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House Progressives Stand Up To Blue Dogs

Progressive Caucus fires shot at Blue Dog compromise. The Nation's John Nichols: "The compromises on health care reform now being entertained by at least some aides to President Obama and key Democrats in the House and Senate are so flawed that more than 50 House progressives now say they will oppose them ... [Without their votes] Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, is unlikely to be able to cobble together enough support to gain approval of the plan ... The progressives are not joining the obstructionists. Rather, they argue, the compromise between Waxman and the Blue Dogs is itself an obstruction to real reform ... That's because it would, according to their savvy analysis, 'reduce subsidies to low-and middle-income families, requiring them to pay a larger portion of their income for insurance premiums, and would impose an unfunded mandate on the states to pay for what were to have been Federal costs.'" video has highlights from Progressive Caucus rally insisting on robust public plan option

Politico explains the motives of the Blue (Cross) Dogs: "President Barack Obama’s signature proposal, a public plan option to introduce more competition in private markets, would be significantly weakened, reflecting pressure from Blue Cross-Blue Shield plans that dominate many rural states and that were a source of millions of dollars in campaign contributions last year. The small-business lobby, itself a political powerhouse, carved out a larger exemption for operations earning up to $500,000 annually. At the same time, families are asked to dig deeper to afford the promised coverage to be bought through public exchanges ... Reducing the subsidies would help scale back the cost of the plan by almost $60 billion over 10 years — a major goal for the Blue Dogs. But Congressional Budget Office estimates show that most — if not all — of these savings are effectively given away by the same moderates under pressure from local hospitals and Blue Cross-Blue Shield plans to blunt the public plan option."

W. Post follows the Blue (Cross) Dog money: "[The Blue Dog caucus] set a record pace for fundraising this year through its political action committee, surpassing other congressional leadership PACs in collecting more than $1.1 million through June. More than half the money came from the health-care, insurance and financial services industries, marking a notable surge in donations from those sectors compared with earlier years, according to an analysis by the Center for Public Integrity. A look at career contribution patterns also shows that typical Blue Dogs receive significantly more money -- about 25 percent -- from the health-care and insurance sectors than other Democrats, putting them closer to Republicans in attracting industry support."

Following compromise, public plan option wins House cmte vote. NYT: "By a vote of 35 to 24, Democrats [on the House Energy and Commerce Cmte] defeated a Republican effort to eliminate a section of the bill that would create the public health insurance option."

Baucus Caucus A Bipartisan Bust

Baucus wilts under Republican pressure, indefinitely delays bill mark-up. Politico: "A day after some unexpectedly positive signs for health care reform in Congress, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said Thursday that his committee would be unable to complete work on a bill before the August recess ... The three Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee are under pressure from their leadership not to cut a deal too quickly, according to sources, and that message has been delivered frequently in recent weeks."

Baucus caucus member Sen. Chuck Grassley doesn't want to upset his fellow Republicans. The Hill: "[Grassley} has assured his GOP colleagues that he will not sell them out and strike a private deal with Democrats on healthcare reform, according to Republican senators."

The Treatment's Jonathan Cohn mocks Baucus' mishandling: "Earlier this week, chairman Max Baucus promised (for what I believe is the ninety-seventh time) that his committee was on the verge of producing legislation. It's now became apparent (again, for the ninety-seventh time) that his committee is not on the verge of anything except, perhaps, a breakdown. Baucus, as you may know, has been trying to hammer out a deal with a bipartisan group of six members. But ... Enzi has been under enormous pressure from Republican leadership, which wants no bill at all and sees time as its ally ... Republican Charles Grassley has made it clear he does not want to be the only Republican not from Maine voting for the bill ... if the Republicans hadn't slammed on the brakes, some Democrats might have. West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller, who has spent most of his career championing health care reform and is chairman of the health subcommittee on Finance, has been stewing for weeks. He feels marginalized--note that he's not among the six bipartisan members at the table--and, more important, he doesn't like the legislation the bipartisan group is producing."

Hot August Battle Brews

USA Today reports Dems are ready for August: "With polls suggesting that public support is sagging for President Obama's push to overhaul health care, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said the party will use the August break to make a strong sales pitch to middle-class voters. 'We're going to be on the air. We're going to be in the neighborhoods,' said Hoyer, D-Md. 'Our members are going to now have the opportunity to go home ... and say to their constituents, "Look, this is what we're doing. This is why it's good for you and your family."'"

Will support weaken in August? Not necessarily says's Mike Madden: "The delay of a healthcare vote has been spun by Republicans as a sign that reform is on its way to a slow, painful death. But the August break doesn't necessarily have to work against Obama. For progressives, it might be a chance to reset a debate that's started to shift away from them. Conservative Blue Dog Democrats in the House and their ideological counterparts in the Senate have wrung concessions out of Democratic leaders this week that threaten to gut what many liberals see as the centerpiece of reform: a government-funded public insurance option that competes with private insurers, helping to hold costs and premiums down. Liberals say payback will start when they get outside the Beltway. 'These members can expect to go home and see advertisements if they have made themselves a central character' in the debate, said Jacki Schechner, a spokeswoman for Health Care for America Now, [which] said Thursday that the deal that the Blue Dogs cut to let healthcare legislation move out of the House Energy and Commerce Committee wasn't acceptable ... 'The hope is that members of Congress will come back [to Washington] with an extremely strong sense of obligation to get this done, that they will come back having spent a month home hearing the vast majority of their constituents saying, "No more delay. Get it done."'"

In These Times' Art Levine sizes up the progressive army: "In states such as Arkansas, Louisiana and Pennsylvania, organizations such as AFL-CIO and SEIU are planning everything from town halls on the economy to recruiting small businessmen to write editorials and speak out for health care reform or workers’ rights. Gerry Shea, the AFL-CIO’s lead health care advocate, notes, 'We’ll be doing intense conversations with the people back home, public education of our members, and they’ll be contacting their [Congressional] members.' He adds, 'There’s so much confusion out there, and we’re going to say, let’s just go through with this and tell them the point: What’s in it for you?' One major goal: ending the abuses of insurance companies, including barring people from getting insurance if they have pre-existing conditions."

Right-Wing Junk Widely Debunked

PolitiFact shreds right-wing chain email as full of lies: "Most of what the e-mail says is wrong. In fact, it's a clearinghouse of bad information circulating around the Web about proposed health care changes..."

USA Today edit board rips right-wing "fear-mongering": "At one extreme, rational argument is being drowned out by outrageous fear-mongering. On former presidential candidate Fred Thompson's radio show this month, a commentator claimed that the House health care bill would require sessions to instruct the elderly 'how to end their lives sooner' to save health care funds. This is simply untrue, and would be laughable if so many fearful seniors didn't believe it. Some of the debate in Congress is little better. Republican critics demonize reform as 'socialism' or a 'government takeover' of health care — a gross distortion of even the most ambitious plan under consideration and a description they decline to apply to popular government medical programs for the elderly and veterans."

HCAN's Jason Rosenbaum on the latest conservative attack line against public plan option, attack Medicare: "Birther Roy Blunt has been on a rampage against Medicare, saying the other day the patent lie that 'Medicare has never done anything to make people more healthy,' despite the millions of healthy seniors on Medicare."

Wonk Room's Pat Garofalo smacks false WSJ editorial: "Wall Street Journal Falsely Claims Employer Mandate Is The ‘Pelosi Jobs Tax’". OURFUTURE.ORG FLASHBACK: "a new report [shows] a requirement for all businesses to help provide coverage will not lead to significant job losses, and more likely will create jobs."'s Tim Foley's explains how reform will help average Americans: "You just need the East Room, a camera crew, and these four people ... The woman who is uninsured .... The man who is insured, but is nervous ... The small business owner ... The Medicare recipient who hits the doughnut hole."

Cash For Clunkers Too Popular

NYT on unclear status for new federal "Cash-For-Clunkers" car rebate program: "New-car shoppers appear to have already snapped up all the $1 billion that Congress appropriated for the 'cash for clunkers' program, leading the Transportation Department to tell auto dealers Thursday night to stop offering the rebates. But a White House official said the program had not been suspended, creating confusion about its status. The program offers $3,500 to $4,500 for people who trade in an old car for a new one with higher fuel economy."

AP reports WH & Congress in talks to extend program: "A Transportation Department official said the department was working with Congress and the White House to keep the program going. The administration officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the discussions."

Huge spike in car sales. Bloomberg: "U.S. auto sales may reach a 2009 high in July after the government’s $1 billion 'cash-for- clunkers' incentives program lured shoppers back to showrooms."

Policy architect Jack Hidary proposes extension on HuffPost: "The $1 billion has now been used up in one week! That translates to more than 250,000 guzzlers and pick-up trucks traded-in for more efficient cars ... Now that it is clear how popular this program is I urge Congress to re-up the program with increased miles-per-gallon gaps between the vehicles traded in and bought."

UPDATE: CBS' Mark Knoller tweets: "The WH says the 'Cash for Clunkers' program is still 'up and running.' Spokesman Gibbs says eligible car buyers can count on it this wknd."

Breakfast Sides

Recession easing? NYT: "The American economy shrank at an annual rate of 1 percent from April through June, the government reported on Friday, stoking hopes that the worst recession since the Great Depression was nearly over ... The Commerce Department revised its earlier assessments of the country’s woes, saying that the economy contracted at a pace of 6.4 percent in the first months of the year..."

Focus group of independents finds deep connection to Obama. CNN's Gloria Borger: "...while the president's poll numbers start to dip, these dozen independents -- including four McCain supporters and a lone Nader voter -- are giving the president some leeway. They feel like they know him, and that he's 'honest,' as one put it. And while they say the country is 'broke,' 'worried' and 'confused,' they're not blaming Barack. If anything, they seem invested in his success."

Bailout banks spilling red ink still reap big bonuses. W. Post: "The nation's nine largest banks handed out $32.6 billion in bonuses last year even as they ran up more than $81 billion in losses and accepted billions of dollars in emergency federal aid, New York Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo says in a report released Thursday."

CQ on House F-22 vote: "Avoiding one veto fight, the House passed its fiscal 2010 Defense spending bill Thursday after agreeing to strip the measure of money for new F-22 fighter jets [but the] measure ... includes $560 million to force the Pentagon to continue pursuing an alternative engine for the F-35 fighter and $485 million to complete five VH-71 presidential helicopters, or $400 million more than Obama requested. The White House has threatened to veto the bill if it would 'seriously disrupt' the F-35 program or interfere with the Obama administration’s plan to start a new competition for the VH-71 program."

Various interests angling for more stimulus. The Hill: "Democrats want to extend unemployment and health benefits set to expire at the end of the year that made up about $65 billion of the earlier stimulus. The House and Senate are likely to take up legislation when they return from the August recess. Republican lawmakers have joined some Democrats and business groups like the National Association of Manufacturers in calling for an extension of a tax break expiring at the end of the year that allows businesses to write off losses. That 'carryback' provision cost $15 billion in the February stimulus ... [Rep. Patrick] Tiberi also wants to extend separate expiring tax credits for first-time homeowners and car buyers that cost a combined $8.3 billion. On the homeowners tax credit, he’ll benefit from the August lobbying campaign planned by the National Association of Realtors ... Several other tax breaks for business are set to expire by the end of the year, including measures that allow small businesses to deduct the cost of capital equipment and write off up to $250,000 in depreciable property, and for senior citizens to access 50 percent more in loans through reverse mortgages."

House climate bill benefits small rural, carbon-intensive states. ClimateWire: "Small states with potent carbon dioxide emissions could win big under House climate legislation, according to a new analysis that shows residents of power-pumping states collecting a large number of free pollution permits to soften the rising cost of energy ... North Dakota, for example, stands to receive about 12.5 permits per person in the year studied, second behind Wyoming. The state's senators, both moderate Democrats from a coal-rich region, are considered key swing votes in getting the bill passed in that chamber. Aides to Sens. Byron Dorgan and Kent Conrad did not respond to requests for comment."

Terrance Heath contributed to the making of this Breakfast

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