House

I've been pointing out that the structural barriers to passing health care reform are very weak right now. Democrats just need 217 of their 255 House members, and 50 of their 59 Senators, to vote for something that nearly all of them have already voted for. The question of whether they can overcome their panic and mutual resentment to do so is a serious one.

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House Democrats are upset, reports Politico: [Pelosi's] staff, her members and a lot of the Democratic leaders are still genuinely angry about all the heavy lifting they did last year — on health care, jobs and cap and trade — while, in their eyes, the White House played favorites with the Senate. At the beginning of Obama’s presidency, he agreed to make cuts from the stimulus package in order to attract a few Senate Republicans, even though it made the measure less attractive to many key House members.

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Matthew Yglesias expresses the political logic for passing health care reform, succinctly and, in my opinion, persuasively: If you’ve already voted for health reform, which a majority of House members and 59 Senators have, then you’re already going to get hit with 100 percent of the hits that accrue to people who vote for Obamacare. Nobody is going to care about the fine nuances of “senate bill” versus “house bill” or whatever.

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President Obama is going to address another Congressional gathering today. The audience will be more friendly this time: It will be the Senate Democratic caucus. But the stakes will be just as high as they were when Obama spoke to Republican House members last week. Health care is bound to come up at the meeting. I assume Obama will raise it during his prepared remarks; if not, he'll get questions about it. And the big controversy right now is whether the Senate is willing to amend its bill through the budget reconciliation process.

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 Anthony Wright is executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. He blogs daily at the Health Access Weblog and is a regular contributor to the Treatment. As an advocate for health reform in California, I’ve seen health reform proposals die. I’ve seen it die by vote, and I've seen it die by veto. In 2004, an expansion of employer-based coverage narrowly lost in a referendum, getting an excruciating 49.2 percent of the vote.

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Most of the analysis of the impact of Scott Brown’s upset victory in Massachusetts has naturally revolved around the Democratic Party. Having lost the “Kennedy seat,” in the bluest of blue states, with health care reform legislation (and the ability to overcome Republican filibusters on other legislation) in extreme peril, and already facing a very difficult midterm election environment, what can the Donkey Party and its leaders do to mitigate the damage? Will they pull together or scatter to the four winds?

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Forget Massachusetts. Obama's problem is nationwide.

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A staffer speaks: The second and far bigger hurdle is convincing utterly panicked senators and House members to spend an additional month or two on health care reform, at the precise moment it seems to be the party's Waterloo. "Sure you could say it's worse because we didn't pass anything," says one staffer. "But it might be better to get past this as soon as possible and bring it up for a vote in the Senate; let the Republicans kill it — and then blame them for everything." It worked in 1994, didn't it? Oh, wait.

Church and State

WASHINGTON--It is 2009's quiet story--quiet because it's about what didn't happen, which can be as important as what did. In this highly partisan year, we did not see a sharpening of the battles over religion and culture. Yes, we continued to fight over gay marriage, and arguments about abortion were a feature of the health care debate. But what's more striking is that other issues--notably economics and the role of government--trumped culture and religion in the public square.

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Worth Reading

Luxury goods cause people to think more about themselves than others. The average senator is three times richer than the typical House member. Exiting BusinessWeek economist Michael Mandel has a new blog. Will ours be another investment-less recovery? Plunger Time: Thanksgiving is the busiest plumbing period of the year. Ezra Klein: The behavioral economics of Thanksgiving.

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