In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Nancy Pelosi is talking a confident game. The House Speaker says she has the votes to pass health care. In fact, she says there's "no question" she has the votes to pass health care.

In a meeting with health care reporters yesterday, she said passing health care will be considerably easier than some of the other issues that, despite an impressive Democratic majority, she's had to muscle past with elbow grease.

"Health care is not the hardest vote I've had this year," she said. "Not by far."

That was the [war] supplemental. That was the worst. Energy was a heavy lift.... But we had never thought we'd have to do another supplemental. Not that we would have to vote for. But then the president brought home the IMF and Republicans all took a hike. Then we were stuck with it. Oh brother!


Blue Dogs dispute that interpretation, of course. But Pelosi's the one with a lot to lose here--and you wonder why she'd be going out on such a limb if she wasn't pretty confident. At the same time, though, it's not clear now when that vote will come. It's still feasible that the House could pass a bill before adjourning in August. But unless the Senate delays its own recess, or delays a vote on the confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor, or both, the chances of holding a vote in the upper chamber before September look all but vanished. And it's feasible that House leaders will want to delay its vote as well, in order not to put their members' necks out ahead of a politically fraught recess.

DeMint: Obama "Has Lowered The Discourse" Sen. Jim DeMint has responded to a new DNC TV ad, attacking his remarks that health care will "break" President Obama. "It's disappointing that President Obama has lowered the discourse of this important debate with false personal attacks," DeMint said in a statement. "Beyond the fact that the President's accusations are patently false, it is disturbing that he and his team would respond to a policy debate with political attack ads."

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will be headed to Ohio today, touring the Cleveland Clinic at 1:15 p.m. ET, and hosting a town hall on health care reform at Shaker Heights High School. He will then head to Chicago, attending a 7:15 p.m. ET fundraising dinner at the home of Penny Pritzker, and speaking at fundraiser at the Hyatt Regency Hotel at 8:05 p.m. ET. He will depart from Chicago at 9:15 p.m. ET, and is scheduled to arrive back at the White House at 11:05 p.m. ET.

Read More →

Besides all the important talk about health care and overall economic policy tonight, a major highlight of tonight's press conference will probably be when President Obama took a question about the arrest of Prof. Henry Louis "Skip" Gates, and the issues of race that still linger in our society despite the undeniable milestone that his own election represented.


Read More →

President Obama didn't make much health care news tonight--but he did try to put the weeks developments in a greater context than the news cycle often allows.

Though silent on the firmness of the August deadline, Obama reiterated a now-familiar theme: "If you don't set deadlines in this town, things won't happen. The default position is inertia."

As an example of that, he highlighted an agreement he reached with Blue Dogs and others on the House Energy and Commerce Committee over a proposal to increase the power of an independent agency to make changes and cuts to Medicare. If it wasn't for the urgency of stated deadlines, Obama said, that might not have happened.

"If we hadn't had a deadline, that change would have likely never surfaced."

But, as the August congressional recess nears, Obama said, basically, that he has no plans to rush reform at the expense of good policy.

"I do think it's important to get this right," he said. "If at the end of the day I do not yet see that we have it right, then I'm not going to sign a bill."

As I noted below, Obama sought to reframe the debate as one where proponents of the status quo are actually making a proposal of its own--one that will result in an unsustainable growth in health care costs and blow up the federal budget. For days now, Obama has insisted that many of the conservative pols and commentators calling for the pace of reform to slow are really trying to kill Democratic legislation--and are therefore agents of that status quo.

President Obama noted this in his press conference, but, after the group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington threatened to file suit, he's released a list of executives who've attended White House health care meetings.

There aren't any big surprises. In a letter, White House counsel Gregory Craig writes "Given the compelling public interest in the health care debate...[t]he President has decided to exercise his discretion and release" the names of the visitors. They include, among several others, PhRMA president Bill Tauzin and AHIP president Karen Ignagni, both of whom were known to have participated in negotiations with the administration.

The initial call not to release the information came from the Secret Service, but Obama quickly reversed their decision

President Obama seemed to have one goal tonight: change the framing of the debate on the hill. He spoke of fractions--one-third of the cost, two thirds of the cost--instead of absolute numbers, which rise into the hundreds of billions. He spoke, as he has in days past, of "health insurance reform" instead of "health care reform." And, most crucially, he spoke of the status quo as an 'alternative plan' that will double health care costs over 10 years.

That interpretation was perhaps cribbed from the Washington Post's Stephen Pearlstein, whom Obama cited in his interview with Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt. But it's a critical point--both politically and substantively--when critics of reform insist that the Democratic plans are too expensive.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has released this statement regarding Sen. Lindsey's Graham's (R-SC) announcement that he'll vote to confirm Sonia Sotomayor, with Schumer predicting that more Republican support will be on the way:

"No one questioned Judge Sotomayor more pointedly at the hearings than Senator Graham. For a bellwether vote like him to endorse her suggests that more Republicans should end up supporting her as well."

President Obama suggested today that, when health care reform is behind him, he may set his sights on Social Security:

"I think we're in a position to be able to, either at the end of this year or early next year, start laying out a broader picture about how we are going to handle entitlements in a serious way," Obama said. "It may start with Social Security because that's, frankly, the easier one."

In a long and technical interview with the Washington Post, Obama addressed several of the challenges health reform faces, including the question of financing. Though he's all but ruled out the possibility of covering the cost of legislation by capping the tax exclusion on current employer provided health care benefits, Obama said he's open to the possibility of taxing part of the additional, future cost of those benefits as the price of health insurance inflates.

But for the most part, editorial page editor Fred Hiatt stuck to the famous Hiatt hobby horse of entitlement reform.

CBO and other economists say that, as you say, you can't solve the fiscal problem if you don't solve the health problem. But they also say that solving the health cost problem is not sufficient, that a big part of the issue is demographics and aging. And so -- and as you know, the 10-year budget shows the government raising 18 or 19 percent of revenue in 2019, and spending 24 or 25 percent.... So can I ask you how you think about the timing and politics of closing that structural gap?


Aging is crucial, but mainly because providing health care to the elderly is expensive, and right now a huge percentage of elderly people in the country are on Medicare--a single payer, government-guaranteed risk-pool. And it's a very risky pool. Critics say that's the key to entitlement reform, which can't happen in absence of broader, systemic health care reform. And Obama's suggestion that Social Security should be on the block for the sake of political expediency could set off a storm among progressives.

For the last couple weeks, health care reformers have been grasping at a thin reed of hope that the Senate would vote on a reform bill before adjourning for August recess. That reed might have just disappeared altogether.

"We're going to take a little longer to get it right," said Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin according to The Hill. "Initially we had hoped for a full vote by then, but I don't think it's going to be possible."

As I noted earlier today, the Senate schedule--which will likely include a four day debate over the confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor--leaves precious little room to complete a lengthy debate over health care legislation. Unless Democrats decide to delay recess, it looks like the Senate will not be voting on a complete bill until September.

The National Republican Congressional Committee is getting an early start on the special election for New York's 23rd District -- so early in fact, that the seat hasn't actually become vacant yet!

Rep. John McHugh (R) has been nominated by President Obama to serve as Secretary of the Army, but hasn't been confirmed by the Senate nor resigned from his House seat yet. However, the NRCC has this new TV ad, running against a prospective Democratic candidate, state Sen. Darrel Aubertine -- who hasn't declared that he will be a candidate, either:



The ad has the populist tone we've seen of late from the Republicans -- bashing the Democrats as the party of bailing out Wall Street, for example. They tried this in the recent NY-20 special election, which in the end was narrowly won by Democrat Scott Murphy in a district that was a toss-up to begin with, leaving an inconclusive verdict on this line of attack.

Another fun complication from this race would occur if Aubertine were to run and win. Remember that recent crisis in the New York state Senate, with a whole bunch of party switches back and forth over which party would control the place? It could happen all over again if Aubertine were to vacate his seat, which would give the state Republicans a plausible shot at picking it up and making it a tie for control of the chamber.

Late Update: DCCC press secretary Ryan Rudominer gives us this comment: "The Republican Party of No realizes they have nothing to offer the folks of the 23rd district so they've resorted to attacking an unannounced candidate in a campaign that hasn't even started. That's pathetic."

LiveWire