Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Morning Must Reads from DCExaminer

Washington Post -- Senate's deliberate pace frustrates the House
President Obama will today sign into law the most sweeping expansion of the American welfare system since the New Deal. More than 30 million Americans are getting health insurance, whether they like it or not.
The administration doesn’t usually shy away from melodrama at big moments, so expect a collection of the very sick and the very old plus some more of that weird civil rights theme from Sunday.
I’d invite presidents Clinton and Carter, and relatives of Johnson and Truman too.
While the fruited plains are being harvested at the White House, though, the Senate will be figuring out how to finish the last leg of the Tour de Obamacare.
Senate leaders promise action this week on passing a package of changes to the bill already approved by the House. But the House bill adds substantially to the costs – covered by a mix of big taxes and big deficits – and eliminates the carve outs and sweeteners that were added to get the original measure through the Senate.
Majority leader Harry Reid is using budget reconciliation to push through the House bill and can therefore afford to lose eight members of his 59-member caucus (seats on that lifeboat will be more precious than 1,000 AFSCME fundraisers).

But there are two problems:
1. Reconciliation rules say you can’t fiddle with Social Security and the House bill diverts $23 billion in taxes from bankrupt old Social Security to Obamacare.
2. Republicans are allowed to introduce a theoretically limitless number of amendments and parliamentary challenges, a situation that has to be handled with public relations pressure not Senate rules.

After a bunch of partisan hackery and shady tactics that would make Tom DeLay blush, Democrats will have problem talking about the need for bipartisan cooperation. And surely Democrats don’t want to have the Vice President overrule the Senate parliamentarian for the first time in history to advance legislation that already has the scent of the smoke-filled room about it.

But that doesn’t matter in the House and to liberals everywhere. They’re pumped up about joining the ranks of LBJ and FDR. (Or is it MLK and the ERA? I can’t keep it straight anymore.)
Writer Perry Bacon explains that flush with victory, the House will be keeping the pressure on the Senate to act quickly on Obamacare and a passel of other liberal wishes.

“In that chamber rests the fate of not only the health-care changes that House lawmakers desperately want but also other major bills they have approved over the past year: legislation to combat climate change, a reform of the way financial firms are regulated, and provisions to combat youth unemployment that have been championed by the Congressional Black Caucus. The climate-change bill passed the House in June, the latter two measures in December.”

Wall Street Journal -- Strict Abortion Rules Mean Fewer Insurers May Offer Coverage
Writer Laura Meckler tells us of a strange paradox of Obamacare – while anti-abortion groups are outraged over the loopholes for federal funding of elective abortions allowed by Rep. Bart Stupak’s last-minute cave-in, elective abortions will actually be harder to get.
This is how Stupak and President Obama have managed to make both sides of the most divisive issue in American politics bitterly unhappy.
Anti-abortion folks are mostly absolutists – one is too many and a dime of tax money going to the procedure is an abomination (Witness Rep. Randy Neugebauer’s “baby killer” outburst). Pro-abortion folks are mostly interested in volume – they want maximal access to the procedure for the greatest number of women and any diminution or stigmatization is anathema (Witness the drive for full federal funding of the procedure for poor women).
While most Americans oppose the practice but are squeamish about eliminating access to women in dire circumstances – pro-life but not stringently anti-abortion – the argument that some tax dollars may go to the procedure but that insurance companies will stop covering it will be unsatisfying.
Plus, at a cost of about $400, it’s unlikely that new rules will actually reduce the number of elective abortions (1.2 million in 2005).
“It's not known how many Americans with private insurance have abortion coverage. One survey by Guttmacher, whose data is respected by both sides, found that 87% of typical employer-based policies covered the procedure. Another survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a research group with no position on abortion, found that 46% of workers had the coverage.
A separate survey by Guttmacher found that just 13% of abortions were paid for by private insurance. That's partly because many women seeking abortion were uninsured or have Medicaid, which in most states does not cover abortion.”

Clive Crook -- A Tainted Victory
Writing in The Atlantic, Crook makes the case for Obamacare and against the means of its passage. He warns Democrats not to let the thrill of defying public opinion become a habit.
Taking a Tory’s perspective, Cook says the bill is hardly the kind of socialism that will destroy a nation overnight. Take heart – it will take decades for the American colossus to slouch under the weight of more unaffordable entitlements.
But his understanding of the way American politics works is right on point:
“I am used to explaining to foreigners that the US political system is, by design, exquisitely sensitive to public opinion, with its lower house up for election every two years. American governments cannot ignore their people, as Europe's governments can and frequently do, I used to argue. And I would cite my favorite example. Germany's government abolished its currency and forced the euro on a country that was opposed to monetary union throughout, saying, "You are wrong. We know better. We will do this regardless, and you will come to like it." Can you imagine such a thing happening in the US, I used to ask? Could anything be more un-American? The usual response would be laughter.
Who's laughing now? And one wonders, is this trampling down of public opinion going to be habit-forming? Recall Pelosi's recent comment that once the Democrats have "kicked through this door", they can move on to the rest of their (equally unpopular) agenda.”

Wall Street Journal -- Financial Overhaul Advances
The White House strategy is to move as much legislation through Congress while Democrats are back in a mood for magical thinking and the electorate is still gobsmacked.
The Senate won’t likely budge on issues like new global warming fees or, even more improbably, amnesty for illegal immigrants. But there is a chance that Democrats will unite behind a bill that makes American borrowers the wards of a new regulatory panel and that codifies the concept of being too big to fail.
And even if they can’t pass the bill, they could force Republicans to cast votes against “financial reform.” Expect the House to move similar legislation from Rep. Barney Frank soon too.
Damian Paletta explains:
“Business groups are also weighing in, though their influence with Democratic lawmakers and the White House remains strained. Many banks and business leaders have pressed lawmakers to continue negotiating, complaining that the uncertainty about what is going to happen is putting a strain on the economy.
"I think there's going to be some smart people involved that understand if you screw up the financial system, everybody else follows," U.S. Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Thomas Donohue said.”

New York Times -- Acorn to Shut All Its Offices by April 1
Is this the end of the golden age of the community organizer?
ACORN went from hustling social spending in exchange for votes in big cities to a national profile in 2008 and helped get Barack Obama, a former lawyer for the group and a former community organizer himself, elected president. With Democrats in power, ACORN looked to expand its patronage to a national level.
But it’s a long way from Brooklyn, N.Y. to Brooklyn Park, Minn. What had promised to be an era of triumph for ACORN was punctured by a filmmaker in a pimp hat.
It was overreach, miserable finances, and internal corruption that sank ACORN. O’Keefe just sped the demise before another election cycle – with paid voter drives, etc., -- could prop up the group.
Local organizations will persevere, but the idea of a franchised organization to swap votes for free stuff – sort of a McPolitical Machine – took a hit.
Writer Ian Urbina explains:
“In reaction to the videos, the Census Bureau ended its partnership with the organization for this year’s census, the Internal Revenue Service dropped the group from its Voluntary Income Tax Assistance program, and Congress voted to cut off all grants to the organization.”

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