March 28, 2010: Health Care Passage Aftermath
OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 111TH CONGRESS:
IN FOCUS: STATS
- Obama Widens Approval as Democrats Converge With Republicans: President Barack Obama receives lukewarm ratings from Americans, at least until you compare him with other major political figures and institutions. Fifty percent approve of the job he is doing, a Bloomberg National Poll shows, down from 54 percent in December….
Obama, 48, still enjoys an 85 percent job-approval rating among Democrats, compared with 46 percent among independent voters and 11 percent among Republicans…. – Business Week, 3-24-10
- Palin kicks off Tea Party Express tour: Organizers described this gathering Saturday of thousands of Tea Partiers minutes from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s home in desolate Nevada scrub as a “conservative Woodstock.” But instead of gorging on LSD, free love and Jimi Hendrix, thousands of attendees binged on seething anger at Washington and swooned to former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as the Tea Party Express kicked off a 43-city cross-country bus tour that’s intended to rouse voters to their cause.
“We’re sending a message to Washington,” Palin told the crowd that exploded in chants of “Sarah! Sarah!” when she took the stage. “The big government, big tax Obama-Pelosi-Reid spending spree is over,” she said, referring also to the president and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco. “You’re fired.”… – SF Chronicle, 3-27-10
- What didn’t get into the healthcare bill: In the year it took Congress to write and pass a healthcare overhaul, turbulent political shifts — including the Democrats’ loss of the seat long held by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy and the rise of the tea party movement — forced critical compromises on the scope of legislation. The downsized ambitions of the final package mean that 32 million more people — not the 37 million in the original proposals — will end up insured by 2019. Others will face greater financial strain than lawmakers originally envisioned…. – Miami Herald, 3-28-10
- Obama Announces 15 Recess Appointments, Scolds GOP Obama announces 15 recess appointments in agencies, citing GOP stalling tactics in Senate: Fed up with waiting, President Barack Obama announced Saturday he would bypass a vacationing Senate and name 15 people to key administration jobs, wielding for the first time the blunt political tool known as the recess appointment. The move immediately deepened the divide between the Democratic president and Republicans in the Senate following a long, bruising fight over health care. Obama revealed his decision by blistering Republicans, accusing them of holding up nominees for months solely to try to score a political advantage on him. “I simply cannot allow partisan politics to stand in the way of the basic functioning of government,” Obama said in a statement…. – AP, 3-28-10
- Obama must seize momentum after big week: Doubted and deeply in need of a comeback, President Barack Obama had a political dream week: a historic remaking of America’s health care system, an overhaul of how students pay for college and a groundbreaking deal with Russia to shrink nuclear arsenals. The biggest foreign and domestic policy victories of Obama’s presidency positioned him to keep swinging big. He has fresh results to back up his argument that persistence pays. The White House’s thinking is that the burst of success, particularly in extending health coverage to millions more people, will carry over to other issues and show lawmakers, and perhaps foreign leaders, the value of sticking with Obama.
As a vindicated tone took hold in West Wing offices, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs put it this way: “Accomplishment demonstrates leadership and strength. And those are tangible currencies in Washington.” Yet this town also is known for having a short memory, and the forces working against the president are considerable…. – AP, 3-27-10
- McCain understudy Sarah Palin is now the star: John McCain and Sarah Palin were back together again Friday. His presidential campaign was floundering when he first reached out to her. Now, facing a challenge from within his party as he seeks reelection to the Senate, McCain has turned to her again to help bail him out. But what a difference.
For starters, the understudy is now the star. A majority of Americans may think Palin is not qualified to be president, but the GOP faithful love her, as does cable television. Cable news was fixed on Palin as she delivered her introduction of McCain at a rally in Tucson on Friday afternoon. Minutes after McCain took the microphone, they cut away from the rally for other news…. – WaPo, 3-28-10
- Two big wins, a presidency transformed for Obama: Two big wins for Barack Obama at home and abroad — a historic health care bill and a new arms treaty with Russia — have injected sudden momentum into a presidency that had been looking beleaguered. “What a week here,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs wrote on his twitter feed, as Obama concluded a new strategic arms reduction treaty in a call with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Friday…. – AFP, 3-26-10
- Republicans fight extension of jobless pay: Democrats say they’ll seek retroactive unemployment benefits when the Senate returns in two weeks…. – LAT, 3-27-10
- Still time to fix lapse in jobless benefits: Congress left for a two-week vacation Friday without extending jobless benefits for people who have been out of work for more than six months. But that may not be as bad as it sounds. The impact of the benefit cutoff will be limited, so long as lawmakers quickly fix the problem when they return next month. The same holds true for a lapse in authorization for generous health subsidies for the unemployed and for a 21 percent cut in Medicare payments to doctors. Dropping the ball on jobless benefits doesn’t put Congress in a flattering light. But unlike an episode three weeks ago, when Kentucky Republican Sen. Jim Bunning held up a nearly identical measure over deficit concerns, Democrats don’t seem poised to reap political gain from this round of GOP obstruction…. – AP, 3-26-10
- Healthcare changes head to Obama for signature: U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday formally signed and sent to President Barack Obama the final installment of landmark healthcare overhaul legislation. “This our gift to the American people,” said Pelosi, who celebrated her 70th birthday on Friday. The much smaller companion bill to the broad overhaul signed this week by Obama includes changes sought by the House that would make insurance more affordable, raise taxes on the wealthy and close a gap in Medicare prescription drug coverage for the elderly. Obama will sign the companion bill, which also includes changes in the U.S. student loan program, on Tuesday at a community college in Virginia, the White House said. Congress is beginning a two-week spring break and Democrats plan an all-out effort to try to sell the package to a skeptical public. Republicans remained united in their opposition to the sweeping $940 billion overhaul and have vowed a campaign to repeal it…. – Reuters, 3-27-10
- Why did health-care reform pass? Nancy Pelosi was in charge: Congress had tried to hammer together a national health-care initiative for a century, but it wasn’t until a woman ascended to a key position of power in Washington that a plan actually passed. This is not a mere historical coincidence. Sure, President Obama pushed health-care reform to the top of the country’s agenda, and the Democratic majorities in the House and the Senate were essential to passing the bill. But make no mistake: The overhaul happened because Nancy Pelosi wanted it to happen, deep in her DNA…. – WaPo, 3-28-10
- Can Republicans win by opposing Obama?: Can Republicans ride all the way to Election Day in November by opposing most of President Barack Obama’s major policies? So far they are sticking with this strategy…. – Reuters, 3-27-10
- Obama administration revises anti-foreclosure strategy: The Obama administration Friday tried to manage expectations about its newest foreclosure-prevention efforts, while consumer advocates and others who track the housing market praised the initiative but questioned whether it would succeed in curtailing the foreclosure epidemic. The initiative, announced Friday, expands on the government’s marquee foreclosure prevention program, Making Home Affordable. That program was originally expected to reach as many as 4 million borrowers, but it is not on track to help so many…. – WaPo, 3-27-10
- Congress approves final changes to health plan: Democrats overcome GOP efforts to derail the overhaul. Obama is expected to sign the bill in the next few days…. – LAT, 3-25-10
- Congress passes amended health-care law: Congress agreed Thursday to amend the nation’s new health-care law, concluding a long, contentious quest to pass major changes, and lawmakers prepared to head home for a two-week recess to hear voters’ reactions…. – WaPo, 3-25-10
- A look at details of the health care overhaul law: Some features of the health care overhaul bill President Barack Obama has signed, as modified by a package of changes passed Thursday by the House and Senate…. – AP, 3-26-10
- Unemployment benefits set to expire April 5: Unemployment benefits are set to expire for at least a week on April 5, as Congress plans to break for two weeks without agreeing on an extension of the program. Last week, the House approved a $9 billion measure containing one-month extensions of unemployment insurance, COBRA health benefits and federal flood insurance. Senate Democrats hoped to have their chamber approve the same bill Thursday. But Republicans refused, complaining that the bill is not offset with spending cuts elsewhere…. – WaPo, 3-25-10
- Obama shopping for Rove memoir?: President Barack Obama smiles as he holds up copies of Karl Rove and Mitt Romney’s books as he makes an unannounced stop at Prairie Lights book shop in Iowa City in Iowa, Thursday, March 25, 2010.
President Obama popped into an Iowa City bookstore Thursday joking he was there to buy Karl Rove’s memoir. The president surprised the staff of Prairie Lights Books, one of America’s great independent bookstores, after mentioning its plight in a health care speech at the University of Iowa. He used the 32-year-old bookstore to highlight how small businesses would benefit from the health care overhaul bill he signed into law on Tuesday…. – WaPo, 3-26-10
- Mandate idea was touted by right: The lawsuit against the healthcare-reform act focuses on a provision that was originally developed by conservatives…. – Miami Herald, 3-26-10
- White House to announce housing aid: sources: The White House plans to announce on Friday that it will require lenders to lower the mortgage payments of some unemployed workers and encourage lenders to eliminate some principal debt of homeowners who owe more than their home is worth, sources familiar with the plan said on Thursday…. – Reuters, 3-26-10
- G.O.P. Forces New House Vote on Package of Health Bill Changes: With the Senate working through an all-night session on a package of changes to the Democrats’ sweeping health care legislation, Republicans early Thursday morning identified parliamentary problems with at least two provisions that will require the measure to be sent back to the House for yet another vote, once the Senate adopts it. Senate Democrats had been hoping to defeat all of the amendments proposed by Republicans and to prevail on parliamentary challenges so that they could approve the measure and send it to President Obama for his signature. But the bill must comply with complex budget reconciliation rules, and Republicans identified some flaws. Under the reconciliation rules, provisions in the bill must directly affect government spending or revenues…. – NYT, 3-25-10
- Obama issues low-key order on abortions: Anything but jubilant, President Barack Obama awkwardly kept a promise Wednesday he made to ensure passage of historic health care legislation, pledging the administration would not allow federal funds to pay for elective abortions covered by private insurance. Unlike Tuesday, when a beaming Obama signed the health care law in a nationally televised ceremony interrupted repeatedly by applause, the White House refused to permit coverage of the event. It occurred in the Oval Office in the presence of a small group of anti-abortion Democratic lawmakers who had extracted the commitment over the weekend. The president supports abortion rights…. – AP, 3-25-10
- 20 Ways ObamaCare Will Take Away Our Freedoms: If some reports are to be believed, the Democrats will pass the Senate health care bill with some reconciliation changes later today. Thus, it is worthwhile to take a comprehensive look at the freedoms we will lose. Of course, the bill is supposed to provide us with security. But it will result in skyrocketing insurance costs and physicians leaving the field in droves, making it harder to afford and find medical care. We may be about to live Benjamin Franklin’s adage, “People willing to trade their freedom for temporary security deserve neither and will lose both.”… – Investors, 3-23-10
- 14 states sue to block health care law: Officials from 14 states have gone to court to block the historic overhaul of the U.S. health care system that President Obama signed into law Tuesday, arguing the law’s requirement that individuals buy health insurance violates the Constitution. Thirteen of those officials filed suit in a federal court in Pensacola, Florida, minutes after Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The complaint calls the act an “unprecedented encroachment on the sovereignty of the states” and asks a judge to block its enforcement.
“The Constitution nowhere authorizes the United States to mandate, either directly or under threat of penalty, that all citizens and legal residents have qualifying health care coverage,” the lawsuit states. The case was filed by Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum and joined by 11 other Republican attorneys general, along with one Democrat. McCollum said the new law also forces states “to do things that are practically impossible to do as a practical matter, and forcing us to do it without giving any resources or money to do it.”… – CNN, 3-23-10
ELECTIONS 2010, 2012….
- Palin stumps for McCain at Arizona rally: They have rarely spoken in 17 months. Their relationship, as America now knows, turned testy before they parted ways. But as at many family reunions, the old feelings were set aside as Sarah Palin embraced Sen. John McCain here on Friday and argued that he should not be unseated by a conservative challenger. “We need this new blood coming into the system and new party officials and folks who are willing to stand up and speak out for common-sense conservative solutions,” Palin said. “But we also need statesmen and heroes like John McCain to help us get through these challenging times.”… – NYT, 3-26-10
- Romney attacks health care law similar to his own: Mitt Romney has a problem with Obamacare. It looks a lot like Romneycare. The prospective Republican presidential candidate’s vulnerability on the issue was evident this week, when he was interrupted during a tour for his new book by a woman upset with the Massachusetts health care law Romney signed as governor in 2006. That law has some of the same core features as the federal law President Barack Obama, a Democrat, signed on Tuesday. And that’s creating an uncomfortable straddle for Romney as his party makes attacking the new health care law its main message this midterm year…. – AP, 3-26-10
- Romney keeping it real – and we need it now more than ever: Perhaps it’s fitting that, days before President Obama signed into law his version of health care reform, former Massachusetts governor and 2008 presidential candidate Mitt Romney retook the lead in the early 2012 White House polls. According to a March Public Policy Polling survey, Romney led former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee by 28 percent- 24 percent among Republican primary voters, with former Alaska governor Sarah Palin securing 23 percent. A day earlier, a separate PPP poll found Romney tied Obama at 44 percent in the general election—a better showing than from any other… – Daily Caller, 3-26-10
- McCain, Palin to campaign together in Arizona: John McCain and Sarah Palin will be back on the campaign trail Friday, their first time campaigning together since McCain lost the presidential election a year and a half ago with Palin as his running mate. This time, they have a different prize in sight: McCain’s Senate seat…. – AP, 3-25-10
- Palin Makes Fans Uneasy by Backing McCain: Tea Party Favorite Heads to Arizona to Help Running Mate Battle a Primary Challenge From Immigration Foe Hayworth…
Like many Republicans, Ms. Palin is trying to navigate a political order transformed from 2008. Mr. McCain was the Republican nominee for president in 2008, but he is now fighting off an aggressive primary challenge in a state he has represented since 1983. A Rasmussen Report released March 16 shows Mr. McCain ahead by seven points, with a margin of error of plus or minus four points. Earlier polling put Mr. McCain ahead by 22 points…. – WSJ, 3-25-10
- Weekly Address: Two Major Reforms on Health Care & Higher Ed: The President looks back on a week that saw the passage of two major sets of reforms: one putting Americans in control of their own health care, and one ensuring student loans work for students and families, not as subsidies for bankers and middlemen…. – WH, 3-27-10
- Remarks by the President on the Announcement of New START Treaty James S. Brady Press Briefing Room: Broadly speaking, the new START treaty makes progress in several areas. It cuts — by about a third — the nuclear weapons that the United States and Russia will deploy. It significantly reduces missiles and launchers. It puts in place a strong and effective verification regime. And it maintains the flexibility that we need to protect and advance our national security, and to guarantee our unwavering commitment to the security of our allies.
With this agreement, the United States and Russia — the two largest nuclear powers in the world — also send a clear signal that we intend to lead. By upholding our own commitments under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, we strengthen our global efforts to stop the spread of these weapons, and to ensure that other nations meet their own responsibilities.
I’m pleased that almost one year to the day after my last trip to Prague, the Czech Republic — a close friend and ally of the United States — has agreed to host President Medvedev and me on April 8th, as we sign this historic treaty. The following week, I look forward to hosting leaders from over 40 nations here in Washington, as we convene a summit to address how we can secure vulnerable nuclear materials so that they never fall into the hands of terrorists. And later this spring, the world will come together in New York to discuss how we can build on this progress, and continue to strengthen the global non-proliferation regime…. – WH, 3-26-10
- Mitt Romney: A Campaign Begins Today: America has just witnessed an unconscionable abuse of power. President Obama has betrayed his oath to the nation — rather than bringing us together, ushering in a new kind of politics, and rising above raw partisanship, he has succumbed to the lowest denominator of incumbent power: justifying the means by extolling the ends. He promised better; we deserved better.
He calls his accomplishment “historic” — in this he is correct, although not for the reason he intends. Rather, it is an historic usurpation of the legislative process — he unleashed the nuclear option, enlisted not a single Republican vote in either chamber, bribed reluctant members of his own party, paid-off his union backers, scapegoated insurers, and justified his act with patently fraudulent accounting. What Barack Obama has ushered into the American political landscape is not good for our country; in the words of an ancient maxim, “what starts twisted, ends twisted.”
His health-care bill is unhealthy for America. It raises taxes, slashes the more private side of Medicare, installs price controls, and puts a new federal bureaucracy in charge of health care. It will create a new entitlement even as the ones we already have are bankrupt. For these reasons and more, the act should be repealed. That campaign begins today. – NRO, 3-22-10
HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS
- Gil Troy: Welcome to Obama’s America By passing health care reform, the president has become a transformational leader, although not a post-partisan one: To pass this legislation, Obama had to break the vow that had defined him politically and helped launch him into the White House. He failed to become the post-partisan, red and blue together healer he hoped to be; what the American people elected him to be. But he did fulfill the promise he made in January 2008 to be a “transformational” leader. At the time, he offended his rival Hillary Clinton and many other Democrats by saying bluntly that “Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not, that Bill Clinton did not,” and that Reagan “put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it.”… – The Mark, 3-26-10
- Robert Dallek: Health care bill anger a sign of the times?: “It’s unusual that you get this kind of outrage and response to a piece of legislation,” said historian Robert Dallek, author of the upcoming book “The Lost Peace: Leadership in a Time of Horror and Hope.” “Of course, it’s being fanned in some ways by Republican leaders who keep saying majorities are against this legislation, when in fact there is a pretty even divide in the country, from what the polling data shows,” he added….
“I think it’s partly the fact that you have this recession, an economic problem that puts people further on edge than they are normally,” he said. “I think there’s an awful lot of anxiety about that out there. That fans the flames of agitation.” He likens those worries to fears in the 1930s with the Great Depression. “Remember in the 1930s when you had such a dreadful economic downturn,” he said, noting that a movement popped up that was “full of a kind of rhetoric and anti-Semitism and anti-government.”… – CNN, 3-26-10
- Julian Zelizer: Health care bill anger a sign of the times?: Julian Zelizer, a presidential historian and CNN.com contributor, wrote that frustration with joblessness — like the opposition to Obama’s economic stimulus bill — was also seen during the New Deal era. “It is possible that continued frustration about jobs allows Democrats to target Republicans as an obstructionist party that has in fact hampered their efforts to revitalize economic growth,” Zelizer wrote in the commentary. “During the 1930s, President Franklin Roosevelt understood that you could not have recovery without jobs. This is why he made public works programs the centerpiece of the New Deal.”… – CNN, 3-26-10
- Tevi Troy: Bush, Obama, and the Intellectuals America’s intellectual class seems to adore President Barack Obama nearly as much as it reviled his predecessor. While George W. Bush was routinely derided for his purported lack of intelligence and learning, Obama has been embraced by the intellectuals as one of their own — to a degree unmatched by any president since perhaps Woodrow Wilson. Indeed, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof spoke for many when he argued after the 2008 election that “American voters have just picked a president who is an open, out-of-the-closet, practicing intellectual.” Rebecca Mead of the New Yorker even sought to make it official, calling Obama a “certified intellectual.”
This difference in attitudes says as much about the state of American intellectuals as it does about Bush and Obama. It also highlights the complicated relationship between intellectuals and the modern American presidency. That relationship has been of great interest to recent presidents; most chief executives since John Kennedy have tended, in some overt way, to their links with the nation’s intellectual elite. They have sought to use these intellectuals to their own advantage, whether as expert advisors, cultural ornaments, or political cover.
The story of those efforts, and of the assumptions underlying them, illustrates the changing role of intellectuals in our culture — from esteemed and establishmentarian, to countercultural and oppositional, to highly politicized and partisan. This narrative can also help us better understand the interplay of elitism and populism in our recent political history. Above all, it is a cautionary tale for President Obama…. – National Affairs, Spring 201