fresh voices from the front lines of change







Majority Will Passes Historic Health Care Reforms

Senate health care bill clears House with votes to spare. NYT: “House Democrats approved a far-reaching overhaul of the nation’s health system on Sunday, voting over unanimous Republican opposition to provide medical coverage to tens of millions of uninsured Americans … Democrats hailed the votes as a historic advance in social justice, comparable to the establishment of Medicare and Social Security…”

President heralds passage of next piece of the “change” mandate: “Tonight, we answered the call of history as so many generations of Americans have before us. When faced with crisis, we did not shrink from our challenge — we overcame it. We did not avoid our responsibility — we embraced it. We did not fear our future — we shaped it.”

CNN lists the Democrats from districts that backed McCain in ’08 who nevertheless voted “Yes.”

Organizing for America successfully applied grassroots pressure, according to Politico’s Smith: “Two quite senior Democrats now email that the group should be getting some credit. ‘They drove over 400,000 calls from real constituents to wavering members of Congress this week alone. They kept us in the game,’ says one top official.”’s Roger Hickey praises grassroots coalition, pledges further reforms: “Congratulations to all our allies joined together as Health Care for America Now — and, as the President said, ‘every unsung American who took the time to sit down and write a letter or type out an e-mail hoping your voice would be heard … the untold numbers who knocked on doors and made phone calls, who organized and mobilized’ or organized an accountability session demanding that our representatives act for health reform. We know how to make democracy work. We must all keep watch on the insurance and drug industry—to make sure that this is just the beginning of reform. And someday soon we must pass a strong public option.”

Senate to take up House changes, after President signs underlying bill into law. W. Post: “…20 hours of debate will begin Tuesday, according to senior Democratic and Republican aides, concluding Wednesday night or Thursday morning … Republicans are allowed to offer an unlimited number of amendments [but] Republicans expect to force only enough votes to last through Saturday at the latest.”

Senate leadership will whip against amendments, including possible public option amendment: “Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) has said that Democrats would be asked to defeat any and all amendments, even ones they might support, in an effort to pass the bill, unchanged, and get it to the president’s desk.”

The President will take a cross-country victory lap. CNN: “President Barack Obama plans to hit the road this week to start aggressively selling the benefits of the health care overhaul and give nervous Democratic lawmakers some political cover across the country … The president will take many such trips in the weeks ahead…”

Historians tell McClatchy getting things done is good for getting re-elected … and getting more things done: “Historians and political experts said that Sunday’s passage … rescues Obama from being branded a political loser in only the second year of his presidency, and probably helps limit the Democrats’ expected losses in November’s congressional elections … voters respect a president who gets things done more than one who doesn’t. Democratic lawmakers may be more willing to back his future legislative agenda than they would be if he’d lost.”

Robert Reich argues the ramifications for our politics are enormous: “For the first time since Ronald Reagan told America government is the problem, Obama’s health bill reasserts that government can provide a major solution.”

NYT’s Paul Krugman sees the difference between progressives exercising good government and conservatives playing crass politics: ” on one side, the closing argument was an appeal to our better angels, urging politicians to do what is right, even if it hurts their careers; on the other side, callous cynicism. Think about what it means to condemn health reform by comparing it to the Civil Rights Act.”

A muted reaction from the insurance lobby in defeat. Politico’s Ben Smith reports: “The president and CEO of the insurance industry group, America’s Health Insurance Plans, Karen Ignagni today, put out a statement of one sentence … ‘The access expansions are a significant step forward, but this legislation will exacerbate the health care costs crisis facing many working families and small businesses.'”

Bloomberg details the progressive taxation on the wealthiest that partially funds the bill: “Most of the revenue would come from higher Medicare taxes on about 1 million individuals earning more than $200,000 and about 4 million couples filing jointly who make more than $250,000. The legislation would for the first time apply Medicare taxes to investment income received by these households beginning in 2013 … ”

Will Health Care Be The Conservative “Waterloo”?

Bush speech writer David Frum sees a conservatives “Waterloo,” that they could have escaped if only they’d wanted to: “We followed the most radical voices in the party and the movement, and they led us to abject and irreversible defeat. There were leaders who knew better, who would have liked to deal. But they were trapped … How do you negotiate with somebody who wants to murder your grandmother?”

Mother Jones’ David Corn considers if Frum’s analysis exposes a deeper rift within the GOP: “…if his comments reflect a wider sentiment within Republican circles, it’s possible the GOP could be struck by an internal division over the health care reform fight: Do Republicans move on, or do they act like those fabled Japanese soldiers stranded on deserted islands at the end of World War II…”

The Guardian’s Michael Tomasky concurs with Frum, says the GOP has ” lost its collective mind.”:: “The Chuck Grassley of eight or 10 years ago was a conservative person, but as far as I knew a somewhat reasonable legislator, whereas the Chuck Grassley of the last year has been a dishonest loon, helping to spread the nonsense about death panels.”

Booman writes that Frum is mistaken that conservatives got “nothing,” but agrees that they are now unable to help govern: “This bill might have been the Republican version of health care fifteen-twenty years ago. Today it passes with no Republican support. And they have so poisoned the minds of their supporters, that they will never be able to govern effectively in this new paradigm.”

Digby offers details about what was coming in over the Capitol phone lines, and says the GOP base is reverting to type: “I have it good authority that there’s a lot of this coming over the phone lines too, ‘n****r’ being the preferred epithet. At the end of the day, plain old bigotry and racism is what this frothing frenzy against health care is all about … This is not a spontaneous uprising of disaffected citizens who are angry about bailouts. This is the base of the modern Republican party, same as it ever was.”

Mystery unsolved: which congressman called Rep Bart Stupak “Baby Killer” on the House floor? W. Post: “[GOP Rep. John] Campbell, initially suspected as the lawmaker who shouted the phrase, told reporters that he didn’t say it and believed that it came from a member sitting a row behind him, where the Texas Republicans usually sit. Campbell said he heard ‘a Southern accent’.”

HuffPost compiled the most “over-the-top” rhetoric from the health care reform debate: “From Sen. Tom Coburn’s macabre warning to seniors that if health care reform gets implemented they were going to ‘die sooner’ to Georgia Congressman Paul Broun’s recent comments that the health bill would make insurance cards as ‘worthless as the Confederate dollar.’ (Just for good measure Broun characterized the push for reform as a ‘War of Yankee Aggression.’)”

Student Loan Reform Clears House As Well

End of subsidies for private student lenders passes House in reconciliation bill, heads to Senate. NYT: “Instead, the government will expand a direct lending program, a step that the Congressional Budget Office said would save taxpayers $61 billion over 10 years, and use the money to increase Pell grants for students. ”

W. Post reminds the proposed money for Pell grants was scaled back from the initial bill: “The amount directed at Pell grants would drop from $40 billion to $36 billion, and a portion of the smaller amount would go toward closing an unexpected shortfall in the grant program, oversubscribed because of the recession. The annual Pell grant would rise to $5,975 by 2017 from the current $5,550, and for the first time, it would be linked to the consumer price index. In the original House bill, the Pell target was $6,900. Community colleges would get $2 billion, down from $10 billion in the original bill. More than $20 billion in initiatives for early education, K-12 school modernization and student loan interest-rate reduction would be eliminated.”

China Defensive Under Increasing Pressure On Currency

Reagan-era Deputy Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer urges Obama to refocus Doha trade talks on China’s currency manipulation in NYT oped: ” China has stockpiled some $2.4 trillion in foreign currency reserves in its determination to keep the yuan from rising — as market forces would normally require — and maintain its trade advantage. No wonder almost a third of the House demanded last week that the Obama administration take some action.”

China’s rhetoric heats up in reaction to pressure on currency. W. Post: ” China’s commerce minister warned the United States on Sunday that if it launches a ‘trade war’ against China by levying punitive tariffs on Chinese imports, the United States will suffer the most. Chen Deming also said the U.S. government’s ‘obsession’ with China’s exchange rate could not be seriously addressed until it stopped blocking the export of high-tech products, such as supercomputers and satellites, to China … While some analysts have predicted that China would soon start to let the yuan appreciate, Chen’s interview illustrated the fact that there is a strong lobby in China opposing revaluation”

“China Killed IMF Report on Their Currency Manipulation” notes Economic Populist: “Gets even better. Be prepared for a propaganda war due to a statistical anomaly … China will report a trade deficit…”

Dean Baker undercuts China’s “humanitarian” argument for currency manipulation: “…the small business owner on display complained that his material costs had risen by 17 percent in the last year while his labor costs had risen by 30 percent. He then added that a 3 percent rise in the value of the yuan would be devastating. Of course if his labor costs rose by 30 percent this suggests that his workers have many other options where they can make better wages.”

Dodd Bill Moves To Markup Today

Bank lobbyists look to undercut Dodd attempt to advance Volcker rule on high-risk trading. Bloomberg: “Lobbyists for financial firms are seeking to water down language in Section 619 of the 1,336-page bill proposed last week by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd. Their message: Study the issue first to see if it’s needed, then give regulators the option of imposing a ban. The current language in the draft says federal agencies ‘shall issue final regulations implementing’ the Volcker rule … Lobbyists are moving to weaken the proposal as the Senate Banking Committee today begins weighing amendments to Dodd’s financial overhaul legislation.”

Bernanke weighs in on “too big to fail” reform. Bloomberg: “Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said any mechanism to dismantle firms deemed too big to fail must avoid disruptions to the financial system while imposing costs on shareholders and creditors, not taxpayers … Bernanke said [Dodd’s ‘funeral plans’] concept was ‘worth exploring.'”

Immigration Reform Efforts Sparked By Major Rally

LAT on successful “March for America”: “… tens of thousands of people rallied Sunday on the National Mall, challenging Congress to fix laws that they say separate families and hurt the country’s economic and social vitality … Others at the rally were blunt, saying that officials will pay a price at the polls if they ignore the calls from a small but fast-growing electorate.”

President addresses rally with videotaped message. AP: “…Obama warned of the cost of inaction. He said problems with today’s immigration system include families being torn apart, employers gaming the system and police officers struggling to keep communities safe. Obama said he would do everything in his power to forge a bipartisan consensus on immigration reform this year.”

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