Tales from the Trail

Who wins on U.S. healthcare reform? Washington’s lobbyists, for starters

USA/

While pundits try to figure out whether Republicans or Democrats will benefit most from healthcare reform come November’s congressional elections, what seems mighty clear already is that Washington’s lobbyists are undisputed winners in the epic debate.

The watchdog Center for Public Integrity says lobbyists were paid at least $1.2 billion to work on health issues including healthcare reform in 2009. That giant chunk of change sent an army of more than 4,500 lobbyists scrambling up the slopes of Capitol Hill toward the ramparts of the House and Senate, where 535 elected public officials either braced for the onslaught or hurried out the welcome mat.

It’s possible that a filibuster-proof majority busied themselves with the latter. Lawmakers were, after all, outnumbered by more than 8 to 1.

Exact dimensions of the money trail are problematic. The tangled world of politics and money comes with plenty of caveats. For example, the Center’s analysis can’t say how much money was spent specifically on healthcare reform, because disclosure rules don’t require that degree of detail. Another thing: the numbers show activity in 2009 only, and don’t reflect the magnificent political gyrations that occurred this year, both before and after Republican Scott Brown became a U.S. senator from Massachusetts. More up-to-date lobbying stats, covering 2010′s first quarter, are due out in a few weeks.DOLLAR/

“The precise amount that went to health reform remains unknown. But if only 10 percent of that lobby spending went toward health reform, the amount would total $120 million – and that’s likely a record for a single year’s spending on a particular issue,” the Center points out.

Happy Birthday Madam Speaker

She gets to have her cake and eat it too…

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi got a big birthday surprise when House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller carried a luscious looking chocolate birthday cake into the signing ceremony for the final piece of historic healthcare overhaul legislation.pelosilaughing2

The crowd sang happy birthday to the beaming 70-year-old after she signed the last installment of the hard won healthcare reform, the final step before sending it down to the White House for President Barack Obama’s signature. He is expected to sign it early next week.

“This our gift to the American people,” Pelosi said holding up the newly signed bill.

What’s next on healthcare reform? — Enroll America

Democrats are still celebrating their historic achievement on healthcare reform, but the looming question is what’s next?

For Republicans and other opponents, it’s a campaign to repeal the law and replace it with something more to their liking.

For healthcare reform advocates and industry groups, including some who opposed the legislation, it’s implementation of the new law and getting people to sign up for coverage. cr_lrg_515_Pollack

Obama: no ‘Armageddon’ as healthcare becomes law

USA-HEALTHCARE/OBAMAPresident Barack Obama, campaigning in Iowa on Thursday to sell his landmark healthcare overhaul, couldn’t resist mocking Republicans for warning that the reform would provoke “Armageddon” and other tactics he rejects as alarmist scaremongering.

“I’m not exaggerating. Leaders of the Republican Party called the passage of this bill Armageddon. Armageddon! End of freedom as we know it,” he told a rally in Iowa City.

“So after I signed the bill, I looked around to see if there were any asteroids falling, some cracks opening up in the earth? Turned out it was a nice day. Birds were chirping. Folks were strolling down the Mall,” he said.

House Democrat wants GOP apology for threats and violence

USA/

House Democrat Barney Frank says Republican leaders should apologize for threats and vandalism against Democrats who’ve had the temerity to back President Barack Obama’s legislative agenda.

Why? The Massachusetts Democrat says Republicans have actually been cheering on the bad behavior. And, he adds, recent Republican condemnations have not gone far enough.

“I’m glad that my Republican leadership colleagues now have decided to denounce it. But they’ve been very late to do that. Over the weekend, they were much more egging on this kind of behavior than denouncing it,” he told ABC’s Good Morning America.  ”I think there ought to be some apologies.”

Is McCain taking his toys and going home?

USA-HEALTHCARE/

Is Republican Senator John McCain bringing playground  logic to Washington’s bitter partisan divide?

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs seems to think so.

McCain, defeated by President Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election, vowed that Republicans furious after passage of Obama’s historic healthcare overhaul, will not work with Obama’s Democrats this year.

“There will be no cooperation for the rest of the year,” McCain told an Arizona radio program, criticizing the way Democrats steered the healthcare bill through Congress. “They have poisoned the well in what they have done and how they have done it.”

Palin using her star power against selected House Democrats

MOTOR-RACING/

Sarah Palin really has the 2010 congressional elections in her cross hairs now.

As President Barack Obama signed healthcare reform into law, the potential 2012 Republican White House wannabe was out on Facebook with her own campaign to unseat 20 House Democrats who voted for the legislation. The page identifies targeted congressional districts via a map of the United States dotted by white and red cross hairs.

“We’re going to fire them and send them back to the private sector, which has been shrinking thanks to their destructive government-growing policies,” she says in a rallying note to supporters that also seeks donations for her political action committee, SarahPAC.

Palin’s aim is to go after House Democrats who voted for Obamacare and represent districts that she and John McCain carried in the 2008 presidential race.  USA-HEALTHCARE

Does Obama’s healthcare victory point to future legislative strategy?

OBAMA/

When President Barack Obama signed healthcare reform into law today, was he also endorsing the preferred White House strategy for legislation to come?

After months of political wrangling and face-reddening rhetoric all around, Obama’s sweeping overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system became reality without a single Republican voting for it.

Democrats say that’s because the Republicans want to render Obama’s presidency a failure. They point to a recently published account of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s strategic game plan to deny Democrats any support on big legislation.

Are Republicans admitting defeat before the timorous Democrats?

HEALTH INFLUENZA

Republicans who urged anti-healthcare supporters to help them “kill the bill” only days ago suddenly seem to be shouting “repeal the bill,” as if Democrats are truly destined for victory. Yet their Democratic opponents in the House seem too scared to say ‘yea’ without more than a little hand-holding.

Dozens of Republican lawmakers and candidates are reported to have signed a pledge to repeal President Barack Obama’s healthcare plan, should the GOP take control of either the House or Senate in November.  The Washington Post says 37 House and Senate members and 163 congressional candidates have already signed the pledge.

That’s an agreement to overturn legislation that hasn’t even seen sunlight. And it comes less than two days after fiscal conservative activists kicked off an 11th hour bid to drown the Democratic cause in a torrent of phone calls, e-mails and congressional office visits.

Kennedy is watching over healthcare week, Obama says

OBAMA/

The late Senator Ted Kennedy, who was a long-time advocate for U.S. healthcare reform, is watching over Congress this week, President Barack Obama said, as it moves to take the last steps on legislation to  revamp the massive health industry.

“Today, of course, we all feel the heavy absence of one of our greatest Irish-Americans; a man who loved this day so much; a man who I believe is still watching this body closely, particularly this week — and that is our beloved Ted Kennedy,” Obama said.

The president remembered the famed Democratic politician at the annual St. Patrick’s Day Friends of Ireland Luncheon on Capitol Hill that was attended by Kennedy’s widow, Vicki, and son Patrick, a U.S. representative from Rhode Island.