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March 18 Still The Goal To Pass Health Care In The House

House timeline could lead to March 18 vote. CQ: "Congressional Budget Office scores of the final bill were expected Friday ... According to plans under discussion Thursday, the Budget Committee would act first, on March 15 ... The Rules Committee would then follow on March 17 ... with a rule for debate on both the reconciliation bill and the Senate health care bill. The full House could then take up the measures together, as soon as the next day..."

LAT reports congressional leaders not committing to that timeframe: "...senior Democrats acknowledged that they were not ready to move forward, and could miss a tentative deadline for a first vote next week."

W. Post's Ezra Klein sums up Reid roundhouse letter to McConnell: "Reconcile this." " might conclude that Republicans believe a majority vote is sufficient to increase the deficit and benefit the super-rich, but not to reduce the deficit and benefit the middle class. Alternatively, perhaps Republicans believe a majority vote is appropriate only when Republicans are in the majority. Either way, we disagree."

Reports from GOPers that Senate Parliamentarian would not allow reconciliation votes until Senate bill signed into law appear to be false. CQ: "The parliamentarian ... later reportedly clarified his position to Senate aides, saying that the reconciliation bill could be written in a way that would not require Obama to sign the Senate bill into law before the reconciliation bill is voted on."

GOP strategy involves sowing House distrust of senators. Bloomberg: "To assure House members the Senate will pass reconciliation, Senator Jay Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat, said he’d be willing to sign a letter with 50 other senators pledging to do so ... Republicans say rank-and-file Democrats shouldn’t trust their leaders. 'What the president is doing is asking House Democrats to hold hands, jump off a cliff, and hope Harry Reid catches them,' Senator Lamar Alexander..."

House may move without any changes to Senate abortion language reports HuffPost.

Rep. Waxman says talks with Stupak continue notes TPMDC

Four more anti-abortion House Dems -- Reps. Steve Driehaus, Marcy Kaptur, James Oberstar and Charlie Wilson -- open to voting for Senate language reports CQ.

Stupak’s Abortion Gang Falling Apart As Pro-Life Members Admit Senate Bill Won’t Fund Abortions says Wonk Room.

FireDogLake's Jane Hamsher and DailyKos' mcjoan rip Sen. Durbin for pressuring public option supporters to vote against it in reconciliation.

TPMDC suggests public option supporters don't have a firm 41 senators in hand: "...a closer look suggests some of the latest additions are senators who only conditionally support a public option being passed through reconciliation. "

Sen. Sanders planning to force up-or-down vote on public option reports The Plum Line.

Rep. Alan Grayson now has 50 cosponsors for his Medicare buy-in bill. OpenLeft's Chris Bowers: "Every indication has always been that there is overwhelming support for a Medicare buy-in among Congressional Democrats. This could very well pass as a stand alone bill, especially in 2011 once filibuster reform has taken place. This is definitely one of the ways that progressives can viably continue the fight for real health reform no matter what happens to the current bill."

NYT's Paul Krugman pushes back on claims that President's proposal does not cut costs: "The [Medicare] actuary’s assessment of the Senate bill, for example, finds that it would raise total health care spending by less than 1 percent, while extending coverage to 34 million Americans ... That’s a large expansion in coverage at an essentially trivial cost. [Plus,] the Congressional Budget Office has just concluded, in a new report, that the arithmetic of reform will look better in its second decade ... [And] health reform is likely to do much better at controlling costs than any of the official projections suggest."

James Parks at the AFL-CIO observes that rising health insurance premiums seem to be related to a rise in support for reform: "A survey from Economist/YouGov released this week, shows 53 percent of respondents support changes proposed by the Obama administration. ... Meanwhile, a study by Health Care for America Now (HCAN) shows jaw-dropping insurance premium hikes-up 97 percent for families and 90 percent for individuals between 2000 and 2008."

If Members of Congress can't seem to listen to the public, perhaps they will take the time to listen to 11-year-old Marcelas Owens talk about the death of his mother HuffPost quotes: "I am here because of my mom. My mom was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension in 2006. She missed so much work she lost her job. And when my mom lost her job, she lost her health care. And losing her health care ended up costing her her life."

Dodd Moves Without GOP On Financial Reform. (But What's In His Bill?)

Consumer advocates still concerned Dodd will propose watered-down reforms. HuffPost: "... while [the Independent Community Bankers Association] supports strengthening consumer protection, it doesn't want an independent consumer-focused agency targeting community banks ... Dodd was reportedly willing to negotiate on these key points -- to the detriment of consumers, consumer groups and reformers argue."

Dodd trying to not repeat Baucus health care debacle. Politico: "...Corker said it is clear Dodd is under pressure from the White House and other Democrats to get a bill out of the Senate Banking Committee before reconciliation distracts the chamber from other business ... 'God bless Bob Corker. We appreciate all the help he gave us, but at some point we just can’t wait,' Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said when asked about Corker’s assertion concerning reconciliation. 'Sen. Baucus spent 61 different meetings with Republicans trying to get something on health care. There reaches a point where you have to accept the inevitable.'"

MyDD's Charles Lemos hopes Dodd didn't wait too long: " It has long been clear that the Republicans are not interested in governing. With their interminable delays, they have sought, and frankly largely succeeded, in derailing the agenda of the Obama Administration. While it may not be too late to actually achieved wide-ranging reforms, that window of opportunity is now measured in just months."

Corker still looks to shape legislation. W. Post: "...Corker said he would continue to work toward agreement on the remaining issues. 'What Chairman Dodd is going to do, probably, is introduce a bill on Monday that is a little to the left of where we were, to try to ensure that he can do as much as he can in the way of getting Democratic support on the committee,' Corker said. 'And then I think he will move to the right.'"

Reuters' Felix Salmon says bipartisanship will still be necessary to get a bill passed: "[The American Prospect's Tim] Fernholz points out that Democrats, too, want decent Republican support, saying that 'moderate Democrats on the committee are leery of portions of the bill and would prefer to have Republican cover': his datapoint here is that of the 13 Democrats on the committee, only 7 have gone on the record saying they’d support an independent CFPA. So Dodd’s going to design his bill to have the best possible chance of getting Republican support once it comes out of markup, while still being acceptable to the left wing of the Democratic party."

Yellin May Be Next Fed Vice-Chair

Former Fed member Janet Yellin reportedly to become Fed vice-chair. Bloomberg: "Yellen ... said last month that the U.S. economy 'still needs the support of extraordinarily low' interest rates ... The Obama administration is also working to fill two other vacancies on the seven-member Fed board. Among the candidates is Sarah Bloom Raskin, 48, Maryland’s commissioner of financial regulation ... Peter Diamond, an economics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is also under consideration ..."

Calcuated Risk gives Yellin a thumbs up: "She was way ahead of most other Fed members in recognizing the housing bubble ... She is also very focused on unemployment (something we need right now)."

Momentum Returns To Pass Student Loan Reform With Simple Majority

Student loan reform now likely to be included in health care reconciliation bill. W. Post: "Key Senate Democrats initially balked at combining the health-reform bill with a measure that overhauls the nation's student-loan program, but on Thursday they had warmed to the idea ... Conrad said the Senate parliamentarian suggested in a preliminary ruling that combining the bills could work, provided that the right balance on cost was found. "

CQ has more on what cost adjustments might be needed: "...the Congressional Budget Office released an estimate last week that lowered the measure’s potential savings from $87 billion to $67 billion, raising questions about whether it would be deficit neutral. Provisions in the House bill to expand early education programs and increase access to higher education, including increasing the availability of Pell grants, are based on the earlier, $87 billion estimate. If the student loan bill were included in a reconciliation package, negotiators would need to adjust the measure accordingly."

Pairing student loan reform with health care now seen as necessary to meet reconciliation requirements. Politico: "The Senate parliamentarian notified Democratic leaders that, in order to meet the reconciliation requirements, both the Senate health and finance committees would need to produce $1 billion in deficit savings each over the next 10 years, [Sen. Kent] Conrad said ... [The health cmte] would not be able to show the items within its jurisdiction save at least $1 billion. By inserting the education package, the committee would satisfy the reconciliation instructions, Conrad said."

Some congresspeople arguing that adding student loan reform will attract more health care votes than it loses. CQ: "'It helps in the House,' [Rep. George Miller] said. 'It’s very important in the House.'"

300,000 New Jobs In March?

Talk of as many as 300,000 new jobs in March. Bloomberg: "White House economic adviser Lawrence Summers said the U.S. economy soon will start generating jobs and move a step closer to lowering the nation’s unemployment rate ... Better weather, hiring of temporary government workers and a growing economy are likely to expand payrolls by as much as 300,000 jobs in March, David Greenlaw, chief fixed-income economist at Morgan Stanley in New York, said ... Still, Summers said the recovery 'is likely to be less rapid than in some past historical instances.'"

Senate schedules cloture vote on revised jobs tax credit bill for Monday reports CQ.

Digby renames deficit hawks as "Little Hoovers": "Little Hoovers want to shock the states so they can break the state level public sector programs once and for all. At the very least, all those useless bureaucratic parasites living off the taxpayers need to be brought down to the level of the rest of the proles. Saving their jobs and the services they provide is counter-productive to the goals of the revolution."

American Prospect's Jake Blumgart examines why the president is having trouble fixing the Department of Labor's Bush-era damage: "Under both Bush and Clinton, the Department of Labor largely relied on a complaint-based strategy, reacting to complaints as they came in ... The two Labor Department appointees blocked in the Senate were both known advocates of ambitiously scaled, strategically planned investigations."

Obama delivers speech on strategy to boost exports, still walks fine line on trade: "...we will substantially increase access to trade financing for businesses that want to export their goods but just need a boost ... We’ll create public-private partnerships to help firms break into new markets with the help of those who have been there ... [We will make] sure American companies have free and fair access to those markets. And that begins by enforcing trade agreements we already have on the books ... But keep in mind, the United States offers some of the world’s lowest barriers to trade. That’s why we can often get more out of a trade deal, because our borders are largely already open ... We’re going to strengthen relations with key partners, specifically South Korea, Panama, Colombia, with the goal of moving forward with existing agreements in a way that upholds our values ... China moving to a more market-oriented exchange rate will make an essential contribution to that global rebalancing effort."

Bipartisan Immigration Proposal In The Works

Sens. Schumer and Graham meet with Obama to advance immigration reform. LAT "Graham said the elements included tougher border security, a program to admit temporary immigrant workers and a biometric Social Security card ... Graham also said the proposal included 'a rational plan to deal with the millions of illegal immigrants already in the United States ... We're not going to mass-deport people and put them in jail ...' ... Graham predicted that their effort would collapse if Senate Democrats proceeded with a strategy to pass a healthcare bill through a simple majority vote ... Obama and Schumer sounded more upbeat."

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