Tales from the Trail

House lawmakers tussle over Medicare mailings

House Democrats are accusing the Republican majority of censoring language in mailings to constituents about a Republican plan to privatize Medicare for future retirees.

At issue is official mail that goes to constituents with taxpayers picking up the cost of postage. Any materials mailed at taxpayer expense have to have bipartisan approval.

In a letter to House Speaker John Boehner, five Democrats complained that previously approved language describing the proposal by Republican Representative Paul Ryan no longer was okay.

“Given this abrupt and inconsistent new interpretation of the established Franking Guidelines, we must surmise that there is a deliberate, strategic attempt to censor any Member communication that echoes the widespread public criticism of the Republican Plan for Medicare,” the Democrats wrote.

“This politically motivated censorship undermines our ability to execute one of our primary roles and diminishes the credibility of this institution,” they added.

Democrats, Meet Mr. Hobson

RTR1H4KV_Comp-150x150Democrats don’t like President Barack Obama’s tax compromise. They’re disappointed. Some may vote against it. But the package still seems destined to pass.

“If the idea is that this is a take-it-or-leave-it deal, I think the president’s going to realize there are going to be a lot of Democrats who are going to be voting ‘no’,” House Democrat Anthony Weiner tells ABC.

The tough-talking New Yorker, one of Obama’s more ferocious critics on the tax issue, has likened the tax discussion Vice President Joe Biden had with House Democrats on Wednesday to a prison brawl.

Obama tries to make political mountain out of ant hill

President Barack Obama and fellow Democrats are trying to make political hay out of a comment by House Republican leader John Boehner that managed to mention ants and nuclear weapons in the same sentence.

In an interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Boehner  criticized the financial regulatory reform legislation making its way through Congress as an overreaction to the financial crisis. “This is killing an ant with a nuclear weapon,” he said.

ANTSDemocrats couldn’t resist pouncing on it. Especially since they are struggling to come up with the votes to pass the landmark legislation through the Senate where 60 votes in the 100-seat chamber are required to overcome procedural hurdles.

Democrat gets naked with Rahm Emanuel, labels him “son of devil’s spawn”

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Eric Massa knows all about awkward. The House Democrat, who leaves Congress today over a sexual harassment complaint by a male staffer, says he’s been up-close, personal and naked with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel — all at the same time.

Emanuel, Massa has decided, is a blood relative of Satan.

“Rahm Emanuel is son of the devil’s spawn. He is an individual who would sell his mother to get a vote. He would strap his children to the front end of a steam locomotive,” Massa says in a recording from his radio show posted to the RealClearPolitics Web site.

Massa’s close encounter with Emanuel occurred in the showers of a congressional gym about eight weeks after he entered Congress in January 2009.

Healthy lifestyle discount or insurance loophole?

Dozens of healthcare reform advocates are sounding alarm bells over a Senate proposal to allow companies to reward employees who quit smoking, exercise or engage in other healthy activities.

The groups, including the American  Heart Association, say the measure would create a “dangerous”  loophole that would allow insurance companies to discriminate against people with health problems if it is included in the final healthcare yoga2reform legislation.

The healthcare overhaul aims to stop insurance companies from excluding coverage for people with pre-existing conditions or charging people more based on medical history. But Sue Nelson of the American Heart Association said the provision is written in a way that would allow insurers to raise premiums but then provide discounts, as much as 50 percent, for people who quit smoking or join gyms and exercise more.

Want to be Obama’s neighbor? House in Chicago for sale

obama-familyCHICAGO – Be President Barack Obama’s neighbor for a cool $1.85 million. 

The 17-room, 6,000 square foot (557 sq metres) brick house for sale adjacent to Obama’s Chicago home needs work to update the kitchen and bathrooms, but there is no need to worry about break-ins, the seller says. 

“It’s definitely got phenomenal security. A whole team of Secret Service agents is posted 20 feet (6 metres) away” night and day, real estate agent Matt Garrison said.

Obama trying hard to get healthcare back on track

President Barack Obama is pushing hard to get health care reform back on track after it veered a bit off course while he was in Europe last week.

He has spent the better part of the week pushing the issue. First he went after “nay-sayers and cynics,” warning them “don’t bet against us.”

“I just want to put everybody on notice, because there was a lot of chatter during the week that I was gone: We are going to get this done,” he said. “Inaction is not an option.”
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Then he stood with nursing leaders in the Rose Garden and tried to buck people up.

Giving up “House” for the White House

He escaped from Guantanamo, inhaled and went in search of White Castle burgers, journeyed in search of his Indian heritage, and then became a doctor (who committed suicide this week).

Now it’s time for a reality show on politics. Actor Kal Penn has landed a job at the White House where the pay isn’t as great as in Hollywood but the scenery is different.USA-OBAMA/

No one bats an eye any more at the jump from acting to politics given the history of President Ronald Reagan, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and former senator and presidential candidate Fred Thompson (who jumped back into acting).

First Draft: double vision

WASHINGTON – Don’t rub your eyes. Despite the early hour, you weren’t seeing things when White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs somehow managed to be in two places at once.

He showed up on ABC and NBC morning television shows at the same time to talk about how President Barack Obama has no hard feelings toward Republicans who refused to vote for the economic stimulus, and in fact had them over to the White House last night for a cocktail party among other guests.OBAMA

It was a neat trick, Gibbs being questioned on different channels by different TV personalities about the same issue at the same time.

Club for Growth warns against stimulus vote

Beware any Republican who might fall for President Barack Obama’s sales pitch Tuesday for his $825 billion economic stimulus plan. A vote for the legislation will disqualify you from receiving the Club for Growth’s “Defender of Economic Freedom” award. 

The conservative economic advocacy group issued the warning just hours before Obama was to meet with Republican members of the House of Representatives and the Senate in hopes of drumming up more support for his economic recovery plan. OBAMA/

“No congressman can vote for the stimulus bill and claim to be a defender of economic freedom,” Club for Growth President Pat Toomey said in a statement. “In fact, the Democrats’ package is the antithesis of economic freedom. The bill is a paragon of government run amok, a ballooning deficit, fiscal irresponsibility, and political greed.”