Morning Must Reads -- Bipartisan fig leaf 

New York Times -- Obama Offers to Use Some G.O.P. Health Proposals

President Obama rolled out four alternate takes on Republican suggestions for health legislation. A study of medial malpractice effects and promise of future fiscal responsibility on Medicare rates top the list.

This is like one of the fat children targeted by Michelle Obama’s obesity program agreeing to have a Diet Pepsi with their Taco Bell Volcano Burrito combo meal instead of a Mountain Dew.

But as Examiner colleagues Julie Mason and Susan Ferrechio point out, http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/politics/Obama-tries-to-soothe-anxious-Dems-with-bipartisan-talk-86036532.html the real aim of the president’s very modest proposal is to offer scared Democrats some better talking points before they push the plunger to detonate the nuclear option on health care.

The president will announce today that he’s done what he can to appease Republicans but that the time has come to jam through his health-care plan. He seems to still be leaning toward having the House pass the Senate bill and then having the Senate bill modify the plan through budget reconciliation.

We (and the CBO) may finally get to see what his actual plan includes unless the White House delays release on the grounds that House is only working on existing legislation. Getting a total price tag of more than $100 billion a year would likely spook more Blue Dogs.

Writers David Herszenhorn and Robert Pear look at the strategy for the desperate counter-offensive.

“Senator Kent Conrad, Democrat of North Dakota and chairman of the Budget Committee, said it might be possible to use the reconciliation procedure for ‘a set of relatively minor matters that have a budget impact.’

Coordinating the work of the two chambers could be ‘extraordinarily complicated,’ he said.

In addition, the budget reconciliation process could be time-consuming in the Senate, where Republicans said they would raise procedural objections and offer numerous amendments.”

 

Washington Post -- Days later, as a deal emerges, Bunning backs down

What a letdown for Democrats who had gone to the trouble to fly in the saddest seeming constituents for TV interviews and have giant photos of the faces of the unemployed produced as props for floor speeches.

Jim Bunning finally got his way.

The Kentuckian, who is leaving the Congress he detests at the end of the year, got the vote on the $10 billion, month-long extension of unemployment benefits he had sought for five days.

Democrats wanted to pass the spending without a roll call vote and add the costs to the deficit rather than pass it as an actual bill. They wanted to violate the spirit of the Senate’s “pay as you go” rules, but not the letter.

After being chased by packs of barking reporters and making Democrats glimmer with glee as they talked about Republican disregard for the poor (who won’t now be inconvenienced), Bunning was allowed to introduce an amendment that would have paid for the spending by eliminating a subsidy for the paper industry.

Democrats gave in because they needed a clear lane for today’s health announcement and someone eventually would have pointed out that refusing to have a vote that you’re embarrassed about is not the same as being blockaded.

Every Republican present plus four Democrats (Nelson, Lincoln, Lieberman and Feingold) voted for the Bunning plan, but Democrats held on to the 53 other members present to pass the package as a deficit increase.

Writer Ben Pershing gives us a swatch of the angry but sentimental speech Bunning gave to close the drama.

“Bunning said Tuesday night that his efforts had been worthwhile in shedding a spotlight on growing federal deficits.

‘Neither side has clean hands,’ Bunning said. ‘What matters is that we get our spending problems under control.’”

 

New York Post – Radioactive Rangel on the brink of exit

Once any member of the Congressional Black Caucus broke ranks, it was curtains for Charlie Rangel.

Rep. Arthur Davis, trying to look credible for an Alabama gubernatorial run, was the first CBCer to bolt, and his call for Rangel to step down as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee gave white Democrats – especially those in tough re-election races – the cover they needed to call for Rangel to give up the gavel.

Writer S.A. Miller tells us that Rangel is still holding on despite pressure from above to step aside since the House Ethics Committee found that he should have known better than to take special-interest money for Caribbean travel.

More than a dozen have jumped ship, and many more are on the railing. Rangel’s protector, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, even used the phrase “I guess” as a qualifier in discussing his continued chairmanship. She can’t afford to let the GOP bounce him or for his other ethics problems to ripen, so Pelosi needs Rangel to go.

“His fate could be decided this week, as Rep. John Carter (R-Texas) plans to introduce a resolution today that will force a vote within 48 hours on whether the chairman keeps his gavel.

The wave of Democratic doubt suggests the tide is turning against Rangel. It will take about 40 Democratic defections to oust him.”

 

Wall Street Journal -- AFL-CIO Plans to Spend Record Sum During Election

The biggest labor group plans to spend more than the $53 million it spent getting Barack Obama and a Democratic majority elected on defending them.

Writer Kris Maher tells us that some of the money will go to beating up capitalist running dogs like Blanche Lincoln (D-Wal-Mart). But the AFL-CIO’s focus will be on defending a Democratic firewall of seats in states like California, New York, Illinois, Nevada, Ohio and Pennsylvania where labor unions, or at least the burgeoning class of government employee unions, still have clout.

Labor leaders delivered big for Democrats in 2008 and claim to be cross with the president for not doing more. Their willingness to spend so much again reveals that they know Obama and Democrats in Congress are doing plenty for them and that they know the 2010 election could be a knockout blow for their struggling model.

“Recent Republican victories in Massachusetts and elsewhere have worried union officials, but unions also see an opportunity to make a populist pitch to voters angered by the government's bailout of distressed banks, an approach that could work against Democrats who voted for it and the Obama administration.”

 

Houston Chronicle -- Hutchison underestimated anti-Washington sentiment

Writer Joe Holley gives a good explanation of how a politician as successful as Kay Bailey Hutchison could miscalculate as badly as she did in her bid to knock off a fellow Republican, Gov. Rick Perry, in a gubernatorial primary.

She had Karl Rove doing strategy, was ready to spend oodles of money and was running against a governor who had been in office since George W. Bush went to Washington.

But Perry beat her by 21 points and will avoid a runoff that loomed after Tea Party-backed Debra Medina got in the race.

Holley seems to hold out hope that Democratic nominee Houston Mayor Bill White will succeed where Hutchison failed, but it seems pretty far-fetched for now. Perry is the man for the moment – a two-term incumbent who can run as an outsider.

Of course, contemplating secession if Obamacare passes is one good way to show your bona fides to Texans who naturally distrust authority, especially the Washington kind.

“Perry argued that Texas was doing just fine without Washington, thank you very much, and voters seemed to agree.

Texas hasn't been immune to recession woes, but unemployment has been below the national average since the recession started, and even though the state has received some $7 billion in federal stimulus money, Perry can point to $9 billion in the state Rainy Day fund.

Hutchison's quest may have been quixotic from the beginning, but she also contributed to her own difficulties by dithering about when or whether she intended to resign her Senate seat and campaign full-time for governor.”

 

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About The Author

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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