The moderates and centrists critical to ongoing health care negotiations seemed to have found a good deal to their liking in the president’s speech tonight. Senator Olympia Snowe—a central focal point for the TV cameras scanning the chamber—issued a statement tonight that praised the President’s stated desire to bend the cost curve and, just as significantly, to ensure that the bill does not add to the deficit.
Contrary to the expectations of many, Chris Dodd has decided to turn down the chairmanship of the Senate HELP Committee, choosing instead to stay at the helm of Banking. Dodd and his office have yet to comment on his decision (which will also result in Tom Harkin taking over HELP and Blanche Lincoln over Agriculture). But many observers (including myself) judged that Dodd might fare better politically by taking the HELP torch from Kennedy to push through the health care reform bill.
It looks like the White House's endgame may very well include a public option trigger, as a means of bringing Olympia Snowe and other key centrists on board. In fact, Obama met with Snowe today to talk about the bill, so there's no question that her ideas and concerns are being taken quite seriously. But what would a Snowe-endorsed trigger actually look like?
Given Mike Enzi’s departure from the bipartisan talks and the imminent collapse of the Gang of Six, it looks like there’s just one Republican Senator still willing to negotiate seriously with the Democrats—Olympia Snowe. Even if the leadership decides to take a more partisan route for the bill, Snowe is sometimes more liberal than the right flank of the Democratic Party, and her vote could still be critical to reform’s survival. But what does she really want out of the current bill?
Some more disappointing news from the Senate: it looks like the right-wing attack on Bob Bennett is working. As I discussed last week, conservative activists are trying to exploit the Utah Republican’s political vulnerabilities, accusing him of supporting a government takeover of health care because of the Wyden-Bennett reform plans. Unfortunately, Bennett--who’s up for reelection in 2010--seems to be relenting more and more to the pressure.
In the wake of Kennedy’s death, speculation about whether Chris Dodd will take over the chairmanship of the HELP committee has already begun. Dodd, who served as acting chair during Kennedy’s absence, must decide whether he will relinquish his leadership of the Banking Committee to take the helm of HELP. His choice is drawing lots of attention--not only because of the ripple effect it will have in terms of Senate committee leadership (see our flowchart gaming out the possibilities), but also because of Dodd’s current political predicament in Connecticut.
A Research 2000/Daily Kos poll reveals that the majority of Nebraskans approve of Senator Ben Nelson's actions on health care-and that more oppose the public option than support it. The results of the poll, which was conducted last week, show that 56% of likely voters in the state approve of Nelson's health care work, while 39% disapprove. Likewise, 47% oppose the public plan, while 39% support it. The findings shouldn't be too surprising, as Nebraska is still solidly a red state.
In his New York Times op-ed today, Senator Jim Webb argues that the U.S. should push for engagement with Burma, singling out China as a key conduit to the military regime. Sanctions from the U.S. and other European nations don't work, Webb says, because China has conducted billions of dollars of business with the regime over the past few years. Thus, the U.S.
The Hill flags the latest right-wing attack on Republican Senator Bob Bennett--a TV ad from the Club of Growth that slams the Bennett for supporting "massive government control of health care" that will impose "job-killing tax increases." If you missed the first five seconds of the ad, it would be easy to assume that Bennett's bill--which the ad doesn't even bother describing--is one and the same as Obama's health care plan.
Reader JP just alerted me to an email blast from a group called "The Pray In Jesus Name Project." It suggests that ObamaCare will not only pull the plug on grandma, but also result in a gay and transgendered takeover of the entire health care system.