Morning Must Reads -- I thought kamikaze missions were supposed to be simple 

New York Times -- Parliamentary Hurdle Could Thwart Latest Health Care Overhaul Strategy


A lot of Democrats are looking for a reason not to vote for the president’s health care plan – particularly one that won’t have Rahm Emanuel chasing them into the showers at the House gym.

But the administration can afford zero defections in the House. Because of vacancies, if every Democrat who voted for the House health bill votes for the Senate health bill, the measure would pass on a one-vote majority. No nays have switched to yeas so far, but plenty of yeas have expressed reservations.

One of the big beefs is that the president’s plan calls for the House first passing the Senate bill, then the Senate passing a modification package with 51 votes as a rider to a budget bill, and then passing a third piece of legislation to ban subsidies for elective abortions.

House members dislike this plan because it depends on the Senate and Obama following through, and past experience suggests those are not guaranteed outcomes.

Liberals are afraid of being marooned with the crony capitalism of the Senate bill if the president’s reconciliation plan craps out. Socially conservative/fiscally liberal Democrats of the old model know that the Senate won’t pass any abortion language more stringent than the watered down version which Sen. Ben Nelson embraced (along with $100 million for his state).

As Examiner colleague Susan Ferrechio explains, the complications are such that House Democrats blew off the White House-imposed deadline on March 18, with Majority Leader Steny Hoyer sending a special raspberry to ham-handed press secretary Robert Gibbs.

Now, members are waiting for the first of many possible parliamentary rulings on the legislative tripsichore required to advance the plan. The big question being – Can you modify the budget impact of a law that hasn’t become a law?

Writers Robert Pear and David Herszenhorn explain:

“Senator Kent Conrad, Democrat of North Dakota and chairman of the Budget Committee, said the reconciliation instructions in last year’s budget resolution seemed to require that Mr. Obama sign the Senate bill into law before it could be changed.

‘It’s very hard to see how you draft, and hard to see how you score, a reconciliation bill to another bill that has not yet been passed and become law,’ Mr. Conrad said. ‘I just advise you go read the reconciliation instructions and see if you think it has been met if it doesn’t become law.’”


Washington Post -- Massa investigated for allegedly groping staffers

What a weirdo!

Former Rep. Eric Massa went on Glenn Beck’s show for some support in his effort to say that Rahm Emanuel is a little bully. He was, it seems, looking for love in all the wrong places.

Beck pummeled Massa for his “familiar” relationship with male staffers, and the more Massa tried to explain, the worse it got. He described tickle fights with his male aides but thought it preposterous that anyone would object.

In retrospect, Massa may wish that he had acceded to Emanuel’s demands and switched his vote on the president’s health plan – originally a nay cast on the grounds that the plan was insufficiently liberal. He is not the one man with courage who makes a majority.

Writer Carol Leonning got more dirt on Massa from house Democrats looking to 86 the former freshman before he could do any more damage. But Massa was doing a good enough job of that himself on TV.

“Though Massa has resigned, it is possible that the ethics investigation will continue, according to two sources. The reason for such an inquiry would to be to address the circumstances of any hostile work environment. There are no indications that any of the harassment allegations were shared with law enforcement officials.”


New York Times -- A Consumer Bill Gives Exemption on Payday Loans

The witches’ brew of a financial regulation package being cooked up by Senate sorcerers Chris Dodd, Bob Corker and Richard Shelby is getting more pungent by the day.

Dodd has already taken care of the medium-sized banks that have patronized him for so long, now writer Sewell Chan explains what Corker wants for adding a bipartisan veneer to the plan.

Corker is looking to protect the bottom feeders of the financial industry – strip mall payday lenders who prey on the working poor and skirt state usury laws by operating as check cashing businesses that charge exorbitant fees rather than lenders.

Corker’s relationship with the industry goes way back and one of his greatest political benefactors is a legal loan shark who has been bankrolling him since he ran for mayor of Chattanooga.

“Under the proposal agreed to by Mr. Dodd and Mr. Corker, the new consumer agency could write rules for nonbank financial companies like payday lenders. It could enforce such rules against nonbank mortgage companies, mainly loan originators or servicers, but it would have to petition a body of regulators for authority over payday lenders and other nonbank financial companies.”


Wall Street Journal -- Decision on 9/11 Trial Could Undercut Holder

After accommodating the venal whims of the Clintons, Eric Holder was hoping to get right as an attorney general of principle in the Obama administration.

His mistake, like so many Democrats in Washington, was taking Obama at his word.

Writer Evan Perez explains how Holder rushed to please his boss by setting up civilian trials for terrorists in densely populated areas. Now that Obama is ditching the plan in the face of a gale of political opposition, Holder is in an embarrassing position, which is bad, and he’s also become an embarrassment to the administration, which is worse.

Even if Holder wants to accommodate Obama by backing down, he will remain the personification of the politicized priorities of the president.

“Justice Department officials say Mr. Holder's decision was predicated in part on an earlier decision by Mr. Obama. In a speech at the National Archives in May, Mr. Obama said: ‘First, whenever feasible, we will try those who have violated American criminal laws in federal courts—courts provided for by the United States Constitution.’

When Mr. Holder announced civilian trials for the alleged 9/11 plotters, he was unaware that Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, opposed the idea, according to people familiar with the matter. Mr. Emanuel, these people said, felt constrained about discussing the issue with Mr. Holder.”


USA Today -- Internal report issues black eye for U.S. Embassy in Kabul

Writer Ken Dilanian got a copy of an inspector’s report that found the U.S. Embassy in Kabul had too many tasks, too few resources, and was letting too much slip through the cracks.

The report particularly chides the State Department for handing out $2 billion worth of contracts for projects like drug eradication and civilian training without much oversight.

Part of the problem has been that the radical de-Bushification of the embassy, combined with the effort to add 600 Staties to the 300 person staff have sewn confusion and created a shortage of experienced operators.

Another problem is that while catering to every Congressman and think tanker who shows up for a passport stamp and a photo-op, embassy workers can’t do their real jobs.

“The report also undercuts a key example cited by [Envoy Richard] Holbrooke as part of his pledge to reduce the government's reliance on contractors for reconstruction and aid projects. In discussing that change, Holbrooke has repeatedly cited his canceling of a $30 million contract for women's programs. He said he gave the money to the Kabul embassy.

However, the embassy doesn't have people to oversee the grants, the audit says. While the embassy hired more staff, Hayden said, it also had to hire a Washington-based contractor to administer the program because Afghan organizations lacked the "internal controls" required to receive direct U.S. funding.”


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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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