He warned that the U.S. government must not be in a position to “pull the plug on grandma.”But Senator Charles Grassley, a leading Republican who could be key to President Barack Obama’s hopes of overhauling healthcare, acknowledged on Sunday that so-called “death panels” weren’t really a possibility anyway.Grassley, the leading Republican in the Senate Finance Committee, told CBS’s “Face the Nation” that his well-publicized comment about pulling the plug was only meant to convey the fears of voters.“It won’t do that. But I wanted to explain why my constituents are concerned about it,” Grassley said.He was quoted saying earlier this month that “You have every right to fear. You shouldn’t have counseling at the end of life, you should have done that 20 years before. Should not have a government run plan to decide when to pull the plug on grandma.”He struggled a bit when asked to explain why he made the comments in the first place: “I said that because — two reasons. Number one, I was responding to a question at my town meetings. I let my constituents set the agenda. A person that asked me that question was reading from language that they got off of the Internet. It scared my constituents…”Obama expressed outrage on Saturday about persistent rumors about the government-run “death panels” — an issue most notably raised by former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, who was the Republican vice presidential nominee last year.“As every credible person who has looked into it has said, there are no so-called ‘death panels’ — an offensive notion to me and to the American people,” Obama said. “These are phony claims meant to divide us.”The issue stems from a provision in a House of Representatives bill that would have provided government funding for optional counseling on end-of-life care issues such as hospice.Obama’s healthcare plan has been hit from both sides, with liberal members of his own party pushing for major changes while Republicans and conservative Democrats fret about cost and government involvement. The debate likely will intensify next month when Congress returns from its summer recess.Do you think Grassley’s acknowledgement will help end the debate over death panels?
Tales from the Trail
Republican U.S. Senator Arlen Specter, 79, of Pennsylvania appears to face a tough run next year for reelection to a sixth term.
And he can blame his problems largely on his decision last month to break ranks with fellow Republicans and vote for President Barack Obama’s $787 economic stimulus package.
Those are the findings of a Quinnipiac University poll of about 1,000 Pennsylvania voters released on Wednesday.
The Connecticut-based university found that Specter, viewed as a moderate, trails former conservative congressman Pat Toomey, his likely Republican primary challenger, by a margin of 41 percent to 27 percent. Specter narrowly defeated Toomey in a 2004 primary battle.
Another and somewhat smaller poll by Franklin & Marshall College in Pennsylvania was a mixed bag for Specter.
While the survey showed Specter leading Toomey 33 percent to 18 percent, it found that 49 percent of respondents were undecided or favored others.
That survey of 662 people also found that less than half — 40 percent — believe Specter deserves another term, with 46 percent saying it is “time for a change.”
The Quinnipiac survey showed Democrats and independents backed Specter’s support of Obama’s stimulus package. But Republicans opposed it — 70 percent to 25 percent.
Both surveys were conducted in recent days and had a margin of error between plus or minus of three to four percentage points.
“Pennsylvania Republicans are so unhappy with Sen. Specter’s vote for President Barack Obama’s stimulus package and so-called pork barrel spending that they are voting for a former congressman they hardly know,” said Clay Richards, assistant director of Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
Richards added, however, if Specter survives the primary, he would have a lot going for him in the general election since there currently seems to be no strong Democratic contender.
But Specter faces other problems.
He stepped into a political hornet’s nest on Tuesday when he opposed a bill to make it easier for workers to unionize, a top legislative goal of organized labor but anathema to many in the business community and his own party.
So if Specter wins the Republican primary, he can expect to be opposed by energized union supporters in the general election.
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WASHINGTON – Republican critics of the Democratic-backed landmark stimulus package are pointing out that its 800-billion-dollar-plus price tag would — “in one fell swoop,” as Republican Representative Todd Akin put it — consume more resources than have been laid out for two wars, so far.
WASHINGTON – Kit Bond has become the third U.S. Senate Republican in three months to announce plans to retire, creating another challenge in his party’s effort to gain seats in the Democratic-led chamber.
The 69-year-old, four-term senator from Missouri disclosed his intentions with a touch of levity in a speech in his state capital of Jefferson City.
“In 1972, I became Missouri’s youngest governor,” Bond said, according to a transcript. “Ladies and gentlemen, I do not aspire to become Missouri’s oldest senator.
Bond’s decision to leave the Senate at the end of his current term in 2010 followed earlier such announcements by Mel Martinez of Florida and Sam Brownback of Kansas.
Each is a blow to Republican efforts to rebound from the poundings they took in the past two elections that saw Democrats gain seats in the Senate and House of Representatives.
“These retirements put Republicans in the defensive mode at the start of the new (election) cycle,” said Nathan Gonzales of the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report. “The more open seats there are the more difficult it is to make gains.”
Incumbents traditionally have a number of advantages against challengers, including name recognition and the ability to raise money.
While three Senate Republicans plan to retire, four Democrats from last year’s Senate have or intend to step down to join the new administration — beginning with Barack Obama. He recently gave up his seat from Illinois to prepare to move into the White House.
Joe Biden of Delaware will soon resign from his Senate seat to be sworn in on Jan. 20 as Obama’s vice president.
Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Ken Salazar of Colorado intend to resign once they win anticipated Senate confirmation as Obama’s secretary of state and interior secretary, respectively.
The governors of New York, Delaware and Colorado are expected to replace Biden, Clinton and Salazar with fellow Democrats. Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has named a Democrat to replace Obama. But there’s been a battle over the appointment since Blagojevich has been engulfed by a corruption scandal.
The U.S. Democratic Party has gained a larger following over the past two decades but America's ideological landscape has remained largely unchanged over the past two decades, according to a new report by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. You can see the analysis here.