Massachusetts State Senate Passes Interim Appointment Bill
The Massachusetts Senate
(by a 24 to 16 vote) a bill yesterday that would
authorize Gov. Deval Patrick (D-MA) to name a successor to the late Sen. Ted Kennedy.
The successor would serve until the winner of the January 19 election is seated.
The state House has already passed a similar bill.
After a formality today, the bill is expected to land on Patrick's desk today or tomorrow.
He has already said he would sign it. Massachusetts could have its second
senator--and the Democrats' 60th--by Monday. The consequence, of course, is that the
health bill currently pending in the Senate could pass with Democratic votes alone.
Even if the Democrats don't do this, it reduces some of the leverage Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME)
has, since she is no longer essential to passing the bill if the Democrats can stick together.
Health Bill Markup Began Yesterday
Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, began the
of his health-care bill yesterday. The full committee will process over 500 proposed amendments,
rejecting nearly all of them. Nevertheless, Baucus was apparently surprised by the poor reaction
his bill got from the Democrats. While he knew that only one Republican, Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME),
might conceivably vote for it, he wasn't expecting so much criticism from the Democrats, including the guy
just below him on the committee totem pole, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), who bluntly stated he would vote against
the bill in its current form.
Even before the bill hit the table, Baucus began changing it, moving leftward even so slightly.
The new version will give bigger subsidies to poor people unable to pay for insurance and reduce the
penalty for middle-class people not eligible for subsidies but still unable to afford insurance. Furthermore,
he is considering reducing the excise tax on gold-plated insurance plans at the insistence of Rockefeller,
who represents a state with many coal miners who have managed to get very good plans from their
employers due to their dangerous work. The markup will probably go on all week.
One of the key amendments to watch is the
Wyden amendment, proposed by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and which would open the insurance exchanges to
everyone and would mandate that employers offering insurance give their employees a choice of at least
two plans. The Congressional Budget Office has stated that this amendment would force private companies to
compete and would reduce total health-care costs by $1 billion over the next 10 yars. But far more
important is that it would give individuals a choice in how they are covered, something now rarely
the case. Wyden has long championed the idea that the way to drive health-care costs down is to
force private insurance companies to actually compete with each other. Here is a
of amendments Baucus has agreed to so far. Expect more today and tomorrow.
But make no mistake, the public markup is all theater. The real action is behind the scenes, when
Baucus asks people like Rockefeller and fellow critic Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA): "What do I have to
do to get your vote?" That is when the real sausage making begins. The public session will just
ratify what has been agreed on privately.
Meanwhile, over at the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is moving to the left and
on a public option at the same time that majority leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) is moving to the right and
trying to make a
with House Republicans. Those two are not buddy buddy and this is not the first time they have pulled
in opposite directions.
Whitman Announces She is Running for Governor of California
Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman has
announced that she
is running for governor of California. Whitman has never held or even run for public office before.
The announcement was held in a peculiar place: the Fullerton-based district of former California
assemblyman Mike Duvall who just resigned after being caught bragging about having sex with a lobbyist.
With Whitman running for governor and former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina running for the Senate,
the Republican ticket in 2010 will be headed by two women who were real powerhouses in their previous jobs.
It is hard to remember any ticket featuring two such high-profile women.
Lazio Running for Governor of New York
On the other side of the country, former Long Island representative, Rick Lazio (R) has
he is running for governor of New York. Even given the peculiarities of New York politics, he has virtually
no chance of winning. Earlier this week, it was leaked that President Obama wants the state's beleaguered
and ineffectual governor, David Paterson (D-NY) to refrain from running in 2010. If Paterson gives in
to Obama's wish, then it is very likely that popular Attorney General Andrew Cuomo (D) will run and be elected governor
easily. If, however, Paterson stays in the race and Cuomo does not run, then one or more Republicans
far better known than Lazio will enter the race and one of them will defeat Lazio in a primary.
Former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani
and former governor George Pataki are both keeping their powder dry for the moment but are following
In an obscure but potentially important
the New York Court of Appeals, the state's highest
court, has upheld Paterson's appointment of Richard Ravitch as lieutenant governor, a position that
became vacant when former lieutenant governor Paterson was elevated to the governor's mansion when
Eliot Spitzer resigned in a prostitution scandal. The state constitution does not provide any mechanism
for filling an empty lieutenant governor's position, but Paterson just did it anyway and got away with it.
The consequence of this decision is that Obama now has a graceful way of getting rid of Paterson: appoint
him to some position where he can't do much damage, such as ambassador to some small country in
Africa. After such an appointment, Ravitch would become governor and at 76 would be unlikely to run in 2010.
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