Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 10, 2010

CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR.... For months, congressional Democrats have said, with varying degrees of subtlety, that they want the White House to start taking charge of the process surrounding health care reform. While the West Wing has consistently asked Hill leaders to oversee the legislative and procedural details, lawmakers wanted to see the president take charge. They wanted to follow, and expected President Obama to lead.

So, the White House agreed to play the role. The president outlined a plan to bridge the House-Senate gap; Obama has hit the trail; wavering lawmakers are being called to the White House for a little arm-twisting; and the president's team is even starting to set deadlines. Congress wants the White House to tell lawmakers what to do? Fine, the White House said.

Except, now, Congress isn't sure it likes the new approach.

Congressional Democrats directly told White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel they don't appreciate being told when to finish their work on healthcare reform, according to a powerful committee chairman.

"He was certainly informed that we don't feel we want any deadlines assigned to us," House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said after a healthcare strategy meeting between House and Senate Democratic leaders and Emanuel.

I'm not unsympathetic to lawmakers' concerns, but they practically pleaded with the White House to start calling the shots in this process. Now that the West Wing is doing just that, it seems odd for leaders on the Hill to criticize unwelcome pressure.

At issue, apparently, are remarks from press secretary Robert Gibbs about the House passing the Senate bill by the 18th (a week from tomorrow). This has clearly rankled congressional Dems, who want to go at their own pace.

But it's not like Gibbs pulled the number out of the air. The date is important to the White House because the president is traveling to Asia, and would like the vote to happen before he departs so he can be available for 11th-hour appeals to lawmakers. The point was to pick a realistic date that would make it easier for Obama to help the House leadership get to 216.

Given the reaction, though, it now appears that congressional Dems just don't think it's possible to wrap up the debate over the next eight days. Waxman told Brian Beutler, "We want to pass the bill, we want to make sure it's the way it should be, and soon as possible, but we don't feel that we have to have any particular deadline."

In other words, this might take a while.

Steve Benen 8:30 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (32)

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It's obvious that nothing annoys them more than having to do their job. It's pretty obvious too, that while GOPers have it easier by blindly rejecting this, the Dems are dragging their feet 'cause they simply don't.want.to.do.this. The status quo works for them as much as it does for Boehner, Mitchell and co.

Remember 2006 and the mandate to end Iraq? My buddies are still getting sent there, and it's 2010.

Posted by: Cataphract on March 10, 2010 at 8:37 AM | PERMALINK

What are they actually doing that takes so long?

Posted by: David Steven on March 10, 2010 at 8:38 AM | PERMALINK

Pelosi doesn't have the votes. Waxman & Co. think a little extra time will get them to 216. Whatever.

Thanks, Cataphract, for reminding us all of 2006 and the mandate to end Iraq. Surreal.

Posted by: BrklynLibrul on March 10, 2010 at 8:40 AM | PERMALINK

Are they on crack, the $10M mis-information advertisement run is about to go down, let's wrap this up before insurance starts telling people D's are going to harvest live baby organs and kill old people 'just cause'.

Posted by: ScottW on March 10, 2010 at 8:42 AM | PERMALINK

I have always been in the camp of those who think passing HCR is far better for Democrats than not passing the bill. But, the good that comes from passing the bill decreases the longer it drags out. A better bill is better for all us citizens but speed is better if they want to get re-elected.

Posted by: Th on March 10, 2010 at 8:42 AM | PERMALINK

The egos of these few are killing MANY.

Posted by: Trinity on March 10, 2010 at 8:50 AM | PERMALINK

Well, nobody ever said democracy is all neat and tidy all the time. We're witnessing the messiness of unfettered political engagement. I only hope our congressional Democrats can get to the finish line realizing the ones with the most money aren't the ones they are working for on this issue! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on March 10, 2010 at 8:51 AM | PERMALINK

Th: what makes you think they care about us citizens? I haven't seen much evidence that anyone in Congress thinks this is anything more than a game. They're all killing Americans with every day they delay, and it makes no real difference if there's a D or an R after their names. Remember the good old days when representatives actually represented the people who put them in office? Me neither.

Posted by: azportsider on March 10, 2010 at 8:51 AM | PERMALINK

Well, there are many ways that The White House can be involved. One is to be seen out front in public cajoling and trying to herd cats. The other is to take recalcitrant members on privately behind the scenes and work them with every tool available to the exectutive branch of government that doesn't explicitly break the law.

Posted by: SW on March 10, 2010 at 8:53 AM | PERMALINK

Democratic lawmakers take pride in acting like losers!
The president is correct to get this done before he leaves for Asia. They behave like adolencents.The minute the president's plane takes off, all hell will break loose.
There are too many 'problem children' sitting in the halls of Congress.

Posted by: Sharon on March 10, 2010 at 8:55 AM | PERMALINK

I was one of those who wanted the administration to take a stronger hand in leading the process. I feel a little foolish now.

Posted by: Rick Taylor on March 10, 2010 at 8:55 AM | PERMALINK

Here is what I think regarding all the damned delays: THE DEMOCRATS REALLY DON'T WANT TO PASS HEALTH CARE!!! It is the same crap with the Dems whenever they control congress---campaign on health care reform and then find a way to make sure it just can't pass, so they can campaign on it in the future. I'm tired of this game and I'm tired of giving Democrats my money and I'm tired of making phone calls for them and I'm tired of knocking on doors for them. They called the other night to ask if my wife would be willing to phone bank in November and we both said NO!!! Screw them and this pretended notion that it takes a "super-majority" to pass anything in the Senate and screw Waxman and the House for dilly-dallying around, while people literally f(bomb)ing die!!! I'm done with these fools!!!

Posted by: aalex on March 10, 2010 at 8:56 AM | PERMALINK

Did you notice that Allan Grayson has introduced a bill for a Medicare opt in.
This is just so logical it has no chance of passing. Like he said : “The government spent billions of dollars creating a Medicare network of providers that is only open to one-eighth of the population. That’s like saying, ‘Only people 65 and over can use federal highways.’

Posted by: John R on March 10, 2010 at 9:00 AM | PERMALINK

Whining for WH leadership, whining about WH leadership...

Yep, that's Congress...

Posted by: TonyB on March 10, 2010 at 9:05 AM | PERMALINK

I think you've pretty much misrepresented the situation. Congress (really, the House Dems) doesn't so much want the president to lead but instead to put some "skin in the game."

The fact is that Obama has done just about everything he can to make the "HCR" law a protect the mega corps law. He started by making deals with the drug companies that the rip offs that were put in by Republicans in their Medicare drug law would be protected. Similarly the mega health insurance companies were to be protected and even enhanced through mandates. The mandates are really cool in that sense. They can be used to claim that they don't have any detrimental effect on the deficit because the government doesn't pay anything. The government has removed itself as the middle man in tax collection - program implementation, instead choosing only to be the payment enforcer for the health insurance companies. Cute, or rather disgusting.

In Obama's recent disclosure of what he wants in the health care law, the "public option," (already a sham with suggestions to the unknowing of a single payer system) was left out. All this from Obama, as quietly as possible.

The proposed law, in whatever form seems possible at this point to pass, is garbage. The real lie is that this will be the last chance to pass a national health care law for at least a generation. The reality is that this is a law to save the health insurance industry, which could not possibly survive much longer since fewer and fewer Americans could actually afford the cost, especially considering the terms, where if you get sick and your treatments cost too much you get dropped. It's high cost insurance for the healthy. A scam, which the government is now trying to protect and prolong, with little in the way of regulation.

When three quarters of the public don't have health care there will be honest politicians, unlike Obama, who will propose "single payer" systems similar to just about every other developed nation and the parasites (not even a metaphor) of health care will be eliminated - with huge reductions in cost and far better health care for the vast majority of people.

And at the same time Obama is setting up a commission to look into "entitlements" - Social Security and Medicare, appointing anti-Social Security people to head it. This after congress rejected such a commission which Obama wanted to have the ability to bypass congress altogether in the implementation of any changes. Oh, and a 3% percent increase in the Defense budget (beyond inflation).

Obama: Change you can ream your colon with (a costly health care treatment).

Posted by: AmosAnan on March 10, 2010 at 9:13 AM | PERMALINK

Bottom line - a simple majority of Donkeys can no longer be found in both ends of congress to pass HCR. What a pathetic gaggle of losers. As for those bastard obstructionists in the other party and corporate world, don't get me started.

Posted by: Chopin on March 10, 2010 at 9:17 AM | PERMALINK

Pelosi is a few votes short at the moment and they're trying to sew it up.

And this bill is like fine wine -- the longer it ages, the more exquisite it becomes. Okay, now I'm just messin' witcha.

Posted by: shortstop on March 10, 2010 at 9:34 AM | PERMALINK

AmosAnan - Was your rant complete? Sure you didn't want to throw in a Free Mumia or a Save the Dolphins sign?

Your view of political realities is not a sound one. The bill on the table is the only one that can barely pass. It can be amended later. It must be passed now.

I cannot tell if you are a paid troll, sent here to spew out left-sounding talking points; or if you honestly believe that Obama is a lying shill for the insurance companies.

It doesn't matter, because you're 100% wrong. The bill should be passed as soon as possible.

Posted by: Rathskeller on March 10, 2010 at 9:39 AM | PERMALINK

When three quarters of the public don't have health care there will be honest politicians, unlike Obama, who will propose "single payer" systems similar to just about every other developed nation and the parasites (not even a metaphor) of health care will be eliminated - with huge reductions in cost and far better health care for the vast majority of people.

In AmosAnan's world, pigs no doubt really do fly. Look AmosAnan, we appreciate your concern troll tirade, but you're fooling nobody with your "if we only wait until 75% can't afford healthcare then all our wildest dreams will come true" nonsense.

Next time vote Pedro for President.

Posted by: oh my on March 10, 2010 at 9:39 AM | PERMALINK

I heard my congressman, Steve King, say last night in a conference call with his constituents, "If we can string this out until the Easter break I am certain that we can kill it--and that's what I intend to do."

Apparently Steve has some help among the Democratic Congressmembers.

Posted by: Henry P. Wallace on March 10, 2010 at 10:04 AM | PERMALINK

The kind of nonsense coming from Waxman, et al. is what makes me spitting mad. WTF? How do you reconcile, "we don't need any deadlines" with "the time to pass health reform is NOW." Is Waxman still mad that the president chastised him at the Health Reform Summit?

For the love of Mike, I don't know what to say to this "we don't need any deadlines" stupidity. People are hanging on with their fingernails waiting for this legislation to be signed.

Get it done , House Dems. WTF are you waiting for?

Posted by: June on March 10, 2010 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

The kind of nonsense coming from Waxman, et al. is what makes me spitting mad. WTF? How do you reconcile, "we don't need any deadlines" with "the time to pass health reform is NOW." Is Waxman still mad that the president chastised him at the Health Reform Summit?

It is stupid, yeah. But Waxman is one of the brightest, straight-shootingest, most progressive and simultaneously most effective members of the caucus. I'm inclined to think any holdup on his part is due to a need to get more votes, not to personal pique...although there may be a bit of that as well, given that the Senate continues to treat the House like its personal handmaiden.

Posted by: shortstop on March 10, 2010 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

given that the Senate continues to treat the House like its personal handmaiden

I thought the C Street Family discreetly arranged for those for Senators?

Posted by: zeitgeist on March 10, 2010 at 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

Cost cutting measures, really going to be worked in?

Posted by: neil b on March 10, 2010 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

"Cost cutting measures, really going to be worked in?"



Posted by: Tlaloc on March 10, 2010 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

Thanks, Shortstop, for coming to the defense of my rep., Henry Waxman. Waxman's not foot dragger. If anything, he's the one dragging the real obstructionist by their hair to the table.

If Henry Waxman says they need more time, they need more time. Focus should be directed at the people who are really holding up the show, who may reside in the Senate.

Until the Senate can provide a written pledge from 50 senators agreeing to vote for reconciliation fixes, I wouldn't be too eager to PTDB.

Posted by: bdop4 on March 10, 2010 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

If the health Care Bill is not passed by 3.18.10 it won't ever be in my opinion. Politicians refuse to give Americans what politicians have. Health Care Insurance without reproach. The politicians won't give Americans $$ for summer jobs , but will spend money bailing out big businesses and banks and to mercenaries to kill innocent people. Where is the balance? Politicans should lose their insurance in retaliation for what has been done to Americans.

Posted by: mljohnston on March 10, 2010 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

Yeah, we thought our Head Vintner was going to produce some great claret. Now, we realize that it appears to some to be more akin to Thunderbird 2011, but, wine it is and it must be passed, so we can start working on moving past the fortified parts and bring some great wine to all in the near future.

Posted by: berttheclock on March 10, 2010 at 11:35 AM | PERMALINK


Posted by: ajw93 on March 10, 2010 at 11:48 AM | PERMALINK

Wow, powerful men don't want to be led around by a separate branch of government. What a surprise. Oh, wait. That's not a surprise at all. OF COURSE they didn't want the Whitehouse telling them what to do. That's what I've been saying all along. And while there were SOME congressmen who begged Obama to get involved, others didn't. These aren't the same people.

And that's a big part of our problem: Yes, they're ALL Democrats. But Democrats aren't authoritarians like Republicans and we don't all think alike. Hell, I don't think the commenters on these WaMo boards could get a simple majority on any particular healthcare plan, and we're all liberals to varying degrees. And frankly, I LIKE that Dems don't all think alike and find that to be a function, not a bug.

For all the people bemoaning the lack of unity among Congressional Dems, I think that's certainly preferable to the Republican dictator methods. Some people like to be told what to do, others like to be paid lip service, and still others really want to exert power. These are the realities that Obama is dealing with and to blame him for not strong-arming Congress is to completely misread human nature. Had Obama strong-armed Congress from the beginning, these people would have been forced to reject his tactics and we'd all be a lot worse off for it.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on March 10, 2010 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

Watching the morons in the House and Senate - of both parties - it's easy to understand how the Romans thought Caesar Augustus was an improvement over the old Roman Senate.

Posted by: TCinLA on March 10, 2010 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

Let's face it, Democratic members of Congress don't like ANYTHING, except stomping their feet and pouting. This pack of useless eunuchs just loves to feel victimized and powerless.

Posted by: Chesire111 on March 10, 2010 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK
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