Tales from the Trail

Democratic congressman says he wants to make Obama ‘a better president’

Veteran Democratic Congressman John Conyers voiced some disappointment in President Barack Obama — and said he wants to help the leader of his party to do better. USA/

In a speech at the National Press Club on Monday, Conyers criticized Obama on a number of fronts — from his overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system and management of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to agreeing to Republican demands last year to extend tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, was first elected to Congress in 1964 — three years before after Obama was born. He backs Obama, but says, “I just want to make him a better president.”

Conyers is not alone in his complaints. A number of Democrats in Congress have expressed frustration with Obama, particularly for what they describe as his failure to push harder on liberal issues.

“The recent debate on healthcare has allowed opponents of the new law to say we have gone too far — when the truth is we have not gone far enough,” said Conyers, a backer of “a single payer” approach that would have a greater government involvement in delivery of health care.

What wilderness? Republicans emerge from elections ready to charge

Republicans have emerged from the political wilderness and they’re wasting no time laying down markers.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell particularly sounds like he’s looking for bear, not mincing words in his speech at the Heritage Foundation today.  SAFRICA/

Never mind that his party is still  in the minority in the Senate and would need support from Democrats and the president to get anything enacted, McConnell appears ready to lay down the law.

from DealZone:

‘New GM’ Gets a Visit from a Shareholder

obamalordstown1 GM's Lordstown, Ohio assembly plant has become a symbol of both GM's hard times and its best hopes for a turnaround after a $50 billion federal investment. A recent bump in sales because of the government's "Cash for Clunkers" program has allowed GM to call back more than 1,000 workers from layoff.   So it was a natural backdrop for a return visit by President Obama, who held a roundtable with workers and then gave a stump speech from the factory floor for his economic policies and health care reform.   But this is not your father's GM anymore and nothing about it as clear-cut as it seems -- even if you are the leader of the free world and head of the government that holds a controlling stake in the automaker.     At one point, Obama -- veering from his prepared remarks -- suggested that health-care reform would allow the UAW-represented workers in the audience to negotiate better wages.

“Think about it. If you are a member of the union right now, you’re spending all your time negotiating about health care. You need to be spending some time negotiating about wages, but you can’t do it," he said.

 

In fact, the UAW locked itself into a contract limiting wages and changes to health care, without the ability to negotiate with a threat of strike, until 2015. These stands were agreed to by the union at the prodding of the Obama administration, which demanded that union autoworkers accept lower wages -- as a condition to the bailout that saved Lordstown -- to match non-union workers at Toyota plants in Kentucky and Honda plants in Ohio.

The First Draft: health care heat wave

USA/The temperature’s heading toward 100 in Washington, and things are getting hotter in the debate over health care too, even with Congress out of town for the traditional August recess and President Barack Obama in Mexico for the so-called Three Amigos summit.

Taking aim at the orchestrated — or not — attacks on congressional supporters of the Obama health care plan, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer struck back in an opinion piece in USAToday: “Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American. Drowning out the facts is how we failed at this task for decades.”

The two top House Democrats aren’t commenting in a vacuum. Obama’s Saturday radio and Web address focused on the “outlandish” tactics of some opponents of health care reform.

The First Draft: As Congress returns, Obama leaves

After a week of holiday barbecue, hometown parades and constituent fence-mending, members of theUSA/ U.S. Congress begin to drift back to Washington on Monday for what promises to be its most severe test of the year — finding common ground on a mammoth overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system.

The Senate is back in session on Monday afternoon and the House of Representatives returns on Tuesday to begin work on melding two different Senate bills and three House versions into legislation that can earn initial approval from each chamber before lawmakers adjourn for the month of August.

There are plenty of obstacles for the proposals, President Barack Obama’s top legislative priority this year, from trimming the potential $1 trillion cost to determining how to pay and whether to include a government-run public insurance option for approximately 46 million uninsured Americans.

from FaithWorld:

U.S. faith groups push for healthcare reform

A coalition of progressive U.S. faith groups and pastors has launched a push for affordable health care reform, an effort they say is rooted in a "scriptural call to act."OBAMA/Radio ads will appear from today until July 4th in five states: Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, Nebraska and North Carolina. The ads urge those states' Senators, whose votes could ultimately decide the fate of President Barack Obama's drive to transform America's health care system, to back legislation "that makes quality coverage truly affordable for every American family." You can see the ad script and audio here.Organizers also say that more than 600 clergy from 41 states and 39 denominations have said they will deliver sermons in coming weeks on the issue and urge their flocks to act. A pastors' guide to health care will also be distributed to 4,250 religious leaders along with a shorter version to wider church members.PICO National Network, Faith in Public Life, Faithful America, Sojourners, and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good are the main religious advocacy groups behind the campaign.If this all sounds familiar, it should. The tactics being adopted by these liberal and centrist groups and activists are a carbon copy of the successful ones employed in the past by the U.S. religious right. The distribution of pastors' guides, the call for public policy to be guided by scripture (in this case compassion for the poor and the ill), the preaching of sermons on looming legislation -- it's all taken from the loose network of conservative Christians which has delivered many a vote for the Republican Party.Conservative Christians remain a key base for the Republicans and they have also been decrying "Obama-care" on talk radio, the blogosphere and other outlets.Photo credit: REUTERS/Larry Downing.  Members of the audience shake hands with U.S. President Barack Obama after his speech about reforming America's health care system in Green Bay, Wisconsin, June 11, 2009.

The First Draft: Presidential e-mail

SUNDANCE/If you just can’t get enough of the goings and doings of President Barack Obama, can’t wait for the blog posts, Twitter tweets, Washington whispers or even the newspaper and magazine stories about the U.S. chief executive, now there’s help. You can sign up for e-mails from the president. He sent his first one Wednesday. It’s hardly a window on the inner workings of the White House but it is a new way to communicate.

“My staff and I plan to use these messages as a way to directly communicate about important issues and opportunities, and today I have some encouraging updates about health care reform,” wrote in his first message, also posted here. “The Vice President and I just met with leaders from the House of Representatives and received their commitment to pass a comprehensive health care reform bill by July 31.”

He ended the note with,

“Thank you,
“Barack Obama”

and then added a postscript:

“P.S. If you’d like to get more in-depth information about health reform and how you can participate, be sure to visit http://www.HealthReform.gov”

The First Draft: White House wooing comes in waves

OBAMA/It’s a busy day at the White House, with waves of lawmakers moving in for talks with President Barack Obama, in between a press statement and before a commencement address.

Wave One: House Democratic leaders — Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland, Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel of New York and Education and Labor Chairman George Miller and Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman, both of California — come to discuss health care.

Wave Two: Senate leaders from both parties — Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy of Vermont, both Democrats, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and ranking Republican Jeff Sessions of Alabama — talk with the president about a replacement for retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter.

The First Draft: Green shoots and budget talk

USA-OBAMA/After the Obama team’s big announcement on health care and an even bigger deficit, now comes the hard part — actually sitting down and figuring out how much it’s going to cost, and how to make it cost less. President Barack Obama’s first public appearance today is a round-table discussion with business leaders on cutting employer health care costs.

Later, behind closed doors at the White House, Obama and Vice President Joe Biden meet with Commanding General Raymond Odierno, the head of the Multi-National Force-Iraq, and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill. Then the president meets with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, one day after Gates replaced the top U.S. Afghanistan commander.

In congressional action, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano faces questions about her department’s 2010 budget from both sides of Capitol Hill. Lisa Jackson, who heads the Environmental Protection Agency, also faces budget questioning from the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.