Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Antitrust Exemption Repealed; Jobs Bill Passed

House votes to kill antitrust exemption for health insurers:
The House voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to repeal the antitrust exemption currently granted to health insurance companies.

The vote was 406-19 to repeal the exemption, which has been in place since the end of World War II. The 19 who voted against the repeal are Republicans.

Liberal Democrats have said a repeal would help inject competition into the health care industry while reducing consumer costs.

House Roll Call vote: a resolution — H RES 1098 — to restore the application of the Federal antitrust laws to the business of health insurance.
H. RES. 1098

Resolved, That upon the adoption of this resolution it shall be in order to consider in the House the bill (H.R. 4626) to restore the application of the Federal antitrust laws to the business of health insurance to protect competition and consumers.

Jobs Bill Passes in Senate:
Companies that hire the unemployed would claim new tax breaks under a jobs-promoting bill the Senate passed Wednesday, delivering President Barack Obama and Democrats a much-needed victory.

The 70-28 vote sends the bill back to the House, which passed a far more costly measure in December.

Senate Roll Call vote: H.R. 2847 — “the Jobs Bill” (Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act)

Pursuant to H.Res. 976, the House modified the Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Act, 2010, H.R. 2847, substituting the "Jobs for Main Street Act, 2010" as Division A of the Act and the "Statutory Pay-As-You-Go Act of 2009" as Division B.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Health Care Reform: Almost There?

Rachel Maddow announces the results [video - 6:13] of The Filibuster Challenge, renaming the filibuster to 'The Tarantino,' because it kills bills.

From the transcript for The Rachel Maddow Show of February 22, 2010:

Health care home stretch:

Democrats cannot wait until the filibuster is dead to move forward on health reform. They have to move health reform in a way that just gets around the problem.

And that’s what the White House started to do today: President Obama introducing his proposal to move health reform forward. It consists of minor tweaks to the Senate version of the bill that are specifically designed to allow Democrats to bypass the Republican filibuster and pass health reform with a simple majority vote in the Senate.

And here’s the funny thing about President Obama’s proposal. On the front page at today, it was the screaming headline, “The Obama Plan.” And it had this picture of a giant stack of paper next to the president.

I have no idea what is in that stack of paper, but I can tell you tonight, it is not the health reform proposal that President Obama released today — unless it’s like 1,000 copies of that proposal. Because if you want to see what President Obama introduced today, it's this.

It’s 11 pages. That’s it. Eleven pages that consist of minor tweaks of what’s already been passed by the Senate.

It’s not starting over as might have you believe. It’s finishing up. And this is important in terms of understanding where we are in this process.

This is what already passed the House. This guy, this one.

This one passed the House, right? Two thousand and sixteen pages. It passed way back in November.
By a 220 - 215 vote, the House of Representatives has passed H.R.3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act.

This is what‘s already passed the Senate, about 2,409 pages.

This passed on Christmas Eve.
By a 60 - 39 vote, the Senate passed H.R. 3590, The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as Amended

These have already passed their respective chambers of Congress — House, Senate. And the way it works, as we all know from “Schoolhouse Rock” is that if two different versions pass two different houses, they have to be merged and then that merged version has to get passed again.

But because of the Tarantino, because Republicans filibuster everything, because Republicans are filibustering health reform, Democrats have to come up with something that reconciles these two bills that can avoid that Republican filibuster. And this is what does that.

This is the view of the White House. This is what the president thinks could be done. This is what remains to be done according to the White House. It’s 11 pages.
The President’s Proposal.

This is not a new proposal. It doesn’t replace everything that’s been done. So feel free to ignore on this or any other issue. Their front page all day has been visually misinforming you on what they call “The Obama Plan.” Nothing that looks like that can also look like this, unless it‘s printed really, really big.

Republicans have thought that they killed health reform but they didn’t. It’s passed the House. It’s passed the Senate. And now, it’s very much alive. There are only 11 pages to go.

We’re almost done.


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Pushing For The Public Option

Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) has written a letter to Harry Reid — co-signed by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) — stating, in part:
We respectfully ask that you bring for a vote before the full Senate a public health insurance option under budget reconciliation rules.

There are four fundamental reasons why we support this approach – its potential for billions of dollars in cost savings; the growing need to increase competition and lower costs for the consumer; the history of using reconciliation for significant pieces of health care legislation; and the continued public support for a public option.
  • A Public Option Is an Important Tool for Restoring Fiscal Discipline...

  • A Public Option Would Provide Americans with a Low-Cost Alternative and Improve Market Competitiveness...

  • There is a history of using reconciliation for significant pieces of health care legislation...

  • There is strong public support for a public option, across party lines...
So far, a total of 11 Senators and 119 House members have signed on.

Contact your Congress critters in the Senate and the House and push!



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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Lawrence, Oh!

In case you missed this Friday...

Lawrence O'Donnell, an MSNBC political analyst and former chief of staff to the Senate Finance Committee, lit off on the Morning Joe show after Marc Thiessen, the former speechwriter for Donald Rumsfeld and George W. Bush, alleged that President Obama is "inviting" another attack, and he was just not going to sit quietly and let Thiessen get away with his BS lies.

Lawrence O'Donnell later appeared on Countdown with Keith Olbermann to discuss it further:
Bush supporters continue to rewrite history ( 7:06 )

Feb. 12: The Huffington Post’s Lawrence O’Donnell reacts to his conversation with Marc Thiessen on Morning Joe about the former Bush speechwriter’s delusion that President Barack Obama is inviting another terror attack to occur in the U.S.

The Countdown transcript should be up on Monday.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

GOP Stimulus Hypocrites

This one great video that is well worth watching. Rachel blasts the Republicans for their outrageous hypocrisy and calls them out, for what they are: raving hypocrites.

Rachel Maddow Calls Out Republican Stimulus Hypocrites
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow calls out the numerous Republican hypocrites who "trashed the stimulus, and voted against it," and then exploited it by bragging to their constituents how great this money would be for jobs and economic development in their communities. [ 10:09 ]

From the February 9th, 2010 transcript for The Rachel Maddow Show:
Even the president has called out Republicans for attending ribbon cuttings for stimulus-funded projects that they voted against. The White House has put some of the documentation of Republican hypocrisy on this in writing.

None of this is a secret, which is the most important thing to understand about it. Republicans right now do not care about policy. By which I mean, they will not vote for things that even they admit are good policies.

On policy terms, they have been caught bragging on the stimulus as good policy. I have no doubt that some of them think that health reform is good policy. We know they think things like a deficit commission or cap and trade or pay-go are good policy because they‘re on the record supporting them.

But they‘re not going to vote for them because - screw policy. Screw what even they believe is good for the country. Screw what even they believe is good for their own districts. They are not voting yes for even things that they agree with, for anything substantive.

They are not going to vote yes for anything substantive that this president supports. It‘s not going to happen. You‘re not going to earn Republican votes for a second stimulus, for example, by pointing out it‘s good policy that creates jobs. We know they already know that.

They concede that in their home districts and they are still not voting for it. And they are unembarrassed about this fact. They are not embarrassed. Charging them with hypocrisy, appealing to their better, more practical, more what‘s-best-for-the-country patriotic angels is like trying to teach your dog to drive.

It wastes a lot of time. It won‘t work. And ultimately the dog comes out of the exercise less embarrassed for failing than you do for trying. Grow up, Democrats. Face the music. Do it alone. You‘re the majority. Kill the filibuster if they won‘t let you use that majority. The country needs you to.

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Saturday, February 06, 2010

Teeing off on Tebow

(subtitle: Theismann vs. Heisman)

For a guy whose stock has fallen off the table in the NFL draft, former Heismann winner Tim Tebow is sure getting more buzz ahead of he Super Bowl than, say Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, the quarterbacks who are actually in the game. Tebow has not yet played even a single down in the NFL and at least one former quarterback and respected commentator thinks he should keep it that way.

Tebow, who is the son of missionaries and grew up in a very fundamentalist household, is well known for wearing his Christianity on his sleeve (well actually wearing it on his face, writing Bible verses on his cheeks before every game.)

This week there is a big brouhaha over CBS' decision to air an anti-abortion ad featuring Tebow and his mother (who refused the advice of doctors to get an abortion because of her health and had him anyway) during the Super Bowl. Last year CBS said they would start allowing more controversial ads during the Super Bowl, but then they turned around and refused to allow an ad from ManCrunch, a gay dating organization. So apparently their newfound tolerance in advertising only works one way. CBS then got in even deeper when they kept changing their story on the ManCrunch ad. First they said ad space was sold out for the Super Bowl. Then when it was shown that the ManCrunch ad had been submitted to them before some ads that were approved, they questioned whether the company could pay for the ad. When it was shown that they could and had the money available, CBS had to say it was about 'standards.' OK, at least they admit they have more than one set of standards.

There are of course those who claim that the real reason for the controversy over Tebow is his Christianity. But that is ridiculous. Lots of NFL players are Christians and quite open about it. You don't see for example, anything but praise for Drew Brees, a Christian quarterback who actually should be getting more attention before the Super Bowl than Tebow (I mean, like, Brees will actually be PLAYING Sunday, shouldn't that count for something?) Rather, it almost seems as if Tebow is hogging all the attention by putting his personal views on abortion ahead of the game itself, and whether he deserves that criticism or not has now become a punching bag for CBS' hypocritical position on accepting ads.

A bigger problem for Tebow is that even well ahead of draft day he's getting a reception from the NFL that is downright frosty. For starters, scouts have said that he doesn't have the skills to play in the NFL and downgraded his status to a third or fourth round pick at best.

Then, following rumors that the Jacksonville Jaguars might use their first round pick on Tebow (he played at the University of Florida and the Jags attendance is about what you'd expect for an expansion team that has worn out its welcome and is the least competitive team in what might be the NFL's toughest division,) a Jags player, and more specifically an offensive lineman unloaded on Tebow.

according to the Florida Times-Union:

[Offensive lineman Uche] Nwaneri posted on the Jaguars’ Web site that, while cashing a check, a bank teller started talking about how Tebow will save the Jaguars.

So Nwaneri posted his five points on Tebow, with capital letters:

"1. He can't throw, PERIOD.

2. He can't read any coverage other than probably cover 2 or man.


4. He doesn’t know how to take a snap from center.

5. HE CAN’T THROW, and that’s really something you either have or not."

Keep in mind that this is from one of the men who is supposed to put his body on the line to protect the quarterback from the Elvis Dumervils and the Dwight Freeneys of the NFL. In fact, he faces Freeney twice a year and wants to feel confident that the guy he's protecting is worth the beating his body takes keeping guys like that out of the backfield every week.

You can hear the frustration in Nwaneri's post. One of the few perks that come with losing is that your team gets a better position in the draft, which in theory should translate to better players. But if his team reaches up to burn their first round pick on a guy who they could probably get in the third round, his frustration would be justified. The idea that Tebow would put fans in the seats is ridiculous. He might for a few games, and as the columnist of the linked article points out,

even if Nwaneri and the legions of critics are right that Tebow is bound for NFL flopdom, I guarantee thousands of Georgia fans would be willing to make the drive down to the site of so many Cocktail Party aggravations for the sole purpose of watching their former tormenter operate behind a line that might not feel much like blocking for him.

Well, there is that. But if Jacksonville owner Wayne Weaver is serious about attendance then he should be serious about using his first round and subsequent picks to put together a team that will win games, not bring out legions of anti-Tebow fans who will enjoy it every time Freeney or some other NFL Defensive nightmare blasts through the line and delivers a crunching hit on Tebow.

Nwaneri's comments are downright tame compared to the broadside delivered by a former NFL great. Former Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann, who was known as a gentleman in the broadcast booth during an eighteen year stint with ESPN because he is loathe to criticize other players (and recognizing from personal experience what they risk every time they take the field,) said that Tebow should retire before draft day and not even try playing in the NFL.

Via Pro Football Talk, Theismann explained why:

"Rock star status preserved," Theismann said.

"Obviously at Florida they don't teach throwing the football," Theismann opined in explaining that Tebow's mechanics are "poor." Theismann also said that Urban Meyer and his staff have "no clue" regarding the process for preparing a quarterback to play "at the next level."

Retire now advises Joe, so at least he can still claim that he was too good for the NFL instead of too awful. Ouch, that one's gotta sting.

Of course the former Heisman winner will enter the draft, and if he's lucky even get drafted way ahead of where he should be by Jacksonville. And, give him a chance-- a lot of good players have been drafted low and turned out to be better than the scouts predicted (don't forget that Dallas quarterback Tony Romo, who led the Cowboys to the playoffs this year and played in the pro bowl wasn't even drafted at all in 2003.)

But from day one, the spotlight will be burning hot on Tebow. And he'll need to bear up a lot better than he did when he lost to Alabama in the SEC championship game (hint: in the NFL men don't cry when they lose-- add 'crybaby' to the list of insults and ephithets Tebow will hear every time he goes on the road.) And despite what anyone may say, it will burn hot on him because he's invited it.

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Monday, February 01, 2010

Class Session: GOP Retreat

Here is another video source for the President's Q & A session at the Republican Retreat last Friday, at YouTube: An Open Discussion Across the Aisle. (One hour, seven minutes, 16 seconds)

Steve Benen:
Republicans thought they were throwing their toughest pitches, and Obama -- with no notes, no teleprompter, and no foreknowledge -- just kept knocking 'em out of the park.


William Rivers Pitt, t r u t h o u t:
. . .On Friday, Mr. Obama presented himself before a collection of some 140 Republican members of Congress and, not to put too fine a point on it, bounced them individually and collectively off all four walls in the room.

How wide a swath did the president cut through the Republicans at that Friday meeting? On Saturday afternoon, MSNBC canceled a scheduled afternoon showing of something titled "Death in the Hollywood Hills" to rebroadcast the Obama-GOP collision. For a major cable network to drop a show about gossipy Hollywood homicides in favor of - gasp! - actual substantive news programming means something truly incredible took place in that room.

It did indeed. [...]

One by one, Republican members of Congress stood before Mr. Obama and took their best shots. One by one, he sent them packing with a smile on his face and the facts on his side. One of the most revealing exchanges took place when GOP Congressman Mike Pence (R-Indiana) tried to take the president to task for refusing to support an across-the-board tax cut, and for the massive cascade of job losses that hit the nation last winter. Mr. Obama reminded Pence that the job losses he spoke of took place before he took office, and before any of his programs had been implemented. He excoriated Pence and a number of his Republican brethren for attending ribbon-cutting ceremonies celebrating programs created by the stimulus package they had voted against. He concluded by telling Pence, "I'm going to want to take a look at your math," because Pence's support for massive tax cuts, a spending freeze and a balanced budget all at the same time basically makes no sense whatsoever.

Perhaps, the most revealing aspect of this event came after the deal had gone down. The Republicans in that room were made to look so foolish in the face of this president that a number of them later stated bluntly that it was a mistake to have allowed cameras into the room. Fox News saw how badly those GOP Congress people were being thrashed and cut away from their broadcast of the event a full 20 minutes before it was over, choosing instead to flood their studio with critics of Obama to try and mitigate the damage.

And that, in a nutshell, is the present reality of this Republican Party. When allowed to freely bloviate into the yawning void of modern political journalism, the GOP can score points easily. They are the undisputed world heavyweight champions of the sound bite stab below the fifth rib, and their talents in this regard are fortified by their uncanny ability to have no fealty to the truth whatsoever. When confronted by someone armed to the teeth with the facts, someone who can articulate those facts clearly and completely in front of a battery of cameras broadcasting his words to a national audience on every network, they folded like wet napkins. [...]

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