Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – ‘Wild ride’ ends

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (L) and his wife, Callista walk together after he suspended his bid for the GOP presidential nomination in Arlington, Virginia, May 2, 2012. REUTERS/Larry Downing

The sharpest debater in the 2012 field of Republican presidential candidates exited the race touting a hodgepodge of initiatives that made his failed race so colorful. 

“Suspending the campaign does not mean suspending citizenship,” Newt Gingrich warned in his long-awaited announcement that he was quitting. He then ticked off the vision of America he will continue to pursue as a private citizen:

His fabled U.S. colony on the Moon, holograms in houses, cures for diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, not to mention a national energy policy/balanced budget that would free the United States from “radical Islam, Saudi kings and Chinese bondholders.”

The bombastic former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives brought an element of unpredictability to the Republican presidential nominating contest. His come-from-behind victory in South Carolina in January briefly led some to wonder whether Mitt Romney really could be knocked off.

Ad connecting Romney to company in Medicare fraud case “mostly true”

Last week a public workers union launched a television ad that raised an old question about presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s connection to Damon Corp, a company that defrauded Medicare by the millions while under the watch of Romney’s private equity firm Bain Capital. Thursday, the Super PAC Winning Our Future, which supports Romney’s Republican rival Newt Gingrich released the trailer for a campaign video titled “Blood Money” that echoes the same criticism.

The ad created by AFSCME equates Romney with Florida Governor Rick Scott whose approval rating is one of the lowest in the country. Scott is the former CEO of the hospital chain Columbia/HCA that became embroiled in a Medicare fraud case in the late 1990s.

A narrator speaking over black and white photos of Romney says he was director of Damon Corp, which was later fined $100 million for medicare fraud. Romney’s image morphs into that of Rick Scott as the narrator asks, “Corporate greed … Medicare fraud. Sound familiar?”

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.

Let’s fight…

The overnight news of Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s resignation sets up a global battle over who will succeed him in the IMF’s glass-and-steel headquarters in Washington. But, of course, that’s not the only fight in town.

The bipartisan group of budget negotiators now known as the Gang-of-Six-Minus-One is expected to meet today to try to salvage hopes of a budget compromise after a shouting match over Medicare sent Republican Senator Tom Coburn to the exit door.

Medicare is the third-rail political issue that recently had Republicans showing signs of retreating from House Budget Chief Paul Ryan’s Republican reform plan. Critics call it a blueprint for privatizing the federal government’s healthcare program for the elderly.

Down to the wire…

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan expects his fellow Republicans to wait until the “last minute” to strike a deal that averts national default by raising the $14.3 trillion limit on the U.S. debt.

Failure to reach a deal could trigger a new global financial crisis, according to analysts and Democrats including President Barack Obama. But on Monday, the day the U.S. debt reached its current statutory limit, Ryan told an Illinois AM radio station that “we’re going to negotiate this thing probably up through July, that’s how these things go.”

“That’s how these things go” could place negotiations at the very doorstep of an Aug. 2 deadline, which is when the Treasury Department believes it will exhaust its bag of tricks for staving off a financial apocalypse.

CPAC victory in hand, Ron Paul takes on Tea Party

USA-POLITICS/REPUBLICANSLibertarian Ron Paul, a godfather of the Tea Party movement, isn’t altogether happy with his political progeny these days.

Fresh from victory in last week’s CPAC presidential straw poll, the Republican congressman from Texas laments to MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that some Tea Partiers aren’t measuring up when it comes to the tough defense and entitlement program cuts he believes are needed to save the United States from economic cataclysm.

“They don’t want you to touch Social Security. They don’t want you to touch anything but Obamacare,” Paul says. “Some of them are real Republicans and they wouldn’t dare touch Bush’s increase in medical care costs, you know, prescription health programs.”

Is Rand Paul a U.S. Senate action hero?

RTR9KH6_Comp-150x150It didn’t take Rand Paul long to become Captain America of the U.S. Senate. He’s tough-minded, strong-willed and he’s ready to battle the most dangerous titans on the political landscape, like Social Security and Medicare.

In fact, the Republican Tea Party favorite from Kentucky tells MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that a courageous and comprehensive plan for fixing America’s public finances will soon be on the march. And if all goes as planned, much may be accomplished before the start of this year’s Major League Baseball season.

“Within two to three weeks, I’m going to propose a fix for Social Security,” says Rand, son of Ron, who has already far surpassed the fiscal aims of the Republican leadership on Capitol Hill by proposing $500 billion in budget cuts.

Is deficit debate a new political dawn?

RTR2GF2D_Comp1-150x150RTR2GF2D_Comp-150x150Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles think it may be a new day in American politics, one where politicans who hike taxes and alter Social Security stay in office.

Simpson, a former Republican senator, tells MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that he sees evidence of change whenever he strolls through an airport: “I can tell you, we used to get lots of signals. I get more thumbs up now than other digits.”

The pair, co-chairs of President Barack Obama’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, have proposed cutting the U.S. budget deficit by reducing defense spending, eliminating tax breaks, hiking the gasoline tax and altering Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Bejeebers! A scary fiscal outlook and Tea Party politics

Tackling huge budget deficits and growing debt is essential for the United States to avoid a financial market crisis that would push interest rates higher and severely damage the U.S. economy, many economists have warned.

Compromise and statesmanship will be needed to cut spending and raise revenues to narrow the budget gap, and that might not be possible inUSA-ELECTIONS/TEAPARTY the current political environment, says at least one experienced budget expert.

“We’re certainly going to have a more fiscally conservative Congress next year,” Rudolph Penner, a former Congressional Budget Office director told a U.S. Chamber of Commerce forum.  “The Tea Party, if nothing else, has certainly moved both the Republicans and Democratic Party to the right.”

Reid to Republicans: healthcare reform is now law of the land

reid pelosi

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid proudly proclaimed on Wednesday that the “historic healthcare reform is now no longer a bill it is the law.”

Someone please tell Republicans.

They are planning a flurry of amendments to try to stall a package of changes being considered by the Senate that Democrats want to make to the legislation signed into law by President Barack Obama.

House Democrats demanded the changes, which among other things would close the Medicare prescription drug coverage gap for the elderly.