Morning Must Reads -- Obama shifts debate from the product to the process 

New York Times -- In Final Push, Obama Urges ‘Up or Down’ Vote on Health

President Obama slammed the door on questions of what would be in the health care legislation and is now fixated on whether he will be allowed to have his victory with 51 votes in the Senate instead of the usual 60.

As Charles Krauthammer said, Obama’s basic message is “I can do anything I damn well please.”

But both sides are obsessed with Senate procedure and no one is talking anymore about what’s actually in the largely unloved legislation.

That’s a better argument for the president than talking about what’s in his plan – new taxes, heavy mandates, a resource shift from seniors to the young, and the creation of an economically enervating new entitlement.

Republicans, though, love talking about budget reconciliation and whether it is appropriate to use for such a big plan. It probably isn’t (a viral video shows Obama’s about face on the subject) but Republican’s can’t stop it from happening. They can only slow the process down.

By talking about procedure, Republicans allow Democrats to move the debate to ground more favorable.

As I argue in my column today it is the contents of the bill and Obama’s arrogant instance upon its passage that irks Americans, not whether it is 51 votes or 60 votes in the Senate that does the deed.

Plus, as Examiner colleague Susan Ferrechio points out, Democrats will have plenty of problems passing the legislation even based on simple majorities in both houses.

Writes Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Robert Pear offer some of the flavor in the House:

“‘I am not inclined to support the Senate version,’ said Representative Shelley Berkley, Democrat of Nevada, who voted for the House bill in November. ‘I would like something more concrete than a promise. The Senate cannot promise its way out of a brown paper bag.’”


Wall Street Journal -- Paul Ryan v. the President

The Journal Editorial Page has a great take on the battle the president would not like to fight – the one with Paul Ryan over phony accounting.

For example, the Obama plan takes $500 billion from Medicare, spends it on buying health insurance for younger Americans but still counts the money as a reduction to the deficit.

Obama says cutting Medicare will make it better and that by taking the money from seniors and shifting the money to younger, uninsured Americans we will save money long term by preventing illness, etc.. But study after study shows preventative medicine costs not saves and that access to health care unconnected to costs leads to increased use.

That’s why Obama dodged Ryan’s question at last week’s health summit.

Ryan also tags Obama for utterly ignoring the cost of propping up payments to doctors due for a slashing in Medicare reimbursements. It’s good reading, as is Ryan’s full treatment on the issue.

“The real cost over a decade is about $2.3 trillion on paper, Mr. Ryan estimates, and even that is a lowball estimate considering how many people will flood to ‘free’ health care and how many businesses will be induced to drop coverage. Mr. Obama claimed yesterday that the plan will cost ‘about $100 billion per year,’ but in fact the costs ramp up each year the program exists. The far more likely deficits are $460 billion over the first 10 years, and $1.4 trillion over the next 10.”


New York Times -- Rangel Steps Aside From Post During Ethics Inquiry

Charlie Rangel hasn’t been in Washington so long that he’s forgotten how he managed to overtake his iconic predecessor as Harlem’s congressman, Adam Clayton Powell.

Once Powell lost his clout in Congress over his own Caribbean getaways. Once marginalized, Rangel – a Korean war vet who promised to not lose touch with the community – beat him in the 1970 Democratic primary. With no juice in Washington, Powell was not worth the hassle of his ethics problems.

That’s why Rangel, 79, is clinging so tightly to the idea that his banishment from the House Ways and Means Committee is only temporary, even though his return is unlikely given the stack of ethics problems piled up around him.

Democrats got no bargain in Rangel’s replacement, Rep. Pete Stark. Stark is more liberal than Henry Waxman but lacks the latter’s self-discipline. He has property tax troubles and is prone to making intemperate statements under pressure. But Nancy Pelosi’s fellow Bay Area Democrat will be doing major surgery on the beating heart of the Obama agenda as the head of the most powerful committee in the House.

Democrats will likely come to regret very much that Rangel, a smooth operator who is well liked on the Hill, couldn’t forgo some island breezes.

Writers Carl Hulse and David Herszenhorn explain:

“Democratic members of the committee were weighing the possibility of handing the gavel to another senior member, possibly Representative Sander M. Levin of Michigan, or even naming co-chairmen.”


USA Today -- College students rally over tuition, education quality

This year’s college freshman (mostly born in 1992) grew up believing college was a right, not a privilege. And given the dreadful state of the nation’s government-run secondary schools, it’s not surprising that kids feel like they need a little more tutelage.

But imagine the surprise of a generation of self-esteem kids in finding out what their grandparents knew so well: if you want to get ahead, you’d better be lucky or hard working -- preferably both.

Writer Mary Beth Marklein looks at the bursting of the Millennials’ bubble as college kids across the country take to the streets and the Net to protest cuts in state subsidies for public colleges that mean fewer offerings and higher tuition.

State lawmakers, who have to choose between cutting Medicare and roads or trimming higher ed, are unlikely to be impressed.

“Students in at least 32 states are expected to join the grass-roots campaign. It has been bubbling up since demonstrations last fall in California, where students, faculty and unions protested plans for a 32% tuition increase amid the state's fiscal crisis.”


Los Angeles Times -- China's investments in U.S. up sharply

The fear in the 1980s was that the Japanese were going to buy up the country. Everyone was reading Paul Kennedy and wondering why our workers wouldn’t do calisthenics in the morning. Then the Japanese centrally planned themselves into an economic coma and forgot how to have babies.

Now the rise of China comes with fears that the country’s explosive growth and fake currency will allow another buying of America – fears exacerbated by our country’s current anti-competitive bent.

Writer Don Lee gives us a snapshot of what China is buying up ($6.4 billion in land and corporate investments last year) in addition to a share of federal debt so big that it comes with veto power over U.S. foreign policy.

“The strategy also seeks higher earnings from Beijing's pile of assets denominated in foreign currencies, which is estimated at $2.5 trillion and mostly held in low-interest U.S. government securities and other low-risk, dollar-denominated investments. Chinese officials worry that a weakening dollar will erode the value of these holdings.

A sign that Beijing is acting on that concern came last week when the U.S. government reported that Chinese holdings of Treasury securities slid to $894.8 billion in December, down 3.7% from November and the lowest level since May.”


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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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