Jonathan Cohn
Senior Editor

Stayin' Alive
April 01, 2009

In early January, most of Barack Obama's senior staff assembled with the president-elect for a meeting inside a windowless, eighth-floor office at the transition headquarters in Washington. It was a pivotal moment in Obama's transformation from candidate to commander-in-chief. Obama's advisers had taken all of his campaign pledges, factored in his promise to reduce the deficit, and put together a provisional blueprint for governing.

Stayin' Alive
April 01, 2009

In early January, most of Barack Obama's senior staff assembled with the president-elect for a meeting inside a windowless, eighth-floor office at the transition headquarters in Washington. It was a pivotal moment in Obama's transformation from candidate to commander-in-chief. Obama's advisers had taken all of his campaign pledges, factored in his promise to reduce the deficit, and put together a provisional blueprint for governing.

No, The Democrats Aren't Against Cooperation
April 01, 2009

Chris Matthews first became famous as a top aide to legendary House Speaker Tip O'Neill. So it's not surprising he cares about congressional procedure. But Matthews' deepening interest in whether Democrats should use reconciliation rules to pass health care reform--he's been harping on this issue lately--suggests the debate is breaking out of wonkier precincts into the wider political discourse. And, thankfully, Matthews seems to get it.

The Single Biggest Issue That Could Undermine Reform
April 01, 2009

If you are following the debate over health care, you are now familiar with some of the major fault lines. Should there be a new public insurance plan, into which anybody can enroll? Should the government require that everybody carry insurance of some form? Should an independent but democratically accountable institute be setting criteria for what services insurers must cover? And so on. But in arguing about these questions, here and in other venues, we are also getting ahead of ourselves.

Another (mostly) Positive Verdict On The Plan For Detroit
March 31, 2009

John Paul MacDuffie is an associate professor of Management at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, and co-director of the International Motor Vehicle Program (IMVP). We asked him for his thoughts on President Obama's plan for the auto industry. The new auto industry plan represents more aggressive action than we've seen before; government isn't just writing checks based on proposals from the automakers. But the new plan still stops well short of true nationalization; government won't be managing these companies. Obama, in other words, has found a middle path.

"reconciliation" = Bad. "majority Rule" = Good.
March 31, 2009

The debate over the budget has moved to the Senate floor. And, not surprisingly, a major source of contention is the possible use of reconciliation rules to pass climate change legislation, health care, or both. For those who haven't followed this debate, reconciliation allows the Senate to pass measures with just a simple majority, since time and amendments are limited with no possibility for filibuster. Many Democrats favor this approach; a few oppose it, as (to my knowledge) do all Republicans. The budget proposal under consideration in the Senate has no reconcliation instructions.

Planes, Trains, And Automobiles: Sometimes Bailouts Work
March 31, 2009

In today's New York Times, David Sanger analyzes President Obama's plan for the ailing domestic auto industry. And the historical precedents, Sanger suggests, are not encouraging: "In the past, the United States government had briefly nationalized steel makers and tried to run the railroads, with little success." I claim no particular expertise on either of those episodes. But Phillip Longman, a fellow at the New America Foundation, does.

Obama In The Driver's Seat
March 30, 2009

President Obama just finished speaking about his plans for the ailing domestic auto industry. And, as reported already, he is offering some pretty tough medicine. Obama's auto task force has determined General Motors can become a viable company. But it will take more radical restructuring, starting with more concessions from creditors, unions, and dealers. GM gets 60 days to make that happen. The transformation in management began over the weekend, with the ousting of GM CEO Rick Wagoner.  The verdict on Chrysler is less sanguine: The task force has decided it cannot stand on its own.

Gm Gets A Lifeline; Chrysler Gets 30 Days
March 30, 2009

Various outlets now have complete details on Obama's plan for Chrysler and GM, as provided in background briefings by administration officials. The gist is pretty simple: The administration believes that GM can survive--and, indeed, thrive--with the proper restructuring, so it will provide up to 60 days of working capital as the company revamps its management and negotiates with stakeholders. Chrysler, though, is another story. The administartion does not believe the company can ever be viable on its own.

Obama's Speech On Detroit: What To Watch For
March 29, 2009

  This morning President Obama will formally announce his plan for Chrysler and General Motors, the two ailing automakers seeking billions of dollars in additional assistance.* But one element of the administration’s strategy leaked out on Sunday afternoon: GM CEO Rick Wagoner is history.  As a condition for extending more financial assistance, Obama demanded that Wagoner resign. The administration relayed this request on Friday. Wagoner officially stepped down on Sunday.

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