Morning Must Reads -- That locks up the "close encounters" vote, but what about the Blue Dogs? 

New York Times -- Democrats Inch Toward Securing Votes for Health Bill

Democrats – still probably 10 votes shy – need a Congressional Budget Office score on Obamacare today.

The delay in getting the cost estimates on the House changes to the Senate bill is because the changes were too expensive.

That’s why you saw Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO heading to the White House last night and the administration going gaga over loony Dennis Kucinich. Labor and liberals are being told to accept much less than they demanded because even with creative accounting, the draft scores from CBO would have sunk the bill with fiscally responsible Democrats.

Liberals will suck it up for the sake of the government takeover. Labor could bolt over new taxes on cushy health plans.

The score will likely roll out today, and Democrats will schedule a vote, or at least a good deeming, for Sunday. Otherwise, it will be after Easter before the issue gets cranked back up.

To get an idea of how much trouble the administration is having, consider what it means for the president to tout the support of the craziest member of Congress, Kucinich, as a breakthrough.

To get an idea of the gusts of support the press is providing for the plan, consider the credulity with which Kucinich – whose presidential campaign platform included space aliens and a department of peace -- was treated.

The best questions posed in stories today had to do with whether Kucinich would be a bellwether. There are no liberal undecided members, and with Eric Massa gone, Kucinich was the only lefty Nay in the House. And I doubt the Blue Dogs will be swayed by Kucinich’s promise to seek funding for holistic cures in future legislation.

Examiner colleague Susan Ferrechio points out http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/politics/Democrats-pump-up-the-pressure-on-wavering-members-for-Obamacare-88221037.html that while some Democrats were moving to yes, others were moving to no. Until the costs and contents of the plan are available, though, it’s all a bit academic. With a shady-sounding method to pass the plan, lots of anxious Democrats, and fault lines running all through the issue, getting the deal done will be a huge challenge.

Writers David Herszenhorn and Robert Pear suggest, though, that little Kucinich, 50 social justice nuns, and one Stupaker were part of a great gale blowing the plan on to final passage.

“Explaining factors he had considered in making his decision, Mr. Kucinich said, ‘We have to be very careful that the potential of President Obama’s presidency not be destroyed by this debate.’

‘Something is better than nothing — that’s what I keep hearing from my constituents,’ Mr. Kucinich said.”

 

Washington Post -- Obama's Fox News interview marked by interruptions, focus on 'special deals'

Writer Michael Shear apparently has some concerns about the way Fox anchor Brett Baier interviewed President Obama. Shear highlights Baier’s interruptions of the president so much that you might think that the “Special Report” host was shouting Obama down in the Blue Room.

Baier was quite respectful throughout, and conducted an interview that any of Obama’s predecessors would recognize – tough questions and a refusal to let the president run out the clock by reverting to talking points. But Obama’s TV interviews to date have mostly been more like monologues, with questions about how criticism makes him feel, weather Washington is even worse than he thought and something about the dog.

In my column today, I describe Obama’s two most common public emotional responses: regret and indignation. The latter was certainly on display with Baier.

The President looked peeved and essentially refused to answer questions about the special deals in the Senate version of his health bill or the effort in the House to approve the legislation without voting on it.

“‘I don't spend a lot of time worrying about what the procedural rules are in the House or Senate,’ he said. ‘What I can tell you is that the vote that's taken in the House will be a vote for health-care reform.’”

 

Washington Post -- Obama's plans to travel overseas as health vote nears draw criticism

A second shot from writer Michael Shear, this time talking about the grumbling from Hill Democrats about Obama’s Asian tour.

The president already delayed his trip from today until Sunday, but incremental delays have pushed the vote back until at least then. House Democrats worry that Obama will leave before the vote or deeming can take place, making it harder to argue that the passage of the Senate bill by the House and the adjustments to the Senate bill were part of a whole. The House would have to vote/deem and then let the Senate bill marinate while the president is visiting his boyhood home in Indonesia and trying to help out struggling Australian Labor PM Kevin Rudd.

“‘The timing is ill-advised. We need all hands on deck,’ said Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.). ‘If nothing else, the atmospherics it creates by being on the foreign trip when we're doing the heavy lifting on this is wrong. If I were asked, I'd tell him to postpone it.’”

 

Margolies -- Democrats: Vote your conscience on health care

Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky (now just Margolies) was a freshman congresswoman from the Philadelphia suburbs who lost her seat in 1994 over her support for the Clinton tax hikes.

She cast the deciding vote for the president’s budget and paid the price, even as her Montgomery County Pa. district was trending Democrat.

Margolies’ story has become a cautionary tale for Democrats considering votes for unpopular liberal initiatives. In an unhelpful open letter to her fellow Democrats, she urges them to accept electoral defeat as the price for doing the right thing.

Well, Margolies is an actual liberal. Her (former?) husband was also a liberal congressman before he did a long hitch in the federal pen for a big swindle. Her son is Chelsea Clinton’s finance. She was voting her conscience.

But the Democratic holdouts are being asked to vote for a bill they don’t like for the sake of political expediency. Pass it, they are told, because even though you don’t like it, if it fails it will be worse for the president and the party. And while Margolies was voting for one tax increase, Democrats are now being asked to vote for the reordering of the American economy and a huge, expensive expansion of the government.

For nervous blue dogs and swing staters being reminded of Margolies’ fate is not likely to produce new courage, especially since the reminder comes in a preachy, self-congratulatory piece. She was right about one thing, though:

“I urge you simply to cast the vote you can be proud of next week, next year and for years to come. Given the opportunity, I wouldn't change my vote.

Then again, what do I know? I was a lousy politician.”

 

Idaho Statesman --Otter is the first governor to sign a law saying the state will defy a requirement to buy insurance

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter signed the first of what will likely be dozens of state-level efforts to blockade Obamacare. Many states, like Texas, are expected to follow suit and pass bills saying that the federal government cannot compel their citizens to purchase insurance. If enough states opt out, Obamacare will fail because there won’t be enough healthy people forced to buy coverage to pay for the sick people getting subsidized care.

It also means that if Democrats do pass the plan, they will face years of painful reminders about their votes. While Nancy Pelosi promises a new era of Democratic accomplishment, the post-Obamacare era would likely be one of the most bitter political periods in generations.

Writer Brian Murphy explains:

“At least 36 other states are considering similar legislation in response to the drive by President Obama and congressional Democrats to expand health insurance to 30 million uninsured Americans, in part by requiring them to buy insurance. Virginia has enacted similar legislation, but it became law without a signature by Gov. Bob McDonnell.

‘How can somebody mandate us because we're breathing to buy health insurance?’ said Rep. Jim Clark, R-Hayden Lake, one of the Idaho bill's co-sponsors. ‘Now we're saying in code: We're not going to stand for that.’”

 

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Chris Stirewalt

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Washington Examiner Political Editor Chris Stirewalt, who coordinates political coverage for the newspaper and ExaminerPolitics.com in addition to writing a twice-weekly column and
regular blog posts.

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