Sunday: Presidential advisor Valerie Jarrett. And on the roundtable: George Will, former Clinton White House Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers, former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie, Ron Brownstein of National Journal, and the Rev. Al Sharpton.
The Kicker: " was formed due to outrage and embarrassment within Central Florida over Alan Grayson's liberal positions and childish approach in Washington, D.C." — Press release announcing the new PAC, MyCongressmanIsNuts, based in Grayson's Central Florida district.
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