TPMDC Saturday Roundup

December 26, 2009 8:30 a.m.

Obama Has Terrorism Briefing On Christmas, After Airline Attack
President Obama began his Christmas day yesterday with a terrorism briefing, on the failed attack on a Northwest Airlines flight. Later in the day, he visited troops at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, and in the evening had dinner with his family.

Republicans Change Tune On Costly Health Plans, From Yes In 2003 To No In 2009
The Associated Press points out that many Republicans in Congress have changed their positions on government health care benefits, opposing the Obama health care bill after having previously voted for the entirely deficit-financed Medicare prescription drug benefit in 2003. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) defended his vote, and said that six years ago, “it was standard practice not to pay for things…We were concerned about it, because it certainly added to the deficit, no question.” Hatch added, however, that the Medicare drug benefit “has done a lot of good.”House And Senate Look To Final Health Care Talks
House and Senate Democrats are preparing for final negotiations on the health care bill, as the House and Senate bills are merged into a final product. “There will be a certain amount of replaying issues that have been hot-button issues, but I think there will also be a refocusing, especially on cost,” said Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND). “At the end of the day, when all of us go home, what we hear about is the ever-increasing, ever-escalating costs.”

Union Allies In House Skeptical Of Senate Bill’s Tax On High-Cost Health Plans
Roll Call reports that union allies int he House of Representatives are critical of the Senate health care bill’s tax on “Cadillac” health care plans, pointing to the 2008 campaign and then-Sen. Barack Obama’s attacks on Sen. John McCain’s proposal to tax health benefits. Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT) warned: “the politics of it for a party that in ’08 campaigned against changing the tax status of health plans is extremely treacherous.”

Rockefeller To Hold Committee Hearings On Airline Attack
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, is pledging that his committee will hold hearings on the Northwest Airlines attack. “Any terrorist attempt on our citizens is extremely serious,” said Rockefeller.

Fiscal Hawks Say Obama Falls Short On Earmarks
The Hill reports that fiscal hawks in Congress say President Obama has fallen short on his promises to curtail earmarks. Spending on earmarks is expected to total $12 billion in fiscal 2010 — down from $15 billion in 2009, but not enough of a decrease for opponents. “We’ve got to have a fresh start next year,” said Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI), “and I’ve signaled that if they want my vote, they’ve got to stop just signing onto huge numbers of earmarks.”

Gitmo Preparing For Trials, Instead Of Closing, In 2010
The Associated Press reports that the prison camp on Guantanamo Bay is set to hold a military commissions trial of Omar Khadr, a former child soldier in Afghanistan, potentially in July of 2010. “It’s troubling not only that there will be a delay in closing Guantanamo, but also that there are preparations for trials taking place in Guantanamo, a place that symbolizes a lack of lawfulness and human rights violations over the last seven years,” said Jamil Dakwar, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union.

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