TPM News

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.

In the most aggressive questioning of Judge Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation hearing thus far, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) read out a laundry list of complaints about the nominee this afternoon. Graham went through insult after insult from anonymous reviews about Sotomayor's temperament, including ones that called her "nasty," "a terror," "a bit of a bull," and one that said she lacks any "judicial temperament." Graham then asked her directly: "Do you think you have a temperament problem?" (Watch the video below.)

In response to that last question, Sotomayor said, "No, sir, I can only talk about what I know about my relationships...when I ask lawyers tough questions, it's to give them an opportunity to explain their positions on both sides and to persuade me that they're right."

Graham later said, "I never liked appearing in court before a judge I thought was a bully." Sotomayor repeated that she does ask hard questions, but she does it "evenly for both sides."



After voicing those complaints and telling Sotomayor that "maybe these hearings are a time for self-reflection" for her, Graham became a bit of a bully himself, asking her if she remembered her "wise Latina" quote. When the judge answered in the affirmative, he asked her to recite it - twice. Sotomayor hedged a response, and Graham plowed ahead, said, "I've got it here," and read the quote out himself.



The infantilizing questioning from Graham continued throughout his entire thread; he interrupted her answers multiple times, and made a theme out of asking her to explain her understanding of certain legal concepts and current events:

Do you know what the term 'legal realism' means? Can you explain it?


On 9/11, which New York City native Sotomayor described as "the most horrific experience of my personal life and the most horrific experience in imagining the pain of the families of victims of that tragedy":

Do you know anything about the group that planned this attack, who they are and what they believe? Have you read anything about them?


It's worth noting what Graham's Supreme Court confirmation questioning was like back in 2006, at the hearings for Samuel Alito. He took his allotted time as an opportunity to apologize to Mrs. Alito, who was upset by what was perceived to be overly tough questioning of her husband:



As for Sotomayor, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) said at a press conference after the hearings that the nominee best showed her temperament today, in how she calmly answered Graham's "barrage of questions."

In a speech at Macomb Community College in Warren, Mich., today, President Obama veered off his prepared remarks to take this shot at some of the "it's Obama's economy" critics:

I love those folks who helped get us in this mess, and suddenly they say, "This is Obama's economy." That's fine. Give it to me. My job is to solve problems, not stand on the sidelines and carp and gripe.


He also admitted that some of the jobs lost in the auto industry were gone forever, a "hard truth" for many people in Michigan.

Obama used the speech to announce his administration's plan to increase community college graduates, offer funding and loans to community colleges and change the way federal loans and student aid works.



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.

Late update: You can read the entire report here.

The fact that John Yoo was the only Justice Department OLC official who was "read into" the surveillance program -- even though he wasn't the head of OLC at the time -- has already been noted by others looking through the inspectors general report on the program released last week.

But one excerpt from the report is worth paying particular attention to, since it underlines the special role that Yoo came to play on the White House's behalf.

Read More →

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) put Judge Sonia Sotomayor on the spot Tuesday afternoon at her confirmation hearings, trying to force her to either agree with President Obama's "empathetic" criteria for judging or distance herself from his comments. In this case, she went in the latter direction:

Sen. Kyl:

Let me ask you about what the president said - and I talked about in my opening statement - whether you agree with him. He used two different analogies. He talked once about the 25 miles, [the] first 25 miles of a 26-mile marathon, and then he also said in 95 percent of the cases, the law will give you the answer, and [for] the last five percent, legal process will not lead you to the rule of decision. The critical ingredient in those cases is supplied by what is in the judge's heart. Do you agree with him that the law only takes you the first 25 miles of the marathon and that that last mile has to be decided by what's in the judge's heart?


Sotomayor's response:
No sir. That's-, I don't-, [I] wouldn't approach the issue of judging in the way the president does. He has to explain what he meant by judging. I can only explain what I think judges should do, which is, judges can't rely on what's in their heart. They don't determine the law. Congress makes the laws. The job of a judge is to apply the law. And so, it's not the heart that compels conclusions in cases, it's the law. The judge applies the law to the facts before that judge.


Kyl: "Appreciate that."

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.


Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor is sworn in to testify during her nomination hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on July 13.
Newscom / Scott J. Ferrell / Congressional Quarterly




Celina Sotomayor, mother of Sonia Sotomayor, watches her daughter's confirmation hearing.
Newscom




Sotomayor shakes the hand of Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) as Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) stands nearby.
Newscom / Scott J. Ferrell / Congressional Quarterly




Judiciary Committee member Jeff Sessions (R-AL) delivers his opening statement with Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) looking on.
Newscom / Scott J. Ferrell / Congressional Quarterly




Senators Arlen Specter (D-PA) and Al Franken (D-MN) at Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation hearing.
Newscom / Scott J. Ferrell / Congressional Quarterly




Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) delivers his opening statement. At his left is Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX).
Newscom / Scott J. Ferrell / Congressional Quarterly




Sonia Sotomayor reads her opening statement on the first day of her confirmation hearings.
Newscom / Rafael Suanes / MCT




Sonia Sotomayor's sister-in-law, Tracey Sotomayor (left), and niece, Kylie Sotomayor (right), attend Monday's confirmation hearing.
Newscom




Norma McCorvey ("Jane Roe" of Roe vs. Wade), now a pro-life abortion activist, waits to enter the hearing.
maletphoto.com




Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) greet Sonia Sotomayor.
Newscom / Scott J. Ferrell / Congressional Quarterly




Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) answers questions after Monday's hearing.
maletphoto.com




Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) returns to the hearings after lunch recess.
maletphoto.com




Sotomayor fractured her ankle in early June after tripping at LaGuardia airport. Certain Republicans took the opportunity to blow off her visits when Sotomayor appeared late, even though she was walking with a cast from office to office on Capitol Hill.
Newscom / Scott J. Ferrell / Congressional Quarterly

LiveWire