Progressive Breakfast: Congress Returns
By Bill Scher
September 8, 2009 - 10:25am ET
The daily Progressive Breakfast serves up what progressive movement members need to know to start their day.
Congress Returns, With Health Care #1 Priority
Congress returns to DC, some more committed to pass health care reform than ever. W. Post: "'I think, if anything, the mood has changed to be more favorable to health-care reform,' said Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy (D-Ohio), who won her Columbus-based seat in 2008 by less than 1 percent of the vote. 'Personally, I'm probably more confident than when recess began,' added Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper (D-Pa.), another freshman. She held 18 town hall meetings in her northwestern Pennsylvania district, which stretches from Pittsburgh's suburbs to Erie, and found that three-quarters of her constituents support some form of health-care overhaul. 'If I had just been listening to the media, I don't think I would have been as confident,' she said."
The Treatment's Jonathan Cohn says prospect for reform unchanged in August: "Somehow, though, health reform is not dead. Despite all of the setbacks and all of the missed opportunities--despite this train wreck of a month--the situation remains remarkably similar to what it was before the recess. Significant health care legislation is likely to pass, particularly if Obama manages to give a good speech on Wednesday night. And while the possibilities for what that legislation might accomplish have certainly diminished, mostly for worse, it’s not clear how much they have diminished--and to what extent progressives may yet have the power to change that fact."
NYT on WH-Congress coordination: "Mr. Obama plans to meet Tuesday at the White House with the top Democrats in Congress, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Harry Reid, to coordinate strategy."
Former Obama staffers and volunteers planning 12:15 rally for public option at White House, organized by Progressive Campaign Change Committee.
USA Today covers planned right-wing Tea Party protest on Saturday: "Encouraged by conservative commentators such as Fox's Glenn Beck and organized virtually on Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites, the march will constitute "'the largest gathering of fiscal conservatives ever,' says Adam Brandon of FreedomWorks. The advocacy group led by former House majority leader Dick Armey is planning the event, although other organizers say theirs is an unprompted movement ... FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe says 'tens of thousands' will march. 'They are opposed to President Obama's multitrillion-dollar government takeover of health care, opposed to his massive tax on energy ... and opposed to spending money we don't have to bailing out homeowners and auto companies,' he says."
Roll Call (via Politico Pulse) reports some House liberals open to some form of "trigger" compromise: "...several House liberals told Roll Call that they could support such a bill depending on how it was structured ... they would only support a trigger if that approach guaranteed the same access, quality and affordability."
Roger Hickey counsels President to avoid transfer of wealth from citizens to insurance companies in HuffPost: "He’d had better pledge to make sure good health insurance is affordable for all Americans – because he’s already made a deal to force all of us to buy insurance. And if is not affordable, he could get a bill, but there will be hell to pay later – not from 'the left,' but from working Americans ... that’s where the public option comes in – giving the private insurance companies price competition from a non-profit insurance company that sell good insurance at affordable prices, and giving us all some transparent benchmark information about how cheaply a company can sell insurance with good, reliable health benefits."
W. Post recounts horror stories of insurance companies dropping coverage for sick customers.
NYT reviews urban-rural fight over reimbursements that interferes with achieving consensus: "new government data show that Medicare costs per patient in [NYC and Boston] are slightly below the national average when the numbers are adjusted for the cost of living and other factors. The new numbers add fuel to a raging debate ... Mr. Obama says the nation could save huge sums if all doctors and hospitals were as efficient as those in lower-cost states like Iowa, Minnesota, Washington and Wisconsin. Lawmakers from those states have reached an agreement with House Democratic leaders that would increase federal Medicare payments to health providers in their states. Higher-cost states, which could see their Medicare payments reduced, are fighting back."
Baucus Floats Last-Chance Attempt At Bipartisan Compromise
Change.org's Tim Foley on new Baucus proposal, "less": "The House bill and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions bill each would require insurance plans in the exchange to pay for 70-80% of medical costs, which is what most employer-based plans do. The gang of six is coming in way under that – which is something we know United Health’s lobbyists have been pushing for. The gang of six also only gives subsidies for those under 300% of the poverty line (about $32,000 for an individual or $66,000 for a family of four), and has higher caps on premiums and out-of-pocket expenses for individuals than any other bill. All of that is pretty technical, but it translates to one word: less. Less coverage, less generous subsidies, less regulation of the insurance industry, less protection on out-of-pocket expenses, fewer choices (no public option), etc. You’ll get a lower price tag, sure. But what you are spending on doesn’t go as far or help as much. The real benefit of the lower price tag is entirely political: you can skip some tough choices on savings and new revenue."
Digby sees it making nobody happy: "Baucus has basically chosen the back door approach to lifting the employer exclusion ... this is going to piss off the insurance companies and make the Republicans more obstinate than ever, it's hard to see why he felt the need to eliminate the public plan, but there you have it. So we have a s***y plan that the CBO will say saves money but that Democrats will have as hard a time passing as one with a public plan. Awesome strategy."
Jonathan Cohn says it coulda been worse: "The proposal is not good as it could be, at least relative to what the other committees have produced. But it's certainly not as bad as it could be, given expectations and the demands Republicans have been making. Rather than gut the proposal in order to keep the price tag down, Baucus has kept most of the basic structure and offered financial assistance that’s close to--if not equal to--what the other committees have offered. As a result, the bill will require between $800 and $900 billion in outlays over ten years rather than, say, between $600 and $700 billion--as some recently circulated language suggested. But with that extra money, the proposal delivers at least some financial relief to people with incomes up to four times the poverty rate, rather than cutting off assistance at a much lower number. (It also reduces the deficit in the budget planning window, something no other bill does....)"
Ezra Klein is even more charitable: "it's worth noting that centrist Democrat Max Baucus is proposing spending $900 billion over 10 years to help low-income Americans afford health-care coverage and avoid medical bankruptcy. This bill is not going to be perfect, but it's going to be a big step forward."
Obama Names Manufacturing Adviser As China Tire Case Looms
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports on new manufacturing post: "[Ron] Bloom will be working with the Commerce, Treasury, Labor and Energy departments to develop 'new initiatives affecting manufacturing,' the White House said. Mr. Bloom will maintain his position as a senior adviser to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and will continue to serve on the President's Task Force on the Automotive Industry ... [United Steelworkers President Leo] Gerard said he hoped the appointment means the Obama administration is taking a serious look at how to address job losses in the manufacturing sector. He would like to see Mr. Bloom examine trade policies and to look at ways to encourage companies to stop sending jobs overseas. 'He's found someone with a unique set of skills to start dealing with it,' he said. 'It makes me a little bit more optimistic.'"
Tapped's Tim Fernholz speculates on the implications: "The policy implications of this new position are still nebulous. My understanding is that Bloom has been agitating to create this position and was able to convince both Summers and the President, but the Administration hasn't worked out what exactly Bloom will do yet; the position was announced early to make a union-pleasing appointment on Labor Day. One possible outlet, though, will be some kind of limited industrial policy, where the government uses various policy tools to advantage certain business sectors ... Another, more prosaic outcome is that Bloom will simply be cleaning house and aligning different government manufacturing initiatives to increase their efficiency. Bloom and the Auto Task Force have a solid track record of accomplishment thus far, so this new position will be worth watching."
W. Post checks in on pending WH decision on Chinese tire imports: "By Sept. 17, Obama must decide whether to slap a 55 percent tariff on tires imported from China, as recommended by a federal trade panel, or leave the matter alone, as a phalanx of lobbyists representing manufacturers in China and U.S. companies that import from them are urging. From 2004 to last year, the number of Chinese tires imported to the United States more than tripled, and their share of the U.S. market rose from 5 percent to 17 percent. Over the same period, the share of the U.S. market served by U.S. factories declined by a similar amount. More than 5,000 U.S. jobs were lost. Opponents of the tariff say the U.S. industry's shrinkage is unrelated to the surge in Chinese imports. The U.S. manufacturers, they say, have strategically moved into pricier, more profitable tires, shifting production of cheaper tires overseas ... Congress passed legislation in 2000 that allows the United States to impose tariffs and other protections if a surge in Chinese imports damages a U.S. industry. China agreed to the provision while negotiating to join the World Trade Organization ... The Bush administration was asked four times to impose measures to protect a U.S. industry, but it declined each time."
Chamber Attacks Financial Reform
WSJ reports Chamber of Commerce spending big to defeat CFPA: "The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is launching an advertising campaign of at least $2 million aimed at defeating a central plank of the Obama administration's financial-regulation overhaul ... The ads are aimed at the administration's proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency, which would tightly regulate consumer products including mortgages and credit cards ... The Chamber's goal is twofold: move the spotlight off the unpopular commercial banks and mortgage lenders that are the target of the legislation and muster a roster of more sympathetic opponents."
Baseline Scenario's Simon Johnson skeptically previews G-20 meeting at end of month: "Long documents have been produced and official websites have become more organized. Statements of principle have been made. And the melodrama of rival reform proposals has reared its head: continental Europeans for controlling pay vs. the US for raising capital vs. the UK not really wanting to do anything. But what does all of this add up to, and what should we expect from the forthcoming summit sequence? Nothing meaningful."
Treehugger suggests new Japan government can raise global climate goals, or not: "Japanese prime minister-designate Yukio Hatoyama has pledged to reduce Japan's greenhouse-gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020 from 1990 levels, a target more ambitious than made by outgoing premier Taro Aso's and a target that puts the U.S. to shame. In June, the Japanese government announced a target of only 8 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. The pledge is contingent on other developed countries reaching strong goals ... Japan could now join the European Union, which has said it will up its decrease of emissions if other leading economies join them ... It's possible that it could be the U.S. that ends up getting Japan to abandon its pledge."
Stimulus helping schools some, but not big enough to avert all layoffs. NYT: "How much the federal money has succeeded in stabilizing schools depends on the state. In those where budget deficits have been manageable, stimulus money largely replaced plunging taxpayer revenues for schools. But in Arizona, California, Georgia and a dozen other states with overwhelming deficits, the federal money has failed to prevent the most extensive school layoffs in several decades, experts said."
Supreme Court about to re-hear arguments Wednesday whether corporations can be banned from funding electioneering ads.
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