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Health Care Reform Holds Breath For Mass. Vote...

NYT reports Dem leaders considering passing Senate bill in House without changes, if Senate Dems "waver" after Mass. Senate election today: "'“Let’s remove all doubt,' [Speaker Pelosi] added. 'We will have health care one way or another.' [But] several House Democrats sounded less than enthusiastic Monday about the possibility of adopting the Senate bill."

LAT on attempts to make Senate bill passage palatable to progressives: "To placate House liberals, many of whom think Senate leaders made too many concessions to win over conservative Democrats, the Senate would then be asked to pass separate bills to satisfy some of the liberals' demands, including scaling back a new tax on [high-premium] health plans. These Senate votes could be held under special [budget reconciliation] procedural rules that would prevent filibusters. But this strategy remains highly controversial: It could further irritate House liberals, discourage the party's progressive base going into the November elections, and open Obama and congressional Democrats to charges that they rammed through healthcare despite a rebuff by voters in one of the party's most impregnable bastions ... But party leaders and other advocates of a health overhaul see few good options if Republican Scott Brown defeats Martha Coakley, a Democrat..."

Politico reports White House, Families USA favor Senate bill/budget reconciliation strategy: "Under [Families USA Exec. Dir. Ron] Pollack’s proposal, the House would take up the Senate bill only after the White House and congressional leaders struck a deal on key issues, such as taxes and the subsidies to purchase insurance. They would incorporate those changes into a separate budget reconciliation bill. The House would pass both the Senate bill and the reconciliation bill, possibly on the same day. The Senate would then take up the reconciliation bill, which would require only 51 votes for passage."

The Hill speculates that a quick vote on House-Senate compromise more likely than passing Senate bill "as is": "The plan could backfire if a single Democratic senator ... objected on grounds that it would violate the will of voters in Massachusetts ... The president and Democratic leaders must reach an agreement, receive a cost analysis from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and give lawmakers and the public 72 hours to review the final language. Finally, they must pass the bill through the House and wade through the final Republican procedural objections in the Senate before clearing the bill to President Barack Obama. This would be complicated enough in normal circumstances, but if Brown wins, they would have to do it within a span of seven to 15 days."

TNR's Jonathan Chait supports passing Senate bill, followed by changes via budget reconciliation: "It's very, very doable. It's also in the interest of the Democrats in Congress. They already cast a vote, might as well reap the benefit of having an accomplishment. The only question is whether they can keep their heads."

FDL's Jon Walker argues if budget reconciliation is back on the table, might as well bring back the public option: "Passing the Senate bill first, and then fixing it with reconciliation, could also create strong political and policy pressure for reviving the public option or Medicare buy-in. Probably the only way they could jam the Senate bill 'as is' through the House would be to get labor on board. To get labor, you need to promise to fix the excise tax, and probably the only way to do that is by using reconciliation."

...But Is This Race Even About Health Care?

The Atlantic's Chris Good notes health care is not the driving issue in Mass., pins close race on Coakley gaffes: "
Her numbers have gone south, but that probably has nothing to do with health care. So far, the national Republican message machine has focused mainly on those gaffes."

The Treatment's Jonathan Cohn reminds Mass. voters already have health care reform, and they like it: "Scott Brown is running on a promise to block the health care bill in Washington. But ... he is not running on a promise to roll back the reforms that Massachusetts implemented three years ago. In fact, he says he supports those reforms ... 58 percent of [Mass.] respondents said they supported the reforms while 28 percent said they opposed ... The lesson is that deliberating over health care reform is messy, unattractive, and unpopular. But health care reform itself is popular once the deliberations are finished."

White House stresses that Mass. health care negates claim of referendum on bill. W. Post: "'Massachusetts is completely unique, because the health reform law passed a few years ago,' White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer said. 'It makes it an imperfect example and impossible to extrapolate.'"

Elizabeth Warren v. The Banks

TARP watchdog Elizabeth Warren throws down gauntlet to save Consumer Financial Protection Agency. HuffPost's Shahien Nasiripour: "The battle in the Senate over a proposed consumer financial protection agency is the final show-down between banks and American families, bailout watchdog Elizabeth Warren wrote to supporters Monday night. The outcome 'will show whether we are going to let the industry continue to write the rules -- to keep the cops off the beat -- or whether the financial crisis actually changed something.' ... 'I am writing to ask you to make an extra effort these next few weeks to organize calls and emails into the Senate Banking Committee about CFPA, to organize op-ed and letter to the editor campaigns across the country, and to create visible, public support for CFPA.'"

Reuters on move to kill CFPA in Senate: "...the proposed agency, already pared back last month in the House of Representatives, is in trouble in the Senate. Under pressure from big banks fighting hard to kill or weaken it, senators are said to be discussing downgrading the CFPA from an independent agency to something less than that. Such a move would undermine the integrity of the reform project overall and set up the United States for another cycle of financial predation, crisis and bailout, Warren said."

CBS poll finds Obama seen as too close to banks: " in 10 Americans say they are at least bothered by the bonuses, while 37 percent say they are angry ... 72 percent of Americans think the bailout of the financial industry has only helped a few big investors and people who work on Wall Street ... nearly half of Americans (49 percent) think President Obama has done too much for banks and financial institutions, while just a third think he has done the right amount,"

Raise The "Too Big To Fail Tax": Dean Baker, writing in The Guardian, thinks the president's tax on the country's big banks is a good start, but only just a start: "President Obama proposed a tax on the country's largest banks to help recover the money lost under the Troubled Assets Relief Programme (TARP). This tax is a positive step. However, it will not come close to recovering the losses incurred in the bailouts and it will do almost nothing to change the way that the banks do business. For this we will need a larger financial speculation tax."

Noting that Wall Street may sue over the tax, James Kwak at The Baseline Scenario thinks it should be "laughed out of consideration."

Steele's Wall Street Populism: OurFuture.Org's Terrance Heath notes that, given an opportunity to lead his party in a better direction, by denouncing statements by Rush Limbaugh and Pat Robertson on the Haitian earthquake, Michael Steele speaks passionately in defense of ... big banks — and against the president's proposal to tax the nation's biggest banks: "How is it a tax on the American people to demand that Wall Street return tax dollars they aren't using to to help Main Street America in the midst of a crisis that Wall Streeter's own shenanigans started and fueled until it ran out of gas needed taxpayers to bail them out? It is if your Michael Steele, and if you maintain a long-distance relationship with reality."

Federal foreclosure plan still faces resistance from banks. Bloomberg: "The U.S. Treasury Department has failed to win agreements to get struggling borrowers’ home- equity debt reworked, among the biggest roadblocks to reducing foreclosures that may reach a record 3 million this year. None of the lenders holding a combined $1.05 trillion in the debt has signed contracts requiring participation in the second-mortgage modification plan announced eight months ago."

Debt Commission Issue Unsettled As Senate Nears Critical Vote

W. Post reminds Senate to take up increase in debt ceiling this week, so government can meet obligations and avert global calamity. NYT reminds debate on Conrad-Gregg debt commission will precede debt ceiling vote.

Charlie Averill posts call from steelworker retirees group to defeat anti-Social Security/Medicare debt commission: "...the future of Social Security and Medicare would be placed in the hands of 15 people who may or may not have significant knowledge or experience dealing with these complex issues. This entitlement commission proposal is fatally flawed. Restrictive timelines, no amendments and limited debate is not the way to address programs touching virtually every family in America ... Call your Senators at 1-800-998-0180 and urge them to oppose the Conrad-Gregg amendment."

NYT picks up conservative commission criticism: that the history of bipartisan commissions is one of failure.

Anti-EPA Amendment Expected This Week

CQ reports Sen. Lisa Murkowski plotting legislative strategy to handcuff EPA on global warming: "Murkowski, R-Alaska, is said to remain undecided whether to offer an amendment to debt limit legislation that would delay EPA greenhouse gas regulations for a year or to bring a separate resolution of disapproval to the floor. The Senate plans to take up the debt limit measure on Wednesday. There is little chance the Democrat-controlled Senate will adopt Murkowski’s measure. But her aides predict substantial support from moderate Democrats ... if Murkowski’s effort to roll back the [EPA] finding picks up support from moderate Democrats, it will underscore an uneasiness among some members of the president’s party to take up another politically contentious issue..."

Greenwire reports Murkowski raked in utility industry cash: "[She] received more campaign contributions from the utility industry than any other lawmaker during the 2009-2010 election cycle, according to data compiled by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. Last year, Murkowski received $157,000 from electric utilities, and since 2005, she has received more than $244,000, according to the center's data."

NYT edit board explains Murkowski's parliamentary options, rallies opposition: "Although she has not showed her hand, Ms. Murkowski has been considering various proposals related to climate change — all mischievous. ... Ms. Murkowski says she’s concerned about global warming but worries even more about what she fears would be a bureaucratic nightmare if the E.P.A. were allowed to regulate greenhouse gases. She says she would prefer a broad legislative solution. So would President Obama. But unlike Ms. Murkowski, he would not unilaterally disarm the E.P.A. before Congress has passed a bill."

Green Inc. reports California's cap-and-trade system may generate $1000 checks to families: "The state projects it will earn from $2 billion to $22 billion annually from 2012 to 2020. The [Economic and Allocation Advisory Committee] recommends that 75 percent of the auction’s proceeds be distributed to residents; the rest would be used for the development of innovative technologies, energy efficiency and alternative fuels..."

President Obama Nears One Full Year In Office

Changing by degrees: The AP has published numerical highlights of the president's first year suggesting that even transformational change happens by degrees, big and small.

Change is (Still) Coming: As the one year anniversary of President Obama's inauguration approaches. OurFuture.Org's Robert Borosage and Katrina vanden Heuvel of The Nation assess the president's progress and progressives' disappointment with his first year: "Turns out, Obama is not the Messiah, and those who thought so were always fooling themselves. The disappointments of Obama's first year are less the product of his failures than of the balance of forces he faces in Washington and in the country. Many progressives thought we had taken back America with the election of 2008, but in reality the work had only just begun."

We didn't start the fire: Robert Parry, at Consortiumnews.Com, reminds us how we got here: "Not only did the Great American Job Engine grind to a halt in the past decade, but the dire economic numbers were accompanied by massive increases in federal debt, part of a risky right-wing strategy to hamstring the government’s ability to ever address domestic problems in the future."

Living the Dream?: One year into the first term of our first American president, as the anniversary is close to MLK day, viewpoints differ. LaToya Peterson at The American Prospect considers how much hasn't changed in our national dialog on race. Meanwhile Melissa Harris-Lacewell at the Nation writes of the similarities between Obama and MLK.

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