Daily Archives: March 22, 2010

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Democratic Leaders Sign Health Care Bill

Posted by: Audiegrl

Surrounded by Democratic House members, (L-R) House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Rep. George Miller (D-CA), Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY), Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), and Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) applaud as U.S. Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) (C) stands up after she signed the Senate Health Reform bill March 22, 2010 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The House has passed the Senate version of the legislation the night before by a vote of 219 to 212. U.S. President Barack Obama intends to sign the measure on Tuesday. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images North America)

LAT~House Democratic leaders have signed the massive health care overhaul bill, a formality before the bill is signed by President Barack Obama.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and the committee chairmen signed the bill Monday, an official act before Obama’s signature makes it the law of the land. The House voted for the measure 219-212 late Sunday night.

Pelosi said Sunday night the House made history and added: “It’s on a par with passing Social Security and Medicare.”

The congressional signing is a common step in the process, but with this uncommon bill, the leaders invited the media to watch.

The president planned to sign the measure on Tuesday.

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First Lady Michelle Obama Sees Broadway Musical ‘Memphis

Posted by: Audiegrl

First Lady Michelle Obama traveled to New York Sunday to see a musical on Broadway. Memphis is a musical by David Bryan (music and lyrics) and Joe DiPietro (lyrics and book) based on a concept by George W. George. It is loosely based on Memphis disc jockey Dewey Phillips, one of the first white DJs to play black music in the 1950s. It was staged during the 2003-04 season at both the North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly, Massachusetts and TheatreWorks in Mountain View, California and opened on Broadway on October 19, 2009.

Directed by Christopher Ashley and choreographed by Sergio Trujillo, the Broadway production began previews at the Shubert Theatre on September 23, 2009 and officially opened on October 19. The cast included many of the cast members from the pre-Broadway productions, including Chad Kimball as Huey Calhoun and Montego Glover as Felicia Farrell. The creative team included costume designer Paul Tazewell, scenic designer David Gallo, and lighting designer Howell Binkley. The Broadway production won Best Musical in the Live Theatre division of the Golden Icon Awards.

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Hallelujah! by Paul Begala

Posted by: BuellBoy

Op-ed by Paul Begala

Democratic Strategist, Paul Begala

HP~I have been working for Democratic and progressive causes for 29 years, and I don’t think I’ve ever been prouder than today. When David Obey swung that gavel — the same gavel used to hammer home Medicare — and struck it on that historic rostrum, it made a joyful noise unto the Lord. And I for one said Hallelujah.

There is no doubt the sweeping changes enacted today will create unforeseen problems — that is the nature of reform. The one law Congress can never overturn is the Law of Unintended Consequences. But that’s why our Founders challenged us to “form a more perfect Union,” because true perfection is not possible this side of heaven. Instead, we work to improve, to make progress, to renew.

The merits of the health care law have been debated ad nauseum. I will not revisit them here. Rather, I want to take a moment to salute the raw courage of the women and men who made this possible.

Primus inter pares must be Nancy Pelosi. The House Speaker, so vilified by the right, so caricatured by the press, has etched her name in marble. She has accomplished what no other Speaker could — not Uncle Joe Cannon, not Mister Sam Rayburn, not Tip or Newt nor any of her predecessors. Health care reform was dead after Scott Brown’s remarkable Senate victory in Massachusetts. But Speaker Pelosi would not let it die. The greatest single reason this bill will become law is because of the sheer force of will, the remarkable political skill, and the legislative mastery of Nancy Pelosi. If there were a Mt. Rushmore for House Speakers, her pleasant grin and steely eyes would be on it.

Harry Reid, too, worked wonders. In order to overcome a Republican filibuster, Reid had to bat 1.000 — corral all 58 Senate Democrats and two Independents. Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott called the job “herding cats.” Harry Reid, through quiet consultation, respectful negotiation and rare grit pulled off a Christmas miracle, mustering 60 votes for health care reform on Christmas Eve.

Pelosi and Reid did all this in the teeth of naysayers and cheap-shot artists who were counseling caution and urging capitulation.

The so-called “Dean” of the Washington press corps, David Broder, told Politico that Reid was not in the same class as revered leaders like Mike Mansfield. “Maybe I have an idealized view of what a Senate leader ought to be,” he said. “But I’ve seen the Senate when a leader could lift it to those heights…I wish it had that kind of leadership now.”

In a sense, Broder’s right. In 1968, Mansfield presided over a majority of 68 Democrats — 68. And Senate Republicans included such giants of bipartisanship as Everett McKinley Dirksen, who played a crucial role in passing the Civil Rights Act. And yet even Mansfield could not pass universal health care. With just 58 senators of his party, Reid did what Mansfield could not do with 68 — and he did it with a GOP dominated by implacable obstructionists who have used the filibuster more in two years than the GOP of Mansfield era did in decades.

To be sure, this is an enormous, historic victory for Pres. Obama. He refused to trim his sails, refused to cut and run, refused to cave in to the timid souls of the commentariat and the hatemongers of the kook right. His cool courage, his dogged determination, his fearless focus are now the stuff of history.

One cannot see this history unfold and not think of those who paved the way. John Dingell, the valiant congressman from Michigan, has been fighting for national health care for 54 years — and his father before him sponsored national health care legislation in 1935. Speaker Pelosi and her Democrats stand tall today because they stand on the shoulders of Dingell and other giants.

In the Senate, Harry Reid and his fellow Democrats stand on the shoulders of Ted Kennedy. Teddy fought for national health care when Reagan was saying government would screw up a one-car parade. His energy, passion and compassion inspired several generations of Democrats.

And, of course, my old boss Bill Clinton. He was 50 minutes late for the Gridiron Dinner the night before the historic vote. For his tardiness he was privately and bitterly excoriated by a very famous journalist, but this time Clinton was necessarily detained: President Obama had him on the phone, asking for help on a last list of wavering Democrats. Clinton, of course, was happy to help. He, too, shed blood and political capital in the cause of health care reform. He confidently told the media elite: “I am proud to stick up for this President and his Administration. Let me tell you something: they are going to pass health care reform, ladies and gentlemen. Maybe not in my lifetime or Dick Cheney’s, but, hopefully, by Easter.” Pres. Obama, too, stands on the shoulders of Clinton, two Roosevelts, Truman and Carter, Kennedy and Johnson.

But amidst all this history there is still politics. Let’s be realistic: Both history and the economy dictate Democratic losses in November. But passing health care will, I am sure, help mitigate the losses. First because the bill does real good for real people right away: a $500 down payment on the Donut Hole for seniors’ medication, the right to carry your adult children on your health insurance until they turn 27, an end to annual caps and lifetime limits, an end to rescissions, a high-risk pool for those too young for Medicare and too middle-class for Medicaid. Second, the only way to disprove the false charges from the Republicans is to actually live under the new law. There will be no death panels. There is no government takeover.

The vast majority of Americans will continue to have the health care they like — but the biggest difference is the insurance company will no longer be able to cancel it as they can now. Failure on health care would have depressed the Democratic vote and disgusted independents, who would have concluded Democrats can’t run the government.

Let the Republicans campaign on repealing this. Why not campaign on repealing Medicare, too? They called that socialized medicine. Why aren’t Scott Brown or Mitt Romney calling for repeal of the Massachusetts health care law (upon which this bill is based)?

Nothing succeeds like success. Or, as George S. Patton said to the 6th Armored Division of the Third Army in 1944: “Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser.” Today the Republicans are losers, and the Democrats — and every American who worries about getting sick and getting dumped by their insurance company — are the winners.

Paul Begala is a political commentator providing insight “from the left” on CNN’s programs including Inside Politics.

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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at AIPAC: Israeli Building Hurts Peace

Posted by: Audiegrl

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton pauses while speaking during the 2010 American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference March 22, 2010 in Washington, DC. Secretary Clinton spoke to the pro-Israel lobbying group about the relationship between the United States and Israel and issues facing the Middle East. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images North America)

AP~New Israeli construction on land claimed by the Palestinians threatens peace efforts and undermines America’s ability to help end the Arab-Israeli conflict, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told a leading Jewish organization Monday.

Israel’s recent announcement of new housing in east Jerusalem exposed differences between the U.S. and the Jewish state that others could exploit, Clinton said. Her remarks to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee were friendly, but contained a blunt account of a severe diplomatic breach between the close allies over what the United States sees as the provocative and shortsighted expansion of Jewish settlements and other housing on land claimed by Palestinians.

Clinton defended the Obama administration’s strong criticism of a recent large housing announcement because she said it hurt attempts to launch peace talks in which the United States will be the intermediary.

We objected to this announcement because we are committed to Israel and its security, which we believe depends on a comprehensive peace,” Clinton said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to the group Monday evening, and was seeing President Barack Obama on Tuesday.

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In this handout image supplied by the Israeli Government Press Office (GPO), Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talks with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton March 22, 2010 in Washington, DC. (Photo by GPO/Getty Images North America)



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Vicki Kennedy Will Be Interviewed on New CNN Show, “John King, USA

Posted by: Audiegrl

Tonight, on the premiere of John King, USA, John will sit down for an exclusive interview with Vicki Kennedy, the widow of Sen. Ted Kennedy. They will discuss her personal reflections on the health care reform vote, her late husband’s impact on the bill, the election of Sen. Scott Brown and more. Tune in to America’s new home for political news and conversation at 7pm ET.

Mrs. Kennedy told King she spent yesterday at her husband’s grave in Arlington National Cemetery. “I thought yesterday was an important day to be there, because I had hope and confidence and certainly, you know, wish that the bill would pass,” she said.

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First Lady Michelle Obama Appears On The Simpsons (well, sort of)

Posted by: Audiegrl

In a brand new episode of the hit cartoon series, First Lady Michelle Obama was seen traveling to fictional Springfield to meet the local school children. The episode entitled “Stealing First Base” aired on Sunday, March 21st on FOX.

First Lady Michelle Obama and Angela Bassett

First Lady Michelle Obama and Angela Bassett

Award-winning actress Angela Bassett provided the voice of Mrs. Obama. Bassett has become well-known for her biographical film roles portraying real life women in African American culture, perhaps most prominently as singer Tina Turner in the motion picture What’s Love Got to Do with It, as well as her portrayal of Betty Shabazz in the films Malcolm X and Panther, Rosa Parks in the The Rosa Parks Story, Michael Jackson’s mother Katherine in the miniseries The Jacksons: An American Dream and Christopher ‘The Notorious B.I.G.’ Wallace’s mother Voletta Wallace in the film Notorious.

During the new episode Lisa Simpson’s classmates ostracized her for being an straight “A” student, and the First Lady comes to her defense. After being cast out by her friends, Lisa was thrilled when she gets a chance to meet the President’s wife. Ultimately, Mrs. Obama helps Lisa discover the joys of being an overachiever.

The First Lady’s character appears at the 14:50 mark. Enjoy…

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President Obama On the Passage of Health Reform

Posted by: Audiegrl

For the first time in our nation’s history, Congress has passed comprehensive health care reform. America waited a hundred years and fought for decades to reach this moment. Tonight, thanks to you, we are finally here.

Consider the staggering scope of what you have just accomplished:

Because of you, every American will finally be guaranteed high quality, affordable health care coverage.

Every American will be covered under the toughest patient protections in history. Arbitrary premium hikes, insurance cancellations, and discrimination against pre-existing conditions will now be gone forever.

And we’ll finally start reducing the cost of care — creating millions of jobs, preventing families and businesses from plunging into bankruptcy, and removing over a trillion dollars of debt from the backs of our children.

But the victory that matters most tonight goes beyond the laws and far past the numbers.

It is the peace of mind enjoyed by every American, no longer one injury or illness away from catastrophe.

It is the workers and entrepreneurs who are now freed to pursue their slice of the American dream without fear of losing coverage or facing a crippling bill.

And it is the immeasurable joy of families in every part of this great nation, living happier, healthier lives together because they can finally receive the vital care they need.

This is what change looks like.

My gratitude tonight is profound. I am thankful for those in past generations whose heroic efforts brought this great goal within reach for our times. I am thankful for the members of Congress whose months of effort and brave votes made it possible to take this final step. But most of all, I am thankful for you.

This day is not the end of this journey. Much hard work remains, and we have a solemn responsibility to do it right. But we can face that work together with the confidence of those who have moved mountains.

Our journey began three years ago, driven by a shared belief that fundamental change is indeed still possible. We have worked hard together every day since to deliver on that belief.

We have shared moments of tremendous hope, and we’ve faced setbacks and doubt. We have all been forced to ask if our politics had simply become too polarized and too short-sighted to meet the pressing challenges of our time. This struggle became a test of whether the American people could still rally together when the cause was right — and actually create the change we believe in.

Tonight, thanks to your mighty efforts, the answer is indisputable: Yes we can.

Thank you,

President Barack Obama

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Photo of the Day: Yes We Can!

President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and senior staff applaud in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, as the House passes the health care reform bill, March 21, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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Why We Reform by Paul Krugman

Posted by: ogenec

Op-ed by Paul Krugman

Paul Krugman, New York Times

Paul Krugman, New York Times

NYT~One way or another, the fate of health care reform is going to be decided in the next few days. If House Democratic leaders find 216 votes, reform will almost immediately become the law of the land. If they don’t, reform may well be put off for many years — possibly a decade or more.

So this seems like a good time to revisit the reasons we need this reform, imperfect as it is.

As it happens, Reuters published an investigative report this week that powerfully illustrates the vileness of our current system. The report concerns the insurer Fortis, now part of Assurant Health, which turns out to have had a systematic policy of revoking its clients’ policies when they got sick. In particular, according to the Reuters report, it targeted every single policyholder who contracted H.I.V., looking for any excuse, no matter how flimsy, for cancellation. In the case that brought all this to light, Assurant Health used an obviously misdated handwritten note by a nurse, who wrote “2001” instead of “2002,” to claim that the infection was a pre-existing condition that the client had failed to declare, and revoked his policy.

This was illegal, and the company must have known it: the South Carolina Supreme Court, after upholding a decision granting large damages to the wronged policyholder, concluded that the company had been systematically concealing its actions when withdrawing coverage, not just in this case, but across the board.

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Newsweeks Jonathan Alter’s New White House Book: The Promise: President Obama, Year One

Posted by: Audiegrl

The Promise by Jonathan AlterBarack Obama’s inauguration as president on January 20, 2009, inspired the world. But the great promise of “Change We Can Believe In” was immediately tested by the threat of another Great Depression, a worsening war in Afghanistan, and an entrenched and deeply partisan system of business as usual in Washington. Despite all the coverage, the backstory of Obama’s historic first year in office has until now remained a mystery.

In The Promise: President Obama, Year One, Jonathan Alter, one of the country’s most respected journalists and historians, uses his unique access to the White House to produce the first inside look at Obama’s difficult debut.

What happened in 2009 inside the Oval Office? What worked and what failed? What is the president really like on the job and off-hours, using what his best friend called “a Rubik’s Cube in his brain”? These questions are answered here for the first time. We see how a surprisingly cunning Obama took effective charge in Washington several weeks before his election, made trillion-dollar decisions on the stimulus and budget before he was inaugurated, engineered colossally unpopular bailouts of the banking and auto sectors, and escalated a treacherous war not long after settling into office.

The Promise is a fast-paced and incisive narrative of a young risk-taking president carving his own path amid sky-high expectations and surging joblessness. Alter reveals that it was Obama alone—”feeling lucky”—who insisted on pushing major health care reform over the objections of his vice president and top advisors, including his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, who admitted that “I begged him not to do this.”

Alter takes the reader inside the room as Obama prevents a fistfight involving a congressman, coldly reprimands the military brass for insubordination, crashes the key meeting at the Copenhagen Climate Change conference, and realizes that a Senate candidate’s gaffe about baseball in a Massachusetts special election will dash the big dream of his first year.

In Alter’s telling, the real Obama is an authentic, demanding, unsentimental, and sometimes overconfident leader. He adapted to the presidency with ease and put more “points on the board” than he is given credit for, but neglected to use his leverage over the banks and failed to connect well with an angry public. We see the famously calm president cursing leaks, playfully trash-talking his advisors, and joking about even the most taboo subjects, still intent on redeeming more of his promise as the problems mount.

Book Details Obama on ‘Teabaggers,’ Rahm’s Rage, Summers’s Nickname

Jonathan Alter of Newsweek

Jonathan Alter of Newsweek

Newsweek~As Democrats prepare to vote on the historic health-care legislation this weekend, a new look inside the White House is emerging from an upcoming book by Newsweek national-affairs columnist Jonathan Alter that’s already being buzzed about in Washington political circles. The Promise, due out from Simon and Schuster in May, chronicles in a blow-by-blow narrative Obama’s first turbulent year in office. According to an advance copy obtained by New York, Alter makes the case that early stumbles in vetting appointees and the polarized politics over the stimulus set a course for the rest of the year. While the book doesn’t upend the existing narratives about any of the administration’s major characters, it adds intimate, at times comic detail about many of them, starting with POTUS. In an interview with Alter on November 30, Obama offered that Republican opposition to the stimulus “helped create the tea-baggers and empowered that whole wing of the Republican Party where it now controls the agenda for the Republicans.”

Other vividly drawn characters include Chief Economic Adviser Larry Summers, to whom Alter writes Obama gave the nickname “Dr. Kevorkian.” Alter writes that Obama “privately supported Harvard’s decision to fire Summers in 2005 … because Summers clearly lacked the ‘diplomatic skill set’ for the Harvard presidency.'” In the White House, Summers angled for the biggest portfolio he could get, but failed to get oversight on health care and energy. One of his chief antagonists was the powerful budget director Peter Orszag. Alter writes that a tennis partner of Summers’s warned him of Orszag: “Watch out for the guy with the cowboy boots and the bad toupee.” One of the more amusing fights inside the White House, according to Alter, was over Obama’s coveted BlackBerry e-mail address, which was given to only 30 or so White House aides and Obama friends. “Summers was annoyed at not being included and complained to Rahm, who put him on the list,” writers Alter.

In an interview, Alter told me he hopes the book gives readers a deeper, more personal sense of the characters operating inside the White House. “I hope the book corrects some misconceptions and leads people to a more subtle understanding of who he is, where he has fulfilled his promise and where he’s fallen short so far,” he told me.

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