Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Fireside chat for February 6, 2010 (VIDEO)

Yeah, it's posting late. I still lack home Internet Service until Monday (buh-bye Earthlink, hello AT&T for $14 less!).


Reiterating once again his commitment to small businesses as the engine of our economy, the President urges Congress to move forward immediately in steps to help them expand and create jobs.

Friday, February 5, 2010

President Obama talks to Organizing for America Activists (VIDEO)

February 4, 2010, Washington, DC: President Obama reviews the many accomplishments over the past year and addresses the tough fights ahead -- including the 2010 elections, fighting to strengthen the middle class, and finishing the job on health reform. The President then takes some of the questions that OFA supporters like you submitted online.

TPM: Slowly marching our way back to real recovery... (GRAPH)

Courtesy TPM.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The President's Speech at the National Prayer Breakfast (VIDEO)

Again, the President goes into the Lion's Den and speaks the truth to their faces...

Ta-Neishi Coates noted that when the President brought up the birtherism, the audience laughed.

The President didn't.

Just like yesterday, in front of the Senate Democrats. Obama brought up the Village Voice headline about the GOP having a 41-59 Majority in the Senate. The Senate Democrats laughed.

The President didn't.

And for the Record, Senate Democrats: The President brought up Health Care...again.

UPDATE: 4:46pm: Pacific: Not just once...
but three times.

For those of you wondering about the oncoming Palin-Limbaugh feud (VIDEO)...

Worry not, Palin did hit back at Limbaugh for his own "retard" comments...

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Of course, she did it through a spokesperson.

And she didn't call for his resignation, like she called for Rahmbo's.

UPDATE: 2:25pm Pacific: Uh-oh. Rick Perry steps into this mess...and not in the way he probably intended.

From the people who brought you Jay Leno at 10pm... (PHOTO)

Yes, NBC/Universal...this would be racist.

Story and pic came from here.

Game on, Senate Republicans...

Republicans, demanding Scott Brown be seated may turn out to be the biggest mistake you ever made.

Think about it. The Senate is now split 59-41.

There next thing the Senate is debating is a Jobs Bill. This is a modestly priced bill (sorry, 80 Billion in this Economy is modestly priced) that should pass 100-0.

Okay, 80-20. Emperor Demint's wing would never vote for such a thing.

But it may not happen. Why?

The Republicans, after trying to ride this massive wave of populism against Obama and the Democrats are actually thinking of filibustering said bill.

Yes, you read that correctly:

In the middle of a the middle of a weak Economy...the Party of No is going to say a Jobs Bill.

If they do this, the GOP can forget about making any gains in 2010.

And how do you know the Democrats are serious? The vote's scheduled for Monday.

The Democrats know they need at least one Republican to vote yes. They're not arm twisting. They're not back room dealing. They're putting their cards on the table. This is the bill. Yea or nay?

Hold a vote, and it passes? Great. We have a Jobs Bill we can run on.

Hold a vote, and it fails? Great. We're going to run on that vote for the next years and run the GOP into the ground.

Game on.

Oh, and Progressives...if this goes down on Monday, I expect massive, massive apologies to Harry Reid.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Way deep into the weeds of the Senate...

According to Jonathan Chait at the New Republic, the GOP says they've found a way to filibuster that which cannot be filibustered.

Their idea, offered by the wingnut emperor Jim DeMint is that while they cannot filibuster the Health Care Reconciliation Fix (the so-called Plan B), they can offer an infinite number of amendments to said bill. Of course, to stop them from doing so would guessed it!...60 Votes.

The Democrats do have a countermeasure:

Another option for Democrats would be to seek a ruling by the parliamentarian that Republicans are simply filing amendments to stall the process. But such a ruling could taint the final healthcare vote and backfire for Democrats in November.

At this point, it's hard for me to see that as a major impediment, but Democrats have surprised me before with their unique brand of spineless and cowardice.

Jonathan Chait, again:

The story actually provides a fascinating window into the partisan psychology on Capitol Hill. The Republicans might block health care reform by trying a maneuver that, while legal, has never been done before. Democrats might respond in kind with a counter-maneuver that's also legal and has never been done before. Yet the story implies -- accurately, I suspect -- that Democrats fear they would be tainted. The Republicans seem to have no such fear (“You’ll see Republicans do everything they can to delay and stop this process,” says Jim DeMint.)

Message to Democrats. Don't fall for this. If they want to run on a procedural trick that no one's going to be remember by June, let 'em. If they want to pound their chest and say "Democrats resorted to procedural tricks" -- to what? Get 30 Million more people Health Insurance? Let 'em.

TPM: Health Care Reform...the damn way forward...finally.

Courtesy TPM. Yes, on a way forward. Nothing yet on a freakin' timeline!

For the first time since the Massachusetts special election last month, Democratic leaders in Congress have signaled an agreement in principle on a way to finally pass health care reform, despite the loss of their filibuster-breaking 60th vote in the Senate. However, though both House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid appear to have settled on an overall framework, they have backed off a timeline for reaching a workable solution as they resolve some outstanding procedural issues.

Emerging from a meeting with Pelosi yesterday, Reid acknowledged that the most likely scenario for passing reform is what has come to be known as Plan B: Congress would preemptively pass an amending bill through the 51-vote budget reconciliation process, allowing the House to adopt the Senate bill word for word.

"That seems like a strong possibility," Reid said.

That puts him in agreement with House leaders, who say they can't pass the Senate bill until the reconciliation process is completely wrapped up.

"Don't even ask us to consider passing the Senate bill until the other legislation has passed both houses so that we're sure that it has happened, and that we know that what we would be voting for would be as effected by a reconciliation bill or whatever parliamentary initiative they have at their disposal," Pelosi said yesterday.

That leaves unresolved two major questions: When and how? Last week, both House and Senate leaders said they believed they'd have answers for anxious reformers by the end of this week. But yesterday, they backed away from that self-imposed deadline.

"We hope to be in a position in the near future--don't put me down as to days or number of weeks--to move forward health care," Reid said at his press conference yesterday afternoon.

Senate aides also say there's a potential procedural problem: The Senate rules may not allow the upper chamber to pass a bill which amends legislation that hasn't been signed into law. Yesterday, Reid suggested that the House's powerful Rules Committee gives the lower chamber more leeway to push through legislation than the Senate has. But Pelosi yesterday insisted that objection doesn't meet muster.

"It is not an obstacle to this path forward," she said.

Gee, this blog has been hyping this idea since January 24th (via Paul Krugman and virtually every other blogger out there). What took 'em so long?

I still think this is too much about a House vs. Senate d--k measuring contest.

The Obama Process...

I've been thinking a long time about writing a piece about how Obama does things, and why it drives people crazy, particularly his ideological allies. My shorthand for this has been to say that he's got a schedule. Once he decides to move on something he's going to move his way, on his schedule, and there isn't a power on this earth to move him off that.

But then I came across a letter posted to Andrew Sullivan on his site, talking about this very concept, in this case specifically on DADT. Frankly, the reader said it far better than I would have (and has the added benefit of real world experience to boot):

Like you, I am impatient about the ban on gays, and wish the President would just change the law with a stroke of a pen. But, on reflection (months of reflection and quite a bit of disappointment), I am beginning to come around to this approach. His approach, no matter how frustrating, is essentially good governance. It forces Congress to act, which is appropriate, since they passed “don’t ask, don’t tell” in the first place. It gives the military months of time to change policy, to educate and to operate, which is important when dealing with one of the largest bureaucracies in the world. Beyond that, it makes the process distinctly apolitical, which, when I think about it, is the only way to make it stick.

I worked in Washington during the Clinton administration, and I remember the ferocity of the storm kicked up by the original attempt to change this policy. While I believe that may have lead to being un-necessarily gun-shy this time around, the more I think about it, the more I believe that Change-gradual Obama knows exactly what he’s doing. In fact, I believe that he has known this from the start – that in order to end the ban forever, he must make the change unassailable, relentless and gradual. He has used this past year to wage two wars, to gain the trust and respect of the military, and to get a little Commander-in-Chief Mojo. Now, instead of changing the policy with a pen, which would certainly rankle some officers, he’s issuing orders, but giving time, and allowing the military to do its thing – which is to study, to figure out implementation, and to get the mission plan in place.

Like I said – it’s called governance. After eight years without it, I realize I’ve forgotten what it looks like and, no matter how frustrating, it feels like the right course of action. And, I’m a big gay democrat, who has wanted the ban ended for over twenty years.

Increasingly, I’m seeing this with just about everything the administration does and no matter the bumps in the road (and the periodic moments of cable-news-induced panic), I think I’m beginning to get it. Obama is governing. It’s hard work. It’s incremental. And, it’s working.

Afterward, Andrew responded:

Take the HIV ban. After the Bush administration bungled the implementation and ran out of time, the Obama administration seemed to dither. They stonewalled my inquiries and took their sweet time. I realized after a while - and they were kind enough to explain to me at length off the record - that they were absolutely intent on getting every single detail right. They wanted to avoid any legal challenge to the ban's removal because of some procedural lapse or rushed move. Real lives hung in the balance, but they got it done in the end. It took a year - but it was no-drama and has taken hold. I sure hope that's an omen for the military issue.

Matt Lauer's Interview with First Lady, Michelle Obama (VIDEO)

Turning into another busy day...

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President Obama takes questions from Senate Democrats (VIDEO)

I wrote this passage last night, waiting for the White House to put up their (much better than C-SPAN) Video of the event. Unfortunately, Rachel and Keith then went on to make many of the same comments I did:

Not quite as hostile as the House Republicans...

At the same time, why was the President the only one to bring up Health Care in its proper context? I mean, Senators mentioned it in passing, but none of them took it head on.

Which tells me that they think their job is mostly done. (They still owe us reconcilliation).

Michael Bennett rambled a bit, but I wound up liking the guy more than I thought.

Blanche Lincoln was insufferable. Her question was about as bad as most of the House Republicans from a couple days ago. Talking point with a question buried in there somewhere. She's just about the only Democrat I'm looking forward to losing her job next year.

Here's the White House Video:

Here's Keith:

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Here's Rachel:

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Jon Stewart interviews Presidential Econ Adviser Austan Goolsbee (VIDEO)

Austan Goolsbee explains that having a big deficit this year will keep America away from Great Depression Land.

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The President's Town Hall in Nashua, N.H. of Feb. 2, 2010 (VIDEO)

The President holds a town hall in Nashua, New Hampshire. Having just come from visiting a local business, he discusses his new program to aid small business and community banks.

For anyone out there thinking paring the bill back to just the Insurance reforms will work...

...I'm talkin' about you, Howard Dean. Nancy Pelosi explains why that notion just won't work.

"The slow deterioration in Senate bipartisanship between 1991 and 2009" (VIDEO)

Well...sorta video. More of an embedded presentation.

I'll let Erza explain:

Andrew Odewahn has put together a fantastic set of slides showing the slow deterioration in Senate bipartisanship between 1991 and 2009.

But keep an eye not just on the deterioration of cross-party cooperation, but the shifting blocs within both parties. As Odewahn shows, "there are clear and distinct moderate blocks within both parties." Saying that Democrats have 60 votes doesn't tell you whether Harry Reid has 60 votes, or whether liberals have 60 votes. The story of the Senate is not just that the two major parties don't agree and don't cooperate with each other, but that they don't always agree and cooperate with themselves.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Don't forget...

It's been three weeks, and I can already feel America's attention waning.


John McCain. Hypocrites First!

John McCain conveniently flips his stance on DADT, and the Washington Post calls him out on it.

"The day that the leadership of the military comes to me and says, 'Senator, we ought to change the policy,' then I think we ought to consider seriously changing it because those leaders in the military are the ones we give the responsibility to," McCain told an audience of college students during the "Hardball" college tour on MSNBC.

That day arrived Tuesday, with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen testifying to senators following President Obama's announcement that he would seek a congressional repeal of the controversial 15-year-old policy....

In response, the Arizona senator declared himself "disappointed" in the testimony by Mullen and Gates. The senator said Gates should be asking whether to repeal the ban, not acting as if it had already been repealed.

"At this moment of immense hardship for our armed services, we should not be seeking to overturn the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy," McCain said bluntly, before describing it as "imperfect but effective."

Jonathan Chait highlighted this first
, and noted this particular passage. It so turned by stomach, I just had to share.

Monday, February 1, 2010

President Obama: The YouTube Interview... (VIDEO)

The President responded to questions in a live YouTube interview at the White House today, Monday, February 1st.

YouTubers submitted over 11,000 questions and cast over 667,000 votes after the President's State of the Union address last week. YouTube collected the top questions, ensuring we covered a range of issues, minimized duplicate questions, and included both video and text submissions.

The Pushback begins...Congressional edition...

Following up on a piece written by Norm Ornstein (I believe I mentioned it) is another piece in today's New Republic:

These days, liberals don’t know whether to feel betrayed by or merely disappointed with Barack Obama. They have gone from decrying his willingness to remove the public option from his health care plan to worrying that, in the wake of Democrat Martha Coakley’s defeat in Massachusetts, he won’t get any plan through Congress. On other subjects, too, from Afghanistan to Wall Street, Obama has thoroughly let down his party’s left flank.

Yet there is one extremely consequential area where Obama has done just about everything a liberal could ask for--but done it so quietly that almost no one, including most liberals, has noticed. Obama’s three Republican predecessors were all committed to weakening or even destroying the country’s regulatory apparatus: the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and the other agencies that are supposed to protect workers and consumers by regulating business practices. Now Obama is seeking to rebuild these battered [regulatory] institutions. In doing so, he isn’t simply improving the effectiveness of various government offices or making scattered progress on a few issues; he is resuscitating an entire philosophy of government with roots in the Progressive era of the early twentieth century. Taken as a whole, Obama’s revival of these agencies is arguably the most significant accomplishment of his first year in office.

The Pushback begins...

By pushback, I mean a pushback against the notion that Health Care Reform is dead. It ain't.

There are three really good articles on the subject this morning.

There is one downside, in's a bit of a circle jerk in that it seems that each article is referencing the other, but it's all good stuff. More to the point, it's all good news.

First is the New Republic's Jonathan Cohn:

Even the decision to focus on jobs, banking, and the economy right now--while letting the "dust settle" on health care reform--may not be quite the sign of retreat it seems at first blush. Many insiders have suggested to me that giving leadership a little breathing space to negotiate, and giving members of Congress more time to adjust to the post-Massachusetts political landscape, will ultimately make a deal more likely. In today's Los Angeles Times, Rep. Gerald Connolly, president of the House Freshman Democrats says that strategy may be working: "The more they think about it, the more they can appreciate that it may be a viable . . . vehicle for getting healthcare reform done."

Still, even some of Obama's supporters think he, or at least his administration, could be more acting more aggressively. They remain dismayed (as do I) that the administration didn't have a clearer plan for how to proceed with reform in the wake of the Massachusetts election--and worry, even now, that the prevailing attitude is to let Congress come to its senses rather than to bring Congress to its senses. "The administration's arms-length approach is a large part of the problem," says a senior Democratic strategist. "They have lost vital time and momentum. There is no excuse."

During Friday's cabinet meeting, President Obama apparently told his advisers that reform was on the two-yard line. That sounds about right. But it may not get over the goal line unless he, and the rest of the Democratic team, push even harder.

Then, there is the New Republic's other Jonathan, Jonathan Chait.

Most of the coverage you've seen elsewhere -- this L.A. Times article offers a notable exception -- has offered a more dire take than the two Jonathans'. Here's why I think most of those prognoses are too grim.

First, as I've been saying, the fundamentals have not really changed since the Massachusetts election. Democrats have already paid whatever political price they'll pay, having voted through a bill in both houses. They've already done the hardest part by far, which is overcome a Senate filibuster. All that remains is getting 218 votes in the House to pass the Senate bill and 50 votes in the Senate to fix it, mostly with popular changes. The big picture view is that the Democrats have a massive incentive to get this done, and the procedural road to accomplish that has not gotten any more difficult. Generally, though not always, politicians can grasp their political self-interest.

Second, the news coverage has mostly been ignoring the fundamentals, and instead has revolved around ground-level reporting in Congress. This presents a pretty unhappy picture: The House and Senate distrust each other, everybody's freaked out, various members of Congress are spouting off. This is an important part of the picture. But it isn't the whole picture. Members of Congress have an incentive to hold out and express their skepticism -- it maximizes their bargaining leverage, and protects them in case of failure. Most of the news reports covering health care made this same mistake in the summer and early fall. Story after story emphasized disunity and obstacles, which was the ground-level picture, when the important dynamic was that the Senate Democrats came together in response to Republican obstructionism and decided to pass a bill.

Third, the biggest hurdle is the House of Representatives. The House is a majoritarian institution that tends to act like a parliamentary party. The House doesn't kill the agenda of a president of the same party. It's not just the lack of a filibuster -- House members are not like Senators. One thing that struck me about President Obama's appearance at the House GOP retreat was the way the Republicans treated him at the end, mobbing him for autographs. Senators don't act like that. Very few members of the House have the ego to stand up to serious pressure and tell their president they're going to kill the centerpiece of his agenda.

Again, I'm not making a guarantee or anything close. Among other things, my scenario presupposes an intense, engaged White House lobbying the House at the end of the process, and that level of engagement may not materialize. And multiple things could go wrong. Another negative political shock, not even as large as Massachusetts, would probably be fatal. Still, I wouldn't bet against a signing ceremony.

Then there is the LA Times news Article that Mr. Chait referenced. Of course, it helps that the title is: Democrats quietly working to resuscitate healthcare overhaul:

President Obama's campaign to overhaul the nation's healthcare system is officially on the back burner as Democrats turn to the task of stimulating job growth, but behind the scenes party leaders have nearly settled on a strategy to salvage the massive legislation.

They are meeting almost daily to plot legislative moves while gently persuading skittish rank-and-file lawmakers to back a sweeping bill.

This effort is deliberately being undertaken quietly as Democrats work to focus attention on more-popular initiatives to bring down unemployment, which the president said was a priority in his State of the Union address on Wednesday.

It's far easier to negotiate quietly, out of the camera's eye instead of doing it when CNN looking over your shoulder.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Despite the fact that most of you think this Congress sucks...

...I present a friendly reminder from Stormin' Norman Ornstein.

There seems to be little to endear citizens to their legislature or to the president trying to influence it. It's too bad, because even with the wrench thrown in by Republican Scott Brown's election in Massachusetts, this Democratic Congress is on a path to become one of the most productive since the Great Society 89th Congress in 1965-66, and Obama already has the most legislative success of any modern president -- and that includes Ronald Reagan and Lyndon Johnson. The deep dysfunction of our politics may have produced public disdain, but it has also delivered record accomplishment.

The productivity began with the stimulus package, which was far more than an injection of $787 billion in government spending to jump-start the ailing economy. More than one-third of it -- $288 billion -- came in the form of tax cuts, making it one of the largest tax cuts in history, with sizable credits for energy conservation and renewable-energy production as well as home-buying and college tuition. The stimulus also promised $19 billion for the critical policy arena of health-information technology, and more than $1 billion to advance research on the effectiveness of health-care treatments.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan has leveraged some of the stimulus money to encourage wide-ranging reform in school districts across the country. There were also massive investments in green technologies, clean water and a smart grid for electricity, while the $70 billion or more in energy and environmental programs was perhaps the most ambitious advancement in these areas in modern times. As a bonus, more than $7 billion was allotted to expand broadband and wireless Internet access, a step toward the goal of universal access.

Any Congress that passed all these items separately would be considered enormously productive. Instead, this Congress did it in one bill. Lawmakers then added to their record by expanding children's health insurance and providing stiff oversight of the TARP funds allocated by the previous Congress. Other accomplishments included a law to allow the FDA to regulate tobacco, the largest land conservation law in nearly two decades, a credit card holders' bill of rights and defense procurement reform.

The House, of course, did much more, including approving a historic cap-and-trade bill and sweeping financial regulatory changes. And both chambers passed their versions of a health-care overhaul. Financial regulation is working its way through the Senate, and even in this political environment it is on track for enactment in the first half of this year. It is likely that the package of job-creation programs the president showcased on Wednesday, most of which got through the House last year, will be signed into law early on as well.

Most of this has been accomplished without any support from Republicans in either the House or the Senate -- an especially striking fact, since many of the initiatives of the New Deal and the Great Society, including Social Security and Medicare, attracted significant backing from the minority Republicans.

How did it happen? Democrats, perhaps recalling the disasters of 1994, when they failed to unite behind Bill Clinton's agenda in the face of uniform GOP opposition, came together. Obama's smoother beginning and stronger bonds with congressional leaders also helped.

Don't let the fact that Norman gets a paycheck from the American Enterprise Institute fool you. Norman was a regular guest on the Al Franken show, before Al know...the junior Senator from Minnesota.

I still have no idea why Norman keeps on working for those guys. Shouldn't Brookings or the Center for American Progress trade him for...I don't know, Michael O'Hanlon and bag of baseballs?

The Fireside chat for January 30, 2010

The President pledges to rein the deficit, citing three specific steps to this end. He praises the Senate for restoring the pay-as-you-go law, discusses his proposal for a freeze in discretionary spending, and calls for a bipartisan Fiscal Commission to hammer out further concrete deficit reduction proposals.