Tales from the Trail

Feds unlikely to launch campaign finance probe anytime soon

For weeks, leading Democrats have castigated pro-Republican special interest groups involved in the current election campaign for what they describe as secretive fundraising practices. USA/

In an effort to call further attention to the activities of groups like American Crossroads GPS, a political fundraising committee which GOP guru Karl Rove helped to set up, some prominent Democrats and non-partisan election watchdogs have written law enforcement agencies demanding official investigations.

But there is little indication that any relevant agency is going to launch an  in-depth probe anytime soon.

In early October, the liberal activist group MoveOn.org sent a letter to the Justice Department demanding that it investigate allegations that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce had received election-related funds from unspecified foreign sources — something the Chamber emphatically denies. A similar request for an investigation was sent by Senator Al Franken, a Minnesota Democrat, to the Federal Election Commission.

Around the same time, two political finance watchdog groups, the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21, sent a letter to the Internal Revenue Service requesting an investigation into whether Crossroads GPS is violating its status as a tax-exempt organization by spending too much of its time and resources on electioneering.

Republican to seniors: “You’re going to die sooner” with healthcare reform

Republican Senator Tom Coburn doesn’t mince words. He was crystal clear about what he thinks ofcoburn1 healthcare reform being debated in the Senate, saying to seniors: “I have a message for you: You’re going to die sooner.”

Senators are debating an amendment by Republican Senator John McCain that would send the bill back to the Senate Finance Committee with instructions to strike the Medicare cuts from the bill.  Democrats defended the legislation saying the proposed spending cuts would not reduce seniors’ health benefits.

“I’d like to once and for all lay to rest this false claim that the pending bill is going to ‘hurt seniors’ and it is going to hurt providers and it’s going to be this long parade of horribles that the other side likes to mention,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus said.

Democrats hope to succeed where Teddy Roosevelt failed on healthcare

Democrats hope to succeed where Republican President Theodore Roosevelt failed — provide medical coverage for all Americans. HEALTH-USA/

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, who played a major role in writing the legislation now being debated in the Senate, in making the modern day case for healthcare reform cited Roosevelt’s unsuccessful 1912 campaign after he broke away from the Republican Party.

“As in Teddy Roosevelt’s time, we seek protection against the hazards of sickness,” Baucus said. “Of necessity, we seek a system uniquely adapted to American use. And recognizing the daunting task still ahead of us, we pledge ourselves to work unceasingly, to get the job done.”

Clinton hopes for success where his effort failed

Former President Bill Clinton is clearly hoping that Congress succeeds this time around where his administration failed 15 years ago.

clintonAnd perfection is not required — just get healthcare reform done. That was Clinton’s message to Senate Democrats who are now behind the steering wheel in trying to move legislation forward.

Clinton’s own effort to overhaul the healthcare system in 1994 fizzled long before reaching this far — the House of Representatives approved its version of a bill last weekend.

Dust-up over healthcare reform ahead of Senate panel’s vote

The fragile consensus in favor of healthcare reform may be coming apart.

With the Senate Finance Committee due to vote on its reform bill Tuesday, the insurance industry’s trade group released an analysis saying the measure would drive up costs by thousands of dollars over the next decade.

The White House quickly fired back.

“This is a self-serving analysis from the insurance industry, one of the major opponents of health insurance reform,” spokesman Reid Cherlin said.SENATE/HEALTHCARE

“It comes on the eve of a vote that will reduce the industry’s profits. It is hard to take it seriously,” he said.

The First Draft: Public option, Afghan policy under scrutiny

Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee face off Tuesday over whether an overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system should include an optional government-run health insurance plan.

The panel, which is debating changes to Chairman Max Baucus’s healthcare reform bill, is dealing with amendments about the public option Tuesday.

USA/The public insurance option has become a hot button issue. Many Democrats, including President Barack Obama, say it is needed to make sure there is enough competition to drive down prices.

Liberal Democrats after Baucus over public insurance option

Senator Max Baucus is taking a bashing from liberal Democrats for leaving public insurance out of the Senate Finance Committee’s healthcare reform bill.

With the committee chaired by Baucus headed for a showdown on the issue Tuesday, a new ad taken out by the liberal wing of his own Democratic party notes he took millions in contributions from the health and insurance industries and asks: “Whose side are you on?”

Baucus is a target because he kept a public option out of his healthcare bill in order to try to fashion a measure that could win both Republican and Democratic support.

Senate healthcare debate: hot time in cold room

It’s been likened to watching paint dry – the long-awaited debate in the Senate Finance Committee over a sweeping overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system. USA-MURALS/

The panel, which prides itself as one of a few in Congress that operates in a bipartisan atmosphere, is in its third day of deliberations. But it has dispensed with only a few of the more than 500 amendments proposed to the legislation put forward by Committee Chairman Max Baucus.

After a delay at the start of Thursday’s session as Baucus waited for senators to arrive to present their amendments, things started to heat up in the freezing cold hearing room.

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.

After much delay, Baucus unveils healthcare plan

After weeks of delay as he negotiated for Republican support, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus Wednesday unveiled a 10-year, $856 billion plan to overhaul the U.S. healthcare system.

The measure still has no promise of Republican support, even though Baucus dumped the public insurance option favored by most Democrats and agreed to other Republican changes in hopes of producing a bipartisan plan.

SENATE/HEALTHCAREBaucus predicted it would ultimately garner Republican votes.

“This is a good bill. This is a balanced bill. It can pass the Senate,” he said.