Morning Must Reads -- Democrats in a Brown panic 

New York Times -- Democrats May Seek to Push Health Bill Through House

The rarest of all the political flora may bloom in Massachusetts today: a landslide upset.

Republican Scott Brown seemed to be breaking free of Martha Coakley in the final polls, suggesting that the Republican state senator might beat the Democratic attorney general by more than 6 points, a landslide by the standards of a Massachusetts Republican, especially one who began the race 30 points behind.

While Democrats are heaping blame on their aloof, gaffe-prone nominee, Brown has made much in his campaign about blocking President Obama’s health care plan by becoming the 41st Republican vote needed to keep a filibuster alive.

Like most Americans, Massachusetts residents are opposed to the legislation and Coakley’s threat that her defeat would also mean the defeat of the president’s plan has proved unmoving to Bay Staters who already have their own government insurance program.

In anticipation of what would be the most stinging rebuke of the president’s agenda yet, Democrats are looking for a way to shove his health plan through without allowing the newest senator to have the chance to stop them.

Forget the fact that it would be political malpractice to jam through a plan after such repudiation and in the face of widespread, sustained national opposition (the deadliest descriptor for any politician is “out of touch”), because Democrats seem determined to press on.

Democrats threats’ to hold up the seating of Brown, if elected, and pass a modified plan negotiated by party leaders, lobbyists and the president through both houses of Congress are absurdly optimistic, as is the suggestion that the Senate could pass the new plan on a procedural end-around called reconciliation.

That left Democrats with passing the Senate bill through the House on to President Obama. Liberals want Senators to pass some modifications in separate legislation, but promise to, in the words of the House speaker, “have health care one way or another.”

Writers David Herszenhorn and Robert Pear raise the question of even this blunt gambit can succeed, especially since if only three Democrats change their votes on their November health vote from yeas to nays, the legislation would fail.

Democrats now face the worst possible scenario: having advanced wildly unpopular legislation to the detriment of any other legislative activity only to fail in a final effort to thwart the will of the voters. Democratic control of Congress hangs on their actions.

“In an interview on Monday, Representative Bart Stupak, a Michigan Democrat who opposes the Senate bill in part because of provisions related to insurance coverage of abortions, said: ‘House members will not vote for the Senate bill. There’s no interest in that.’

When the idea was suggested at a Democratic caucus meeting last week, Mr. Stupak said, ‘It went over like a lead balloon.’

‘Why would any House member vote for the Senate bill, which is loaded with special-interest provisions for certain states?’ Mr. Stupak asked. ‘That’s not health care.’”

 

Howie Carr -- Want payback? Vote for Scott Brown!

Boston Herald columnist Carr has been the voice of fed up Massachusetts residents throughout the six-week campaign.

“If you’re old and worried about the Medicare cuts they’re proposing, if you’re young and don’t want to pay the fine for not having health insurance, if you have a good health-care plan and you dread paying Obama’s 40 percent tax. Marsha - er, Martha - had a message on TV yesterday morning for everyone who falls in those three categories:

‘They are wrong.’

That’s what these people always say. You’re wrong, they’re right. Nothing to see here, move along. And make damn sure you pay your taxes, and forget what Obama said about not raising taxes on anybody making under $250,000. That was then, this is now.

On Sunday I called Coakley ‘Mike Dukakis in a skirt.’ I would now like to apologize to Mike Dukakis.”

 

Bloomberg News -- Obama Sets Jan. 27 State of Union Speech Amid Jobless Concerns

President Obama has opted against an unprecedented delay in delivering his first State of the Union address in an effort to squeeze health legislation out of Congress.

His pivot to different issues is looking as rusty as my golf swing in a January round.

Writers Nicholas Johnston and Roger Runningen explain that when the president speaks next week, his agenda will likely be in limbo and the budget he will deliver five days later will have to reflect tremendous uncertainty about what the immediate future will hold.

“With the unemployment rate at 10 percent in December and forecast to be near that level amid the congressional campaign, the economy will be at the forefront as the administration seeks to retain Democratic majorities in the House and Senate in the November vote. Obama has been shifting his focus from health- care and counterterrorism to job creation and deficit reduction.”

 

Washington Post -- Health-care debate delayed action on other big issues

Writer Perry Bacon tells us that while Congress has been swept up in the soap opera of health care, necessary legislation has been piling up, just at the moment when lawmakers would least like to take care of unpopular housekeeping measures.

“On Christmas Eve, after approving the health-care legislation, the Senate approved a temporary increase in the debt ceiling to $12.4 trillion, a agreement reached after party leaders abandoned an effort to pass a larger bill because of reluctance from a bipartisan group of fiscally conservative senators. This week, lawmakers will debate an increase of more than $1 trillion to the limit, enough to back spending through November's midterm elections.

Congress must also determine in its first several weeks this year whether it will continue the extended unemployment benefits that were included in last year's stimulus bill, as well as whether it will renew parts of the USA Patriot Act, the 2001 anti-terrorism measure.

And then there is the contentious issue of the estate tax. The tax rate was 45 percent last year for estates valued at more than $3.5 million, but the rate is currently zero because Congress couldn't agree on what the tax should be in the future.”

 

USA Today -- Opinions about Obama take hold

Writer Susan Page takes us through the five types of American attitudes about Barack Obama developed by Gallup pollsters over his first year in office.

“What are those views? … They range from those with positive views of Obama and the economy's direction — dubbed ‘Sunny side up’ — all the way to those with the bleakest views of him and the country's future. Their moniker: ‘It's all bad.’”

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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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