Democrats Plan for Byrd “Contingencies”

Sen. Robert Byrd’s (D-WV) state of health “has prompted some quiet, behind-the-scenes discussions in the event the senator is unable to return to office,” the West Virginia Gazette reports.

West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin (D) met with state Democratic Party chairman Nick Casey last week, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) on a conference call to discuss contingencies.” 

Casey “is generally regarded as the consensus choice to serve as a placeholder for Byrd’s Senate seat in the event Byrd would have to step down prior to the 2010 elections.” 

Roll Call reports Byrd is still hospitalized and has no plans to return this week.

Fundraising Begins for a Jindal Presidential Bid

A group of Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s (R) political supporters, “including an uncle of the governor’s wife, Supriya Jindal, are forming a federal political action committee to support a presidential run by the 38-year-old Republican,” the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports.

Though Jindal’s press secretary insists to the
Baton Rouge Advocate that the governor, “does not support this effort,” an insider tells Political Wire that Jindal’s top aides manage their responsibilities “in the context of preparing Bobby for a 2012 run.

How Congress Really Works

The Waxman Report, a new book by Rep. Henry Waxman and Joshua Green is a must-read for political junkies.

It’s described as an “inside account of how Congress really works by describing the subtleties and complexities of the legislative process.”

The authors give readers “a rare glimpse into how this is achieved — the strategy, the maneuvering, the behind-the-scenes deals” — and show “how the things we take for granted (clear information about tobacco’s harmfulness, accurate nutritional labeling, important drugs that have saved countless lives) started out humbly-derided by big business interests as impossible or even destructive. Sometimes, the most dramatic breakthroughs occur through small twists of fate or the most narrow voting margin.”

Bonus Quote of the Day

“I hope my old friend Leon was misquoted. The important thing is whether or not the Obama administration will continue the policies that have kept us safe for the last eight years.”— Former Vice President Dick Cheney, on CIA Director Leon Panetta’s recent comments in the New Yorker.

Castro’s Son Tricked

“One of Fidel Castro’s sons carried on an eight-month flirtation over the Internet with a person he believed was a Colombian woman. Surprise! The woman was actually a Miami man,” the Palm Beach Post reports.

Bad Predictions

Ronald Brownstein: “To reread the major political books from the years around Bush’s reelection is to be plunged, as if into a cold pool, back into a world of Democratic gloom and anxiety. Those books were linked by the common belief that Republicans had established a thin but durable electoral advantage that threatened to exile Democrats from power for years, if not decades. Many books from that time assumed Democrats could avoid that eclipse only by adopting the tactics used by Republicans in general and Rove in particular…”

“In fact, by the time most of these books were published, the Republican ‘fortress’ looked more like a crumbling sand castle. Bush’s reelection proved the high point of Rove’s vision, and even that was a rather modest peak: Bush’s margin of victory, as a share of the popular vote, was the smallest ever for a reelected president… By the time Bush left office, with Democrats assuming control of government and about two-thirds of Americans disapproving of his performance, his party was in its weakest position since before Ronald Reagan’s election. Rather than constructing a permanent Republican majority, Rove and Bush provided Democrats an opportunity to build a lasting majority of their own that none of these books saw coming.”

Obama Pitches Health Care Plan

In his speech today, President Obama will urge the American Medical Association to back wider insurance coverage for health care. 

Key point: “To say it as plainly as I can, health care reform is the single most important thing we can do for America’s long-term fiscal health. That is a fact.”

full text is after the jump.

Read more…

Ross Ousted as Iran Envoy

Dennis Ross, “who most recently served as a special State Department envoy to Iran, will abruptly be relieved of his duties,” sources told Haaretz.

An official announcement is expected in the coming days.

“Washington insiders speculate that a number of reasons moved the administration to reassign Ross. One possibility is Iran’s persistent refusal to accept Ross as a U.S. emissary given the diplomat’s Jewish background as well as his purported pro-Israel leanings… Diplomatic sources in Jerusalem surmised that another possibility for Ross’ ouster is his just-released book, Myths, Illusions, and Peace: Finding a New Direction for America in the Middle East.”

Poll Finds Doyle in Trouble for Re-Election

A new Public Policy Polling survey in Wisconsin finds Gov. Jim Doyle (D) with a lowly 34% approval rating and trailing two potential 2010 opponents.

Scott Walker (R) leads Doyle, 48% to 40%, and former Rep. Mark Neumann (R) edges him, 42% to 41%.

Of note: A recent
Research 2000 poll actually found Doyle leading both potential rivals.

Clinton Consolidates Power

New York: “On the inside, Clinton has steadily accumulated power while expending hardly any political capital. For one thing, she has stirred an effective mix of politicos and diplomats into the top tiers of the State Department. Hillary has Cheryl Mills, a lawyer best known for defending Bill Clinton during impeachment, running her staff. And she has divided the position of Deputy Secretary of State into two jobs: supersmart Jim Steinberg, who was deputy national security adviser under Bill Clinton but supported Obama in 2008, is her policy maven, while Jack Lew is her management chief. Lew helped Hillary secure a 10 percent increase in the State Department’s budget from Obama while Tim Geithner was still figuring out how to turn the lights on in his office.”

“Further, Clinton hasn’t made mistakes. There have been no Joe Biden-like gaffes, Tom Daschle-like embarrassments, or Judd Gregg-like turnarounds coming from Hillary. Or from her husband — these days, Bill Clinton would have us believe he spends his time shopping for trinkets, unable even to get Hillary on her cell phone.”

Pawlenty Will Explore White House Bid

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R), who has decided against running for a third term in 2010, “will spend the next two years traveling the country to see if he can build enough support to run for president in 2012,” his associates tell Washington Whispers.

“The Republican, who is expected to play up his humble roots and past in a populist bid against President Obama, will decide in 2011 if there is enough of a base on which to build his campaign. Those close to “T-Paw” said that his focus is the presidency, not a vice presidential nomination or an effort to raise his name recognition en route to a bid in 2016.”

Why Did Panetta Engage Cheney?

First Read: “It’s not everyday the head of the CIA gives an on-the-record interview to the New Yorker in which he says the former VP is rooting for a terrorist attack… All in all, this has the makings of a made-for-cable fight, and probably something the White House wishes the CIA director didn’t ignite.”

South Carolina Pol Apologizes for Obama Comment

A former Republican party official in South Carolina “apologized after his posting on Facebook suggested a gorilla that escaped form a Columbia zoo was an ancestor of first lady Michelle Obama,” reports the Charlotte Observer.

Wrote Rusty DePass: “I’m sure it’s just one of Michelle’s ancestors — probably harmless.”

“The comment has since been deleted, but DePass
confirmed to WIS-TV that he made it, apologizing and saying it was a joke about statements Obama has made about evolution.”

Daily Pulse on Health Care Politics

It’s a very big week for health care reform, as President Obama addresses the American Medical Association and congressional committees delve into the details of legislative proposals. 

The debate, however, is no long on whether health care reform will be done. The debate is only on the role of government as a potential provider of health care.

Robert Reich: “Wednesday the American Medical Association came out against a public option for health care. The President has reaffirmed his support for it. The next weeks will show what Obama is made of — whether he’s willing and able to take on the most formidable lobbying coalition he has faced so far on an issue that will define his presidency.”

CNN yesterday, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius noted the opposition is different this time: “The situation has changed. The good news is, a lot of the people who opposed not only the plan that Harry Truman put forward, and he did relentlessly during his administration, and what Bill Clinton had on the table. They were opponents. They’re now at the table.”

CQ Politics reports health care coverage — and how to pay for it — dominated the Sunday talk shows, with key Senate leaders expounding on a variety of initiatives. 

Read more…

Quote of the Day

“Don’t you believe that B.S.”

— Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), quoted by the
Deseret News, when Republican delegates at his state party’s convention “applauded as a way of blaming national Republicans, himself included, for the deficit and other problems of the Bush years.”

Previewing Obama’s Health Care Speech

President Obama will speak to the American Medical Association in Chicago today to push his plan for health care overhaul. The speech is scheduled for 12:15 p.m. ET.

Playbook: “This is a speech people will remember. The president is going to make an irrefutable case for why the status quo can no longer be tolerated. And he will paint a powerful picture of how health care can be improved in the future. This is an important moment where the president makes the overall case, which is something only he can do and generate serious attention. The opposition has no leader to drive a counter-message.”

Clinton Payback

“Though it’s largely gone unnoticed — or at least as unnoticed as a former president can possibly go — Bill Clinton has jumped headlong into the 2010 election cycle, deploying his political star power to boost some of his family’s most steadfast allies — many of whom stuck their neck out on behalf of his wife’s presidential campaign,” Politico reports.

“No request — or campaign — seems too local for Clinton in his current loyalty tour.”

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