Friday, March 19, 2010

Morning Must Reads from DCExaminer

New York Times -- In Health Vote, Democrats Weigh Success vs. Survival
The number of real undecideds on Obamacare is probably down to five, and since Democrats only need to get three of them, party leaders are feeling good.
But now is the time when you have to start calling people off the fence, and the shifts must be well choreographed. Because like kids at Christmas, House Democrats will want to know why someone else got something better.
If some freshman who’s probably going to lose anyway is getting to stay on the no side, why should a venerable moderate from a Republican district have to switch to pass?
The speaker will bring in several more fake maybes today in an effort to show momentum, but those will mostly be yeses who stay yeses.
Writer Jeff Zeleny looks at the political math that drives the question of who is allowed to save their own skin and who is forced to drink the poison draught.
“But inside the speaker’s suite of offices on the West Front of the Capitol where Democrats are filing in for face-to-face discussions with party leaders, there is a pecking order for vulnerable lawmakers that helps determine the degree of arm-twisting and pressure imposed on them.
Who won by the smallest margin? Which districts have smaller black populations, a traditionally reliable vote? Who voted for the somewhat different version of the legislation in November and is going to be attacked by Republicans for that vote regardless of what they do this weekend? And who stands the best chance to persevere through a roiling political year and by November have at least a decent shot of winning?”

Wall Street Journal -- Health Showdown Is Set
Writers Greg Hitt and Janet Adamy look at the astonishing details of the final push to passage in the House.
Even before they get to the legislative end run that relies on procedural trickery in both houses of Congress, Democrats are engaging in a wild, desperate surge.
One deal was set up to tempt Earl Pomeroy, a yes vote who is suddenly facing a tough re-election in the wake of Sen. Byron Dorgan’s retirement.
“Senate Republicans complained in a press release about the ‘Bismarck Bank Job,’ a provision preserving a state-owned North Dakota bank's participation in the government's student-loan program. A spokesman for Sen. Kent Conrad (D., N.D.) said the senator has asked the provision be removed.”

Washington Post -- Congressional Budget Office's sunny forecast carries big uncertainties
Writer Neil Irwin points out that the numbers released by the CBO that made Democrats “absolutely giddy” are really estimates of estimates, not hard predictions.
The economists at CBO have been scoring and rescoring Obamacare for weeks, haggling with lawmakers over how to tally the costs, savings and disruptions to the economy.
There will be a more complete score today or Saturday now that the actual legislation is in place. We can expect to see more detail on issues like how adding a 3 percent tax on investment income will shrink the economy, etc.
“If Congress were considering, say, a 20-cent increase in the gasoline tax, the CBO could easily analyze how that would affect gas consumption and do some simple math to calculate how much money it would raise. The same goes for figuring out the cost of legislation that offers a new benefit, such as an expansion of food stamps.
But the proposal on the table contains sweeping changes that would touch almost all corners of the health-care system, and the changes interrelate in hard-to-predict ways. For example, the legislation contains subsidies for those who would not be able to afford health coverage on their own -- but the cost of those subsidies could vary a lot depending on how much other elements of the legislation change the price of health insurance, such as through provisions requiring minimum coverage levels.”

New York Times -- Coburn Warns Vote-Switchers on Health Care
One of the downsides to destroying the remaining collegiality in Congress through employing nuclear options to pass Obamacare in both the Senate and House is that now Democrats have to watch their backs. The courtesy that protected them, like the strained cordiality between feuding neighbors, is gone.
That’s particularly good news for Sen. Tom Coburn, who didn’t think to highly of all that butt covering anyway.
There are three retiring House Democrats who might make the switch from “no” to “yes” and many more who may opt to switch and will lose this fall as a result. There are dozens more who have demanded goodies as a condition of keeping their yeses as yeses.
Coburn’s promise: If you’re counting on a golden parachute in an administration job or to patch things up with voters with a big dose of pork, you’ve got a problem.
Individual senators can block presidential nominations and hold up appropriations, which Coburn already does, but he’s ot the backing of the Senate GOP to start an earmark detective squad to scour every appropriations bill and earmark for anything that might benefit a switcher. And since Coburn doesn’t care how often Democrats decry him as Dr. No, he’ll likely stop the pork and shame them for taking a bribe.
Writer Carl Hulse tells us about it:
“‘If you think you can cut a deal now and it not come out until after the election, I want to tell you that isn’t going to happen and be prepared to defend selling your vote in the House,’ Mr. Coburn warned those making up their minds across the rotunda.”

New York Times -- After a Bitter Campaign, Forging an Alliance
In what is ostensibly an article about the growing alliance between President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, writers Mark Landler and Helene Cooper were really producing a note of warning to the president from the secretary of state. Clinton has fired a few shots across Obama’s bow – stampeding him into offering domestic benefits for gay partners, expressing public doubts about the Copenhagen summit, etc.
This story, featuring an interview with Clinton and choice blind quotes, suggests that while the former first lady is glad they’ve managed to work out a professional rapport, it’s time for Obama to give her more operational space and control over foreign policy. “It would be a shame to see anything happen to this nice publicity you’ve got here, Mr. President.”
It’s not going to happen for the very reason that Obama has only been able to offer a cold fish friendship to Clinton. He still doesn’t trust her.
“While their underlings at times grouse about one another — some Clinton supporters call White House officials ‘The Cardinals’ (to suggest that they are too controlling), and some Obama staff members refer to the State Department as ‘Hillaryland’ (the campaign’s leftover name for the enemy camp) — Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton both have compelling reasons to make their relationship work.”

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