Tales from the Trail

Obama’s Senate savvy is showing

Looks like President Barack Obama hasn’t forgotten his political roots in the Senate.

Presidents over the years have found one sure way to annoy members of Congress: act like you don’t care about them.

OBAMA/So when Obama took the rare step of going to their turf  to meet with just the Senate Republicans — the party that has pretty much stood in his way since he got elected — it showed some political savvy.

Whatever happens, the Republicans aren’t going to be able to cry that he never listens.

A love fest it wasn’t. But he did show up.

They talked about economic measures, the START treaty, his Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, immigration reform, and energy legislation.

Latest Washington technique? Bipartisanship by sniping?

If bipartisanship is what they’re after … they’ve got a funny way of showing it.

Financial regulation reform is the latest struggle on Capitol Hill between the forces of Democrats and Republicans. And while everyone seems to be calling for bipartisanship, the words they’re using are quite simply snippy.

President Barack Obama had congressional leaders from both parties over to the White House today to chat about his goal of  financial regulatory reform to prevent another markets meltdown. USA/

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

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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.

Prospects for healthcare up, insurance stocks down

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It may be a gamble, but at least one tell says that President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress may win the big bet they have made to push healthcare reform legislation over the finish line, despite public doubts and Republican opposition.

Just look at the healthcare provider stocks.  Health insurer shares were lower on Thursday in afternoon trading after the White House announced Obama would meet with several House Democrats in an apparent  bid to lock in votes.

“It looks like he’s really getting involved at the very micro level, and I think that probably shows the administration is really going to put everything on the line for this initiative,”  Morningstar analyst Matthew Coffina told Reuters correspondent  Lewis Krauskopf in New York.   ”They’re kind of going for broke at this point.”

Will presidential weight carry healthcare through?

President Barack Obama spoke. Republicans talked back.

USA HEALTHCARE/OBAMA SPEECHNo sign that anyone shifted positions after the president’s remarks today in the East Room at the White House with lots of white hospital coats in the audience.

In fact, it appears that the two sides — Obama and the Republicans — hardened their resolve, setting the stage for a political tug-of-war that’s only going to turn more fierce as the November elections near.

Obama wants it, Republicans oppose it. But it’s the congressional Democrats left trying to push through Congress an issue that has created discord within their own ranks. Democrats in the Senate differ from their colleagues in the House on what the legislation should look like — and not all Democrats support it.

Bunning pitches fit, Republican team uncertain how to play it

Senator Jim Bunning has put his foot down. And his own Republican teammates are trying hard not to call a foul.

The former professional baseball player who is retiring from his Kentucky seat this year has basically decided this is where he draws the line. BASEBALL/

If we were to mix sports metaphors, Bunning has become a football lineman – a one-man blocking machine of legislation to renew jobless benefits, highway construction and other programs that expired on Sunday night. His reasoning is that until there is a definite way to pay for the bill, he does not want to add to the debt.

Obama swipes at ribbon-cutting Republicans — again

President Barack Obama apparently believes he’s found the right formula for chiding Republicans who opposed the $787 billion economic stimulus — because he used it again. OBAMA/

On the one-year anniversary of signing the Recovery Act, Obama acknowledged the controversy that the measure continues to generate.

“And part of that is because there are those, let’s face it, across the aisle who have tried to score political points by attacking what we did, even as many of them show up at ribbon-cutting ceremonies for projects in their districts,” Obama said.

Brown shows rare trait on Capitol Hill: humility

The man who shook up Washington came to Capitol Hill on Thursday and demonstrated a trait rarely associated with the nation’s marble halls of power and giant egos: humility.

USA-POLITICS/BROWN“I’ve got a lot to learn,” Republican Senator-elect Scott Brown said repeatedly during a series of visits with members of the Senate — a chamber often referred to as “the world’s most exclusive club.”
 
“I’m stepping into big shoes,” Brown said.

By tapping into voter anger aimed at a grid-locked Congress, a double-digit jobless rate and an unpopular plan to revamp the U.S. healthcare system, Brown won the Senate seat formerly held by the late Senator Edward Kennedy, a Democratic icon.
 
Once sworn in in the next week or so, Brown will be the 41st Republican in the 100-seat Senate — and could provide the vote to block much of President Barack Obama’s legislative agenda, including healthcare reform.
 
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell flashed a big grin and told Brown that he has already begun calling him “forty-one.”
 
Brown thanked senators for taking time to meet with him. “I really appreciate it,” he said again and again.
 
He even voiced appreciation to reporters, photographers and TV crews following him. “Thanks for coming out here,” Brown said. “I guess it’s a slow news day.”

Healthcare and the holidays

It’s Christmas Eve and there is a lot more stirring than just a mouse.  In Washington, D.C., the U.S. Senate just voted to approve a wide-ranging healthcare overhaul bill with Democrats and Republicans divided as they have ever been.

All 60 DemocrUSA/ats voted for the legislation while 39 Republicans opposed it (Republican Senator Jim Bunning was absent), ending a month-long marathon debate in the Senate with the first Christmas Eve vote in more than a century (1895).

In what some could interpret as a sign of just how important this legislation is to President Barack Obama’s agenda, his vice president, Joe Biden, presided over the session serving in his dual role of president of the Senate.

Is the recession over? Obama’s advisers differ

Is the economic recession over in the United States? It depends on who you ask, even among President Barack Obama’s advisers.

USA-FINANCE/SUMMERS“Today everyone agrees that the recession is over. And the questions are around how fast we’ll recover,” Larry Summers, the director of the National Economic Council, told CNN on Sunday.

But wait a minute. Not everyone agrees.

Senior White House economist Christina Romer, asked the same question on another television program, said “of course not.”