Tales from the Trail

from Summit Notebook:

Washington divided, more trouble ahead for Obama?

Washington insiders say that not since the 1890's have the people that represent the U.S. been so divided. From Gay rights to Afghanistan lawmakers are at polar opposites on issues that are on the Obama administration's agenda. What's next? And, what's likely to get the green light or the stop sign?

The First Draft: $829 billion — and that’s the good news

KOREA/You’ve no doubt heard the old saying about money and Washington: a billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money. That seems to be the case for fixing U.S. healthcare.

President Barack Obama got some good news from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office yesterday, which estimated that a healthcare plan by the Senate Finance Committee would cost $829 billion. CBO said this plan would cut the budget deficit by $81 billion over 10 years.

There was good news this morning too, as the Labor Department reported new unemployment claims at a nine-month low.

Senate recess shortened, Reid says there’s work to do

Things are really getting serious in the U.S. Congress. Telltale sign: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Wednesday shortened the Columbus Day recess.

With plenty of work to do, particularly on healthcare, and polls showing only one in four Americans approve of Congress, Reid cut the Senate recess to two days from the previously scheduled five. FINANCIAL/

“With all the things going on here, it just would not be right for us to take that week off,” Reid announced on the Senate floor. “I apologize to everyone.”

Healthcare reform debate: Is it “czar” or “czarina”?

It is day four of the Senate Finance Committee consideration of a sweeping overhaul of the $2.5 trillion U.S. healthcare system in an effort to rein in soaring costs and expand medical coverage to millions of uninsured people. The debate has turned to White House czars. RUSSIA

This is a hot topic among conservatives who complain that these White House positions wield great power but are not subject to public scrutiny or Senate confirmation. As advisers to the president they also cannot be called to testify before Congress.

Republican Senator John Ensign proposed an amendment to the healthcare legislation that requires Senate confirmation of any White House health czar, in this case Nancy Ann Deparle, counselor to the president and Director of the White House Office of Health Reform. The problem with requiring Senate confirmation is that there is no government position called “czar,” argued opponents to the measure.

The First Draft: Bill Clinton on race and the healthcare debate

Bill Clinton has tons of respect for Jimmy Carter. But he doesn’t agree that racism is a driving factor behind angry opposition to President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform agenda. OBAMA/

Like Carter, Clinton is a former Democratic governor of a Southern state who has spent years battling entrenched racism against blacks.

“I sympathize with where President Carter’s coming from. If you’re a white southerner and you’ve fought these battles a long time, you’re super-sensitive to any kind of discrimination based on race,” Clinton, a former Arkansas governor, said in an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

from Global News Journal:

U.S. Hispanics riled over immigrants’ healthcare exclusion

By Tim Gaynor

President Barack Obama's signature battle to overhaul the United States' $2.5 trillion healthcare industry to extend coverage and lower costs for Americans has met fierce opposition from Republicans.

But a move by Democrat backers to exclude 12 million illegal immigrants from buying health coverage and restrict the participation of authorized migrants has drawn the ire of U.S. Hispanics -- a bloc that overwhelmingly turned out to vote for Obama in last year's election.

Hispanic lawmakers and activists are riled by the bill pushed in the U.S. Senate by Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat, which denies illegal immigrants the option to buy health insurance and places a five-year wait period on legal immigrants before they can access health benefits.

The First Draft: Obama scaling back European missile shield

President Barack Obama is abandoning a Bush administration plan to build a big, fixed U.S. missile defense in Eastern Europe.

The president announced the decision Thursday amid reports from Poland and the Czech Republic overnight that officials there had been informed about the final decision.

EU-PROTEST/Instead of a fixed missile shield, the administration plans a more mobile defense aimed at short- and medium-range rockets.

The First Draft: Healthcare, anger and race

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus is due to release a proposal Wednesday for reforming the $2.5 trillion U.S. healthcare system, giving a boost to President Barack Obama’s top domestic policy goal.

Or maybe not.

USA/Baucus has been working with two fellow Democrats and three Republicans — the so-called Gang of Six– to produce a bipartisan healthcare compromise. None of the other healthcare reform bills introduced so far have had Republican support.

The question is whether the Baucus effort will win over some Republicans. So far even the Republicans negotiating with him have shied away from pledging to vote for the measure.

The Day After: a numbers game

It’s all about the numbers on the day after President Barack Obama’s speech to Congress on his vision for healthcare reform.

USA-HEALTHCARE/OBAMAFirst of all there’s the number of uninsured. Obama used 30 million in Wednesday night’s televised address, considerably lower than the 46-47 million he used just one month ago.

An administration official says the 30 million does not include illegal immigrants — Obama says his plan won’t cover them.

Obama loves nurses, but his wife the lawyer understands

OBAMA/It is hard to imagine a friendlier audience for Barack Obama’s healthcare plan than the roomful of nurses the president rallied on Thursday morning to go out and spread the reform message he delivered to Congress the night before.

“We love you, we love you,” several audience members shouted during tumultuous applause as Obama walked into a briefing room.

The feeling, it seemed, was mutual, as the president greeted the group with, “I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I just love nurses.”