Tales from the Trail

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.

Republicans want to change the new law too. They want to repeal it. Some of their amendments would do just that. It is unlikely Senate Democrats will reverse course and undo the hard fought victory for Obama.

But other proposed Republican amendments could force Democrats to take politically unpalatable election-year votes on measures such as one that would strike Medicare spending cuts from the bill.

from Afghan Journal:

Engaging the Afghan Taliban: a short history

(The niche that once held a giant Buddha, in Bamiyan. Picture by Omar Sobhani)

(The niche that once held a giant Buddha, in Bamiyan. Picture by Omar Sobhani)

For those pushing for high-level political negotiations with the Afghan Taliban to bring to an end to the eight-year war,  two U.S. scholars  in separate pieces are suggesting a walk through recent history  The United States has gone down the path of dialogue with the group before and suffered for it, believing against its own better judgement in the Taliban's promises until it ended up with the September 11, 2001 attacks, says  Michael Rubin from the American Enterprise Institute in this article in Commentary.

Rubin, who is completing a history of U.S. engagement with rogue regimes, says unclassified U.S. State Department documents show that America opened talks with the Taliban soon after the group  emerged as a powerful force in Kandahar in 1994 and well over a year before they took over Kabul. From then on it was a story of   diplomats doing everything possible to remain engaged with the Taliban in the hope it would modify their  behaviour, and that they would be persuaded to expel Osama bin Laden who had  by then relocated from Sudan.  The Taliban, on the other hand, in their meetings with U.S. diplomats, would stonewall on terrorism  but would also dangle just enough hope to keep the officials calling and forestall punitive strategies.

Over a five year period of engagement, the United States gained little while the Taliban grew even more radicalised and the threat from al Qaeda more serious. Rubin details how State Department officials were repeatedly misled by Taliban officials harbouring bin Laden even after two U.S. embassies were attacked in Africa in  1998.  They even told them they would protect the Buddha statues in Bamiyan which were subsequently destroyed.

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.

Healthcare reconciliation: easier said than explained

The process intricacies that go into lawmaking can stump the hardiest of congressional watchers.

Now that Democrats may decide to use reconciliation to get healthcare legislation passed in Congress, everyone has been scrambling for the easiest possible explanation. OBAMA/

What we found were lots of words and several reports aimed at explaining the process that everyone’s talking about, but no one-line, easy-to-understand, explain-it-to-your-grandmother, definition.