February 03, 2009
Daily Round-up, 2/3
Senators Baucus and Feinstein are still in shock over Daschle's departure. House Democrats have launched radio attack ads against GOP members who voted against S-CHIP. The first of some 8,000 lawsuits against tobacco companies went to trial in Florida. The Washington Post examines the fate of the new uninsured. Medicare's "donut hole" could prompt the elderly to cut back on needed prescriptions. Rising health care stocks have bolstered the Dow. The recession has squeezed small business owners struggling to cover health care costs. Health care entrepreneurs are finding promising markets in th
The conventional wisdom on the backstory of Tom Daschle's departure has already hardened. The administration cut him loose and told him to withdraw, if not explicitly then implicitly. Washington uber-networker Steve Clemons even has an item up about hostility between Daschle supporters and Rahm Emanuel, whom--in this telling--they blame for letting Daschle go without a fight. All of that may be true.
Over at The Treatment, Jonathan Cohn and Suzy Khimm offer their take on Daschle's departure from HHS. Jonathan Cohn sees the removal of Daschle as a serious but not permanent setback to health care reform as a whole: Daschle had a direct line to Obama, a result of the relatively long relationship the two men had. That gave the health team clout.
On the lowest level of the J.W. Marriott in downtown D.C., hundreds of leading health care experts attending the AcademyHealth's conference are still reeling from the announcement of Daschle's withdrawal. "Honest to god, I'm stupefied by this," said Marie Michnich from the Institute of Medicine, shortly after the news broke this afternoon. "Now, to see all the work that's been lost. We had a sense of how it was going to work--how we were going to coordinate [health care reform] with the White House. And now we're just spinning." Others seemed similarly flabbergasted.
Can health care reform go ahead, this year, even without Tom Daschle? Yes. Does this episode--and Daschle's absence--make the task of enacting health care reform harder? Yes, although how much harder is difficult to say right now. Daschle had a combination of talents not easy to find in one person--poiltical savvy, connections in Washington, and a thorough knowledge of health care policy. But that doesn't mean you can't replace those skills, particularly if you're willing to find several people instead of one. Remember that Daschle was actually up for two posts.
Pressed in his briefing about why Daschle and Killefer would have to go--but not Tim Geithner--Robert Gibbs' answer, more or less, is that Geithner has already been confirmed and sworn in. He also says flatly that the White House did not send Daschle a signal that he had to go, and the decision was his alone. --Michael Crowley
It All Begins Here, In The District
It's been a bad day at the White House, with Killefer and Daschle bowing out. If you're looking for some humor and a lighter take on the Obama administration, check out Newsweek's new mock TV show, The District. It places Obama in the position of Whitney on MTV's new show, The City, a spin-off of the oh-so-bad-and-addictive The Hills. So far, the show has chronicled the Geithner debacle and the stimulus debate, with a pumping musical score by the Pussycat Dolls and Pink. Choice segment: "In this city, you have to learn pretty quickly where you fit in.
If you want to take a break from the cabinet psychodrama, and read a good piece on the current downturn, I recommend Jamie Galbraith's contribution to a National Journal symposium on deficits. Jamie doesn't dismiss the administration's stimulus program--he calls it a "good start"--but he thinks that it, and the administration's expected intervention in the financial system, will prove wanting.
As you may have heard by now, Tom Daschle just withdrew his nomination to be Secretary of Heatlh and Human Services. It's not clear to me yet whether that means he's also stepping down as director of health care reform at the White House--or what this means for the future of health care reform. But I'm trying to learn more and will report back when I do. Update: He's stepping down from both posts. Via the Washington Post: Daschle had been appointed to two posts -- both the HHS Secretary and the health care czar, with an office at the White House.
Kill The Daschle Nomination
Jon, your Tom Daschle defense over on The Treatment ("I think [Daschle] is trustworthy, based on what I know," you concluded) makes perfect sense -- if the Daschle affair were taking place in a vacuum, or a period of prosperity. But it isn't. And the way that his behavior, even if unintentional, feathers in with the year's narrative of a cast of bumbling, gee-I-didn't-know-what-I-was-doing-was-hurtful business execs destroying the economy makes his nomination a huge P.R. disaster. He may be blameless before St.