President Obama's campaign arm, Organizing for America, has begun running television ads stressing the need for a health care system overhaul across the country, just as the reform debate on Capitol Hill reaches a crucial turning point. The ads will run on national cable channels, and locally in Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, and Washington, D.C.
Though the ads don't name any politicians, it's pretty clear from the placement that they're directed at conservative Democratic and moderate Republican congressmen and senators.
The ads come as the White House has begun to acknowledge that Congress--and particularly the Senate--is well behind schedule if it's to prepare a bill for the President's signature by mid-October. As for Obama himself, in the last two days, he's jumped into the legislative back and forth like at no other time since the push for health care reform began this spring. Since returning from a trip to Europe and Africa, he's met with Democratic leaders, and Blue dogs, and has urged key members of Congress to pick up the pace as August recess approaches.
Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) raised just over $1.7 million in the second quarter--not quite double his rival Joe Sestak's take--giving him about $7.5 million cash on hand going into the third quarter.
Sestak's shop was certainly prepared for this--Specter, after all, is being treated as an incumbent by the state and national Democratic parties. But, they say, things are fine. "Joe...has added more to his cash on hand this quarter than Arlen Specter," says campaign spokesman Joe Langdon.
And that seems to be true. Though he's taken in $1.7 million since last quarter, Specter's cash-on-hand has only increased by about $800,000 since April. Sestak's increased by slightly more than that, despite raising a lower haul of $1.2 million this quarter.
With that, they say, they raised enough money to get their message out and to viably challenge Specter in the Pennsylvania Senate primary.
The campaign Health Care for America Now is out with a statement in support of the House's reform proposal. "The House's legislation shows that achieving quality, affordable health care for all in 2009 is absolutely possible," says HCAN national campaign manager Richard Kirsch.
This bill will make health coverage more affordable both for those who have it through their job and for those who have to find coverage on their own. It builds on what works in our current health care system and starts the process of fixing what doesn't - including stopping health insurance companies from denying care based on pre-existing conditions.
The House bill includes key provisions like an exchange that includes both private insurance plans and a new public health insurance option and shared responsibility between individuals, employers, and government - key elements to achieving President Obama's goals of lowering costs, covering everyone, and keeping the insurance companies honest.
There's a risk, I suppose, in taking this too literally. After all, the most important provisions in the bill won't take effect until about 2013, and universal (or near-universal) coverage won't be reached until years after that. But reformers by and large are pleased with what the House has offered.
Democrats and Republicans and their allies are reacting to the House's health care reform draft bill with predictable levels of support or opposition. Unions are supportive. With typical restraint, Tom Donohue of the Chamber of Commerce says "Since when does our great free market country punish success? If there's one sure way to kill the goose that lays the golden egg, this is it."
But I'd like to highlight the statement of House Minority Leader John Boehner: "During a deep economic recession," Boehner says, "it is criminal malpractice for Democrats to push a government takeover of health care and a new small business tax that will destroy more American jobs."
Criminal malpractice, eh? Somewhat ironic from a proponent of tort reform. But he goes on. "House Republicans have offered a better health care alternative that will reduce costs, expand access, and let Americans who like their plans keep them - all without a job-killing small business tax."
You can read that four-page plan here if you'd like. But if you'd like me to save you the time, here's a hint: it would achieve universal health care and bend the cost curve downward through a familiar Republican grab bag of tax credits and magic.
Now that it's unveiled its health care reform draft bill, the House isn't wasting any time. The Education and Labor Committee, chaired by Rep. George Miller (D-CA), will begin its mark-up process tomorrow afternoon with opening statements.
On Thursday, the committee will amend those titles of the bill over which it has primary jurisdiction. The entire process is scheduled to last 48 hours.
The House Ways and Means Committee will take up the bill on Thursday as well. These announcements come amid White House pressure as Congressional leaders have renewed their commitments to complete and vote on their bills before August recess.
Late update: The Energy and Commerce Committee will also begin mark-up this week, though their process will likely last into next week, longer than their counterparts'.
The Congressional Budget Office has conducted an analysis of the House's health care reform draft, and the results are largely as its authors hoped and expected they would be.
The tables included in the report summarize our preliminary assessment of the coverage provisions' budgetary effects and their likely impact on rates and sources of insurance coverage for the nonelderly population. According to that assessment, enacting those provisions by themselves would result in a net increase in federal budget deficits of $1,042 billion over the 2010-2019 period. By 2019, CBO and the JCT staff estimate, the number of nonelderly people who are uninsured would be reduced by about 37 million, leaving about 17 million nonelderly residents uninsured (nearly half of whom would be unauthorized immigrants).
House health care reform leaders were projecting a cost of one trillion dollars, and they hit that almost right on the nose. They propose to cover that cost through a combination of efficiencies wrung from Medicare and Medicaid and a surtax on wealthy Americans.
As for coverage, CBO found that the bill, if enacted would cover 97 percent of all Americans. This puts on a par--cost- and coverage-wise--with the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee's reform draft, which was unveiled earlier this month.
Earlier this afternoon on MSNBC, Andrea Mitchell insisted that the now-infamous Ricci case is an affirmative action case despite the fact that it is nothing of the sort. Watch:
Emphasis mine. "The Ricci case will forever be known as an affirmative action case. She's trying to describe it narrowly, according to the law. But the way it has been interpreted--not legally, but politically--it's an affirmative action case, and she's being tagged with it."
"Narrowly, according to the law" is a strange way of saying "accurately." But in a way this exchange epitomizes a common critique of political media. That there's a factual history of the Ricci case never mattered. Sonia Sotomayor's political critics characterized it as an affirmative action case, and characterized her as somebody smacks down affirmative action challenges because she is a minority. And to the extent that the charges stuck, it was in no small part because people like Andrea Mitchell--people who could have done quite a bit to set the record straight--let that inaccurate characterization stand.
Obviously things could change in mark-up and at other points down the line, but for now, notwithstanding the concerns of some conservative Democrats, the House is proposing (PDF) a public option that will "[i]nitially [pay] rates similar to those used in Medicare with greater flexibility to vary payments."
That's sure to please overhaul supporters, many of whom consider the public option the sine qua non of true health care reform. You can read summary information about both the public option and the entire bill at the House Education and Labor Committee website.
At the unveiling of the House's health care reform bill, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman said he wants Congress enact legislation by the end of this year.
We'll have video for you shortly. But that pushes the ball back two and a half months from Obama's goal of signing a health care bill by mid-October, a month and a half after Congress returns from recess, and before it is set to take up a budget reconciliation bill.
Late update: You can see video below. Interestingly, Waxman also echoes the White House in suggesting that Congress ought not adjourn for recess until both the House and Senate have passed their health care bills.