Prediction: If health care reform comes up for a vote in the House of Representatives tomorrow, it will pass. OK, that’s not much of a prediction. Speaker Nancy Pelosi won’t actually bring a bill to the floor unless she has the votes. And as of late Friday afternoon, she didn’t. On Capitol Hill, staff began talking about the possibility of a postponement until Sunday, or even early next week. The sticking points are the ones you’ve read about elsewhere: abortion and immigration.
In case you haven't gotten your issue of Der Spiegel this month, the German mag has some very cool details on the intelligence work that led to the discovery--and eventual destruction by Israeli airstrike--of a suspected Syrian nuclear reactor being built with North Korean help: In the spring of 2004, the American National Security Agency (NSA) detected a suspiciously high number of telephone calls between Syria and North Korea, with a noticeably busy line of communication between the North Korean capital Pyongyang and a place in the northern Syrian desert called Al Kibar.
A little less than a month ago, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association--the trade group representing state-based Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans--released a misleading study suggesting that health care reform would mean higher premiums for small businesses and individuals buying coverage on their own. The basis for the findings were calculations by the consulting firm, Oliver Wyman.
Ben Smith notes that national security advisor Jim Jones, speaking at the J Street conference last week, called the Middle East conflict "the epicenter" of U.S. foreign policy problems around the world. It's worth noting that one of Obama's senior advisors on Jones' NSC, Iran point man Dennis Ross, completely disagrees with the notion of "linkage." Ross thinks it's more important to deal with Iran first. Which may be an illustration of why Obama's foreign policy in the region feels a little muddled.
For all of the crazy arguments against health care reform, a few of them are entirely sensible--and worth taking seriously. As I write in my latest Kaiser Health News column, which appeared on TNR’s home page yesterday, one of those is the worry that Congress won’t follow through with promises to raise the revenue--or find the savings--necessary to finance expansions of health insurance. In other words, Congress may pass a law calling for reductions in Medicare expenditures or raising an assortment of new taxes.
Strong words from Montana's Max Baucus on the prospects of climate legislation passing within a year: Baucus insisted that the bill would cross the finish line, which would require both Senate passage and a successful conference with the House. "There’s no doubt that this Congress is going to pass climate change legislation," he said. "I don’t know if it’s going to be this year. Probably next year." That's fairly newsworthy, especially since, in recent weeks, various centrist Democrats have been talking about laying the issue aside for now.
Paul Krugman's column today is about how the stimulus was too small. I agree entirely. What I find puzzling is his apparent belief that the Obama administration is the primary culprit for this shortcoming. Here's Krugman: But while health care won’t be Mr. Obama’s Waterloo, economic policy is starting to look like his Anzio. ... President Obama came into office with a strong mandate and proclaimed the need to take bold action on the economy. His actual actions, however, were cautious rather than bold.
“We are turning to socialism and away from God!” Joseph Grab said as he stood amid the thousands who gathered on Capitol Hill today to attend Michele Bachmann’s “House Call” protest against the health care reform bill. Grab, a retired engineer from Hershey, Pennsylvania, was clutching a leather-bound King James in his hand and a green sign that simply said “Pray” in the other.
Matthew Continetti's editorial in last week's issue of the Weekly Standard--"The Inevitability Myth: Health care reform is not a fait accompli"--makes the case that, despite all evidence, health care reform may not be enacted after all. (Continetti does concede that "the chances of some sort of health bill passing, at some point, are by no means negligible." So he's telling us there's a chance.) This sort of argument is actually the signature style of the Standard. A magazine like National Review specializes in making the case for conservative ideas.
A banking industry lobbyist I spoke with this evening alerts me to a fascinating development in the House Financial Services Committee: Pennsylvania Rep. Paul Kanjorski is about to introduce an amendment to the systemic risk bill moving through the committee (see my discussion here and here) that would give regulators the power to break up too-big-to-fail firms. The details are a little unclear--as it stands, the current bill would give the Fed some vague powers in this vein. But the soon-to-be Kanjorski amendment appears to go much further, and the banks are freaking out about it.