Everybody Wins? Little incentive for compromise, as both sides celebrate health care vote

By Gorman Gorman

Nov 9, 2009 8:20am

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports: Wait — which side won again?

The champagne in both clubhouses in the wake of this weekend's health care vote tells you everything you need to know about the polarization of politics these days — and why health care reform is still a very long way from reality.

Adding a single Republican from a Democratic-leaning district may help a bit in the packaging — but efforts to woo Democratic centrists in the Senate look no different than they have all along.

Until or unless some political calculations are given makeovers, a bill with a public option is a bill that will not get 60 Senate votes. And if the House version of the bill was a bitter pill for liberals, particularly with the last-minute abortion capitulation, they'll have to do more than hold their noses with whatever emerges out of the Senate.

There remains little incentive for recalibration — not in this climate. The two sides of the health care debate have extremely different interpretations of the politically smart path for moderates to pursue.

Now the press begins anew: "The White House, growing concerned that the Congressional timetable for passing a health care overhaul could slip into next year, is stepping up pressure on the Senate for quick action, with President Obama appearing Sunday in the Rose Garden to call on senators to ‘take up the baton and bring this effort to the finish line,' " Sheryl Gay Stolberg writes in The New York Times.

"For all the exultation, there was a sense inside the White House and on Capitol Hill that the hardest work is yet to come. The House debate highlighted the pressures that will come to bear on senators as they weigh contentious issues like federal financing for abortion, coverage for illegal immigrants and the ‘public option,' a government-backed insurance plan to compete with the private sector."

Making the case Monday: ABC's Jake Tapper has an exclusive TV interview with President Obama — on "World News" and "Nightline" Monday night, and Tuesday on "Good Morning America."

Remember: Passage in the House was always supposed to be the easy part. It almost fell apart amid cost concerns, and the bill needed a late leadership cave-in on abortion to squeak through. It passed with two votes to spare.

New deadlines: Christmas break is another chance for senators to hear it, in full, from their constituents. And if president needs to use his State of the Union to prod Congress, again, is that a disaster in the making?

Votes have consequences: MoveOn.org is planning "thank you" events for 60 Democrats who voted for the health care bill — and is set to launch ads against some of the Democratic House members who voted "no," an official with the group tells The Note.

From the release going out later Monday: "For representatives who joined with the insurance industry to vote against reform, MoveOn will be running ads, starting mid-week, in their districts. The first round of 30-second television ads will include Reps. Ross (AR), Altmire (PA), Nye (VA), Boucher (VA), Kissell (NC), Schuler (NC)."

(How many of the folks on that list might actually brag about drawing MoveOn.org's ire?)

More thanks (intended to signal to senators that their votes won't be forgotten): "Health Care for America Now (HCAN), in partnership with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) — announced it is running TV ads in 20 House districts beginning Tuesday and holding hundreds of grassroots events thanking members of Congress this week."Organizing for America rises? "President Barack Obama's 13 million-strong campaign e-mail list has been transformed into a mass political operation dedicated to enacting the president's agenda and apparently poised to help elect Democratic candidates and eventually re-elect the president," Roll Call's Keith Koffler writes. ABC's Jake Tapper: "‪Today OFA supporters in congressional districts represented by Republican Members of Congress who voted ‘No' last night received an email from OFA director Mitch Stewart lauding the ’220 courageous representatives voted in favor of reform, moving it forward.' ‘‪Unfortunately, your representative,' Stewart says in the email, which names the Member of Congress, ‘caved to intense pressure from insurance industry lobbyists and voted against health reform.' A Democratic official says the email is not being sent to constituents of the 39 Democratic Members of Congress who voted against the measure Saturday night." The president's day: With Veterans Day coming Wednesday, President Obama will sign an Executive Order "on the employment of veterans in the federal government" in the Oval Office.Per ABC's Sunlen Miller: "In the evening, Mr. Obama will sit down one-on-one with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office. The Prime Minister is in Washington, DC for the three-day 2009 General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America. Last week, the White House said they were unaware of any meeting with Netanyahu on the schedule, but the meeting was announced Sunday by the White House." After getting 220 votes in a chamber where they control 258 seats, the goal is now 60 in a chamber with 60 senators in the Democratic caucus:"The close vote and the exertions it took to secure a majority were laden with warning signs as the issue moves to the Senate," Janet Hook reports in the Los Angeles Times. "Even though the House is a bastion of liberalism, the healthcare overhaul was a tougher sell than expected and the bill turned out to be more conservative in its price tag, more limited in the scope of its government-run insurance option and tighter in its restrictions on abortion funding than many Democrats had hoped." Hello, Harry Reid: "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is facing dissent in the Democratic ranks over his health-care strategy — leaving him struggling to meet a Christmas deadline and fielding White House pressure to get the bill done," Politico's Carrie Budoff Brown and Manu Raju report. "But it's not just timing. Reid's first task is finding a way to bridge the divide in his caucus between liberals pushing for a public option and moderates who have resisted the most ambitious version of that plan."

"The House vote gives us a renewed sense of momentum," Jim Manley, Reid's spokesman, tells Jill Lawrence of Politics Daily. "We'll be in as many weekends as possible in December as we work to try to g et a bill done."

But: "Any momentum from Saturday's historic House approval of a sweeping health care overhaul is likely to be short-lived as the focus moves to the Senate, where progress has been stalled for weeks," McClatchy's David Lightman reports.

Wait — we have to do this all over again? "Senate Democrats are struggling to agree on how to pay for the overhaul and whether to create a new public insurance plan to compete with private insurers, as the House did. Friction over how the bill treats abortion, which almost derailed the House vote, is likely to divide the Senate too," The Wall Street Journal's Janet Adamy and Naftali Bendavid report.

Sound like this can move fast? "The House bill is dead on arrival in the Senate," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Sunday.

Oh yeah, the public option: "As a matter of conscience, I will not allow this bill to come to a final vote," Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., said on "Fox News Sunday."

(And he's got company — or at least thinks he does: "Although I've spoken out a little more explicitly about this, it's clear there are a number of moderate Democrats who are not happy with the public option," Lieberman told The Boston Globe's Sasha Issenberg. "I'd say the number not happy with the way Senator Reid has framed it is in double figures, which may surprise people. That's in different levels of intensity.")

Careful what you brag about: "You walk into [2010] thinking you're going to wrap it all around the president's popularity, call Speaker Boehner ‘Speaker Boehner' now, because it's going to happen," RNC Chairman Michael Steele told George Stephanopoulos on ABC's "This Week."

Careful with that merge: "Even if Reid manages to get his bill through by the end of the year, he'll then have to confront the messy prospect of merging it with the more liberal version passed by the House," Time's Jay Newton-Small reports.

A victory, but not in every sense: "A year after his election, the health-care vote in the House was a reminder of the power that [the president] still wields to shape the country's future, cajoling change that he promised as a candidate over the objections of a nearly unified GOP and a sharply divided party of his own," Michael D. Shear writes in The Washington Post. "But the victory came on the heels of sobering evidence that even a president as popular as he remains is subject to the shifting public mood, an economy struggling to recover and events that are beyond his direct control." All with reminders of 2010 — a calendar year just seven weeks away: "Democrats will be forced to explain votes and positions on the expensive economic stimulus plan, climate change legislation and, probably, the health care overhaul," per the AP's Liz Sidoti. "Although Democrats have a popular president on their side, there are limits to Obama's clout; Democratic gubernatorial candidates in New Jersey and Virginia lost last week even though he campaigned for them."

Paul Krugman, in his New York Times column: "The party of Limbaugh and Beck could well make major gains in the midterm elections. The Obama administration's job-creation efforts have fallen short, so that unemployment is likely to stay disastrously high through next year and beyond. The banker-friendly bailout of Wall Street has angered voters, and might even let Republicans claim the mantle of economic populism. Conservatives may not have better ideas, but voters might support them out of sheer frustration."

That enough to win? "If, as Las Vegas does for sporting events, the odds on the congressional outcome next year would feature an over/under, today it would be a Republican pickup of 20 seats in the House and three in the Senate," Bloomberg's Al Hunt writes in his column. "Nevertheless, the Republican Party is in no better shape than it was a year ago. … This illustrates the dilemma. An energized base can turn into a liability when it defines a party, turning off more independent-minded voters. That's what happened to the Democrats through the 1970s and 1980s."

Are death panels back? "Sarah Palin rallied thousands of abortion opponents Friday night with a stark warning that the same philosophy that allows abortion rights could soon be invoked to allow the government to cut off health care for the elderly or children with special needs," Politico's Jonathan Martin reports. "Speaking to a fund-raising banquet of Wisconsin Right to Life, the former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee asserted that if policy-makers don't believe a child in the womb is valuable, then ‘perhaps the same mind-set applies to other persons.' "

Said Palin: "What may they feel about an elderly person who doesn't have a whole lot of productive years left."

Palin, in her post-vote Facebook posting: "We had been told there were no ‘death panels' in the bill either. But look closely at the provision mandating bureaucratic panels that will be calling the shots regarding who will receive government health care."

Problems in the GOP's midst: Does RNC Chairman Michael Steele's new standard mean he's coming after Rep. Joseph Cao, R-La.? Said Cao, on CNN: "[Steele] has the right to come after those members who do not conform to party lines, but I would hope that he would work with us in order to adjust to the needs of the district and to hold a seat that the Republican Party would need."

A great map that tells an important aspect of the story: "Legislators voted largely along party lines and analysis from NationalJournal.com shows that the uninsured population of a representative's district had little influence on their vote," per National Journal's Jason Plautz.

On Afghanistan — a key leak: "President Barack Obama is nearing a decision to send more than 30,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan next year, but he may not announce it until after he consults with key allies and completes a trip to Asia later this month," McClatchy's Jonathan S. Landay, John Walcott and Nancy A. Youssef report. &qu ot;As it now stands, the administration's plan calls for sending three Army brigades from the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Ky. and the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, N.Y. and a Marine brigade, for a total of as many as 23,000 additional combat and support troops."

Critical context: The New Republic's Michael Crowley profiles Defense Secretary Robert Gates: "Perhaps no Cabinet member matches Gates's impact in the Situation Room as the White House reviews its war plan. It may be Washington's oddest partnership: a secretive white Republican intelligence insider in his sixties, and a charismatic young African American Democratic president who was barely 30 when the Soviet Union fell. Asked about the contrast, Gates flashes a wry smile: ‘I think about it all the time,' he says."

Fort Hood fallout: "Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee Sen. Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., said he would begin a congressional investigation into whether the Army missed warning signs regarding the Nov. 5th Fort Hood shooter, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, that should have led to his being discharged earlier," per ABC's Kristina Wong.

Also, per ABC's George Stephanopoulos: "The Army's top officer, General George Casey wouldn't rule out the possibility that the mass killing at Ft. Hood was an act of terrorism." Said Casey, on "This Week": "We all want to know what happened and what motivated the suspect, but I think we need to be very, very careful here in these early days and let the investigation take its course."

By the end of the week… "With unemployment topping 10% and his healthcare plan still facing Senate action, President Obama has plenty to keep him busy at home. But on Thursday, he will head to Asia for more than a week, a trip that underscores the White House's conviction that a close partnership with China and other Pacific Rim nations is crucial to American interests," the Los Angeles Times' Peter Nicholas and Catherine Makino report.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty, R-Minn., made his Iowa debut Saturday: "They should be focused like a laser on jobs, not acting like a manure-spreader in a wind storm," Pawlenty said of President Obama and his team, per Politico's Jonathan Martin.

Writes Martin: "Test-driving a new stump speech, he offered a reworking of the president's signature call-and-response chant: ‘Are you fired up and ready to fight back?' "

Bill Salisbury, of the St. Paul Pioneer Press: "In his first major political speech in Iowa, the home of the nation's first 2012 presidential caucuses, Pawlenty took a stab at dispelling the notion that he's a talented but uninspiring speaker. He had said earlier that he was going to Iowa simply to help the state's Republicans. But Iowa GOP activists came to the dinner to size up a yet-to-declare presidential candidate."

Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times profiles White House chef Sam Kass — who wears more than just the hat you'd picture on his head: "His policy work has had him meeting with victims of foodborne illnesses, speaking at the D.C. Central Kitchen and doing healthy-food demonstrations at area schools. He was also featured in a White House video about the kitchen garden. Kass played a central role in developing the garden." Sweet writes.

The Kicker:

"Everyone assumes I do, but if you looked at my schedule you'd know I don't have time right now to sit around and try to plot some political comeback." — Former Gov. Mike Huckabee, R-Ark., explaining to Radio Iowa O. Kay Henderson why he's in Iowa, selling his new book.

"The only thing growing faster than the national debt is Chris Matthews' man-crush on Barack Obama." — Gov. Tim Pawlenty, R-Minn., also in Iowa, potentially challenging Huckabee for his spot as the candidate with the best one-liners.

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


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The paid internship begins Monday, Jan. 4, 2010, and runs through Friday, June 4, 2010.

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In order to apply, you MUST be either a graduate student or an undergraduate student who has completed his or her first year of college. The internship is NOT open to recent graduates.

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If you write well, follow politics closely, and have some familiarity with web publishing, send a cover letter and resume to Teddy Davis, ABC News' Deputy Political Director, at teddy.davis@abc.com, by Sunday, Nov. 22, 2009, with the subject line: "INTERN" in all caps.

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