Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Morning Huddle News ' Notes

Did we ever think a 'deal' on health care would please everyone?

Of course not. But the latest breakthrough in the House has made bedfellows of liberals who think it's a sellout with Republicans who think it's still a government takeover of health care. The Senate bill, with its co-op idea substituting for the public option -- and it's lower price tag – is already getting picked at by Democrats not in the negotiating room.

And then there's the polls – they're awful right now for President Obama and Democrats on health care.

Still, there's no mistaking a new sense of momentum on the big picture, and Democrats will head into recess feeling like they just might finish this behemoth task before the World Series ends this autumn.

Good Thursday morning and welcome to The Huddle, where the Blue Dogs have heeled for Nancy Pelosi, the liberals are barking, and the freshmen are worried about the attacks that await them on the home front.

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DRIVING THE RECESS: Bad poll numbers will be the theme of this recess for Democrats. From The New York Times' Adam Nagourney and Megan Thee Brenan: 'President Obama's ability to shape the debate on health care appears to be eroding as opponents aggressively portray his overhaul plan as a government takeover that could limit Americans' ability to choose their doctors and course of treatment, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

'Americans are concerned that revamping the health care system would reduce the quality of their care, increase their out-of-pocket health costs and tax bills, and limit their options in choosing doctors, treatments and tests, the poll found.'

And from the Wall Street Journal: 'Support for President Barack Obama's health-care effort has declined over the past five weeks, particularly among those who already have insurance, a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found, amid prolonged debate over costs and quality of care. In mid-June, respondents were evenly divided when asked whether they thought Mr. Obama's health plan was a good or bad idea. In the new poll, conducted July 24-27, 42 percent called it a bad idea while 36 percent said it was a good idea.'

HOUSE DEAL: Uncle Mo may finally be on the side of the Dems, as Patrick O'Connor and Carrie Budoff Brown report: 'After weeks of infighting and negative headlines, Democrats finally found a little momentum on health care as negotiators broke a critical logjam in the House and the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office delivered a rare piece of good news in the Senate.

'The big breakthrough came in the House, where a quartet of moderate Blue Dog Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee finally agreed to a deal offered by Chairman Henry Waxman that would cut the cost of the bill and relieve more small businesses from a requirement to provide their employees with health care. Under the terms of their agreement, party leaders will postpone a full House vote on the still-contentious health care measure until the fall, giving their rank and file another month - at least - to consider the sweeping legislation. That will also give opponents plenty of time to browbeat them. House liberals remain unhappy with Waxman's negotiations with the Blue Dogs, but the committee seemed back on track as of Thursday night.'

LIBERAL REVOLT: We saw this coming – liberals hate the compromise that Pelosi and Waxman made with moderate Blue Dogs. Glenn Thrush of POLITICO taps into some serious lefty angst: 'House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spent half of Wednesday finalizing a deal with the Blue Dogs - and the other half quelling a brewing rebellion among progressives who think conservatives have hijacked health care reform.

'Liberals, Hispanics and African-American members - Pelosi's most loyal base of support - are feeling betrayed after House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) reached an agreement with four of seven Blue Dogs on his committee who had been bottling up the bill over concerns about cost. The compromise, which still must be reconciled with competing House and Senate versions, would significantly weaken the public option favored by liberals by delinking reimbursement rates to Medicare.'

FRESHMEN ANGST: Get ready for the attacks. From Jennifer Bendery in Roll Call: 'Freshman Democrats came to Congress this year ready to take tough votes, but some are worried that the breakneck pace and their party leaders' failure to match GOP messaging could translate into losses in the 2010 elections.

'A month after forcing a vote on contentious climate change legislation, House Democratic leaders announced Wednesday that they will punt on health care reform until September, a move that drew mixed responses from vulnerable Democrats bracing for Republican attacks over the August recess. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), president of the freshman class, said House Democratic leaders 'absolutely' need to counterpunch over the August recess because freshman Democrats will be the first to suffer from GOP blows.'

QUESTIONABLE EARMARK: POLITICO's John Bresnahan investigates NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions and a curious earmark: 'Rep. Pete Sessions - the chief of the Republicans' campaign arm in the House - says on his website that earmarks have become 'a symbol of a broken Washington to the American people.'

'Yet in 2008, Sessions himself steered a $1.6 million earmark for dirigible research to an Illinois company whose president acknowledges having no experience in government contracting, let alone in building blimps. What the company did have: the help of Adrian Plesha, a former Sessions aide with a criminal record who has made more than $446,000 lobbying on its behalf.'

SPEAKER'S LAND DEAL? Roxana Tiron of The Hill looks deeper at Pelosi's unusual involvement in a land deal between the Navy and the city of San Francisco: 'House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is eyeing treasure in a massive Pentagon bill that could benefit her district greatly.

'Pelosi is among dozens of House lawmakers pressing for a little-known provision in the defense policy bill that would speed up the transfer of military bases to private developers. One of those shuttered bases has been the subject of years of failed negotiations between San Francisco, the city Pelosi represents, and the Navy.

'The two parties have been at a stalemate over Treasure Island, a Navy base that closed in 1993 and sits atop a man-made island in the San Francisco Bay that has city planners seeing dollar signs. They have squabbled over the price. The Navy estimates it is worth $240 million; the city offered a tenth of that value.'

THIS SHOULD BE BIGGER NEWS: Flash back to summer 2006 and imagine how fr we've come in Iraq. From the AP: 'U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Wednesday he sees 'some chance of a modest acceleration' in the pace of U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq. Mr. Gates, returning from a trip to Iraq, told reporters aboard his plane that perhaps one combat brigade would leave Iraq ahead of schedule. He didn't give a precise timetable. U.S. officials had been worried that last month's formal handover of control of Iraqi cities to the country's security forces might erode gains that had been made. But Mr. Gates said Gen. Ray Odierno, the top U.S. general in Iraq, told him the security situation is better than expected.'

SPECTER ABSTAINS: CQ's David Clarke notices what's not in the massive Labor HHS appropriations bill: 'As a Republican, Sen. Arlen Specter routinely secured funding for sexual abstinence education in Pennsylvania, making it a standard feature in spending bills for education, labor and health programs.

'Not this year. Specter did not request money for his state's programs in the fiscal 2010 Labor-HHS-Education bill the Senate Appropriations Committee will consider Thursday.'

BLACKBERRY ADDICTS LISTEN UP: This one should get your attention. From The New York Times Matt Richtel: 'States that do not ban texting by drivers could forfeit hundreds of millions of dollars in federal highway funds under legislation introduced Wednesday in the Senate. Under the measure, states would have two years to outlaw the sending of text and e-mail messages by drivers or lose 25 percent of their highway money each year until the money was depleted.'

SOTOMAYOR UPDATE: The Huddle has moved the over/under on yes votes for Sotomayor back down to 65, as fewer Republicans followed Lindsey Graham than expected. Assuming Kennedy and Byrd don't vote, that's seven Republicans saying yes.

ON TAP TONIGHT: The choices at the 'beer summit' at the White House: Red Stripe (Prof. Gates) Blue Moon (Sgt. Crowley) Bud Light (President Obama).

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