Morning Must Reads -- Dubious Democrats 

Wall Street Journal -- Democrats Voice Health-Bill Doubts

While the misadventures of President Obama’s first year in office cost him much of the trust of the electorate, it has also cost him the confidence of his fellow Democrats in Washington.

Writers John McKinnon and Jared Favole explain how the administration’s health-care promises that issues like cost savings, abortion and other worries will eventually be worked out is slim solace to Democrats who know the legislative process better than Obama and have seen the president repeatedly come up short on big promises before.

The White House plan calls for the House to pass the Senate bill that lacks the protections against elective abortion subsidies and has the shady deals for Sen. Ben Nelson and others and then fix the problems in a subsequent budget plan and a third, separate piece of legislation.

No way, say skeptical Dems, who expect to be left behind when the emperor’s caravan moves on.

"If the House and Senate can't work out cost containment, I don't see how I could support a bill that doesn't help our business community," Rep. John Adler (D., N.J.) said on "Fox News Sunday." "I'm not sure we've gone far enough in terms of fixing the underlying system to make it affordable for businesses and taxpayers."


Los Angeles Times -- Healthcare overhaul comes down to Pelosi and Obama

Writers Janet Hook and Noam Levey consider the fact that the fate of the Obama presidency now rests in the hands of Nancy Pelosi. Obama may have abandoned his legislative neutrality to actually craft a health package (which we, and the CBO, have yet to see) but he is also now so deep in the morass of Capitol Hill that he must rely on Pelosi to get him out. Sticky wicket, that.

Hook and Levey seem to conclude that you should never count out Pelosi. They don’t mention that Harry Reid is kind of a mess.

“‘I don't have the votes,’ the speaker told the group, according to National Assn. of Public Hospitals and Health Systems President Larry Gage, who was at the meeting. She added: ‘I think we can get there, but I'm going to need help from any place I can get it.’”


New York Times -- Iraqis Defy Blasts in Strong Turnout for Pivotal Election


They’re not building any statues of George W. Bush in Baghdad yet, but the big success of Iraq’s second parliamentary elections may hasten the day when the U.S.-led invasion is marked as a good thing.

Sunnis, who boycotted the 2005 vote, turned out in large numbers, as did the radical Shiites. It’s not clear if Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki will be able to keep his government together, but if he can, it will be because he makes a bigger tent. The major election themes from al-Maliki and rival Ayad Allawi were security and unity, and both seemed to have resonated.

As I argue in my column today the ability of Iraqis to endure appalling violence to vote is carrying the day. It is a country reborn by the sheer will of its people to endure.

Writer Steven Lee Myers was there:

“The extensive use of mortars and rockets suggested that a weakened insurgency had to shift tactics, perhaps because it was unable to get cars or suicide bombers through an intense security lockdown, with some checkpoints erected every few hundred yards.

The insurgents still fighting in today’s Iraq face a far stronger government, capable now of saturating the country with police officers and soldiers. Even more important, they face an Iraqi people far less willing to support, or even sympathize with, violent resistance against the country’s democratic government…’We have experienced three wars before,’ Ahmed Ali, a supporter of Mr. Maliki, said in Ur, ‘so it was just the play of children that we heard.’”


New York Times -- Program Will Pay Homeowners to Sell at a Loss

Good news for fraudsters – the government will soon start leaning on banks to accept short sales on home loans.

You get a cheap house, your partner gets $1,500 and the bank (and diligent borrowers) get screwed.

The administration’s $75 billion mortgage modification program has failed so far because the aim was to keep struggling borrowers in under-water mortgages, which in most cases only prolonged the inevitable foreclosure.

With foreclosure rates still worse than last year and no relief in sight, the administration is going to start squeezing lenders to accept less money to pay off mortgages. Banks will get $1,000 per short sale and the threat of a regulatory beat down if they aren’t cooperating.

Borrowers who do sell their homes at a loss to their lenders will walk away with no credit blight and get a $1,5000 check from the government for “relocation assistance.”

But writer David Streitfeld tell us that banks, which could have accepted less money than they were owed at any point, are unlikely to respond, at least beyond making the process for loan modification more labyrinthine in order to avoid regulatory penalties while fighting fraud.

“‘This is not an opportunity for the customer to just walk away,’ [J. K. Huey, a Wells Fargo vice president] said. ‘If someone doesn’t come to us saying, ‘I’ve done everything I can, I used all my savings, I borrowed money and, by the way, I’m losing my job and moving to another city, and have all the documentation,’ we’re not going to do a short sale.’”


Financial Times -- Big bank oversight to stay with Fed

The Federal Reserve is coming out on top of the new financial regulations being crafted in Congress.

Sen. Chris Dodd’s parting gift to the banking industry is a complex, toothless plan to regulate banks through a new panel at the Treasury Department.

In a recognition of the terribleness of the legislation, he is now willing to allow the biggest banks to remain under the eye of the Fed and to give bankruptcy judges jurisdiction if Treasury ever were to try to take over one of the smaller banks in the name of avoiding systemic risk.

Writer Tom Braithwaite explains:

“‘Until, frankly, chairman [Ben] Bernanke was confirmed I think the Fed’s hands were kind of tied,’ said a banking industry figure who has held discussions with one of those Fed presidents. ‘Now he is chairman for the next four years ... the Fed has been able to be more aggressive in fighting for its authority.’

The regional Fed presidents have the most to lose if – as the current draft legislation has it – the central bank retains big banks but loses mid-sized institutions, which are part of the Fed system’s reason for being.”


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About The Author

Chris Stirewalt


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

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