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PW logo Legislator Blames Disabled Children on Abortion Republicans Take Beating on Stimulus
Obama Unveils His Health Care Bill Bonus Quote of the Day
Gillibrand Holds Big Lead Over Ford Paterson Approval Slips Further

News from the Votemaster            

Follow the Votemaster on Twitter     Permalink

The headlines of the news stories are now being tweeted to Twitter. Go to twitter.com/votemaster, to follow them.

Reid Approves Reconciliation for Health-Insurance Reform     Permalink

Majority leader Harry Reid has now come out and said he will use the budget reconciliation process to pass the health-insurance reform bill within 60 days. The mechanics of that are like this. The House would pass the Senate bill as is and President Obama would sign it. Then the Senate would pass a sidecar bill fixing a few items the House would never go along with (like Uncle Sam paying Nebraska's medical bills, a provision Ben Nelson demanded as the price of his vote) and the House would then pass the same bill, which would also be signed by Obama. The sidecar bill would use the budget reconciliation process, which is a straight up-or-down vote and can't be filibustered. One complication is that the Senate Parliamentarian, Alan Frumin, could rule that the sidecar bill does not pass the Byrd test and is thus not allowed in reconciliation, but the Presiding Officer of the Senate, Joe Biden, could overrule him and the Senate could sustain that ruling by majority vote. Reid could also just fire Frumin, the same way Trent Lott fired then-Parliamentarian Robert Dove in 2001 when Dove wouldn't accept the way the Republicans planned to use reconciliation to pass the Bush tax cuts. Minority leader Mitch McConnell said that it is "not clear" that the GOP can stop the reconciliation process (English translation: they have 50 votes plus Biden; there is no way we can stop them now).

The big question now is what will be in the reconciliation bill. In theory, the Democrats could put the public option or the lowering of the Medicare age in there if they have the votes. Obama has said he will support the public option if Reid supports it. Reid has said he will support the public option if the Senate Democrats do. The Senate Democrats (well, some of them) are likely to say that they will support it if Olympia Snowe supports it, but we all know she doesn't. It seems unlikely, but not impossible, that the public option will be revived. If Obama were to demand it, he would get it, but he is not demanding it. The Democrats missed a golden opportunity to push for it by failing to instantly attack Anthem, the California-based health insurance company, which wants to raise its premiums by 39% and more although belatedly Obama said he supported more regulation of the insurance companies. The White House posted its ideas for the bill on its Website at 10 A.M. EST, in preparation for Thursday's health summit, which will accomplish absolutely nothing. The only reason anyone will attend is to try to score points and make the other side look bad.

Update: Obama has now posted his plan. It is based on the Senate bill, but has some changes, including:

  • Eliminating the "Cornhusker kickback" special deal that Ben Nelson got for Nebraska
  • Allowing tens of millions of Americans to choose the same plan members of Congress have
  • Strengthening the Senate's affordability provisions
  • Keeping the excise tax on gold-plated plans but raising its threshold to $27,500
  • Creating a federal authority to prevent unreasonable insurance company rate increases
  • Closing the Medicare "donut hole"
  • Using the Senate's abortion provision, which is less strict than the House's

As expected, it does not include a public option that everyone can sign up for, but by making the congressional plans (which are privately run) available to tens of millions of people, some competition is introduced into the system. The proposal does not include tort reform or allowing insurance companies to sell across state borders, something the Repubicans favor. If you are looking for a detailed comparison of the Senate, House and Obama plans, here is one.

Ron Paul Wins CPAC Straw Poll     Permalink

The CPAC annual conference is probably the biggest annual event for movement conservatives, drawing over 10,000 people this year. One of the features of the event is a presidential straw poll. Mitt Romney won it the past three years, but this year Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) won with 31%. Romney got 22% and Sarah Palin came in third at 7%. It is slightly surprising that Palin did so badly since the CPAC crowd tends to look kindly on her. But only a quarter of the people registered at CPAC even bothered to vote in the straw poll, so it has little, if any, predictive value. At this point, Romney has to be considered the favorite for the Republican nomination in 2012. He is well known, the business community is behind him, he has done this before, and there are no polls showing that 70% of the voters believe him to be unqualified for the job. But Romney also has a couple of problems. First, he is going to be pestered by questions about why he hates Obamacare when as governor of Massachusetts he signed Romneycare, a very similar bill. Second, Mormons are viewed with suspicion in the South, which is the core of the Republican Party these days. But he might still get the nomination for lack of a heavyweight challenger, especially if Palin decides she'd rather be a media star than a politician.

Ellsworth is Running for Bayh's Seat     Permalink

Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D-IN) has announced that he is running for the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN). While Indiana is a very conservative state (despite Obama's carrying it barely in 2008), Ellsworth is a very conservative politician who voted against nearly all the Democrats main bills in 2009. The nominee will be chosen by the Indiana Democratic Party sometime after May 4. Ellsworth's only possible competition might be from Rep. Baron Hill (D-IN). The likely Republican nominee for the Senate seat is former senator Dan Coats, who brings a certain amount of baggage with him. For example, he is a registered lobbyist and lobbies for foreign clients and also has been a registered voter in Virginia since 1999. Even in Indiana, these issues are going to give him trouble. Coats in better known but at this point the race has to be rated as a tossup. State representative Trent Van Haaften (D) is going to run for Ellworth's R+9 IN-08 seat in the House. He will probably face thoracic surgeon Larry Bucshon (R) who is running for public office for the first time.

Lautenberg Has Stomach Cancer     Permalink

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), who at 86 is the second oldest member of the Senate, has announced that he has stomach cancer. He also said it is curable. Politicians always say that, but what is notable is that he will receive months of radiation therapy rather than a quickie operation to remove the tumor. Should he die, Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) will appoint a Republican to replace him.

The Democrats were extremely stupid to have him run in 2008. They should have found a much younger candidate, who in the Democratic wave year would surely have won. Now they are stuck with an old, sick senator who might not make it to 2014, at which time they will certainly have to find a new candidate and 2014 may not be a Democratic wave year.

As a general rule, when your party is expecting a wave year, that is the time to push the old geezers to retire so a newbie can ride the wave. For example, if J.D. Hayworth (51) manages to defeat John McCain (73) in this year's Arizona senatorial primary, that might be a blessing in disguise for the Republicans by getting a younger guy in office in what may prove to be a good year for Republicans.If McCain wins but retires in 2016, they will have to find someone new then and that person may not have the benefit of the wind at his back in 2016.

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