Ways and Means Committee

Republicans may lack leverage in the "fiscal cliff" debate, but they're managing to convince the press otherwise.

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The conservative movement is geared around endlessly pushing Republican politicians to take more right-wing positions, and to interpret any failure as the result of ideological or political faint-heartedness.

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Republicans appear to be nervously backing away from their plan to transform Medicare into partially-funded private insurance vouchers: After House Republican leaders pushed through a budget that contained a politically charged plan to overhaul Medicare, the chairman of the House tax-writing committee suggested Thursday that he did not intend to draft legislation turning the proposal into law any time soon. The comments by Representative Dave Camp, the Michigan Republican who is chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, coupled with remarks by other top Republicans, suggested that the party’s

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[Guest post by James Downie] Before the war on unions has even finished, Republicans in Washington have already picked a new target: the AARP. Republicans have launched an assault on AARP, which joins a growing list of groups supportive of the Democrats’ agenda that are being targeted by conservatives. House Republicans on the Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday released a report that accuses the influential senior citizens organization of having a conflict of interest because it will financially benefit from the health care overhaul that the group heavily lobbied for last year.

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William Galston is a very smart man who ably bridges the gap between academia and policy-making as well as anyone in the country. But, when it comes to giving political advice, his penchant for centrist wonkery sometimes gets the best of him. The latest example is his suggestion that President Obama should make “comprehensive tax reform” the main goal of his next two years in office. Where’s the evidence that Americans would flock to his side if Obama staked his presidency on an inspirational call to build a greater, more prosperous nation—by simplifying the tax code?

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Ezra Klein on how the Democrats had the upper-hand on taxes and threw it away: It's very important to realize how strong of a hand Democrats had -- and to some degree, have -- on the Bush tax cuts. Right or wrong, the Democrats' original position on this was that the tax cuts for income under $250,000 should be extended, and the tax cuts for income over $250,000 should expire. The public agrees: 49 percent share the Democrats' position, 14 percent want all the tax cuts to go, and 34 percent want to see all the tax cuts extended.

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Will vs. Krugman

George Will explains why the Rangel scandal is drawing vastly more attention than the Ensign scandal -- it's all about tax reform: KRUGMAN: No, I think it's fair enough. But, you know, let me ask -- there's something I don't understand about this whole thing. There are actually two major investigations of members of Congress underway right now. There's Charlie Rangel, who's accused of some fairly petty, although stupid and wrong, ethical violations, and there's Senator John Ensign, who's facing a criminal investigation and which actually -- it's even a story that involves sex.

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This is the third of a five-part series explaining, in remarkable detail, how Obama and the Democrats came to pass health care reform. (Click here to read parts one and two.) Be sure to come back tomorrow for the fourth installment, which reveals how Obama saved the House bill and what Olympia Snowe really wanted until the very end. House Money It was Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, who had tried to get tough with the manufacturers of biological drugs.

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How They Did It

When the president and his closest advisers huddled in the Oval Office last August, they had every reason to panic. Their signature piece of legislation, comprehensive health care reform, was mired in the Senate Finance Committee and the public was souring on it. Unemployment was on the march, and all this talk about preexisting conditions and insurance exchanges barely registered above the Fox News pundits screaming, “Death panel!” Suddenly, health care reform was under attack everywhere—even in the West Wing. All week, the group had debated whether to scale back the reform effort.

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[Guest post by Noam Scheiber:] The Times' Sewell Chan and Eric Dash have a great little piece about Bill Thomas, the volatile former Republican chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, now vice chairman the the congressionally-chartered Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (FCIC). In a nutshell, Thomas is--how to put it?--a preening, self-righteous bully* who seems more interested in scoring rhetorical points than figuring out what caused the crisis.

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