Political Highlights: May 15, 2009: President Obama & Health Care Reform

May 15, 2009: President Obama & Health Care Reform

THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY:

The President speaks at a town hall in New Mexico

IN FOCUS: STATS

In Focus: Stats

  • Giuliani Narrows Gap With Cuomo in NY Governor Race: In an early look at the 2010 Governor’s race, former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani leads Paterson 54 – 32 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University Poll released this week.
    Giuliani leads 86 – 6 percent among Republicans and 60 – 21 percent among independent voters, while Democrats back Paterson 56 – 30 percent. Giuliani leads 62 – 25 percent among white voters and 51 – 42 percent among Hispanics, while black voters back Paterson 64 – 18 percent.
    Cuomo leads Giuliani 47 – 41 percent in a head-to-head matchup, down from a 53 – 36 percent lead April 6. Independent voters have shifted from 49 – 38 percent for Cuomo April 8 to 44 – 40 percent for Giuliani today. In this latest survey, Giuliani leads 80 – 9 percent among Republicans while Democrats back Cuomo 78 – 16 percent. Cuomo leads 76 – 13 percent among black voters and 52 – 40 percent among Hispanics, as white voters go to Giuliani 47 – 42 percent…. – Newsmax, 5-13-09
  • Obama Approval Picks Up in May Still, only 25% say they would definitely vote to re-elect him in 2012: President Barack Obama appears to be slightly more popular with Americans at the start of his second 100 days in office than he was, on average, during his first 100. Gallup Poll Daily tracking from May 7-9 finds 66% of Americans approving of how he is handling his job, compared with an average 63% from January through April.
    Obama’s approval rating has registered 66% or better in each Gallup three-day rolling average since May 2. His 68% approval rating reported on May 3 is tied for the second highest of his presidency, exceeded only by the 69% recorded immediately after his inauguration. And except for one 66% approval rating in late April, all of Obama’s previous 66% to 68% readings were obtained near the start of his term…. – Gallop, 5-11-09

THE HEADLINES….

The President meets with House Leaders
(President Barack Obama meets with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and House Education and Labor Committee Chair Rep. George Miller, in the Oval Office Wednesday, May 13, 2009.  House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Rep. Henry Waxman, and House Ways and Means Committee  Chair Rep. Charlie Rangel also attended the meeting but are not in the photo.  Official White house Photo by Pete Souza.)

The Headlines…

  • House votes $97 billion war funds, despite doubts: Despite Democrats’ rising anxiety about Afghanistan, the House on Thursday easily passed a $96.7 billion measure filling President Barack Obama’s request for war spending and foreign aid efforts there and in Iraq. Some 51 Democrats broke with Obama, who is sending thousands more troops into Afghanistan, but all but a handful of Republicans stood behind the president to produce a 368-60 tally. Republicans supported the measure even though majority Democrats added almost $12 billion to Obama’s $85 billion request…. – AP, 5-14-09
  • Pelosi Says She Knew of Waterboarding by 2003: The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, acknowledged for the first time Thursday that she knew by early 2003 that the Central Intelligence Agency had subjected terror detainees to waterboarding but saw little recourse to challenge the practice except by achieving Democratic control of Congress and the White House…. – NYT, 5-14-09
  • GOP recruiters tilting toward center in 2010 races: Dick Cheney and Rush Limbaugh contend the Republican Party needs less moderation and more conservative backbone to win back voters who have been abandoning it in droves. Leaders of the party’s 2010 election efforts are showing they don’t think ideological purity is the answer…. – AP, 5-14-09
  • CIA rebuffs Cheney over interrogation documents: The CIA on Thursday rejected a request by former Vice President Dick Cheney that it make public documents that he said showed the effectiveness of using harsh interrogation methods on terrorism suspects…. – Reuters, 5-14-09
  • Obama to revive terror tribunals, with more rights: President Barack Obama will restart Bush-era military tribunals for a small number of Guantanamo detainees, reviving a fiercely disputed trial system he once denounced but with new legal protections for terror suspects, U.S. officials said Thursday. The military trials will remain frozen for another four months as the administration adjusts the legal system that is expected to try fewer than 20 of the 241 detainees currently at the U.S. naval detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Thirteen detainees — including five charged with helping orchestrate the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks — are already in the tribunal system…. – AP, 5-14-09
  • Obama administration to expand housing plan: The Obama administration expanded its $50 billion mortgage aid program on Thursday, announcing new measures that would help homeowners avoid a foreclosure if they don’t qualify for other assistance…. – AP, 5-14-09
  • Obama seeks to block release of abuse photos: President Barack Obama declared Wednesday he would try to block the court-ordered release of photos showing U.S. troops abusing prisoners, abruptly reversing his position out of concern the pictures would “further inflame anti-American opinion” and endanger U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan…. – AP, 5-13-09
  • Bill Clinton Takes ‘Aim’ at Cheney’s Criticisms of Obama’s Foreign Policy: At a campaign event for Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe, former President Bill Clinton said he believes the country’s foreign policy is better off in the hands of the Obama administration. “I like this new approach. I think it will serve us well,” he said, referring to the administration’s diplomatic outreach to countries that were isolated by Bush officials…. – Fox News, 5-13-09
  • Republicans block Obama pick for Interior No. 2: Republicans blocked President Barack Obama’s pick for the No. 2 job at the Interior Department on Wednesday in a dispute over oil and gas development on federal lands, but Democrats vowed they would soon make a second attempt to win confirmation. The 57-39 vote was three short of the 60 needed to advance David Hayes past Republican objections, and made him the first of Obama’s top-level nominees to be sidetracked on the Senate floor. – AP, 5-13-09
  • Obama, Dems press unified message on health care: The White House scrambled to unify Democrats behind a single health care appeal Wednesday — lower costs, plenty of choice — amid concerns Republicans could scare votes away with images of a ghastly system run by bureaucrats. A key senator pushed to enforce an offer from care providers to trim $2 trillion in costs over the next decade…. – AP, 5-13-09
  • Obama has more than 6 people for court: President Barack Obama is considering more than six contenders for the Supreme Court, a list dominated by women and Hispanics, including judges and leaders from own his administration who have never donned a judicial robe. Among those under consideration are Solicitor General Elena Kagan, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and U.S. Appeals Court judges Sonia Sotomayor and Diane Pamela Wood. California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno is also under review by Obama…. – AP, 5-13-09
  • Steele praises Romney after criticizing him: The head of the Republican Party said Tuesday he regrets the public interpretation of comments in which he said the GOP voted against Mitt Romney last year in part because he was a Mormon. “Chairman Steele regrets the way his comments have been interpreted,” Republican National Committee spokeswoman Gail Gitcho said in a statement. “Chairman Steele believes Mitt Romney is a respected and influential voice in the Republican Party and looks to his leadership and ideas to help move our party and our nation in the right direction.”… – AP, 5-12-09
  • Sarah Palin’s book deal a done deal with HarperCollins: Word just in by snow machine that Alaska’s Republican Governor and most famous hockey mom Sarah Palin has signed a book deal with HarperCollins. She’ll have a collaborator but wants to write much of it herself for publication a year from now. The advance figure was not revealed, but safe to say given her celebrityhood and controversy and loyal advocates and venom-filled non-advocates, it’s significant. Certainly sufficient to buy a few winters’ worth of snow machine gas and oil…. – LAT, 5-12-09
  • Crist Senate bid seen as sign of resurgent GOP fortunes: Florida Gov. Charlie Crist’s announcement Tuesday that he will run for the Senate is being cast by Republicans as a sign that their political fortunes are turning with the emergence of a new crop of moderate voices lining up for 2010 races. “It’s a big tent with plenty of room for the Charlie Crists of this world,” said Ari Fleischer, a former White House press secretary, of the current state of the GOP…. – WaPo, 5-12-09
  • House Democrats Block Republican Effort to Force Ethics Inquiries of Several Lawmakers: The Republican resolution focused on a lobbying firm, PMA, which was raided by the FBI last year…. – Fox News, 5-12-09
  • Cheney Emerges as Defender-in-Chief for Bush Years, Says He Won’t ‘Roll Over’: Former Vice President Dick Cheney has taken an aggressive approach to his post-administration life, holding on to the spotlight in order to defend the Bush administration against criticism from the party in power…. – Fox News, 5-12-09
  • Senators weigh tax hikes to pay for health care: Senators are considering limiting — but not eliminating — the tax-free status of employer-provided health benefits to help pay for President Barack Obama’s plan to provide coverage to 50 million uninsured Americans…. – AP, 5-12-09
  • Social Security and Medicare finances worsen: Social Security and Medicare are fading even faster under the weight of the recession, heading for insolvency years sooner than previously expected, the government warned Tuesday…. – AP, 5-12-09
  • Reboot in Afghanistan: Gates replaces top general: Taking a cue from voters who elected a president promising a different approach, the Obama administration is replacing the general overseeing the war in Afghanistan with a commander who has special-forces experience. Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, a senior administrator with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will take the place of Gen. David McKiernan once he is confirmed by the Senate. Lt. Gen. David M. Rodriguez will become McChrystal’s deputy with the Senate’s approval, which Defense Secretary Robert Gates asked be granted as soon as possible…. – AP, 5-12-09
  • US to borrow 46 cents for every dollar spent: The government will have to borrow nearly 50 cents for every dollar it spends this year, exploding the record federal deficit past $1.8 trillion under new White House estimates. Budget office figures released Monday would add $89 billion to the 2009 red ink — increasing it to more than four times last year’s all-time high as the government hands out billions more than expected for people who have lost jobs and takes in less tax revenue from people and companies making less money…. – AP, 5-11-09
  • Obama’s Push for Health Care Cuts Faces Daunting Odds: President Obama engineered a political coup on Monday by bringing leaders of the health care industry to the White House to build momentum for his ambitious health care agenda. Mr. Obama pronounced it “a historic day, a watershed event,” because doctors, hospitals, drug makers and insurance companies voluntarily offered $2 trillion in cost reductions over 10 years. The savings, he said, “will help us take the next and most important step — comprehensive health care reform.”… – NYT, 5-11-09

POLITICAL QUOTES

The President speaks at a town hall in New Mexico

White House Photo, 5/14/09, Chuck Kennedy

Credit Card Town Hall

At a town hall in New Mexico, the President emphasizes his commitment to signing the Credit Card Bill of Rights into law by Memorial Day.Read the Remarks

The President discusses health care reform

Political Quotes

  • Pelosi: CIA misled her on waterboarding: “We were told that waterboarding was not being used,” the speaker said. “That’s the only mention, that they were not using it. And we now know that earlier they were.” She suggested the CIA release the briefing material…. – AP, 5-14-09
  • STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT AFTER MEETING WITH HOUSE DEMOCRATIC LEADERSHIP: ….In the coming weeks and months, I believe that the House and Senate will be engaged in a difficult issue, and I’m committed to building a transparent process to get this moving. But whatever plans emerge, both from the House and the Senate, I do believe that they’ve got to uphold three basic principles: first, that the rising cost of health care has to be brought down; second, that Americans have to be able to choose their own doctor and their own plan; and third, all Americans have to have quality, affordable health care…. – White House, 5-14-09
  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT IN RIO RANCHO TOWN HALL ON CREDIT CARD REFORM: ….You should not have to worry that when you sign up for a credit card, you’re signing away all your rights. You shouldn’t need a magnifying glass or a law degree to read the fine print that sometimes don’t even appear to be written in English — or Spanish. (Applause.) And frankly, when you’re trying to navigate your way through this economy, you shouldn’t feel like you’re getting ripped off by “any time, any reason” rate hikes, and payment deadlines that seem to move around every month. That happen to anybody? You think you’re supposed to pay it this day, and suddenly — and it’s never on the end of the month where you’re paying all the rest of your bills, right? It’s like on the 19th. (Laughter.) All kinds of harsh penalties and fees that you never knew about.
    Enough is enough. It’s time for strong, reliable protections for our consumers. It’s time for reform — (applause) — it’s time for reform that’s built on transparency and accountability and mutual responsibility — values fundamental to the new foundation we seek to build for our economy…. – White House, 5-14-09
  • Obama urges Congress to act on credit card bill: President Barack Obama urged Congress on Thursday to quickly send him legislation ending abusive credit card practices. But his populist appeal also included a stern warning to shoppers whose eyes are bigger than their budgets.
    “There’s no doubt that people need to accept responsibility,” Obama said at a town hall-style appearance at a high school here. “This is not free money — it’s debt and you should not take on more than you can handle.”… “Banks are businesses too. So they have a right to insist that timely payments are made,” Obama said. “Those days are over,” he said. “This is America and we don’t begrudge a company’s success when that success is based on honest dealings with consumers,” Obama said. “We need reform to restore some sense of balance.”… “We didn’t agree on anything — everything — as you might imagine,” Obama said about the meeting, then laughing as he realized his verbal mistake. “That was a slip of the tongue,” he joked. “We didn’t agree on everything.” AP, 5-14-09
  • Treasury asks for control of derivatives market: “All (over-the-counter) derivatives dealers and all other firms whose activities in those markets create large exposures to counterparties should be subject to a robust regime of prudential supervision and regulation,” Geithner wrote in his letter. “Key elements of that robust regulatory regime must include conservative capital requirements, business conduct standards, reporting requirements and conservative requirements relating to initial margins on counterparty credit exposures.”…. – AP, 5-14-09
  • Obama seeks to block release of abuse photos: President Barack Obama declared Wednesday he would try to block the court-ordered release of photos showing U.S. troops abusing prisoners, abruptly reversing his position out of concern the pictures would “further inflame anti-American opinion” and endanger U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan…. He said the photos had already served their purpose in investigations of “a small number of individuals.” Those cases were all concluded by 2004, and the president said “the individuals who were involved have been identified, and appropriate actions have been taken.”… “This is not a situation in which the Pentagon has concealed or sought to justify inappropriate action,” Obama said of the photos. “In fact, the most direct consequence of releasing them, I believe, would be to further inflame anti- American opinion and to put our troops in greater danger.” – AP, 5-13-09
  • Obama say his, graduates’ best work ahead: “I come here not to dispute the suggestion that I haven’t yet achieved enough in my life,” Obama said. With a smile he added: “First of all, (first lady) Michelle (Obama) concurs with that assessment. She has a long list of things that I have not yet done waiting for me when I get home.” “But more than that I come to embrace the notion that I haven’t done enough in my life. I heartily concur,” the president said. “I come to affirm that one’s title, even a title like ‘president of the United States,’ says very little about how well one’s life has been led.” “I want to say to you today, graduates, class of 2009, that despite having achieved a remarkable milestone in your life — despite the fact that you and your families are so rightfully proud — you, too, cannot rest on your laurels. … Your own body of work is also yet to come,” the president said, wearing a black gown with red embellishments…. – AP, 5-13-09
  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON REFORMING THE HEALTH CARE SYSTEM TO REDUCE COSTS: And that’s what makes today’s meeting so remarkable — because it’s a meeting that might not have been held just a few years ago. The groups who are here today represent different constituencies with different sets of interests. They’ve not always seen eye to eye with each other or with our government on what needs to be done to reform health care in this country. In fact, some of these groups were among the strongest critics of past plans for comprehensive reform.
    But what’s brought us all together today is a recognition that we can’t continue down the same dangerous road we’ve been traveling for so many years; that costs are out of control; and that reform is not a luxury that can be postponed, but a necessity that cannot wait. It’s a recognition that the fictional television couple, Harry and Louise, who became the iconic faces of those who opposed health care reform in the ’90s, desperately need health care reform in 2009. And so does America….
    Ultimately, the debate about reducing costs — and the larger debate about health care reform itself — is not just about numbers; it’s not just about forms or systems; it’s about our own lives and the lives of our loved ones. And I understand that. As I’ve mentioned before during the course of the campaign, my mother passed away from ovarian cancer a little over a decade ago. And in the last weeks of her life, when she was coming to grips with her own mortality and showing extraordinary courage just to get through each day, she was spending too much time worrying about whether her health insurance would cover her bills. So I know what it’s like to see a loved one who is suffering, but also having to deal with a broken health care system. I know that pain is shared by millions of Americans all across this country. WH Blog, 5-11-09

HISTORIANS’ COMMENTS

The President speaks at a town hall in New Mexico

White House Photo, 5/14/09, Chuck Kennedy

Credit Card Town Hall

At a town hall in New Mexico, the President emphasizes his commitment to signing the Credit Card Bill of Rights into law by Memorial Day.Read the Remarks

The President discusses health care reform

Health Care Reform July 31st

The President and the House of Representatives set a target of July 31st for passage. The President sends his first White House email to spread the news.
Sign Up for Email Updates

Chart of health care cost savings

Historians’ Comments

  • Julian Zelizer “Commentary: News can outlast newspapers”: Last week, Sen. John Kerry convened a discussion of the troubled state of journalism in America by way of a hearing by the Senate Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet.
    In Kerry’s home state of Massachusetts, the Boston Globe is barely surviving. Several major metro papers have closed down, and there are indications that many more could soon follow. Experts have been warning in recent months that much of the newspaper industry may not survive.
    While the end of the metro newspaper would constitute a huge blow to journalism and the political system, realistically there might be nothing that we can do. The popularity of news on the Web and the potential of mobile devices such as the Kindle makes it difficult to see how we can sustain news in print — unless electronic delivery can produce enough revenue to support the cost of newspaper staffs.
    Sometimes technological innovations and consumer preferences cause changes that are irreversible. The industry has seen other important shifts in the way that Americans receive their news, such as the advent of television news in the 1950s and 1960s.
    But the real issue is not whether we can save the newspapers, but how we can create the best Internet news system possible. As Kerry said in his opening statement: “There also is the important question of whether online journalism will sustain the values of professional journalism, the way the newspaper industry has.”…
    The Internet can also combine written news with video and audio sources, as well as disseminate stories through social networking sites. Readers have the opportunities to interact with reporters and comment on stories.
    The death of the metro newspaper would be a huge loss. But rather than only focusing on lament, our best response would be to make the new medium of Internet news as strong as it can possibly be.
    We must address the major challenges by developing sites with the resources to edit, insisting on venues where the pursuit of objectivity remains a goal, and cultivating sites that help bring together different subject matter. If we do, the technological transition that we are living through can turn into a positive moment of advance for the media rather than a moment of decline. – CNN, 5-11-09
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