The Score: Cost estimate is huge boost — and here comes the left, again

By Gorman Gorman

Oct 8, 2009 8:18am

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports: What’s the opposite of sticker shock?

Assuming you believe the Congressional Budget Office numbers — or even if you don’t — and assuming you’re not bothered by the big holes left by the Senate Finance Committee bill — or even if you are — new hope entered the health care push with the relative bargain that health care reform might be.

Democrats’ challenge is to take a score and win the whole game with it. A 10-year cost of $829 billion isn’t all that cheap — and net cost savings may not be all that realistic — but this bill represents a framework that suggests what’s possible this year.

The White House now must grow support without growing the bill. And they must navigate concerns over the public option — even while new grass-roots efforts launch to bring Democrats on board for it — while dangling the Finance bill to entice the moderates, and maybe a Republican or two — plus making health care enough about 2010, though not too much…

So we’re not there yet, and even not through the Finance Committee yet (though that could happen by the end of the week). Don’t look now, but there’s a window here for getting something done.

“The odds have gone way up,” ABC’s George Stephanopoulos said on “Good Morning America” Thursday. “This news from the Congressional Budget Office is the biggest boost the White House has had in weeks. . . . It’s likely to happen by the end of the year.”

In the meantime — mobilizing the left: FireDogLake’s Jane Hamsher and company on Thursday launch Public Option Please, a clearinghouse for information and mobilization for activists pressing for the inclusion of a public option in a final health care bill. http://publicoptionplease.com/home/

From the press release: “Inspired by the work of Marshall Ganz, who organized the field training for the Obama campaign, POP seeks to inspire people to accept the challenge of shaping  a future where health care is available to everyone by advocating for the public option right now.”

(Sound like Organizing for America, in an alternate universe?)

Also up Thursday: the Progressive Change Campaign Committee is starting an online petition drive to send signatures to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. The statement they’re endorsing: “Any Democratic senators who support a Republican attempt to block a vote on health care reform should be stripped of their leadership titles. Americans deserve a clean up-or-down vote on health care.” In OFA’s real world — the AP’s Beth Fouhy: “Fired up? Ready to go? You might not know it from the way President Barack Obama’s grass-roots supporters have been largely drowned out in the raucous debate over his health care plan. Yes, they’re behind him, officials say — volunteering in their communities and contacting lawmakers in Congress. But some Obama organizers are calling their forces a ‘silent majority,’ embracing Republican terminology of long ago. And if the final legislation doesn’t include a government run plan to compete with private insurers, they may be invisible, too.” New national snapshot, out Thursday morning: “American voters oppose 47-40 percent President Barack Obama’s health care reform plan, and don’t want an overhaul that only gets Democratic votes, but they support key parts of the plan, including 61-34 percent for giving people the option of a government health insurance plan that competes with private plans, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll released today.”

Stoking fears — and setting a narrative’s course: “Passing health-care reform could be harmful to the health of congressional Democrats,” Karl Rove writes in his Wall Street Journal column. “What Democrats have to keep in mind is that there are two fights going on here — one over health care and another over which party will control Congress after next year’s elections. By waging the first, they may be setting themselves up to lose the second.” 

But for the day — it’s the CBO glow: “The much-anticipated cost analysis showed the bill meeting President Obama’s main requirements, including his demand that health legislation not add ‘one dime to the deficit.’ Indeed, the budget office said, the bill would reduce deficits by a total of $81 billion in the decade starting next year,” Robert Pear and David M. Herszenhorn write for The New York Times. “The report clears the way for the Finance Committee chairman, Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana, to push for a panel vote within the next few days, and sets the stage for Democrats to take legislation to the floor for debate by the full Senate this month.”

It marks “a major step forward for Democrats’ plans to overhaul American health care,” The Wall Street Journal’s Janet Adamy and Jonathan Weisman report. “After appearing in peril in August, the health-care overhaul has cleared a series of hurdles in recent weeks that have given Democrats increased confidence they will pass a bill. Lobbyists on both sides of the issue have shifted their focus to what the bill will look like rather than questioning whether a measure can succeed.”

“Dan Pfeiffer, a White House spokesman, called the budget office score ‘another big step forward for enacting health reform.’ ”

If you can cut Medicare, you can cut the deficit (big if, but still): “The $829 billion legislation would cut the deficit by $81 billion over 10 years, with new taxes and savings more than offsetting the cost, the CBO said in a preliminary analysis yesterday. That eases one of the major concerns about the bill,” Bloomberg’s Kristin Jensen and Brian Faler.

An analysis the administration will take: “This bill will change the insurance situation for 37 million legal residents, 29 million of whom would otherwise be uninsured. That’s a big step in the right direction,” Ezra Klein blogs at Washingtonpost.com. “But most people will never notice it. When I got an early glimpse of the Senate Finance Committee’s bill back in June, I called it ‘comprehensive incrementalism,’ and I stick by that label. It makes a lot of things a bit better, but it’s not root-and-branch reform.”

“The Senate Finance bill isn’t as generous or as protective as it ought to be,” Jonathan Cohn writes at The New Republic Website. “But the fact that the measure would actually save money means, or should mean, there’s a bit more room (financially and politically) to throw additional funds at expanding/improving insurance coverage — ideally, by raising a little more money in taxes and/or offsetting savings.”

Statement from Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine: “I appreciate the hard work of CBO and the Joint Committee on Taxation in preparing their projections in such a short time. We just received this report and I still must thoroughly review and evaluate this analysis before deciding how to proceed in the Finance Committee markup.  My constituents want — and deserve — decision-making based on facts and figures.”

In the House: “Conservative Democrats were upbeat. Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, a spokesman for the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition, said he was encouraged that the Finance bill would cut the deficit and indicated that he’d like to see the House bill move in the same direction,” the AP’s Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar reports.

But why there’s still no House bill: “Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) appears to be on a collision course with moderates over the long-term costs of the health care overhaul she is shepherding through the chamber,” Roll Call’s Tory Newmyer and Steven T. Dennis report. “Moderates are still trying to plot their strategy but are feeling a new sense of urgency to try to stop Pelosi from bringing a bill to the floor that fails to rein in health care spending and bloats the deficit. Those lawmakers want to act now to rework the bill rather than face a scramble after a tough review from budget scorekeepers.”

Leadership vs. liberals: “In a meeting [Wednesday] between House leaders and rank and file Dems in the capital, Nancy Pelosi frustrated many liberals by suggesting that they consider a watered-down public option as a way of getting health care through the House, a top House liberal says,” Greg Sargent reports at The Plum Line blog.

Smart Dems don’t believe the numbers, but even if this is close to accurate… “Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.), the leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told a closed-door caucus meeting that the group’s ‘whip count’ showed it had 208 of the 218 votes needed to pass what liberals call a ‘robust’ public option. That version would link rates to Medicare plus 5 percent,” The Hill’s Mike Soraghan reports.

The House is still working through how to structure the public option, and how to avoid the Senate’s new taxes on “Cadillac” plans: “It’s certainly not a preferred option if we even went down that road and I — no one is wanting to push forward on that road right now,” Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said on ABCNews.com’s “Top Line” Wednesday.

Coloring a few debates (in red): “The federal deficit reached a record $1.4 trillion in the 2009 fiscal year, according to an analysis rele ased Wednesday by the Congressional Budget Office,” ABC’s Matthew Jaffe reports.

In time for the Human Rights Campaign dinner — better than a rhetorical flourish: “President Obama plans to name an openly gay lawyer to serve as his ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa, administration officials said Wednesday evening. If confirmed by the Senate, the lawyer, David Huebner, would become the first openly gay ambassador in the Obama administration,” Sheryl Gay Stolbert reports in The New York Times.

On Afghanistan — no more hypotheticals:

“Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s troop recommendation for Afghanistan was sent to President Barack Obama last week and distributed Monday to members of the national security team engaged in ongoing discussions of Afghanistan strategy, the Pentagon said,” ABC’s Karen Travers and Martha Raddatz report. 

“Divisions within the administration and Congress continued despite Mr. Obama’s high-profile meeting with congressional leaders the day before,” Yochi J. Dreazen and Naftali Bendavid report in The Wall Street Journal.

More hints? “President Obama’s national security team is moving to reframe its war strategy by emphasizing the campaign against Al Qaeda in Pakistan while arguing that the Taliban in Afghanistan do not pose a direct threat to the United States,” Peter Baker and Eric Schmitt report in The New York Times. “The shift in thinking, outlined by senior administration officials on Wednesday, suggests that the president has been presented with an approach that would not require all of the additional troops that his commanding general in the region has requested.”

All overblown? Time’s Joe Klein: “Why, then, all the excitement and controversy? Politics, pure and simple. There is an effort afoot by neoconservatives, led by Senator John McCain, to paint the President as flaccid on national security. McCain has been going around for the past few weeks telling all comers — heatedly, at times — that Obama’s strategy review is essentially a waste of time, that the President has to, has to, go with the 40,000-troop option in Afghanistan.”

Henry Kissinger, writing in Newsweek: “I favor fulfilling the commander’s request and a modification of the strategy. But I also hope that the debate ahead of us avoids the demoralizing trajectory that characterized the previous controversies in wars against adversaries using guerrilla tactics, especially Vietnam and Iraq.”

Cheney, Cheney & Cheney? “Mary Cheney, the daughter of former vice president Dick Cheney and the sister of go-to Obama critic Liz Cheney, is leaving the political consulting firm Navigators Global to start her own consulting company, and multiple sources familiar with her plans say she will not be going it alone,” Jason Horowitz writes for The Washington Post. “The Cheneys have, of course, found time to become something of their own brand — a highly bookable, consistently gruff clan who speak in dour unison when bashing the current president, second-guessing the previous commander in chief and chiding wayward GOP leaders. Is Mary hanging a shingle now, with the rest to follow in the near future?”

DGA fun: Welcoming former Gov. Terry Branstad, R-Iowa, to the Iowa governor’s race, the Democratic Governors Association is launching a new web video not-quite celebrating (yes, tongues in cheeks) the GOP veterans seeking comebacks. (Did you know that a gubernatorial candidate worked to reelect the Ming Dynasty?)

The Kicker:

“It’s when Republican men disagree with women, because it’s pretty clear that they have a real problem with a woman being second-in-line for the presidency.” — Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., responding to an NRCC assertion that Gen. Stanley McChrystal should “put [House Speaker Nancy Pelosi] in her place.”

“Foregone conclusion.” — Levi Johnston attorney Rex Butler, describing that status of negotiations that will have his client posting for “Playgirl.”

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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