By Rick Klein We can talk about fixing a package of fixes that nobody’s actually seen yet. We can talk about missing a deadline that nobody thought anybody would make. We can talk about a reconciliation process that averts a filibuster, or a rule that deems passage, or about how a student loan overhaul belongs in a health care bill, or about how a score from the Congressional Budget Office means the House can, at last, see legislation upon which to base a vote. Or we can talk about health care. How the bill passes takes on more importance with each lingering day: Process eclipses policy when the process isn’t so pretty to look at. It’s not just that President Obama campaigned on process in addition to policy. It’s that process has won the battle for the public’s interest before. (Think more people can tell you about the Cornhusker Kickback or the health insurance exchange?) And we’re not voting yet, which means we can mark off another week where it’s all about health care … House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “We will take up the bill when we’re ready to take up the bill.” White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel: “We’re getting toward the end.” No one can say they weren’t warned: “Bluntly put, this is the political reality: First, the battle for public opinion has been lost. Comprehensive health care has been lost,” Patrick H. Caddell and Douglas E. Schoen, pollsters for Presidents Carter and Clinton, write in a Washington Post op-ed. “If it fails, as appears possible, Democrats will face the brunt of the electorate’s reaction. If it passes, however, Democrats will face a far greater calamitous reaction at the polls. Wishing, praying or pretending will not change these outcomes.” These are supposed to be comforting numbers: “Since February 1, according to data compiled by [Joel] Benenson, 44 percent of those tested in national surveys support the bill while 45 percent oppose it — a sea change from the 38 percent favor/52 percent oppose average of polls conducted in the three months prior,” Washingtonpost.com’s Chris Cillizza reports. Paul Krugman: “Polling on reform — which was never as negative as portrayed — shows signs of improving. And I’ve been really impressed by the passion and energy of this guy Barack Obama. Where was he last year? … This is a reasonable, responsible plan. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.” Maybe complicating that case (with a Drudge push, to boot): President Obama is at 46 percent approval in the Gallup daily tracking poll (and those two lines have never looked closer). Bob Shrum zags: “Despite the dire predictions, the Obama comeback could be cemented as early as November. Assuming those jobs materialize, Democrats could minimize their losses and hold both Houses of Congress,” Shrum writes for The Week. “By 2012, with a full-blown recovery and wide ranging change achieved, it may well be morning in Obama’s America. And the Republicans, desperate to explain away prosperity, or still fulminating against socialism, will once again descend ungently into that good night.” More meetings: “House Democrats were meeting again Friday to discuss the still-evolving plan and for leaders to try to soothe lawmakers worried about the price they might pay in November’s congressional elections for supporting it,” the AP’s Alan Fram reports. “Even with initial votes possible next week, few were claiming that Democrats had the votes in hand to prevail — especially in the House, where the roll call is expected to be a cliffhanger.” “There’s no question that the Democrats will round up the votes,” Donna Brazile told George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “Good Morning America” Friday. “We will have the votes to pass health care.” “The people have spoken,” Laura Ingraham countered. “The bottom line is, America does not want this. Democrats are ignoring that, and a lot of people feel insulted.” Time to digest — or get indigestion: “The CBO estimate will set off a final push by House leaders to secure the 216 votes they need to pass the bill. Ms. Pelosi said the House would then spend another week reviewing the final package before taking its vote,” The Wall Street Journal’s Janet Adamy reports. “Everyone expressed frustration that we do not have comprehensive cost estimates from the Congressional Budget Office,” said Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, D-Va., per The New York Times. The Times’ Robert Pear: “In addition, lawmakers said, they were not given the text of the latest legislation drafted by House and Senate Democratic leaders and the White House to address widespread concerns about the bill passed by the Senate in December.” Exploiting the trust gap: “Because the tactic requires the House to act first, Republicans are trying to capitalize on the traditional distrust of the Senate by House members to persuade wavering Democrats to vote against the legislation,” Bloomberg’s James Rowley reports. Sorry, Mrs. Slaughter: “The Senate Parliamentarian has ruled that President Barack Obama must sign Congress’ original health care reform bill before the Senate can act on a companion reconciliation package, senior GOP sources said Thursday,” Roll Call’s David M. Drucker reports. “The ruling means House Democrats would have to rely on a good-faith promise that senators will pass the changes after the healthcare bill is signed into law, a difficult prospect at a time when lower-chamber lawmakers have grown distrustful of their Senate counterparts,” The Hill’s Alexander Bolton reports. “Ultimately, the parliamentarian’s ruling could cost healthcare reform crucial votes in the House, as some lawmakers may view it less likely the Senate will adopt their requested changes at a later date.” (We talk process on ABC’s “Top Line” today with Rep. David Dreier, R-Calif., the ranking Republican on the House Rules Committee. Noon ET ABCNews.com.) Protesting too much? “With a final vote drawing near on President Barack Obama’s health-care overhaul, Republicans’ latest strategy can be neatly summarized: try to scare the daylights out of House Democrats,” The Wall Street Journal’s Naftali Bendavid reports. “For months Republicans have been telling the public that the Democrats’ plan is a government takeover of health care. Now they are ramping up their warnings to Democratic lawmakers themselves, saying a ‘yes’ vote puts their political careers at risk.” Impacting the whip count: Democrats “made their task even more difficult by moving toward writing off anti-abortion members who voted for the bill the first time in the House,” Politico’s Patrick O’Connor writes. “House leaders now believe they can’t change the abortion language in the Senate bill under the reconciliation process, which is only supposed to be used on budgetary matters.” Coming Sunday: Senior White House adviser David Axelrod and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., join ABC’s (birthday boy) Jake Tapper on “This Week.” New from the ad wars: Americans United for Change this weekend launches a nearly half-million buy aimed at black listeners. From the TV spot, airing on BET: ”President Obama’s plan would rein insurance rates … prevent the insurance giants from denying coverage when you’re sick. And holding down health care costs will help create jobs. But the insurance giants and using every weapon in their arsenal to block reform. We can’t let them succeed.” Remember when this was going to be the big bipartisan accomplishment? “The head of the Senate Banking Committee will unveil sweeping new reforms for the financial system Monday after failing to reach an agreement with Republicans on the panel,” ABC’s Matthew Jaffe reports. “Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., announced today that he will release his proposals to overhaul Wall Street in the wake of the financial meltdown, even though talks with top Republican negotiator, Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, left ‘a few outstanding issues’ unresolved.” “The gamble is a bid to speed progress, but it raises the chance that Congress won’t be able to push through a substantive regulatory overhaul,” The Wall Street Journal’s Damian Paletta reports. “The White House and some Senate Democrats now plan to challenge the GOP to a partisan fistfight, daring Republican senators to break ranks and not use the blocking power of a filibuster to kill a measure that would curb Wall Street and create a new government division to write consumer-protection rules.” Perish the thought — not politics! “As the White House reconsiders the decision to prosecute the five alleged plotters of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in civilian court, the likely change of course seems designed to protect vulnerable Democrats in Congress more than it is to improve the chances for conviction,” McClatchy’s David Lightman and Marisa Taylor write. The retiring Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., opens up, in a revealing and fascinating profile by The Washington Post’s Philip Rucker: “I want a fuller life,” says Kennedy. “For me, I had an audience of one… That was my dad.” (And count the Kennedy cousins who went on the record for Patrick.) Census wars (?) … going out from the DCCC on Friday: “Our Republican counterparts at the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) and the Republican National Committee (RNC) recently sent out deceptive political fundraising letters that looked like U.S. Census letters so they could fill their campaign accounts with cash from a misleading and deceptive fake census letter, leaving taxpayers like us to foot the bill!… Please take this time to forward this information to your friends and family to warn and make sure they are filling out their official US Census form.” In California: “San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom will announce Friday that he is running for California lieutenant governor, according to people who were contacted by him,” the Los Angeles Times’ Anthony York reports. Best wishes for a speedy recovery: “Sen. Harry Reid’s wife was listed in serious condition at a suburban Virginia hospital Thursday night after she and her daughter were involved in an auto accident on a major highway,” Steve Tetreault reports for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “The Honda Odyssey in which Landra Reid and daughter, Lana Barringer, were riding was rear-ended and crushed by a tractor-trailer in heavy traffic about 15 miles south of Washington shortly after 1 p.m. Landra Reid, 69, suffered a broken nose, broken back and broken neck and was listed in serious condition, said Jon Summers, a spokesman for the senator.”
The Kicker: “You know you are supposed to clean this after every use!” — Tom Hanks, checking on the espresso machine he gifted the White House press corps in 2004. “I am elected to serve my constituents and as long as they continue to request federal funding for their projects of interest, then I will continue to do my best to accommodate them.” — Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, not happy with House Republicans’ new pork-free diet.
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