ABC News’ Rick Klein reports: Gee, 60 votes sure was fun — what do you say we do it all over again?
First you get to go home and think about it.
Time isn’t an ally for Democrats on health care — if only because it gives everyone more time to draw lines in the sand.
The experience to date has demonstrated that momentum built in Washington can get lost in lawmakers’ districts — and that deadlines shift with the political winds.
(And the winds blow in a new direction on Afghanistan — with a key House lawmaker warning of the need for a “war surtax” if President Obama wants to send more troops into battle.)
The good news is there’s broad agreement inside the Senate Democratic caucus that the health care bill needs major revisions.
The bad news is that each senator has rather distinct notions of what those revisions need to look like.
Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday: “It doesn’t do enough to control costs, that’s for sure,” he told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. “If the public option is wrong, if the CLASS act is still in it, if — if there are a whole host of other items that are the same as they are right now, I wouldn’t vote to get it off the floor.”
“I don’t want to fix the problems in our health care system in a way that creates more of an economic crisis,” said Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn.
“There’s lots of diversity as Democrats,” Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., told the Los Angeles Times’ Mark Z. Barabak. “You can’t just draw a line in the sand and say, ‘As Democrats, this is what we have to be for.’ ”
This sort of looks like sand. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.: “I strongly suspect that there are number of senators, including myself, who would not support final passage without a strong public option.”
“Many hurdles lie between here and the finish line, a ‘significant, formidable, and never-ending list,’ one top Senate Democratic aide says,” per ABC’s Jake Tapper, on “Good Morning America” Monday.
“Three-dimensional legislative chess — with a time clock,” said ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. “Keeping this all together is tremendously difficult.”
McClatchy’s David Lightman: “The flashpoints will be familiar — abortion, federal deficits, government involvement in health care decisions and other hot topics — and many Democrats already have said they want to see, and are well-positioned to seek, changes in the bill.”
The Wall Street Journal’s Greg Hitt and Janet Adamy: “A handful of Democrat centrists say they can’t support the government-sponsored health-insurance plan — known as the public option — that is included in the bill. And Democrats are divided over abortion, an issue that nearly derailed the House earlier this month when it narrowly passed a health bill that blocked abortion coverage from federally subsidized insurance plans, including some run by private insurers. Another growing concern even as the bill progresses is the political heat on Democrats over expanded government spending amid rising unemployment and deficit concerns.” Negotiating the public option: “There are many variations on the theme,” said Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill. “At the end of the day, we want insurance to be more affordable.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s task: “As he struggles, the reasons are clear: deep divides among Democrats on a public insurance plan, abortion, tax hikes and cost-cutting. Liberals want the plan to be generous enough. Moderates fear a budget-buster. And everyone is trying to avoid angering seniors,” Politico’s Carrie Budoff Brown and Patrick O’Connor write.
Any other goodies left? “Given the concessions that Reid offered to Landrieu, Lincoln and Nelson to secure their votes on Saturday, including a $300 million Medicaid provision for Landrieu’s home state of Louisiana, liberal senators are fully aware that the public option is vulnerable,” Shailagh Murray writes in The Washington Post.
Giving Reid more options: “The two moderate Republican senators from Maine, Susan Collins and Olympia J. Snowe, say Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, reached out to them after he unveiled the Senate measure, encouraging them to bring forward their ideas and concerns,” The New York Times’ Carl Hulse reports. “Both senators have talked privately with Democrats and independents about devising joint amendments on areas like cost control, and both said they would keep seeking compromises.”
Defense: “The real battle will be an ongoing rearguard action, to fend off changes from the right — amendments that, in many cases, Republicans will support even though they have no intention of voting for the final bill. Abortion. Immigration. The mandates, for individuals and employers. You name it,” The New Republic’s Jonathan Cohn reports. “For progressives, victories are more likely to come in the form of ground not conceded than ground gained. Every day that legislation doesn’t get worse is a day to cherish.”
Making things more complicated — another line in a another big piece of sand: “There ain’t going to be no money for nothing if we pour it all into Afghanistan,” House Appropriations Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., warned in an interview with ABC’s Jonathan Karl. “If they ask for an increased troop commitment in Afghanistan, I am going to ask them to pay for it.”
Meet the “war surtax”: “On the merits, I think it is a mistake to deepen our involvement,” Obey said. “But if we are going to do that, then at least we ought to pay for it. Because if we don’t, if we don’t pay for it, the cost of the Afghan war will wipe out every initiative we have to rebuild our own economy.”
And a warning: “That’s what happened with the Vietnam War, which wiped out the Great Society,” Obey said. “That’s what happened with the Korean War, which wiped out Harry Truman’s Square Deal. That’s what happened with the end of the progressive movement before the ’20s when we went into World War I. In each case, the cost of those wars shut off our ability to pay for anything else.”
Can the president afford to do anything like the McChrystal report? Or is the real questions whether he can he afford not to?
No announcement scheduled yet: “They’re looking at next week — but that is not definite,” Stephanopoulos reported on “GMA” Monday.
As we wait: “The lengthy policy debate inside the administration has spun out of control as it nears its finish, with damaging leaks and counterleaks,” Dan Balz writes for The Washington Post. “Public opinion won’t decide the outcome of this debate. The real question is in what ways have Obama’s views of Afghanistan — and this country’s prospects for success there — changed during the first year of his presidency.”
Trade-offs, in politics and policy, per Elisabeth Bumiller of The New York Times: “If Mr. Obama limited any additional American troops to 10,000 to 15,000, the military would deploy them largely as trainers, with some reinforcements likely in the southern province of Kandahar, the Taliban’s spiritual home. The neighboring, and opium-rich, Helmand Province and the eastern border with Pakistan, military analysts say, would receive few if any American troops and would remain largely as they are today. Such trade-offs are part of the discussions under way in the West Wing and at the Pentagon as Mr. Obama and his top advisers debate escalating the eight-year-old war.”
Looming over the debate: “Treasury officials now face a trifecta of headaches: a mountain of new debt, a balloon of short-term borrowings that come due in the months ahead, and interest rates that are sure to climb back to normal as soon as the Federal Reserve decides that the emergency has passed,” The New York Times’ Edmund L. Andrews reports. “Even as Treasury officials are racing to lock in today’s low rates by exchanging short-term borrowings for long-term bonds, the government faces a payment shock similar to those that sent legions of overstretched homeowners into default on their mortgages.”
Jobs bill — but do not call it a “stimulus”: “The White House is lukewarm about proposals by congressional Democrats to introduce broad legislation to create jobs, instead favoring targeted measures that would be less likely to inflate the deficit,” Elizabeth Williamson writes in The Wall Street Journal. “Hamstrung by the nation’s $1.4 trillion deficit and his pledge not to raise taxes on middle-class Americans, Mr. Obama is keen to avoid any measures suggestive of a second, big-ticket stimulus.”
Getting the message — but maybe over-learning it? “Most economists I talk to believe that the big risk to recovery comes from the inadequacy of government efforts: the stimulus was too small, and it will fade out next year, while high unemployment is undermining both consumer and business confidence,” Paul Krugman writes in his New York Times column. “Now, it’s politically difficult for the Obama administration to enact a full-scale second stimulus. Still, he should be trying to push through as much aid to the economy as possible. And remember, Mr. Obama has the bully pulpit; it’s his job to persuade America to do what needs to be done.”
Behind the heat directed at the Treasury secretary: “The leading edge of this anger could be seen in Congress last week when Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner faced calls to resign. One lawmaker said he should never have been hired,” Bloomberg’ Al Hunt writes in his column. “Geithner also has become an issue in the Connecticut Senate race. … The Treasury secretary is a proxy for the real animus, directed at Wall Street.”
More animus: “The Fed finds itself both the punchbowl keeper and the punching bag. Imagine the outcry when it does begin to crank up rates — perhaps just ahead of next year’s midterm elections,” the AP’s Tom Raum reports. “Fireworks seem likely at Senate confirmation hearings early next month on President Barack Obama’s nomination of Bernanke to a second four-year term as chairman.”
Watching the lines converge… Gallup has the president at 48 percent approval in its rolling three-day tracking with 44 percent disapproval.
Some spin with your turkey? “Dems will spend next week trying to claim the offensive on the economy after rising unemployment rates in recent months have driven Pres. Obama’s approval ratings to new lows,” Reid Wilson writes for Hotline On Call.
Monday’s White House schedule — back in action: “Back from his week-long trip in Asia the President starts his week refocusing on the domestic agenda and will hold an event focusing on “initiatives designed to boost science, technology, and mathematics education,” in the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building,” per ABC’s Sunlen Miller.
“Later Mr. Obama will then hold a full cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House, and afterwards will meet separately with Secretary of State Clinton Hillary Clinton. In the evening the President will present the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Awards in an East Room ceremony.”
Washingtonpost.com’s Chris Cillizza: “Cabinet meetings have become more photo-op than serious policy discussion in recent years but the gathering of the Obama braintrust — the first since Sept. 10 — is sure to set off discussion of the series of challenges facing the administration in the coming months.”
Getting ready for Tuesday — the Obamas’ first State Dinner: “The White House has been preparing for this dinner for months, culling names for the invite list (finalized a month ago, a White House source told me) and deciding on the menu, flowers, china and an unending list of logistical details,” Lynn Sweet writes in her Politics Daily column. “Overseeing all this is Mrs. Obama’s East Wing, with Social Secretary Desiree Rogers putting on her most anticipated show yet.”
Who’s in, who’s out: “I’m told by a West Winger that all top-level Obama staffers have been invited, as well as the congressional leadership, a selection of other members of the House and Senate and Cabinet, prominent Indian-Americans from across the country, including Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, and Indian-American members of the business community. There will even be a few journalists, including CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta. A contingent of Obama pals from Chicago is also expected. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel’s brother, Ari, the Hollywood super agent, got an invite; another brother, Ezekiel, a White House health policy adviser, did not.”
“In a departure from the traditional venue — the elegant State Dining Room — the Obamas will gather with a few hundred VIPs in a huge, heated tent on the South Lawn,” Katherine Skiba reports in the Los Angeles Times. “The guest list for the black-tie gala remains a closely guarded secret. Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, will certainly be there. Several notables are good bets, such as Oprah Winfrey and Chicago hotel billionaire Penny Pritzker, as are top Obama aides David Axelrod, Valerie Jarrett and Rahm Emanuel.”
Next up on the road with Sarah Palin: Fort Bragg. “The Army wants Palin’s appearance at Fort Bragg on Monday to be much quieter,” Martha Quillin reports for The (Raleigh) News & Observer. “The base has asked Palin not to make a speech at a public book-signing at the base exchange; she also will not write personal notes, pose for photographs or sign anything besides her new memoir, ‘Going Rogue: An American Life.’ ”
While she’s in town: “Sarah Palin, the hottest name in the Republican Party, took a detour from her book-signing tour Sunday to dine with Billy Graham at his mountaintop home in Montreat,” Tim Funk reports in the Charlotte Observer.
Says Franklin Graham: “Daddy feels God was using her to wake America up.”
Going where the buyers are, or where the voters are? “Of the 31 counties [Palin is visiting on her book tour], just 11 were carried by President Obama,” Chris Cillizza writes.
Popular where it counts: “Sarah Palin could expect a lot of support in Iowa’s Republican caucuses if she launched a campaign for the 2012 presidential nomination, according to The Des Moines Register’s Iowa Poll. More than two-thirds of Republicans like what they see, making her a credible candidate for the 2012 caucuses should she decide to run for president,” Thomas Beaumont writes for the Register.
“Iowa Republicans view Palin about as favorably as they do former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who won the 2008 caucuses, and former U.S. House speaker Newt Gingrich. More view Palin favorably than former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, runner-up in the 2008 caucuses. … Nearly a quarter of Iowa Republicans view Palin unfavorably, twice as many as [Mike] Huckabee.”
Ross Douthat, on the choices of two GOP superstars: “So far, they’ve chosen celebrity instead. Huckabee spent the last year hamming it up on a weekly talk show, and the last month hawking a book of inspirational Christmas stories. As for Palin — well, you probably know what she’s been up to lately,” he writes.
“Nobody should begrudge them their choices. Think tanks are a snooze; Senate races are a grind. Signing autographs for your adoring fans is more fun than rounding up budget votes in Juneau. But they were the wrong moves if either wanted to become president someday.”
New questions for Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., out of Doug Hampton’s interview with ABC’s Cynthia McFadden, to air on “Nightline” Monday.
Said Hampton: “Tom Coburn said, ‘What I would do, Doug, if I were you, is I would have them buy your home, give you a million bucks so you can start over, and that is what I am willing to help you negotiate,’ ” Hampton told McFadde n.
Ensign turned the offer down, according to Hampton: “John said: ‘No can do, not going to happen.’ ”
That account contradicts Coburn’s public statements. And Coburn is standing by his account: “There was no negotiation,” he told George Stephanopoulos on “This Week,” though he acknowledged that he had worked to “bring two families to a closure of a very painful episode.”
In Massachusetts, where the primary is almost certainly the general: “Attorney General Martha Coakley has a solid lead in the four-way Democratic race for the open US Senate seat, but with just 16 days until the primary election, nearly three-quarters of likely voters have yet to decide who they will support, according to a Globe poll,” Frank Phillips and Matt Viser write in The Boston Globe. “Coakley gets the support of 43 percent of respondents when asked who they would vote for if the primary were held today. US Representative Michael Capuano has support from 22 percent of the likely voters; Boston Celtics co-owner Steve Pagliuca from 15 percent, and City Year cofounder Alan Khazei from 6 percent.”
Maybe a preview of fights to come? “In a handful of next year’s most competitive Senate races — and for a few of the Democratic Party’s most precariously perched incumbents — discordant Democratic primaries are already taking shape, complicating a midterm election landscape in which the party will be playing defense for the first time in four years,” Politico’s Alex Isenstadt reports.
“I will correct something. It’s not $100 million, it’s $300 million, and I’m proud of it and will keep fighting for it.” — Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., tripling the size of this year’s “Louisiana Purchase.”
“We had on CNN and as they announced the vote, the plane actually jiggled. I thought it was Teddy reaching down.” — Vice President Joe Biden, telling Iowa Democrats what he was doing when the Senate vote on health care was called Saturday.
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