Tales from the Trail

Obama healthcare on political operating table

Last year, President Barack Obama tried to get Congress to pass healthcare legislation that came from the minds of  lawmakers.

We all know how well that went.

So today, Obama put his own version on the table.

The response from Republicans was (shock of shocks) — they don’t like it. House Republican leader John Boehner says Obama’s proposal jeopardizes bipartisan healthcare work (You might ask what bipartisan healthcare work? We’re not quite sure).

The response from Democrats was (shock of shocks) — they’ll review it. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said it contained positive elements from the separate bills that passed the House and Senate last year.

GEORGIA-OSSETIA/REFUGEESAll of this is a prelude to the big healthcare summit on Thursday where Obama wants  Democrats and Republicans to break bread at the same table and come up with areas of agreement.

But being that it’s an election year and all, a major breakthrough between Democrats and Republicans at the summit would seem about as likely as snow removal on my street after a major storm.

Obama’s security tweaks unlikely to quiet political opponents

President Barack Obama will tighten airline security today in a bid to thwart any future attack like last month’s plot to bomb a Detroit-bound airliner. But will that silence his political opponents? Not likely. With congressional elections looming in November, the stakes may be too high.

Take Republican Rep. Pete Hoekstra, for example. He’s running for governor of Michigan and criticizing Obama’s handling of the bomb plot in hopes of making Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, look soft on security.

“If you agree that we need a governor who will stand up the Obama/Pelosi efforts to weaken our security, please make a most generous contribution of $25, $50, $100 or even $250 to my campaign,” he said in a widely quoted letter to prospective supporters.
The letter caused an uproar among critics who accused Hoekstra of playing politics with national security. But the security issue seems destined to become a leading theme for Republicans in this year’s election battle for control of Congress, which they hope to turn into a referendum on Obama’s policies.

Senate surprise: tax cosmetic surgery

The Senate’s healthcare reform legislation published by Democratic leaders last night included a big surprise for anyone saving up to enhance or undo what God gave them — a new 5 percent tax on elective cosmetic procedures. OBAMA/

The tax would take effect beginning in January and is being proposed as part of the sweeping healthcare overhaul to partly pay the cost of helping millions of uninsured people obtain medical coverage.

It would raise nearly $6 billion over 10 years, and who knows, perhaps even a few lawmakers might be enhancing the Federal Treasury if the tax ends up in a final bill signed by President Barack Obama.

Pelosi tells Harvard students she read every page of healthcare bill

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told students at Harvard University on Friday that she had indeed done her reading.

Taking questions during the 90-minute event, Pelosi assured one skeptical undergraduate that she, and many other House members, had read “every page” of the roughly 1,900-page healthcare bill passed by the House. 

She expounded on leadership qualities, healthcare reform, the impact of more women in Congress, troops to Afghanistan — oh, and healthcare reform. USA-HEALTHCARE/

The First Draft: Limbo Day

It’s the day before the all-important employment report for October. (Expectation is for a 175,000 drop in payrolls and an uptick in the unemployment rate to 9.9 percent, which would be a 26-year high).

BASEBALL/It’s the day after the New York Yankees won the World Series. (Condolences Phillies fans).

It’s the day before the House of Representatives might send healthcare overhaul legislation to the floor for debate with the goal of a Saturday vote. (Have learned never to bet on the timing of legislation on the Hill).

House Republicans aim to kill Democratic health bill

Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives are gearing up for an epic battle against the sweeping healthcare reform that Democratic leaders hope to bring to the House floor for debate later this week.

boehner“Our goal is to make this as difficult as possible to vote for it,” said House Republican Leader John Boehner. “We think this bill is the wrong prescription for what ails our healthcare system in America.”

Representative Mike Pence, who heads the House Republican Conference, said the campaign against the bill unveiled last week by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi began over the weekend with Republican members delivering copies of the huge 1,990-page bill to public libraries. Also, Republican women are speaking against the bill this week on the House floor.

The First Draft: David Letterman and the Dalai Lama

CANADA/This is one of those Washington days that seems to defy a theme. Consider:

Iran is the topic at the Senate Banking Committee, where officials from the State and Treasury departments are set to testify on economic sanctions against Tehran.

Afghanistan is expected to be front and center when President Barack Obama briefs congressional leaders about his Afghan strategy.

Pakistan‘s foreign minister has a meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Grayson sweet-talks Republicans on healthcare reform

In the never-ending Democratic struggle to win bipartisan support for healthcare reform, Representative Alan Grayson is probably not the guy to send to the House floor to woo Republicans.

Democrats, he said in a floor speech a couple days ago, want to fix the U.S. healthcare system by expanding insurance coverage to the 47 million people who do not have it.

“The Republican plan,” he said, is basically: “Don’t get sick, and if you do get sick, die quickly.”
He brought along big posterboard signs to underscore the idea in the event somebody found his point too subtle.
Republicans were not happy with this characterization of their ideas for healthcare and suggested an apology was in order.
A much-chastened Grayson returned to the House floor Wednesday to make amends.

DeLay injures foot while dancing for TV show

Remember Tom DeLay? Well, “The Hammer” has pounded too hard this time.

The former House Majority leader, who earned his nickname for keeping lawmakers in line on CONGRESS DELAYCapitol Hill, injured his foot while practicing for his “Dancing With the Stars” debut.

DeLay, a Republican who resigned from Congress in 2006 after he was charged in Texas with trying to violate campaign finance laws, announced his injury via Twitter.

Pistol Packin’ Pelosi? finger on healthcare trigger

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has put the insurance industry on notice that if congressional Democrats are forced to compromise on a government-run health insurance plan and accept a “trigger” proposed by Republican Senator Olympia Snowe, get ready for some major fire power.

Snowe has proposed a compromise that would “trigger” the creation of a new public plan should insurance market reforms fail to meet affordability and quality benchmarks.

USA/At a news conference in San Francisco, Pelosi was asked about the “trigger” idea that has gained new strength in recent days as the White House looks for a potential compromise that would help get President Barack Obama’s proposed healthcare overhaul through Congress.