Friday, December 18, 2009

Last Call

Now Nelson is demanding states be allowed to opt-in to Obamacare only if they want to.
It is unclear whether Democrats will offer Nelson's proposal as part of their Manager's Amendment, which should be public by Saturday morning. Efforts to reach Nelson's office were unsuccessful.

But previous experience dictates the caucus is skeptical of healthcare reforms that permit states the ability to decide whether to implement them -- a fact that seemed most evident when the Senate's bill contained an "opt out" public option clause.

Nevertheless, Heineman is among a handful of governors who have railed against the upper chamber's healthcare bill, fearing an expansion of Medicaid could further dent their already holey budgets.
“The State of Nebraska cannot afford an unfunded mandate and uncontrolled spending of this magnitude," Heineman wrote to Nelson. "Additionally, Nebraskans are very concerned about the bill’s increase in payroll taxes. Rural hospitals are very concerned about their ability to survive. Seniors are very concerned about the cuts in Medicare."

“The bottom line is the current Senate bill is not in Nebraska’s best interest," the governor added. "Therefore, I strongly urge you to oppose the current Senate health care legislation."

However, Nelson may ultimately oppose that vote, regardless of Heineman's beckoning: The Nebraska senator still opposes the bill because its abortion language "isn't sufficient," he previously said.And even with the opt-in, it's still not going to be enough.

It never will be for Nelson.  And the Dems refuse to figure this out.

A Deal Just To Have A Deal worse than no deal at all, apparently.
Leaders here concluded a climate change deal on Friday that the Obama administration called “meaningful” but that falls short of even the modest expectations for the summit meeting here.

The agreement still needs to be approved by the 193 nations gathered here.

The accord addresses many of the issues that leaders came here to settle — and if signed, will represent an unprecedented effort by the nations of the world to take concerted steps to address global warming.

But the agreement appeared to leave many of the participants unhappy.

Even an Obama administration official conceded, “It is not sufficient to combat the threat of climate change, but it’s an important first step.”

“No country is entirely satisfied with each element,” the administration’s statement said, “but this is a meaningful and historic step forward and a foundation from which to make further progress.”

The statement added, “We thank the emerging economies for their voluntary actions and especially appreciate the work and leadership of the Europeans in this effort.”

But many of those emerging economies are likely to express displeasure. Europeans said the deal does not require enough of the United States, China and other major emitters and could put European industries at a competitive disadvantage because the European Union is already subject to a carbon emissions constraint program.

The accord drops the expected goal of concluding a binding international treaty by the end of 2010, which leaves the implementation of its provisions uncertain. It is likely to undergo many months, perhaps years, of additional negotiation before it emerges in any internationally enforceable form.
.All indicators are the deal is one of those "suggestion" things.  That will do nothing.

Nice try however.  Pass the bill.  Improve it later.  Where have we heard that before, I wonder.

Zandar's Other Thought Of The Day

Nowhere in this CNN story entitled "GOP rips Senate health care timeline" does it mention the fact that the GOP plan has been and will continue to be to delay the plan in the Senate as long as possible, or that Congress has been fighting over this since the beginning of the year, or that every step of the way the GOP has refused to have anything to do with the plan at all.


You see, the mean old Dems are trying to pass their fascist health socialist plan and will make the brave Republicans America elected in 2008 work on Christmas Day.

The bastards.  Why did we put the Republicans in power if the Dems are just going to treat them this way?

The Kroog Versus Helicopter Ben

Paul Krugman on Bernanke:
Right now, real interest rates are too high, on a PPE basis (that’s Proof of Pudding is in the Eating): the economy is clearly operating far below capacity due to insufficient demand. The cost of that insufficient demand is enormous — not just in dollars of wasted output, but in severe social and psychological damage to the unemployed.

While real interest rates are too high, however, the short-term nominal rate is as low as it can go. So there are only two ways real rates can be reduced. Either the Fed has to buy long-term assets, driving down the wedge between short and long rates — the Gagnon proposal, which comes out of Ben Bernanke’s own work — or it needs to raise expected inflation. Or it could and probably should do both.

But it is, in fact, doing neither. Why? Because of fear that the Fed would lose credibility as a staunch inflation-fighter.

Future economic historians will, I believe, see this as fundamentally absurd — as absurd as the inflation fears that paralyzed the Bank of England in the early 1930s even as the world went into a deflationary spiral. Yes, there may someday be a 1970s-type episode in which the Fed needs to fight inflation, not encourage it — but it’s a long way off. Furthermore, why on earth would we imagine that the Bernanke Fed, by showing itself willing to inflict gratuitous pain in 2010, would make it easier for whoever is running the Fed in, say, 2020 to control inflation then, let alone that the tradeoff of real pain now versus hypothetical pain much later, if it even exists, is worth making?

Anyway, as far as I can see nobody is even trying to assess these alleged tradeoffs seriously. Instead, the notion of an unchanging inflation target — not to be revised even in the face of the worst slump since the Depression — has acquired a sort of mystical force; it has become identified with the notion of Civilization, in much the way that a previous generation assigned mystic significance to the gold standard.

Ben Bernanke, we’re told, is a great admirer of Liaquat Ahamed’s Lords of Finance; so am I. All the more irony, then, that Ben has, without realizing it, turned into Montagu Norman.
Shorter Paul Krugman:  "Helicopter Ben has gone from Old School George Lucas to Midichlorian George Lucas, and I hope you like 10% unemployment as a result."

Now, I'm not a Nobel-winning economist, but even I see our problem is deflation, not inflation.  Ben wants to fight inflation so much he doesn't give a damn about social programs or unemployment.

That's a problem.

A Bridge Too Far

Ben Nelson now is going for the brass ring, demanding to roll back the health care bill back beyond the Baucus Bill into GOP plan territory:
Nelson's key points:
  1. Asked if he would vote for cloture even if his initiative to restrict abortion were adopted, Nelson flatly said "no."
  1. Nelson not only said a vote before Christmas was not feasible, he joked about it taking until next Christmas.
  1. Nelson said unless the bill's Medicaid expansion provisions were made optional he would oppose cloture.
  1. Nelson said the bill's revenue provisions were unacceptable because the economy was bad.
  1. Nelson said because the subsidies which provide the bill's coverage expansion couldn't be paid for without additional revenue, they needed to be "scaled-back"
  1. Nelson also that unless cost control were addressed first, coverage couldn't be expanded.
In sum: unless Ben Nelson is bluffing, the only way he will vote for cloture is if abortion is restricted, the subsidies are whacked, the revenue provisions are nuked, and its Medicaid expansion is gutted. Oh, and he doesn't think there's any chance of it happening by Christmas.
As Bob Cesca puts it:
Enough is enough. It's time to slam the door in Ben Nelson's bulbous Flintstone face, lock down Olympia Snowe and pass this son of a bitch.
Bob, he speaks the truth.  Especially with this bit of news from Susie Madrak:
 I was pleasantly surprised to hear that they would be submitting an HHS bill in the near future – they’d “just this week” gotten funding to address any safety concerns, but more importantly, to start putting an infrastructure in place to import drugs.
Pass the bill.  Improve it.  You're going to have to.  But make it law, then fix the damn thing.  Either way, it's time to call Nelson's bluff and go for Snowe.  Otherwise we'll be right back here again in February.

Or April.

Or July.

Angry Johnny The Hypocrite

John McCain is getting a lot of traction from the village today, attacking Al Franken for moving along the debate.  McCain is bemoaning the loss of civility in the Senate.  His FOX News buddies are chiming in, calling Franken an angry clown.

And it took the Think Progress guys all of a couple hours to find John McCain cutting off debate in the same manner on the Iraq War eight years ago.
On October 10, 2002 — just ahead of the looming mid-term elections — the Senate rushed a debate on a war authorization giving President Bush the power to use force against Iraq. The resolution ultimately passed the Senate after midnight on an early Friday morning by a vote of 77-23.

During the course of the frenzied floor debate, then-Sen. Mark Dayton (D-MN) spoke in favor of an amendment offered by Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) that would have restricted Bush’s constitutional powers to wage war against Iraq. After a minute and a half, Dayton ran out of time, prompting this exchange:
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator’s time has expired.
Mr. DAYTON. I ask for unanimous consent that I have 30 seconds more to finish my remarks.
Mr. McCAIN. I object.
Byrd stepped in to grant Dayton time to finish his remarks. But just moments later, Byrd asked for more time to speak for himself. Again, McCain objected, prompting Byrd to chide him for doing so. “This shows the patience of a Senator,” Byrd said. “This clearly demonstrates that the train is coming down on us like a Mack truck, and we are not even going to consider a few extra minutes for this Senator.”

After being publicly shamed, McCain acquiesced to Byrd’s request. But moments later, McCain added this disclaimer: “I wish to say very briefly that I understand people have a desire to speak. We have a number of Senators who have not spoken on this issue. It is already looking as if we may be here well into this evening. From now on, I will be adhering strictly to the rules.” In other words, he acted just like Franken did yesterday.
And of course, the Village will ignore McCain doing this and only continue to attack Al Franken.

Epic Who The Hell Are You Again Fail

So, Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Climate Denial) flew off to Copenhagen to personally try to kill the deal, saying he would personally make sure climate change legislation would never pass, and that there was no reason for all these people to meet in Copenhagen, and that what President Obama wanted didn't mean a goddamn thing, because he's Jim Inhofe.

So when he held his press conference to inform the Copenhagen delegates they were wasting their time, because Jim Inhofe had personally come to end the climate conference and this whole warming hoax thing for good, there was only one problem.

Somebody kind of forgot to tell Copenhagen that Jim was coming.
“We in the United States owe it to the 191 countries to be well-informed and know what the intentions of the United States are. The United States is not going to pass a cap and trade,” he said. “It’s just not going to happen.”

A reporter asked: “If there’s a hoax, then who’s putting on this hoax, and what’s the motive?”

“It started in the United Nations,” Inhofe said, “and the ones in the United States who really grab ahold of this is the Hollywood elite.”

One reporter asked Inhofe if he was referring to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Another reporter — this one from Der Spiegel — told the senator: “You’re ridiculous.”

Inhofe ignored the jab, fielded a few more questions, then raced to the airport for the nine-hour flight back to Washington.

After Inhofe left, some reporters were still a bit confused about what had happened and who he was.

“His name is Inhofe,” a German journalist told a Japanese reporter, “but I don’t know if it’s one or two f’s.”
I for one am glad to see Jimbo there get precisely the measure of respect he deserves from the rest of the world. Now if only America would stop paying attention to this loudmouthed idiot, we could get some work done.


Losing It

Stainless Steel Rat blows a gasket over Dem Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz.

Not excusing Ratigan's behavior, but hey, Democratic leadership, stop taking your base for granted so much.  Ratigan had a point before his rant obliterated it.  For the first minute here, Ratigan points out that the mandates are going to get the insurance companies millions of new customers at taxpayer expense without reforms to lower costs.  Health insurance stocks have shot up around 10% just in the last month.

Ratigan was way over the line, but Wasserman-Schultz's answers were nowhere near acceptable, either.

[UPDATE 3:28 PM] Stainless Steel Rat's going to apologize for his tone, but not his words.

An Important Lesson

The WaPo has this cautionary profile of Blue Dog Larry Kissell (NC-8), who of course voted no on the House health care bill and is now hearing about it from his angry constituents.(emphasis mine):
When the House passed the Affordable Health Care for America Act on Nov. 7, Kissell was among 39 Democrats who voted no. Like Kissell, many of them are endangered freshmen from traditionally conservative districts, trying to appeal to conservatives and independents.

Still, Kissell's vote is perplexing considering the need for health-care reform here in the largely rural 8th Congressional District. The district, at the heart of the state's weakened textile industry, stretches from Charlotte to Kannapolis to Fayetteville and was shedding manufacturing jobs even before the recession.

Now, about 20 percent of residents younger than 65 have no health insurance -- among the highest rates in the nation -- and the bill would provide coverage to about 85,000 who are uninsured, according to a congressional analysis of census data.

Kissell said that he sides with his party on the vast majority of votes and supports expanding coverage, but that he voted against the bill because it would have cut about $399 million from Medicare to find savings. He said he was not willing to renege on his campaign promise never to cut Medicare funding.
(More after the jump...)

Feeling Randy, Part 2

Mr. Paul's Senate campaign here in the Bluegrass State just "Rand" into a buzzsaw.
The spokesman for U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul resigned Thursday after the campaign acknowledged that he maintained a page on a Web site that included racist remarks and suggested the government bore some responsibility for the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Christopher Hightower’s resignation came five hours after he told The Courier-Journal that he had never been a member of the Web site,, and that none of the things attributed to him on the site were his.

But Paul campaign manager David Adams said later that he understood the myspace page was Hightower’s. He said Hightower resigned his paid campaign post during a meeting with Paul late in the day.

“Today the Rand Paul campaign became aware of some disturbing images on a social network site attributed to a campaign staffer,” a statement from the Paul campaign said in announcing Hightower’s resignation.

“These images in no way represent Dr. Paul or his campaign nor do they represent the beliefs of this staff member. These images are reprehensible and have no place in civil discourse.”
No they don't, but then again these are the kind of things you check on before you hire a campaign spokesperson here in 2009.  Then again racism and 9/11 truther nonsense from the spokesperson for a Kentucky Republican is almost expected, is it not?

The crew over at Barefoot and Progressive broke this story and they're fighting back hard against the Paultards who are assaulting them for this.

You'll find more on the 2010 KY Senate race at Page One Kentucky, which also broke this one wide open.

Another Milepost On The Road To Oblivion

Not satisfied with two actual wars to fight (and by fight, I mean send people to die in) the teabaggers want to pick a fight on Christmas too.
Republican Rep. Henry Brown of South Carolina introduced a resolution this month asking that the House express support for the use of Christmas symbols and traditions and frown on any attempt to ban references to the holiday.

"Each year, I could see a diminishing value of the spiritual part of Christmas," Brown said. "It would seem like another group would go from the Christmas spirit to the holiday spirit."

"What I'm afraid of -- if we don't bring some kind of closure to this continuous change, then in 20 years it will almost be completely different from what we see today ... and so we would lose the whole emphasis of what the very early beginnings of Christmas was all about."

So far, the resolution has one Democrat and 72 Republicans as co-sponsors. The House hasn't taken it up, but the chamber adopted similar resolutions in the past.

Barry Lynn, an ordained minister and executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, isn't keen on the prospect of congressional action.

"Resolutions like this come up because there is this bizarre view by some members of Congress that there is a war on Christmas and that they have to be the generals in some responding army," he said.
Not like there are non-Christians in America or anything, but that's just not occurred to your average teabagger fruitcake.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

Larisa Alexandrovna does realize that Sarah Palin is playing the "Village is being mean to me, won't somebody help me?" victim card again, right?

On A Roll

Steve Benen's in rare form today, as he discusses President Obama's trip to Copenhagen:
Acknowledging the divisions between developing nations and major powers, the president concluded, "We know the fault lines because we've been imprisoned by them for years. These international discussions have essentially taken place now for almost two decades, and we have very little to show for it other than an increased acceleration of the climate change phenomenon. The time for talk is over. This is the bottom line: We can embrace this accord, take a substantial step forward, continue to refine it and build upon its foundation. We can do that, and everyone who is in this room will be part of a historic endeavor -- one that makes life better for our children and our grandchildren. Or we can choose delay, falling back into the same divisions that have stood in the way of action for years. And we will be back having the same stale arguments month after month, year after year, perhaps decade after decade, all while the danger of climate change grows until it is irreversible."

The similarity between what the president tells the world about climate change and what the president tells Congress about health care is striking.
A climate accord is a must have because of the dangers it poses to the lives of the people who Obama represents.  Health care reform saving those same lives?  No need to rush into things...

The Hillarycare Event Horizon

This week's events in the Senate have officially caused the Village to go into full "Kill The Bill" concern trolling mode, as evidenced this morning by the WaPo's Chris Cillizza...
Again, the NBC/WSJ survey paints a dire picture. Fifty six percent of Republicans call themselves highly interested in the 2010 election while 46 percent of Democrats say the same. Among that highly interested group, Republicans hold a 47 percent to 39 percent edge on the generic ballot question. That sort of base energy disparity should worry any Democrat with even a passing interest in the 2010 election.

The numbers make clear that simply passing the bill isn't the panacea to Democrats' political problems on health care. In fact, there's a very real possibility it could make things worse.
...and Dana Milbank.
There's still a good chance that the Democrats are just bluffing with their yule-session threat. On Wednesday, The Post's Shailagh Murray asked Durbin at a news conference whether the Senate would leave for Christmas if the health-care bill wasn't done.

"Don't you dare say that," replied Durbin, who wants his figgy pudding as much as the next guy. "We're going to finish it."

It was then pointed out to Durbin that Republicans plan to force the clerk to read all 2,000 pages of the bill -- a process that could take more than 40 hours. Durbin became less certain. "I think that we can get this done in time for each of us to be home for Christmas," he said. "That's our goal."
You can always count on these two to play up the angle of those mean old Democrats messing with the comity of the chummy Senate, where the status quo should be the Republicans having their way.  After all, they won in 2008.  How dare the Democrats make the Republicans stay through Christmas while they keep properly delaying health care reform?  That's un-American.

Why gosh, both Chris and Dana here are advising the Dems to just give up on this health care reform thing and move on with the Clintonian triangulation already of letting the Republicans get back to properly running America.  That's what the voters wanted, clearly.

The Village hath spoken.  It's Hillarycare now, and it has to die.

The Full (Ben) Nelson

What, you thought Joe F'ckin Lieberman was the only hard sell, flip-flopping hypocrite in the Dem caucus?  Nebraska's Ben Nelson is ready to kill the entire bill himself.  Steve Benen lays out the details:
Remember, literally one month ago today, CNN reported that Nelson was satisfied with the compromise language from the Senate Finance Committee. Now he's decided the Finance Committee compromise not only isn't good enough, but he's also prepared to kill health care reform over it.

What's more, let's also not forget that while Nelson isn't making any real effort to seek common ground, he's also rejecting compromises of compromises -- Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), another pro-life Dem, offered Nelson a new proposal with additional restrictions on federal financing of abortion. As of today, Nelson said the compromise on a compromise still isn't good enough, and he won't even let the Senate vote on the bill because of it.

And while we're at it, let's also not forget that just a few weeks ago, Nelson said he doesn't like the existing restrictions on abortion funding, but added, "If there's no public option, perhaps some of the [abortion] problem goes away." It suggested this wasn't the issue he was prepared to kill health care reform over. And now it is.

Indeed, as of today, Nelson sounded like he's giving up altogether. He said Democratic offers are "not enough," and suggested it might be time to go "back to the drawing board in some areas."

The hope was that Nelson would, when push came to shove, not want to be the one responsible for killing health care. But as the deadline approaches, the conservative Democrat no longer seems to care, putting this once-in-a-generation opportunity in peril.

Where does that leave us? Either a) someone can convince Nelson to change his mind; b) someone can convince Nelson to oppose the bill but let the Senate vote on it; or c) Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) breaks ranks.
If the Christmas deadline is going to be reached, one of these three will have to happen over the next 24 hours. If the bill is going to survive at all, one of these three will have to happen eventually or the entire initiative fails.
So that's it then.  It's Nelson or the Snowe Queen.  One of the two has to let the bill advance or Obamacare is dead.  Neither one seems to give much of a damn, either.

[UPDATE 8:45 AMBenen has a point this morning that the plan must be moving ahead somehow:
The Senate leadership must think one of those three remains possible, or they wouldn't be working so hard to reach the Christmas deadline. That said, I simply have no idea which of those three has even the slightest chance of happening.
Which is true:  Senators don't do work unless they have to.

Bill Kristol on the other hand is gleefully advising "End it, Ben."


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