You may recall my post yesterday when I pointed to the probability of some sort of action on immigration after the Easter break because the Hispanic vote isn’t very enthusiastic about Democrats right now and November is approaching?
Well, Ezra Klein has picked up on the vibe too:
I’d say it’s pretty unlikely that comprehensive immigration reform happens this year. But then, who cares what I think? Harry Reid is in charge of the Senate, and he says he’s got 56 votes, and it’s gonna happen. “We need a handful of Republicans,” he told an immigration rally in Las Vegas.
The cynical take, of course, is that Reid is running for reelection in a state that’s about 20 percent Hispanic. But that suggests an important change in the political reality: The cynical thing for Democrats to do in an election year might be to pursue immigration reform. And that would make immigration reform a much likelier addition to the agenda.
Now granted it doesn’t take the equivalent of a political rocket scientist to figure this out. Congressional Democrats are wildly unpopular, November midterms threaten to wash them out of the Congress like you might wash all the pollen on your driveway down the sewer and they’re casting about anywhere for a way to re-energize their base. And, if you look at the last election, Hispanics went for Obama with 67% of their vote.
Reid claims he has 56 votes. He also says he needs “a handful of Republicans”. Obviously Democratic Senators up for re-election in ’10 are going like the idea. But needing that handful of Republicans means at the moment he probably hasn’t got any – well, maybe Lindsey Graham.
And note who Reid is talking too – certainly not Tea Parties, but instead “immigration rallies”. The guy who draws 100 people to a campaign event in his hometown is out addressing immigration rallies – yeah, back to that “political rocket scientist” crack.
So it appears the argument I was making yesterday and Klein is making today, seems to have some legs. I gave you part of the game plan yesterday as to why Democrats want to introduce it now and Klein repeats it. But, speaking of cynical, he lays out some other reasons as well:
If Democrats actually pursue immigration reform, their [Hispanics -ed.] participation becomes likelier. And if Republicans — or tea partyers, or conservative talk radio — overreact to the prospect of immigration reform, their participation becomes virtually assured. That last bit also suggests another reason Democrats might want to see immigration on the agenda: It’s got the possibility to tear the Republican coalition apart. Beltway Republicans are very, very concerned about losing Latino voters, and so they try to be careful on the issue.
Or – the GOP base will be pushing one way and the assumed spineless Beltway Republicans will be tiptoeing another while the very outcry drives Hispanics to the polls.
I can’t refute or dispute Klein’s prediction at this point – we’ve seen similar things happen in the past. But I do agree completely that it is a cynical plan – but then that’s politics isn’t it. As many are fond of saying, “it ain’t bean bag” and, as is often the case – getting re-elected, by whatever means necessary (to include “let’s pretend we’re doing something on immigration and the GOP are the bad guys”) usually takes priority over any real concerns about what is good for the people of the country.
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Poor Harry Reid. You can understand why Rush Limbaugh calls him “Dingy Harry”. For a public servant of many decades who is supposedly practiced in the art of public speaking, he sure can mess it up. Today I assume he was trying to tell us that the 9.7% unemployment rate that the government claims and the number of unemployed reported this week didn’t go up as high as expected. This is how it came out:
“Today is a big day in America. Only 36,000 people lost their jobs today, which is really good,” Reid said Friday on the Senate floor.
I’m sure those 36,000 are just happy as can be about that, Mr. Reid.
But as most informed folks know, that 9.7% figure doesn’t really reflect the full extent of unemployment. The government’s “U-6” number is much closer, but isn’t used because – well, take a look and you’ll figure it out for yourself:
The U.S. jobless rate was unchanged at 9.7% in February, following a decline the previous month, but the government’s broader measure of unemployment ticked up 0.3 percentage point to 16.8%.
Despite the Obama administration claim today that those measures they’ve put into place appear to be working, the U-6 says otherwise:
The comprehensive gauge of labor underutilization, known as the “U-6″ for its data classification by the Labor Department, accounts for people who have stopped looking for work or who can’t find full-time jobs. Though the rate is still 0.6 percentage point below its high of 17.4% in October, its continuing divergence from the official number (the “U-3″ unemployment measure) indicates the job market has a long way to go before growth in the economy translates into relief for workers.
Here’s the key and a reason you should take all this happy talk with a grain of salt:
A U-6 figure that converges toward the official rate could indicate improving confidence in the labor market and the overall economy. This month pushes convergence even further away.
And it “pushes convergence … away” by a significant amount.
One of the things to be wary of is the administration will start believing its own press and at the first sign the U-3 begins to dip, figure it can begin to further its tax and spend agenda. Until you see the U-6 headed in the same direction as the U-3 and showing significant drops, nothing is getting better on the employment front. And until that happens, the recovery is not going to “take off”.
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Despite all the rumors of back-room deals already agreed upon by the Democrats the House may be short of the votes necessary to pass the Senate version of the Health Care Reform bill.
Of course the rumored plan is to have the House pass the Senate bill without change and then have the Senate amend it to the House’s liking through the reconciliation process which only requires 51 votes to pass.
Not so fast.
First the House has to pass it – and, according to at least one source, they may be as many as 100 votes short. Michael Barone explains why House Democrats may be less than enthusiastic about voting for this bill:
Why are House Democratic leaders having such trouble getting the 217 votes needed for a majority (because there are vacancies now in two Democratic-held seats)? Look at it this way. Imagine you’re a Democratic congressman from a not entirely safe district. The leadership comes to you and says, We’d like you to vote for the Senate bill. Oh, and by the way, we can’t change a word in it. You’ve got to vote for the Cornhusker Hustle and the Louisiana Purchase and all that other garbage.
But hey, the leadership guy will go on, there’s no risk, because the Senate will fix everything through the reconciliation process. You will be suspicious of this. You will note that using the reconciliation process requires favorable rulings from the Senate parliamentarian, rulings over which you have no more leverage than you have over phases of the moon. It requires 50 Democratic senators willing to go along with reconciliation, and given the poll numbers that have been coming out lately that’s not a sure thing. And it requires steady leadership from Harry Reid—who just last week, without notice to the White House, the House leadership or the senators involved, yanked a Baucus-Grassely bipartisan “jobs” bill and substituted a much smaller one of his own.
A. First you have to trust Nancy Pelosi enough to vote on it.
B. Then you have to trust Harry Reid to do what he says he’ll do – i.e. initiate the reconciliation process and address the specific points the House wants changed.
C. You have to hope there are enough Democratic Senators (not in tight races) who’ll go along with reconciliation. And finally,
D. You have to hope that the process is favorably ruled upon by the Senate parlimentarian.
If all of that doesn’t come to pass and the Senate bill passes unchanged, the Democratic member of the House has handed his political opponents in this year’s midterms some ready made ammunition. He or she will have voted for the Louisiana Purchase, Cornhusker Kickback and all manner of other other objectionable portions of the bill. Concludes Barone:
The only protection you have against this is the assurance that the Senate parliamentarian and scared incumbent senators will come through for you, and that Harry Reid will pursue a steady course.
So your response to the leadership is either, I gotta think about this, or, Hell no. The House Democratic leadership’s problem is that it cannot credibly promise that the Senate will keep its part of the bargain.
In terms of trust, my guess is Senate Democrats rank somewhere below used car salesmen and lawyers.
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Bi-partisanship has become the new battle cry of the left, at least for PR purposes. They no longer have the power to pass anything without at least one Republican vote in the Senate. So instead of purposely excluding Republicans as they have for a year (and blaming their own failings on GOP “obstructionism”) they now have to make a show of calling for bi-partisanship and hope they’ll be able to pick off at least one hapless GOP Senator. If they don’t, then they can again blame the Republicans for “obstruction” instead of their failure to find a suitable compromise necessary to pass the legislation in question.
Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Pluto) did the GOP a favor, although I’m sure Republicans don’t realize it yet. He shot down a “jobs bill” that was the result of bi-partisan work by Democratic Senator Max Baucus and Republican Senator Charles Grassley.
Cost? Over $100 billion. Contents – Pension bailouts, handouts for chicken farmers in Arkansas, an extension of the anti-terror Patriot Act, and a number of other little goodies. Had that bill passed, Republicans would have again earned the derision of the public for “not getting it”. It would be seen as “business as usual” despite the expressed anger of the public over such handouts, bailouts and deficit spending.
Reid instead has decided to unilaterally rewrite the bill to include only 4 things:
* A new tax credit for hiring workers
* Extra money for highway projects
* Small Business tax breaks
* Build America Bonds
The price tag? A reported $15 billion dollars. The reaction from most of the left and the Paul Krugman’s of the world is going to be brutal. Of course the Blanche Lincoln “reelect me” aid to Arkansas chicken farmers, the Chuckie Schumer Pension Bailout along with all the other goodies that made up the remaining $85 billion in the original bill aren’t going away. They’ll be considered in different legislation. That’s to say, no one in the Senate seems to have listened to a thing the polls or public have been hammering them about for months. It is indeed business as usual.
Let’s be clear here, though. Harry Reid want’s a “clean bill” on this not because he’s changing his ways, not because that’s what the American people want and not because he’s a smart politician.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is rewriting a jobs bill after Democrats complained of too many concessions to Republicans.
Yeah, that’s right – King Harry just saved the Republicans from themselves (at least for the moment). You see, there was just too much of that bi-partisanship stuff.
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You have to hand to Harry Reid. His lack of respect for the Constitution is rather pedestrian by Democrat standards these days, but he is positively the Thomas Alva Edison of inventive ways to flout it:
If ever the people of the United States rise up and fight over passage of Obamacare, Harry Reid must be remembered as the man who sacrificed the dignity of his office for a few pieces of silver. The rules of fair play that have kept the basic integrity of the Republic alive have died with Harry Reid. Reid has slipped in a provision into the health care legislation prohibiting future Congresses from changing any regulations imposed on Americans by the Independent Medicare [note: originally referred to as “medical”] Advisory Boards, which are commonly called the “Death Panels.”
It was Reid leading the Democrats who ignored 200 years of Senate precedents to rule that Senator Sanders could withdraw his amendment while it was being read.
Section 3403 of Senator Harry Reid’s amendment requires that “it shall not be in order in the Senate or the House of Representatives to consider any bill, resolution, amendment, or conference report that would repeal or otherwise change this subsection.” The good news is that this only applies to one section of the Obamacare legislation. The bad news is that it applies to regulations imposed on doctors and patients by the Independent Medicare Advisory Boards a/k/a the Death Panels.
Section 3403 of Senator Reid’s legislation also states, “Notwithstanding rule XV of the Standing Rules of the Senate, a committee amendment described in subparagraph (A) may include matter not within the jurisdiction of the Committee on Finance if that matter is relevant to a proposal contained in the bill submitted under subsection (c)(3).” In short, it sets up a rule to ignore another Senate rule.
These provisions were pointed by Sen. Jim DeMint on the Senate floor last night:
Meh. It’s an old Constitution anyways, and it’s not like we’ve really been using it. Heck, I’ll bet most people don’t even know what’s in that old rag, and those are just ones in Congress.
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It would appear the “Gang of 10 (Senators)” compromise bill which Harry Reid has been touting but refusing to give details about would bend the cost curve way up:
Senate Democrats have provided few details about their latest health care proposal, but this much seems clear: Anyone who wants to buy the same health benefits as members of Congress, or to buy coverage through Medicare, should be prepared to fork over a large chunk of cash.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, a family of four earning $54,000 in 2016, when the health legislation is fully in effect, would be eligible for a subsidy of $10,100 to help defray the cost of insurance under the health legislation being debated by the Senate. By then, one of the most popular federal plans, a nationwide Blue Cross and Blue Shield policy, is projected to cost more than $20,000.
That could leave the family earning $54,000, slightly more than the current median household income, with monthly premium costs of more than $825.
The Democrats’ proposal would also allow some people ages 55 to 64 to “buy in” to Medicare, starting in 2011. That could cost about $7,600 a year per person or $15,200 for a couple, according to a budget office analysis of an earlier version of the concept. No subsidies would be available until 2014.
So why are many Democrats so “enthusiastic” over the proposal. Well, let’s knock off all the spin and be blunt about it:
“Extending this successful program to those between 55 and 64 would be the largest expansion of Medicare in 44 years and would perhaps get us on the path to a single-payer model,” said Representative Anthony Weiner, Democrat of New York.
That is the name of the game here and don’t ever loose sight of that. Liberals want a government run single-payer system. And whether they get there via a “public option” or expanding Medicare doesn’t matter one whit to them.
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Over 2,000 pages (yeah, nothing can be hidden in there, can it?) the bill sets up at least 370.2 billion in new taxes over the next 10 years:
1. 40% excise tax on health coverage in excess of $8,500/$23,000 ($149.1 billion)
2. Employer W-2 reporting of value of health (negligible revenue effect)
3. Conform definition of medical expenses ($5.0 billion)
4. Increase penalty for nonqualified health savings account distributions to 20% ($1.3 billion)
5. Limit health flexible spending arrangements in cafeteria plans to $2,500 ($14.6 billion)
6. Require information reporting on payments to corporations ($17.1 billion)
7. Additional requirements for section 501(c)(3) hospitals (negligible revenue effects)
8. Impose annual fee on manufacturers & importers of branded drugs ($22.2 billion)
9. Impose annual fee on manufacturers & importers of medical devices ($19.3 billion)
10. Impose annual fee on health insurance providers ($60.4 billion)
11. Study and report of effect on veterans health care (no revenue effect)
12. Eliminate deduction for expenses allocable to Medicare Part D subsidy ($5.4 billion)
13. Raise 7.5% AGI floor on medical expenses deduction to 10% ($15.2 billion)
14. $500,000 deduction limitation on taxable year remuneration to health insurance officials ($0.6 billion)
15. Additional 0.5% hospital insurance tax on wages > $200,000 ($250,000 joint) ($53.8 billion)
16. Modification of section 833 treatment of certain health organizations ($0.4 billion)
17. Impose 5% excise tax on cosmetic surgery ($5.8 billion)
According to the CBO, this turkey comes in at 849 billion over 10 years. Let me again stress that the cost is a bogus cost because of the way the spending is structured. CBO is limited to a 10 year window. So what it is saying is that within that 10 year window, if passed exactly as written and with no changes, it will cost that much over that 10 year span. It isn’t chartered to look beyond that. So, over the years, the Democrats have learned how to use that restriction to sell budget busters as deficit reducers.
Here’s how. See all those taxes above? They begin immediately. However the major costly programs don’t begin until 2014. Consequently, the taxes are going to have a plus effect on the deficit over those first few years. Then, as the spending kicks in, since we’ve already pre-paid it with the taxes, it will appear as much less spending than it really is. Once outside that 10 year window, it explodes. The real cost, not the gamed cost to get past the CBO and attempt to fool the public, is estimated to be about 1.8 trillion over 10 years – or twice what is being claimed – and that’s if nothing changes or is added. And it doesn’t include the 250 billion “doc fix” which will put it over 2 trillion.
One other thing to note – all the taxes above are only part of the plan to “pay” for this. Don’t forget the 500 billion in cuts to Medicare and Medicaid as well (cuts that will never happen at the size projected if at all).
It’s pretty simple when you look at the numbers – this is another huge, costly program we can’t afford and we don’t need – at least in the form Congress insists on putting it in. Common sense reform – ok. But common sense reform doesn’t cost 2 trillion in “deficit reducing spending”.
I still can’t imagine anyone actually believing 2 trillion in new spending will reduce the deficit.
But they are – hook, line and sinker.
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Is anyone else tired of hearing about Sarah Palin? As an aside, she’s ginned up one heck of a media storm to push her book – I’ll give her that. One of the best I’ve ever seen.
Anyway, on to the Senate.
First the semi-good news from the senior chamber – the Senate won’t consider the cap-and-trade economy buster bill until spring. Harry Reid, Senate majority leader and all around putz, says they simply can’t get to it before then. That, of course, gives us the opportunity to concentrate fully on the other legislative monstrosity they’re engaged in trying to pass – health care reform.
Reports have Reid “cautiously optimistic” about getting the 60 votes necessary to invoke cloture and pass the bill. How, you say? Well there’s a new strategy, apparently. Forget reconciliation and get Republican Senator Olympia Snowe on board (yes, the terrifying RINO attack). CQ (via Brian Faughnan) reports:
Senate Democrats have abandoned plans to use a fast-track parliamentary strategy to avert a threatened Republican filibuster and pass a health care overhaul — a signal that they are considering major policy concessions to moderates.
The most significant of these could be restructuring or dropping altogether a proposed government-run insurance plan — the so-called public option — that many liberals consider a necessary part of the overhaul.
The idea, of course, is to attract at least one Republican by removing the obstacle of a “public option”. It would also supposedly allow all Democrat hold-outs (Lincoln, Landreau and Nelson) and Independent (Democrat) Joe Lieberman to support the bill.
One possible fallback is a proposal by Thomas R. Carper, D-Del., to create a government-sanctioned insurance plan that would be available only in states deemed to lack affordable private insurance plans. Under Carper’s plan, the insurance plan would be structured as a private nonprofit entity, run by a board appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate…
You have to love the use of “private” immediately followed by the president having to be “confirmed by the Senate”. Yeah, no undue pressure can be brought to bear in that sort of a set-up can there?
Anyway, the entire point of Carper’s plan is to lure Olympia Snowe on board (the fact that it isn’t a public option should bring Lieberman and others on board – or at least that appears to be the thinking):
…[Carper’s] proposal is similar to one Maine Republican Olympia J. Snowe offered that would create a “trigger” for the public option, making it available only if private insurers fail to meet deadlines and targets for affordable insurance plans.
What a coincidence. A plan that a RINO could love. Of course the details have yet to be set in concrete:
Carper said he was still discussing how the government would determine whether private insurance in a state is unaffordable. A bill the Finance Committee approved (S 1796) deems insurance unaffordable if premiums consume more than 10 percent of a policyholder’s income.
The government would lend money to the new nonprofit for startup costs. After that, Carper said, the plan would have to be self-sufficient.
Of course the policyholders may not care that premiums consume more than 10% of their income if the benefits warrant that. However, as I recall, the plan is to tax “Cadillac plans” into oblivion anyway – so we can all suffer the same mundane “benefits” despite our willingness to pay for more. So I would think the trigger would never be pulled. Oh, what am I saying, this is government we’re talking about – triggers are mechanisms placed in bills to allay legislative fears and give legislators cover back home when explaining their vote. All of them know that there is every intention, if a trigger is placed in the legislation, of finding an excuse to pull it. And my guess is they’ll use the same sort of math to decide to pull the trigger as they have in computing “saved and lost jobs”.
Secondly, does anyone believe that if the government gives this new “nonprofit” startup money, it won’t save it if it begins to fail? If so, I’ll have to ask which turnip truck you fell off of last night. This, like the vast majority of the legislation on health care, is all smoke and mirrors designed only to provide political cover for its passage.
That’s apparently the developing plan in the Senate. Reid has to get this done and passed before Dec. 18th when Congress plans on going into recess until next year. Your job, should you decide to take it, is to ensure they go home unhappy and unfulfilled with this legislation still marked as “pending”.
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Democrats have become rather adept at including things in bills which the Republicans don’t support but because of the overall bill in which they’re included, can’t vote against. The hate crime legislation is a good example – it was included in a bill which authorized defense spending.
Apparently Republicans are trying to play the same game now:
Senate leaders remained at an impasse Wednesday over adding tax provisions to a bill that would extend unemployment insurance benefits to millions of jobless workers.
But Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., remained at loggerheads on what other amendments the chamber might consider. Republicans have been pushing for amendments on the community group ACORN and on the E-Verify system that checks potential employees’ immigration status.
Turnabout is fair play in politics, but Harry Reid finds this all to be just a terrible bother:
Reid called those amendments “vexatious,” “argumentative,” and “not relevant.”
Of course when Reid is adding hate crime legislation to a defense appropriation bill, it isn’t at all vexatious, argumentative or “not relevant”. It was simply business as usual.
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That used to be one of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and other Democrats favorite descriptions of George Bush. The irony is I’ve seen nothing from Harry Reid that says he has any room to judge anyone else’s competence. The latest:
After a month of praising bipartisanship, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid lashed out at the GOP on the Senate floor Wednesday when a Medicare measure he brought up for a vote failed amid concerns about its impact on the deficit.
The bill would have prevented a 20 percent drop in Medicare reimbursement rates to doctors that is scheduled to take effect in January.
Reid angrily blamed the loss on bad intelligence from the American Medical Association, which he said promised him 27 Republican votes (he got none), as well as Republican dirty tricks designed to impede Democrats’ progress on meaningful reform.
Just as a lawyer should never ask a question of someone on the stand for which he doesn’t know the answer, you’d think a Senate Majority leader wouldn’t bring something to the Senate floor for a vote unless he knew he had the votes. And Senate Majority leaders normally don’t rely on lobbyists for their vote counts. Outsourcing such a task to the AMA doesn’t appear to have been a very smart move.
Vote counting is a tried and true art within legislative bodies and any competent leader would pretty much know what to expect before ever putting a bill or amendment up for a vote. In fact, Reid missed by 27 – just on the Republican side.
Apparently he wasn’t aware of the 13 Democrats who were going to vote against it as well. That’s 40 no votes in a body of 100 that he didn’t know about. That’s a pretty big miss. And a reminder – Democrats hold a 60 vote filibuster-proof majority (the two “indies” caucus with the Democrats).
Then he whines about things being run by a minority – a game he was more than happy to play when he was the Minority leader.
Harry Reid – incompetent (not that I’m complaining, mind you – just pointing it out), and the opposition’s best friend.
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