Firing Lines: Dems Grab Post-Vote Momentum, Legislative Hiccups Aside

Mar 25, 2010 8:14am

By Rick Klein  The political momentum crashed through a plate glass door or two this week. And it’s on the other side, at least for now. Something in the psychic energy of Washington appears to have changed with the passage of health care reform. The scattered instances of threatened violence only underscore the messy part of being in opposition to something that’s now the law of the land. GOP procedural machinations mean we’ll be back in the House for another vote; the Senate parliamentarian in the wee hours of Thursday morning made that ruling, meaning Democrats will have to make some changes to the reconciliation piece. But suddenly, that’s not the terrifying prospect it once seemed it would be. Health care could be effectively wrapped up on the legislative side on Thursday — though it’s less clear than it once was that Democrats feel urgency to change the subject. On the Democratic side, where once talk was all about moving on, it’s time for some offense. President Obama treads some of the less hostile ground on Thursday, with a 2 p.m. ET speech in Iowa City. “When President Barack Obama arrives in Iowa today to extol a sweeping new health care law, he will find a state — much like the nation as a whole — not fully convinced of its benefits,” Thomas Beaumont writes in the Des Moines Register. “Iowa businesses, large and small, feel angst about the possibility that their costs will increase amid a recession still battering the state. And state insurance officials await a deluge of inquiries to their lean staffs as they sift through thousands of pages of new law. But hospital officials see provisions aimed at bolstering pay for Iowa’s doctors as a potential economic boost in the state. And state lawmakers who have begun paving the way for the new law’s implementation say Iowa is positioned to help show other states the way.” House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, with an op-ed in the same newspaper: “Through repeal, we can do away with these job-killing mandates and replace them with affordable solutions to lower costs and cover Americans with pre-existing conditions. … And we can repeal all the backroom deals that use money we don't have to purchase support for controversial legislation. Then we can start fresh with the voice of the American people.” On the air: The DNC is up with TV ads in 25 districts of House Democrats who voted for the health care law… “Congressman Bishop, thank you…”  And with new radio ads in 10 districts of Republicans… “Dan Lungren voted against ending discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, against reining in premiums, against lowering drug costs for seniors, against tax credits for small businesses. Now leading Republicans are vowing to repeal reform – and put the insurance industry back in charge of your health care…” There’s offense, and there’s taking offense: “Senior White House and organized labor officials are warning the handful of House Democrats who supported health care legislation last year only to oppose the final measure on Sunday that they shouldn’t expect assistance for their reelection campaigns this fall,” Politico’s Jonathan Martin reports. “The five who switched from yes to no — Reps. Michael Arcuri of New York, Marion Berry of Arkansas, Daniel Lipinski of Illinois, Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts and Zack Space of Ohio — have so annoyed top Democrats that there is also open talk of finding opponents to ensure they pay a steep political price for changing their vote.”  Mood-altering: “This is bound to change the landscape of American politics,” Joe Klein writes for Time. “He was now a President who didn’t back down, who could herd cats, who was not merely intellectual and idealistic, but tough enough to force his way …. However flawed, the health care bill is a sign that major, concerted public reforms are once again possible, and that the difficult work of transforming America to compete successfully in a new world of challenges can now begin.”   New Quinnipiac poll: “President Barack Obama still gets a split 45 – 46 percent approval from American voters in a Quinnipiac University national poll conducted Monday and Tuesday, compared to a negative 46 – 49 percent approval in a survey concluded Sunday before the House of Representatives voted on the health care bill. … American voters mostly disapprove of the health care reform 49 – 40 percent, compared to 54 – 36 percent before the vote.  But voters say 51 – 40 percent that proposed action by several state attorneys general to block the health care overhaul is a ‘bad idea.’ ” From the others side, still pressing: “Republicans found themselves in violation of the Kenny Rogers Rule: Know when to fold 'em,” Dana Milbank writes in his Washington Post column. Gail Collins, in her New York Times column: “Really, there is just so much transformation a person can handle. One day you go to bed worrying about death panels. Next day you wake up and health care reform is so trendy that the coolest spring accessory is a pre-existing condition.” Waiting it out… Karl Rove, in his Wall Street Journal column: “Opponents of ObamaCare have decisively won the battle for public opinion. As voters start to feel the pain of this new program, Republicans will be in a stronger position if they stay in the fight, make a principled case, and lay out a competing vision.”  Yes — both sides: “The new health-care law has quickly become a tool for candidates of both parties in the midterm elections to energize voters and burnish credentials with their most ardent supporters,” Peter Wallsten writes in The Wall Street Journal. “Democrats think health reform — now that voters can focus on the substance rather than the messy deal-cutting process that preceded its passage — is the key to improving their political fortunes. Republicans think they can use the issue to rout the Democrats in the midterms,” Politico’s Jonathan Allen and Carrie Budoff Brown report. “They can’t both be right.” Before we get there — the parliamentarian strikes: “Republicans early Thursday morning identified parliamentary problems with at least two provisions that will require the measure to be sent back to the House for yet another vote, once the Senate adopts it,” David M. Herszenhorn and Robert Pear write in The New York Times. “The successful parliamentary challenge did not appear to endanger the eventual adoption of the changes to the health care legislation. And Mr. Obama on Tuesday already signed the main health care bill into law.” “Democrats had hoped the Senate would clear the bill without changes so it could go directly to President Barack Obama for his signature. But now the bill will have to go back to the House, which likely will accept the changes and send the bill to the president,” Roll Call’s John Stanton writes. “Get ready for yet another big health care reform bill in the House,” ABC’s Jonathan Karl reported on “Good Morning America” Thursday. “No vote on health care is an easy one, so get ready for one more time.” Sorting through another kind of chaos: “At least 10 House Democrats who voted Sunday for health care overhaul have received violent threats to their lives or property, party leaders said,” ABC’s Dean Norland, David Chalian and Devin Dwyer report. “Several members have faced death threats and harassing phone calls while others have experienced vandalism at district offices or their private homes. In one case, a gas line was cut outside the Virginia home of Rep. Tom Perriello's brother after a conservative activist posted the address online, mistakenly thinking it was the congressman's house.” “The pitched battle over health care has unleashed a rash of vandalism and attacks directed at politicians,” Philip Rucker writes in The Washington Post. “More than 100 House Democrats met behind closed doors Wednesday afternoon with representatives of the FBI and the U.S. Capitol Police. The lawmakers voiced what one senior aide who was present described as ‘serious concern’ about their security in Washington and in their home districts when they return this weekend for the spring recess.” If you’re looking for a recess storyline: “As they prepared to leave Washington for a two-week recess, House Democrats met with Capitol Police and representatives of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to get advice on security issues, and they pressed Republicans to join them in renouncing threats and violence,” Carl Hulse reports in The New York Times. Said Boehner: “Violence and threats are unacceptable.”  Sarah Palin, via Twitter: “Commonsense Conservatives & lovers of America: ‘Don't Retreat, Instead – RELOAD!’ ” Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., Tweeting back: “Reload? Is your choice of words inciteful or ignorant?” Are members in actual danger? “I don’t [think so] at this point,” Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., said on “GMA” Thursday. “I get more after-death threats than death threats — they tell me what should happen to me for all eternity, and I very much doubt their ability to influence that.” And: “It’s an effort to kind of hijack the debate by coercive elements … There ought to be some apologies.” Handicapping the legal challenges: “Legal scholars disagree about how the cases will be decided if they are heard by the Supreme Court,” Michael Kranish reports in The Boston Globe. “Analysts said there is no direct precedent for Congress requiring that individuals purchase a product such as health insurance, although some indirect cases are cited by advocates on both sides.” Fixes, already: “I think with the ability to pass regulations or even to further amend legislation — that’s something that can be easily handled through regs, or through the ability of us to amend another bill,” Rep. John Larson, D-Conn., chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said on ABC’s “Top Line” Wednesday. Baby Bunning? “Senate Republicans are lining up to battle Democrats if they try to push through another 30-day extension of the jobless benefits without finding a way to pay for them first,” Politico’s Manu Raju reports. “Leading the charge this time around will likely be Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who has built up far more goodwill with the leadership than has [Sen. Jim] Bunning, the 78-year-old former Major League Baseball pitcher who has a testy relationship with his home-state counterpart, Republican Leader Mitch McConnell.” The other big storyline — movement on “don’t ask, don’t tell,” on Thursday: “Gays and lesbians serving in the U.S. military could soon breathe a little bit easier under the Pentagon policy which prohibits them from disclosing their sexual orientation with threat of discharge,” ABC’s Devin Dwyer, Luis Martinez and Martha Raddatz report. “New guidelines for ‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell’ expected to be announced by the Defense Department today will provide what the department calls ‘more humane enforcement and application of the law’ while a study on the impact of the law's proposed repeal is underway.” “Officials said the new steps would include a requirement that only a general or admiral could initiate action in cases where service members were suspected of violating the prohibition against openly gay service in the armed forces,” The New York Times’ Thom Shanker reports. “The guidelines would also raise the standard required for evidence to be presented in such cases, an effort to prevent ‘malicious outing’ by a third party or jilted partner, officials said.” “Discharging a gay person for violating the military's ‘don't ask, don't tell’ policy will draw unprecedented scrutiny under new orders from Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who is already pushing to repeal the ban on gays serving openly in the U.S. military,” the AP’s Anne Flaherty writes. Not resolved: “The U.S.-Israel spat may not be over yet,” ABC’s Kirit Radia, Ann Compton and Karen Travers report. “Despite the insistence of officials on both sides that tensions have cooled, there are fresh indications that disagreements persist between the two sides.” “President Obama seemed to have failed on Wednesday to persuade Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to give a written commitment to rein in any further building and to move ahead on peace talks with the Palestinians,” The New York Times’ Helene Cooper and Isabel Kershner report. “Mr. Netanyahu left the United States early on Thursday. But before departing for Jerusalem, he said that he thought some progress had been made in healing the rift with Washington, The Associated Press reported. ‘I think we have found the golden path between Israel’s traditional policies and our desire to move forward toward peace,’ The A.P. said.” Incumbent watch — rough week for Sen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah? “Sen. Bob Bennett's re-election bid could be in serious trouble, based on reports of widespread opposition to the incumbent at Tuesday's Republican caucuses,” Robert Gehrke writes in the Salt Lake Tribune. “While not definitive, interviews with a dozen caucus-goers around the state reflected a familiar theme: Support was not coalescing behind any Bennett challenger, but there was a strong ‘anybody-but-Bennett’ sentiment.” Candidate watch — in New York, yet another no-go: “Dan Senor, the Bush administration adviser on Iraq and husband of CNN's Campbell Brown, has opted not to run for US Senate after all,” the New York Post’s Maggie Haberman reports. “The move narrows the field considerably and takes away the person who many party leaders had started to coalesce around. Senor had been recruited by state GOP chairman Ed Cox.” Ballot watch — California with an interesting one, as always. “An initiative to legalize marijuana and allow it to be sold and taxed will appear on the November ballot, state election officials announced Wednesday, triggering what will probably be a much-watched campaign that once again puts California on the forefront of the nation's debate over whether to soften drug laws,” the Los Angeles Times’ John Hoeffel reports.

One fewer big horse at a cattle call, to mix metaphors: “Gov. Tim Pawlenty won't be eating beignets and talking politics in New Orleans after all. The governor cancelled his trip to the Southern Republican Leadership Conference next month, where he was to appear along with GOP stars Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Haley Barbour and Mike Huckabee,” Rachel E. Stassen-Berger reports in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “His excuse for canceling the April 10 appearance? Welcoming Minnesota troops home from Iraq.” The Kicker: “So what's happening at this company tells us a larger story about what's happening with our nation's economy — because, in many ways, you can measure America's bottom line by looking at Caterpillar's bottom line.” — President Obama, February 2009. “From our point of view, a tax increase like this cannot come at a worse time.” — Jim Dugan, Caterpillar spokesman, March 2010.
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