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Posts Tagged ‘Health Insurance’

Georgia Politics Set to Explode Over Obamacare

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's Victory in the Partisan Battle over Obamacare May Lead to Heighted Political Acrimony at a State Level in States Such as Georgia

While national politics continue to churn after the historic passage of Obamacare on Sunday and President Barack Obama’s signature on same yesterday, some states are showing signs of exploding into partisan warfare over Obamacare, notably including the State of Georgia.  In Georgia, Attorney General Thurbert Baker has tonight officially refused to join in with over a dozen other states that have filed federal lawsuits against President Obama regarding the unconstitutionality of the individual mandate in Obamacare:

ATLANTA – Georgia’s attorney general won’t sue the federal government over the controversial health care bill President Obama signed into law yesterday.

Attorney General Thurbert Baker, a Democrat, announced his decision in a letter to Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue, who had urged the state’s top lawyer to file the lawsuit. Nationally, more than a dozen states are questioning the Constitutionality of the law, which requires all citizens to have health insurance.

“While I understand that the new law is the subject of ongoing debate here in Georgia and around the nation, I do not believe that Georgia has a viable legal claim against the United States,” Baker said in his letter to Perdue. “Considering our state’s current severe budgetary crisis, with vital services like education and law enforcement being cut deeply, I cannot justify a decision to initiate expensive and time-consuming litigation that I believe has no legal merit.”

But, Baker’s decision not to sue doesn’t mean Georgia won’t file a lawsuit. Perdue could decide to proceed with a lawsuit without Baker’s cooperation, a number of media reports indicate.

“His refusal to participate doesn’t preclude us from moving forward,” Perdue’s spokesman Bert Brantley said, according to a report on WXIA-TV’s Web site. “We’ll make a decision on how to move forward and whether that means Georgia filing a lawsuit on its own, going by itself, or whether we join other states that have already filed.”

Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue (R-GA) Is Examining His Options Tonight As Attorney General Thurbert Baker Officially Refuses Perdue's Request for Baker to File Suit on Behalf of the State of Georgia to Allege Obamacare is Unconstitutional

As noted above by the Atlanta Examiner, and a local TV station report, Governor Sonny Perdue (R-GA) is examining his options to override Baker’s decision to pass on a lawsuit against Obamacare.  The heightened GOP pressure on Attorney General Thurbert Baker may be the first major shot fired in a new GOP plan to strategically use Obamacare to “nationalize” state-level races in states where Obamacare is particularly unpopular, such as Georgia.

Most immediately, Perdue is planning on holding a news conference with former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich tomorrow morning to explain why Georgia Republicans feel it is important for the State of Georgia to join in the multi-state litigation challenging Obamacare’s constitutionality. Additionally, state House GOP members are looking at Articles of Impeachment for Baker as “there is a movement inside the House to suspend the rules and introduce Articles of Impeachment against Baker for failing to uphold his oath of office.” PeachPundit has the details late this evening of the hardball being played by the GOP over Baker’s defiance of Governor Perdue’s request:

The resolution had around 30 signatures and things were moving forward. Apparently, the sponsor agreed hold off until legislators meet with Gov. Perdue in the morning to further discuss options.

The basis of the Articles of Impeachment are that Baker has violated Article V, Section 3, Paragraph IV of the state Constitution and OCGA §45-15-35, both of which direct the Attorney General to take on matters of the state in court at the direction of the Governor.

Impeachment of a public official would take a simple majority in the House, but a 2/3 majority in the Senate.

Complicating matters somewhat is the fact that Thurbert Baker is also engaged in the contested Democratic primary for Governor with former Governor Roy Barnes.   Baker is presently a heavy underdog in the Democratic primary against Barnes, while GOP Gubernatorial candidates Karen Handel and Nathan Deal are slightly ahead of Barnes by 3 points each in recent polling while GOP Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine is tied with Barnes and GOP State Senate President Eric Johnson is behind Barnes by 2 points.  Baker trails all GOP candidates by a large margin and is far behind Barnes in the Democratic primary race.  Accordingly, Baker needs to shake things up to have any chance to become Georgia’s next governor, and he may have chosen Obamacare to make his move considering the dramatic rejection of Perdue’s request this evening.

Just resigned US Congressman and now full-time GOP Gubernatorial candidate Nathan Deal has been trying to take advantage of the situation, urging his supporters to contact Baker by email, phone and fax to urge Baker to file suit as noted in the Atlanta-Journal and Constitution:

Republican candidate for governor Nathan Deal, freed from his Washington job, has passed the office number, fax number, and e-mail address of Attorney General Thurbert Baker to supporters, urging them to call and demand that Baker join a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the new health care law.

Baker, of course, is a Democratic candidate for governor. It’s fine sport to bait a rival.

Deal, of course, has recently come under an ethical cloud for his involvement in state contracts for his salvage business, and Deal also started a mini-firestorm in national GOP politics in early March by attempting to resign from the House of Representatives before the all-important House Obamacare vote on Sunday, with the Wall Street Journal suggesting that Deal was resigning to avoid further developments in the House Ethics Committee probe into his salvage company. After that, GOP House leader John Boehner (R-OH) personally appealed to Deal to stay on to cast a vote against Obamacare, and Deal quickly reversed himself and voted against Obamacare and then immediately resigned Sunday night. Accordingly, the aggressive push by Deal may be in part an attempt to exorcise those earlier missteps on the Obamacare issue.

Georgia Democratic Attorney General Thurbert Baker Tonight Rejected GOP Governor Sonny Perdue's Request For the Filing of Suit To Allege Obamacare is Unconstitutional

For his part, AG Baker told the AJC Monday night there is no Constitutional violation emanating from Obamacare as the supremacy clause clearly authorizes the statutory language, foreshadowing tonight’s formal rejection of Perdue’s request:

“We’re not interested in political gamesmanship in the office of the attorney general. We’re not interested in making political points. The role of the attorney general is to follow the law, and where we feel there have been violations, we need to address it….

“There’s a little thing called the supremacy clause. Federal law supercedes state law. And so I’m very interested in knowing, at least from those who think there’s a basis is, at least what they think the basis is.

Baker has also pointed to the money that would be expended by an Obamacare suit, money Baker claims would be wasted.  It appears that “every GOP candidate in Georgia” is pressing hard on Obamacare, attempting to “nationalize” every statewide race in November 2010 with the unpopular Obamacare, while former Governor Roy Barnes is staking out ground as critical of Obamacare in contrast to his opponent AG Baker, as notes the AJC:

And Democrats, just like in the old days, suddenly find themselves worrying about being tied too closely to a president and a ruling Washington regime.

Gov. Sonny Perdue has been eager to help. “It is imperative that current candidates for elected office publicly state their plans to either support the Obama-Pelosi legislation or fight for the people of Georgia,” the Republican governor declared, shortly after the Sunday night vote.

Perdue has loudly pressed Attorney General Thurbert Baker, a Democratic candidate for governor, to challenge the constitutionality of the health care law.

But so far, Baker and other Democrats haven’t risen to the bait.

Every GOP candidate in Georgia, down to your half-hearted handshaker for county land surveyor, has generated at least one press release vowing not to rest until the health care law is undone.

But Democrats — particularly those seeking a place on the November ballot — have been much more cautious. Many have been here before, and understand the game.

In health care, as Perdue recognizes, Republicans have an issue that could nationalize every statewide race in Georgia.

Baker, the attorney general, rejected the governor’s lawsuit challenge on Wednesday. “This litigation is likely to fail and will consume significant amounts of taxpayers’ hard-earned money in the process,” he wrote in reply.

Former Gov. Roy Barnes was the most critical. “This health care bill is a failure of leadership on both sides. It’s what’s wrong with Washington and it’s what’s wrong with the state Capitol,” Barnes said. “My greatest disappointment is that the insurance companies were not regulated further — which means the special interests won.”

It may be that Baker considers a highly publicized fight over Obamacare with Perdue the best move he can make in his effort to make up ground in the Democratic primary against heavy favorite Barnes, especially as Barnes is lukewarm at best regarding the Obamacare package. A high profile fight with Perdue over Obamacare would also surely please President Obama, and Baker may be counting on drawing Obama into the Democratic primary by eliciting a statement of support from Obama for Baker’s refusal to file suit, as well as perhaps garnering a surge in donations from Obama’s liberal base. Indeed, Baker may believe his expressions of public backing for Obamacare will move some of the liberal base of the Democratic Party in Georgia into his column in his contest against Barnes.

Beyond the politics, it is highly questionable, under the Georgia Supreme Court’s ruling of Perdue v. Baker, whether AG Baker as chief legal officer for the State of Georgia can legally ignore a direct command from the Governor, as occurred here over the requested Obamacare lawsuit.  Perdue v. Baker was decided by the Georgia Supreme Court in 2003 pursuant to a prior fight between the Attorney General and Governor related to the 1965 Voting Rights Act.  Late Wednesday, in reaction of Baker’s official snub, Perdue’s spokesman noted that Perdue may find a way around Baker’s resistance “citing the voter ID law and the water wars with Florida and Alabama.

The Republican Governor was out of town Wednesday, but spokesman Bert Brantley told us they will challenge the federal health care plan with or without Baker’s help.

“His refusal to participate doesn’t preclude us from moving forward and we’ve done that on a number of cases,” Brantley said, citing the voter ID law and the water wars with Florida and Alabama.

“We’ll make a decision on how to move forward and whether that means Georgia filing a lawsuit on its own, going by itself, or whether we join other states that have already filed,” he added.

As for the cost, Brantley says the governor has already heard from several lawyers willing to take the case for free.

Although the Georgia General Assembly did not pass a constitutional amendment “that would have declared Georgians immune from the reach of the federal health care law” as the Senate came just short of the 2/3 vote required, it is possible that the General Assembly could consider legislation to modify and/or clarify the powers of the Attorney General to prevent the Attorney General from abusing his authority, as the state House GOP clearly believes Baker is doing now by refusing to file suit.   Arguably, the Perdue v. Baker decision prohibits the Attorney General from ignoring lawful commands of the Governor such as the Obamacare lawsuit request, and new legislation may clarify the issue as the Obamacare debate intensifies.

Former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich Is Set to Appear with Governor Perdue Tomorrow Morning in Front of the Media to Argue that the State of Georgia Should Proceed to File Suit to Contest the Constitutionality of Obamacare

The Gingrich-Perdue press conference tomorrow morning on why the State of Georgia should challenge the constitutionality of Obamacare in federal court may be the start of the Georgia GOP’s “nationalizing”  strategy regarding Obamacare and state races.  Additionally, the presence of national political heavyweight Gingrich, who may be attempting to build support nationally for a possible 2012 campaign by becoming engaged in the Perdue-Baker fight over Obamacare, is sure to add to the focus on Georgia as perhaps the first state in the union to reflect the new hardened, partisan atmosphere existing nationally after the passage of Obamacare.   We may also be observing the first major state-level skirmish of many to come in the states where the GOP has decided to pursue a strategy to “nationalize” state-level races around the issue of Obamacare.

All told, it appears that the statewide political scene in Georgia is about to break out into all-out partisan battle over Obamacare. Talks between the state House GOP and Perdue before the press conference tomorrow morning with Gingrich and Perdue may determine whether impeachment proceedings move forward against AG Baker in the Georgia House of Representatives or other legislation related to the AG’s powers. Starting tomorrow, in the wake of tonight’s official rejection by AG Baker of Perdue’s request to sue, Georgia may become the first state to truly experience the same sort of brass-knuckles partisan warfare that has dominated national politics for over a year regarding the Obamacare initiative.

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Senior Democrat Dingell: Obamacare Prepping “to Control the People” by 2014

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

Senior Democratic House Democrat John Dingell, seen here with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Former President Bill Clinton, Has Stirred Controversy with his comment that Obamacare will "control the people" by 2014

Senior Democratic House Congressman John Dingell (D-MI) made some incredible admissions on WJR 760AM, a local Michigan station, on Tuesday morning in response to a question from local radio host Paul W. Smith.   Smith asked, starting at about the 6:00 point on the tape, if the leftist rhetoric is correct that tens of thousands of Americans die per year because of a lack of health insurance, “are we are ready to let 72,000 more people die” between now and the implementation of Obamacare in 2014.  Dingell then shockingly responded as follows:

“We’re not ready to be doing it.  But let me remind you, this has been going on for years. We are bringing it to a halt. The harsh fact of the matter is when you’re going to pass legislation that will cover 300 [million] American people in different ways it takes a long time to do the necessary administrative steps that have to be taken to put the legislation together to control the people.”

Basically Dingell is saying there is so much to do to prepare the massive new federal health care system that the Democrats are “not ready to be doing it” now and four years are needed to prepare to launch the new system by 2014. Indeed, Dingell explicitly states that the Democrats need the next four years to prepare the “necessary administrative steps” to bring Obamacare online “to control the people” of America. Such commentary by such a senior Democratic insider is truly discomforting to centrists and independents, as well as some ideologues on both sides.

Further, it is quite revealing to hear the senior Democratic member of Congress, someone who was a featured speaker at the Democratic House leadership press conference on Sunday night after the historic passage of Obamacare by a 219-212 margin, make these admissions as GOP critics have been condemned harshly by the establishment media and many Democratic politicians for making claims similar (if not less sweeping ) to what Dingell admits here. Dingell’s frank admissions may spur another round of political acrimony between the Democrats and Republicans regarding the “big government” aspects of the Obamacare legislation and the plans for implementation as the Senate reconciliation debate begins.

Dingell then goes on to condemn the GOP just after the quote above for “not helping“, “carping and delaying” and “contributing nothing to this.” Perhaps the GOP is happy to have nothing to do with the wacky Obamacare scheme, as described by Dingell, to “control the people” after four years of preparing the “necessary administrative steps”. Considering the legislation is now the law of the land, and the “necessary administrative steps” referred to by Dingell are unknown outside of the close-knit Democratic power structure, Americans now need full disclosure of what exactly the Democrats have planned “to control the people” via the federal government’s newly minted comprehensive health care reform law.

Dingell's Comments Regarding Obamacare's Goal to "Control the People" by 2014 Have Invoked Comparisons to the World Envisioned by George Orwell in his classic book, "1984"

Indeed, Dingell is part of a small group of Democratic politicians that are the insiders as to the true intent of the massive 2407 page long bill, receiving one of President Obama’s 20 signing pens he used to sign Obamacare today and further described by Obama-worshipping Newsweek as the biblical figure Aaron, who was the brother of Moses (Obama’s role as cast by Newsweek) and who played a critical role to get to the “promised land” of nationalized health care:

If Obama is the Moses of the new health-care law, Dingell is the Aaron—except that, unlike Aaron, he’s happily alive to reach the (incremental) promised land. “There is a certain satisfaction,” said Dingell as he kept an eye on the TV.

Dingell’s own father was a New Deal Democratic congressman and champion of a New Deal–style national health-care system, a bill he first introduced in 1943. When Dingell took over the seat from his late father in 1955, the old man’s bill was in the hopper—but never voted on. The son introduced a similar bill every year, starting in 1957. Every year, including this year. The new Obamacare law is far different from—and short of—that government-run New Deal vision.

But it’s fair to say that Obama and the Dems wouldn’t be where they are today (for good or ill, depending on your politics) had it not been for the efforts of Dingell over the years. In his youth and then heyday as a committee chairman and party leader, he helped pass Medicare in 1965—Nancy Pelosi used his ceremonial gavel on Sunday night—and every other expansion of health-care law and legislation.

Further, Dingell played a key part in pushing the winning block of anti-abortion swing votes, led by Bart Stupak (D-MI), to vote for Obamacare:

“Mr. Dingell had a piece of me (Saturday) for quite some time,” Stupak said.

Stupak said the dean of the House of Representatives was chief among a group of Democratic leaders who put pressure on him to reach a deal with the White House so he would switch to a “yea” vote on the bill.

Once it passed, Dingell’s Democratic colleagues acknowledged his long push for an overhaul of the nation’s health care with a standing ovation Sunday night.

Dingell called the final outcome “a long stride forward” in achieving his career-long goal of national health care coverage.

“I’m very, very happy,” said the beaming 83-year-old Dearborn Democrat, who got to bed well after 1 a.m. Monday but was up early to do his first TV interview at 6:45 a.m. A flood of TV, radio and newspaper interviews followed, underscoring how much credit he is given for helping the Democrats score the legislative victory.

Considering Dingell’s critical role in drafting and obtaining passage of Obamacare, as described by Newsweek and others, and the insider knowledge he must therefore hold regarding the “necessary administrative steps” planned by the Democrats to ramp up Obamacare so as “to control the people” starting in 2014, one can only hope that the establishment media awakens from its celebratory stupor and does a serious investigation as to what exactly the Democrats have planned for this country between now and 2014 so that the American people are fully informed and able to make appropriate decisions in November 2010 and 2012 at the ballot box. Should the Dingell interview end up disappearing from WJR 760AM, a copy can be found here on this site.

UPDATE: Ed at Hotair links over and wonders if Dingell’s crazy statements about Obamacare being designed to “control the people is a “Freudian” slip.

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It’s OVER: Obamacare to Pass on Sunday as Dems Lie About Deficit Savings; UPDATE: Dem Memo Instructs to Lie About $371 Billion Dollar “Doctor Fix”

Friday, March 19th, 2010

President Barack Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi brag today about the coming successful vote to pass Obamacare on Sunday

The largest federal government intervention into the US economy since FDR, and the most substantial legislation on health care policy in American history is set to pass the House of Representatives on Sunday, as a test vote on the floor of the House passed with 222 votes (6 to spare) on Wednesday, meaning Obamacare is all but certain to also garner the 216 House votes it needs on Sunday to reach President Obama’s desk.

As noted by many last week, the vote yesterday essentially green-lighted the use of the “Slaughter Solution” to pass the Senate Obamacare bill through the House of Representatives. The Slaughter Solution is a procedural trick which allows the House of Representatives to avoid an actual up or down vote on the special interest and pork laden Senate Obamacare bill.

Right now, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is in front of the media crowing about her success in finding the votes and being able to pass the comprehensive health care measure which will avoid “job-lock” based on the fear of losing health care coverage. Pelosi also repeated her wholly false claim that Obamacare will create 700,000 jobs “almost immediately” and her companion fantasy claim that Obamacare will reduce deficit spending by “1.3 trillion” over two decadesl and over a hundred billion in the next decade.

Both of these wholly false and misleading claims rely on future Congresses not waiving certain onerous “revenue raising” measures such as the “cadillac tax” on health insurance policies, which will kick in by 2018 (delayed, by pressure from unions and others, to nearly a decade from now) and further not waiving a large portion of the “planned” $500 billion in cuts to Medicare over the next decade. Neither of these policies are likely to actually be implemented, meaning that there will be only deficit gains from this bill, which makes logical sense as Obamacare will funnel hundreds of billions per year in new entitlement spending to purchase health insurance for those who qualify for the new American entitlement program.

Indeed, the same political pressure that will almost certainly lead future Congresses to waive a substantial majority of the cuts to Medicare benefits while also substantially lessening the bite of the “cadillac tax” on health insurance premiums set to begin in 2018 under Obama’s present plan has led Congresses, in every year since the passage of the Medicare savings bill in 1997, to waive such reductions in payments to doctors and hospitals as called for in the 1997 legislation.   This procedure is known as the “doctor fix”, and Obama promised he would include a 10 year “doctor fix” in Obamacare to buy the support of the American Medical Association back in the summer of 2009. Because the inclusion of the 10 year “doctor fix” payoff to the AMA in the initial version of Obamacare created a CBO scoring which showed over $150 billion in deficit spending over 10 years, Obama and the Democrats  removed the language from the bill and now pretend that the $250 billion dollar cost of the “doctor fix” over the first decade of Obamacare simply doesn’t exist.

Here’s what Nancy Pelosi had to say today in response to just such a question about the “doctor fix” from a brave reporter:

“We’ve been including it in legislation for a long time…it is not about a doctor fix, it is about our seniors or anyone who relies upon Medicare to have access…you call it the doctor fix, its really about access to health are for Americans…its not in this [Obamacare] bill, but we’ll have it soon. We have made a commitment to do this.”

Pelosi than refused to answer the followup question from that same reporter regarding the fact that the “doctor fix” will completely eliminate the claimed $100 billion or so in “deficit savings” over the first decade of Obamacare. President Barack Obama also started speaking just as Pelosi was under questioning about the “doctor fix”, issuing a very partisan speech at George Mason University. As it becomes clear to the American people that Obamacare will become law via the “Slaughter Solution” and President Obama’s signature just days from now, it will be interesting to see the public’s reaction to passing such a giant federal intervention into a segment of the economy that is actually producing jobs right now as the economy struggles to stop continuing job losses overall.

UPDATE: Ed at Hotair and Politico note that the Democratic leadership is circulating a memo instructing congresspeople to lie to the media and public about the coming $371 billion dollar increase in federal health care spending to be done as an add-on to Obamacare in the spring and further to avoid any substantive discussion of the CBO score and to instead just repeat the extraordinarily misleading top-line numbers:

Democrats are planning to introduce legislation later this spring that would permanently repeal annual Medicare cuts to doctors, but are warning lawmakers not to talk about it for fear that it will complicate their push to pass comprehensive health reform. The plans undercut the party’s message that reform lowers the deficit, according to a memo obtained by POLITICO.

Democrats removed the so-called doc fix from the reform legislation last year because its $371-billion price tag would have made it impossible for Democrats to claim that their bill reduces the deficit. Republicans have argued for months that by stripping the doc fix from the bill, Democrats were playing a shell game.

“Most health staff are already aware that our health proposal does not contain a ‘doc fix.’ … The inclusion of a full SGR repeal would undermine reform’s budget neutrality. So again, do not allow yourself (or your boss) to get into a discussion of the details of CBO scores and textual narrative. Instead, focus only on the deficit reduction and number of Americans covered,” the memo, sent Thursday to Democratic staff, said.

“As most health staff knows, leadership and the White House are working with the AMA to rally physicians for a full SGR repeal later this spring. However, both health and communications staff should understand we do not want that policy discussion discussed at this time, lest (it) complicate the last critical push to pass health reform,” according to the memo.

The memo helps explains why the American Medical Association has supported reform even though their top legislative priority, the doc fix, was left out. The group is working behind the scenes with Democratic leadership and the White House to fix the cuts later this year.

Indeed, in a statement this afternoon, the AMA announced its support for the reconciliation bill — and hinted that the debate is not over with reform’s passage.

“This is not the last step, but the next step toward real health system reform. We will remain actively engaged with Congress and the administration to ensure that before Congress adjourns there are additional important changes to our health system,” AMA president James Rohack said. “Congress must act to preserve access to care for seniors and military families by permanently repealing the Medicare physician payment formula that will cut Medicare payments by 21 percent next month.”

The memo also repeatedly advises Democrats not to discuss the details of the CBO score.

Such explicit misrepresentations about the true cost of Obamacare and the reality that Obamacare will actually hike the deficit, not reduce it, from the Democrats on the eve of the historic vote on comprehensive health care reform paints a very troubling picture of the leaders of America’s federal government. The full, odious memo is here.

UPDATE #2: Democrats are now denying writing the memo, and Politico has backed down and pulled it from its site. Apparently bad news for Democrats is not news at Politico. It is hard to imagine that Politico would have pulled a story about President Bush’s social security reform efforts if the GOP complained, bringing into clear focus the unbridled allegiance of the establishment media to the Democratic Party.

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Obama on Speaking Time Imbalance: “Because I’m the President”; UPDATE: Video Added

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

President Barack Obama Appears Bored as He Listens to Members of Congress Recite Scripted Speeches in the First Hour to Today's Health Care Summit

The health care summit between the Congressional GOP, President Obama and Democratic Congressional Leadership is off to an entertaining but generally unsubstantive start, with scripted speeches the norm and a few interesting interactions. Sadly, it appears that actual negotiations over a incremental centrist health care reform bill appears to be out of the question so far as all the Democrats are condemning any talk of an incremental approach while focusing on anecdotal examples of individuals who are without health care instead of the legislation under debate, despite stated agreements over the Medicare fraud sanctions database and enforcement (see #5 of OPINION piece) concept and the stated agreements about the need for substantial medical malpractice reform (see #2 of OPINION piece). At least for now, the Democrats, led by President Obama, are sticking to the “big bill” gameplan and we expect the remainder of the summit to proceed as the first hour did: scripted speeches and a few testy interactions but little substantive progress on a bipartisan deal.

One interesting testy interaction that just occurred was between President Obama and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) over the issue of the time allotted to each party. McConnell noted that the GOP had received a fair amount less time than the Democrats so far, and the President agreed that there was a time imbalance and quipped that it is “because I’m the President” and his speaking time didn’t “count” toward the pledged equal division of time between parties. Politico reports on the exchange:

McConnell interrupted the discussion at Blair House Thursday, over an hour after it began, to note that Republicans had only spoken for 24 minutes compared with 52 minutes for the Democrats.

“I don’t think that’s quite right, but I’m just going back and forth here, Mitch,” Obama said. “I think we’re just trying to go back and forth, but that’s okay.”

A few moments later, Obama noted the session was running long and acknowledged – with an explanation – that Republicans hadn’t spoken for quite as long.

“You’re right that there’s an imbalance on the opening statements, because I’m the president,” Obama said. “I didn’t count my time in terms of dividing it evenly.”

Such quips from Obama are sure to rile the GOP, who considered the equal time pledge by the White House binding.

Another interesting talking point Obama continues to return to is the comparison of shoddy car insurance to what Obama claims is shoddy health insurance as sold now without the benefit of the federal regulations that Obamacare would impose. House Member Paul Ryan (R-Mi.) made the point that conservatives and moderates are rejecting the Obama Health Plan because of disapproval of the increased federal regulatory power and mandates that will be imposed if Obama’s comprehensive plan is passed. Obama used his car insurance analogy to respond to Ryan’s point, claiming that the federal health rules are necessary to stop shoddy health insurance from being sold. However, there are no federal car insurance regulations, such regulations are handled by state governments, as are regulations over health insurance policy terms as of today. Obama’s proposal envisions bringing another set of regulations over all health insurance policies on top of the current state health insurance regulations, in essence creating a federal insurance commissioner on top of the already-existing 50 state insurance commissioners.

UPDATE: Realclearpolitics posts the video clip of the McConnell-Obama exchange.

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Shocker: Obama Surrenders, Substantially Scales Down Plan on Eve of Summit; UPDATED 2X: White House Furiously Denies WSJ Story, Hoyer Confirms WSJ Story

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

A Pensive Barack Obama Looks On As the White House's Plans to Advocate Scaled Down Health Care Plan Leak, Detailing a Smaller 250 Billion Dollar Health Care Plan as Monday's 950 Billion Dollar Proposal Looks Unlikely to Pass Congress on the Eve of the Health Care Summit

In an incredible development literally hours before the much-hyped health care summit is to begin between President Obama and Congressional Republicans, the Obama Administration signaled its intent to move forward with a much smaller, scaled back health care plan spending perhaps 250 Billion Dollars over 10 years instead of the near Trillion a year proposed by the present Obama Health Plan as released on Monday. The Wall Street Journal reports:

President Barack Obama will use a bipartisan summit Thursday to push for sweeping health-care legislation, but if that fails to generate enough support the White House has prepared the outlines of a more modest plan.

His leading alternate approach would provide health insurance to perhaps 15 million Americans, about half what the comprehensive bill would cover, according to two people familiar with the planning.

It would do that by requiring insurance companies to allow people up to 26 years old to stay on their parents’ health plans, and by modestly expanding two federal-state health programs, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, one person said. The cost to the federal government would be about one-fourth the price tag for the broader effort, which the White House has said would cost about $950 billion over 10 years.

Officials cautioned that no final decisions had been made but said the smaller plan’s outlines are in place in case the larger plan fails.

Such a move would disappoint many Democrats, including Mr. Obama. They have worked for more than a year to pass comprehensive legislation like the plan the president unveiled Monday, which would cover the bulk of the 46 million uninsured people in the U.S., set new rules for health insurers and try to control spiraling health-care costs.

The last reporting from the WSJ above could be the understatement of the decade, as many Democrats will be much more than disappointed. The left is already disappointed by the White House’s declaration yesterday that the public option was dead, and this scaled back, much smaller plan leaked just hours before the health care summit is sure to infuriate those on the left who have been agitating tirelessly for a comprehensive health care reform package along the lines of Monday’s Obama Health Plan. Indeed, should Obama actually fallback on the smaller plan as the WSJ suggests, such a development is certain to lead to questions about the consistency and effectiveness of Obama’s strategy on health care reform and much consternation in the left wing new media about the incompetence of his execution since the health care debate began in the Spring of 2009.

Looking back, if Obama had been agreeable to the type of plan he’s apparently contemplating now back in the Spring of 2009, health care reform would have passed with 80 votes in the Senate and Obama would have done a lot to prove his bipartisan bona fides. Instead, after nearly a year of advocating a strongly partisan health plan, Obama may now be signaling he will take what he can get in a scaled down bill, yet the damage to the Democratic Party and the Obama brand as inflicted since the Spring of 2009 by the health care debate will remain.

UPDATE:  The Washington Post’s Obama advocate Ezra Klein and the Huffington Post report that the White House is furiously denying the Wall Street Journal’s report that a scaled back plan is under consideration. Klein’s report:

The Wall Street Journal has a splashy piece this evening on the White House’s plan B for health-care reform: a fallback approach that would cover 15 million people, do less to reform the system and cut costs, and carry a lower price tag. Call it health-care lite.

Plan B has been around for awhile. In August, discussions raged in the White House over whether to pare back the bill. The comprehensive folks won the argument, but people also drew up plans for how you could pare back the bill, if it came to that. More thinking was done on this in the aftermath of the Massachusetts election, when Rahm Emanuel and some of the political folks again argued for retreating to a more modest bill. As you’d expect, these conversations included proposals for how that smaller bill would look.

At this point, I could quote some White House sources swearing up and down that that’s all this is. A vestigial document that’s being blown out of proportion by a conservative paper interested in an agenda-setting story. They’re furious over this story. None of the quotes are sourced to the White House — not even anonymously — raising questions that the whole thing is sabotage. But it hardly matters. There’s no Plan B at this point in the game, and most everyone knows it.

UPDATE #2: Ed at Hotair picks up this Hill piece quoting House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer stating this morning before the summit that a scaled back bill along the lines of the one described by the WSJ last night is on the table:

Hoyer, the second-ranking House Democrat, said the president would have to look at a fallback proposal if the current proposals before Congress weren’t able to muster the votes to pass.

“I think the president’s open to that,” Hoyer said during an appearance on CNBC, cautioning that the president would clearly prefer to see the comprehensive bills pass…

“Obviously, the president has indicated he wants to have a comprehensive bill,” Hoyer said. “But the president, like all of us, understands that in a democracy, you do the possible.”

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Breaking: Obama To Propose Price Controls For Health Insurance Premiums Tomorrow

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

President Barack Obama Will Include Federal Price Controls in Tomorrow's Internet Release of New Obamacare Legislative Language

As the anticipation grows in DC regarding tomorrow’s release of Obama’s latest intra-Democratic compromise health care proposal, the NYT reports that the Obama Administration will include provisions that create a “new power” of the federal government to control the price of health insurance:

WASHINGTON — President Obama will propose on Monday giving the federal government new power to block excessive rate increases by health insurance companies, as he rolls out comprehensive legislation to revamp the nation’s health care system, White House officials said.

The president’s legislation aims to bridge differences between the bills adopted by the House and Senate late last year, and to frame his debate with Republicans over health policy at a televised “summit” meeting on Thursday.

By focusing on the effort to tighten regulation of insurance costs, a new element not included in either the House or Senate bills, Mr. Obama is seizing on outrage over recent premium increases of up to 39 percent announced by Anthem Blue Cross of California and moving to portray the Democrats’ health overhaul as a way to protect Americans from predatory insurers.

The timing of the leak to the NYT tonight appears designed to control the media narrative tomorrow, when Obama’s specific language will be released on the internet. Obama’s emphasis on being tough on insurance companies appears designed to paint the GOP as soft on insurance companies should the GOP continue to refuse to go along with Obama’s health care plans. Additionally, the price controls would take effect immediately, giving the Democrats something to point to in the short term should Obamacare pass as most individual benefits are not set to begin until 2013. Specifically, the price control system proposed by Obama would work as follows according to the NYT:

The president’s bill would grant the federal health and human services secretary new authority to review, and to block, premium increases by private insurers, potentially superseding state insurance regulators. The bill would create a new Health Insurance Rate Authority, comprised of health industry experts that would issue an annual report setting the parameters for reasonable rate increases based on conditions in the market.

Officials said they envisioned the provision taking effect immediately after the health care bill is signed into law.

The legislation would call on the secretary of health and human services to work with state regulators to develop an annual review of rate increases, and if increases are deemed “unjustified” the secretary or the state could block the increase, order the insurer to change it, or even issue a rebate to beneficiaries. States would be eligible for a portion of $250 million in grants finance premium review and approval.

The new price control provisions will also provide the GOP with an opening to paint Obamacare as a big government takeover of the health care system, especially as they are to take effect immediately and potentially disrupt private insurance company operations and plans for the ongoing fiscal year 2010. Conversely, the large new increases in a small subset of non-employer obtained health care insurance in California have provided political fuel to those on the left who advocate strong federal price controls. However, even some Democratic Senators, such as Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), who participated in Democratic Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus’s bipartisan health care negotiations, reject health insurance price controls, notes the LA Times in September 2009:

But Democrats have shied away from regulating premiums in the face of charges from business leaders and Republicans that controlling what insurers charge would be meddling too much in the private sector.

As a result, while states have long supervised what companies charge for mandated automobile and homeowners insurance, the idea has been largely banished from the healthcare debate.

“That would be a very substantial additional intervention in the marketplace,” said Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), a member of a bipartisan group of lawmakers who worked with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) on his healthcare bill. “I just don’t think the support would be there for that kind of a change.”

Another wildcard in the health care debate this week is the role of the nation’s governors, who are increasingly upset about being shut out of the intra-Democratic health care negotiations and desire “more of a voice” in the negotiations:

Leaders of the National Governors Association meeting in Washington on Sunday expressed frustration that that they had been largely shut out of negotiations over the future of the health care system, even though they would be responsible for carrying out many of the changes envisioned by federal officials. They said they want more of a voice in shaping those changes.

“It’s important that governors be at the table and bring our perspective to the debate,” said Gov. Jim Douglas of Vermont, a Republican who is chairman of the National Governors Association.

Mr. Douglas said governors were deeply involved in discussions with Congress and Mr. Obama on the economic stimulus law adopted early last year. But he said, “We have not had that kind of relationship in the current debate” on health care.

Gov. Phil Bredesen of Tennessee, a Democrat, said: “Governors have something unique to contribute. Washington, D.C., is full of think tanks, theoreticians and advocacy groups. Governors are the ones whose feet are on the ground. We have a sense of what will work and what won’t work. Our perspective is not the only one. But we can bring some practicality to this discussion.”

In what is sure to be an exciting week for those interested in health care reform, the addition of federal price controls into the mix is will spark renewed disputes between liberals and conservatives over whether increased government power is the answer for the issues facing America’s health care system.

UPDATE: Hotair and others follow CentristNet’s lead regarding Obama’s proposed price controls.

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Maryland Democratic Senator Barbara Mikulski To Retire, Not Seek Reelection in November 2010

Monday, February 15th, 2010

Speculation mounts that Democratic Senator Barbara Mikulski may retire

Coming hot on the heels of Indiana Democratic Senator Evan Bayh’s announcement today that he would not run for reelection in November 2010, speculation is mounting that another senior Democratic Senator, Barbara Mikulski, will herself announce retirement plans this week. Considered a safe Democratic seat before today, Mikulski’s possible announcement later this week could further enhance the GOP’s chances for Senate pickups in the 2010 midterm elections. A tea party-affiliated blogger breaks the news:

I’ve just heard from an impeccable source that Barbara Mikulski, the Democratic Senator who is up for reelection this November, will choose to retire. Mrs. Mikulski is expected to make her formal announcement in the next few days.

Mrs. Mikulski seriously fractured her right ankle last fall just prior to Edward M. Kennedy’s death. Due to the severity of the fracture, she had to have open reduction surgery, that included the insertion of pins, as well as the use of special surgical boots, during recovery. She had tried to arrive in time for Mr. Kennedy’s funeral but was turned away.

Her recovery has been exceptionally slow and she is evidently still in a great deal of pain. Reportedly, she has told her physician that she does not desire to seek reelection. Additionally, friends and family have been saying in the near future she will announce her retirement. Because of the very slow recovery, she has been forced to use a wheelchair, a walker or a cane in order to get around.

One of her complaints is that the health insurance that is provided for Congress is “poor” with high deductibles and “limitations” on coverage. My contact tells me that she told an aide that she should have inserted in the ObamaCare bill an amendment to improve Congressional health insurance!
Mrs. Mikulski was first elected to the Senate in 1986, and thus is a very senior member of the Democratic caucus. Despite this seniority, she has never been offered any important chairmanships or leadership positions. Born on July 20, 1936, she is 74 years old, come July…it is perhaps fitting that she has choose this year to retire.

Her possible announcement along with that of Evan Bayh and Byron Dorgan of ND will the third Democratic Senator announcing plans to retire. This gives the estimate of Michael Barone, a statistician and columnist for the Washington Examiner much more “legs” than previously. Especially when tied to the election of Scott Brown, (R) of Massachusetts.

Mr. Barone has looked closely at the all of the 435 Congressional districts as well as the 33 Senatorial campaigns from the 2008 election. He then took the gubernatorial elections from last November in New Jersey and Virginia as well as the Senatorial campaign in Massachusetts from last month. His conclusion is that only 103 of the 259 Democratic Party’s seats can be considered to be “safe”. Additionally, by his calculation, only 1 of the 17 Democratic Senator’s up for reelection this year can be considered to be “safe” as well (Charles Schumer of NY).

Should Mikulski actually retire, the field would be wide open, and it is expected that former Republican Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich would enter the race and perhaps instantly become the front runner in the November 2010 race. As of now, former Governor Ehrlich is considering another run at the Governor’s mansion in Annapolis, these considerations would surely change should Mikulski retire. It is clear that the political reverberations from the Scott Brown victory in the Massachusetts Senate special election race continue unabated as seemingly safe Democratic Senate incumbents like Mikulski seriously ponder retirement instead of a facing an incumbent-unfriendly fall race.

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