POLITICAL WIRE’S HEADLINES – 9/9

Baucus Schedules Mark Up

Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) “told a Democrats-only meeting of his committee Wednesday that he plans to begin marking up a health care reform bill the week of Sept. 20, with or without a bipartisan deal in place,” Roll Call reports.

“A Democratic Senate source said Baucus would lay down the mark on Tuesday, the Sept. 15 deadline the chairman set for a deal with the gang on a bipartisan plan. This source said that as of now no Republicans are on board with the framework for reform that Baucus has proposed.”

California Lawmaker Caught on Tape

California state Rep. Michael Duvall (R), a conservative Republican who is married with two children, was caught on a live microphone bragging about his ongoing extramarital affairs with two women who are lobbyists.

Duvall is now said to be in seclusion somewhere in Sacramento.

Read more…


Pressure Grows on Sanford to Step Down

Republicans controlling the South Carolina House have reached a consensus on Gov. Mark Sanford, the AP reports. They plan to release a statement later today.

However, CNN’s Peter Hamby reports that at least 60 Republican House members signed a letter calling on Sanford to resign.

Jones Returns to Old Job

Van Jones, the Obama administration’s former green jobs czar, is headed to the Center for American Progress after stepping down from his White House post four days ago amid controversy over his affiliations, reports the New York Daily News.

He returns to his job as senior fellow at the center-left think tank founded by John Podesta, who served as chairman of Obama’s presidential transition team.


Coakley Leads in Race to Replace Kennedy

A new Rasmussen Reports poll finds Martha Coakley (D) is the early leader in the Democratic race to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy.

Coakley leads with 38% of the vote, followed by Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA) at 11% and Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) at 10%. 

However, 25% of likely primary voters are still undecided.


GOP Picks Birther to Respond to Obama

The Huffington Post reports that Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA) — a doctor who was chosen to give the Republican response to President Obama’s health care speech tonight — is one of those who also questions whether the president is actually an American citizen.

UpdatePolitico reports House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) defended the pick of Boustany “saying he knew nothing of Boustany’s apparent flirtation with the birther movement.”

Update IIBen Smith reports Boustany “aspired to British nobility” before making his run for Congress by trying to buy a “title.”


Fiscal Conservatives?

Andrew Sullivan: “Charlie Cook and others are predicting a sea-change in public mood, with support for the GOP rising because of deficits. This strikes me as an amazing thing. It makes Charlie Brown, the football and Lucy look like the model of intelligent interaction. If you believe in fiscal conservatism, the last place on earth you should look for salvation is the GOP. They have single-handedly destroyed America’s finances since the 1980s, with the sole exception of George H W Bush, who was rejected by his own party precisely because of his fiscal sobriety. The current debt is overwhelmingly inherited by Obama, and it would have been nuts to enter office in the downdraft of the sharp recession and set about cutting spending. Bush had eight years to restrain it and he didn’t. He let it rip.”


Supreme Court Gets High Marks

As the U.S. Supreme Court convenes today with recently sworn-in Justice Sonia Sotomayor on the bench, a new Gallup poll finds Americans “broadly upbeat about the performance of the high court. Sixty-one percent of Americans approve and 28% disapprove of the job the Supreme Court is doing — among the most positive ratings the court has received in the past decade.”

Meanwhile, the White House posted interesting photos from the formal investiture ceremony for Justice Sotomayor attended by President Obama and Vice President Biden. That’s a pretty exclusive gathering.


Quote of the Day

“I think there are some in the Republican Party who made a strategic decision that we can duplicate what happened in 1993, ’94. I think that folks are dusting off that old playbook.”

— President Obama, in an interview with ABC News, referring to the Clinton admininstration’s failed attempt at health care reform and the Republicans winning back control over Congress soon thereafter.


Showtime for Obama

President Obama delivers the most important speech of his presidency tonight before a joint session of Congress. 

Jake Tapper reports that at Camp David over the weekend, President Obama “wrote out a draft of his health care reform speech — 10 pages, written in longhand. He gave it to his speechwriters upon returning to the White House. Last night, at around 8:30, they gave him a typed copy of the latest draft and the president, a known night owl, worked on the speech last night.”

Expect to see the speech previewed today as a “high stakes” or “make or break moment” for the Obama presidency. As Andrew Sullivan notes, “the media love drama, and the prospect of a sudden, Icarian fall to earth by the dashing new president is too good a story to miss.”

But, as Howard Kurtz points out, Obama’s “entire career is built upon words” and he’s “reaching for the favorite arrow in his quiver.”

The president will speak tonight at 8 p.m.


Health Care Reform Moves Ahead

The New York Times picks up on the point we made yesterday that the momentum for passing health care reform is really unchanged

“While the month of August clearly knocked the White House back on its heels, as Congressional town hall-style meetings exposed Americans’ unease with an overhaul, the uproar does not seem to have greatly altered public opinion or substantially weakened Democrats’ resolve…”

“Despite tensions between moderate and liberal Democrats, there is broad agreement within the party over most of what a package would look like. Four of the five Congressional committees considering health care legislation have already passed bills. Each would require all Americans to have insurance and provide government subsidies for those who cannot afford it. Each would bar insurance companies from refusing coverage for pre-existing conditions; imposing lifetime caps on coverage; or dropping people when they get sick.”


McDonnell Faces Another Tough Story

The Washington Post runs a front page story today that paints Virginia gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell (R) as an extreme social conservative describing how in 2003 he “helped gavel in one of the most extraordinary judicial reappointment hearings in Virginia history: a seven-hour, trial-like affair that led to questions about whether the future Republican gubernatorial candidate thought gays were fit to serve on the bench.”

This follows reports on McDonnell’s master’s thesis in which he described working women and feminists as “detrimental” to the family.

So far, however, McDonnell has retained a healthy lead in polls over rival Creigh Deeds (D).


Dodd Stays at Banking Committee

Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT) “is to remain as chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, having decided not to take the gavel of the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee,” reports the Wall Street Journal.

“Dodd is the second most senior Democrat on the HELP committee, and could have decided to replace Sen. Edward Kennedy, after he succumbed to brain cancer after a 15-month fight to beat the disease two weeks ago. Instead, he has opted to remain at the helm of the banking panel, where he will lead a wholesale reform of financial industry regulation in the wake of last year’s financial market meltdown.”

The Washington Post reports Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) will take over the HELP committee chairmanship.


Schmidt to Birther: “I Agree with You”

At a Labor Day event in Cincinnati, Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-OH) was approached by an angry constituent who wanted to know why she wasn’t demanding to see President Obama’s birth certificate. 

Unfortunately for the congresswoman, the entire exchange was taped by Think Progress and caught Schmidt whispering loudly enough to be picked up, “I agree with you, but the courts don’t.”

Read more…


Palin Defends “Death Panels” Again

After a series of controversial Facebook posts, Sarah Palin has an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on the “bureaucratization of health care” im which she argues President Obama’s proposals “would give unelected officials life-and-death rationing powers.”

Marc Ambinder: “But Palin’s existence in this debate does not lend her voice any credibility and, beyond that, even if you believe that her experience as a state governor does give her at least a modicum of credibility, it does not follow that, because her voice is credible, it ought to be influential.”

The question is: Will the cable news channels take the bait?


Foley to Become Radio Host

(My comment: Wonder if he’ll be on FOX “family values” network)

Nearly three years after then-Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) “saw his political career crumble following the revelation of his sexually explicit emails with underage congressional pages,” ABC News notes “he’s garnering the spotlight once again: as a radio talk show host.”

Foley “is set to debut his radio show entitled Inside the Mind of Mark Foley on Sept. 22 on West Palm Beach radio station WSVU 960am.”

Baucus Says Time is Running Out

Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) signaled “that a months-long effort to negotiate a bipartisan health care bill in his committee could be on its last leg, and indicated he was prepared to move legislation absent a deal,” Roll Call reports.

He said he “would prefer” to have a bipartisan deal in place before President Obama delivers his address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday night.

Said Baucus: “Time is running out very quickly.”


Signs Point to an Exciting Midterm Election Cycle

Stuart Rothenberg: “The tide clearly has turned nationally, with the president’s popularity down and Democrats fighting against a growing mood of dissatisfaction. That’s a huge problem for Democrats in the two states that will have gubernatorial elections this year. But while Republican strategists are showing greater optimism about the midterms, they also say that they wish those elections were taking place this November, not more than a year from now. And that’s another reason why the next 14 months should be so exciting.”


South Carolina Speaker Asks Sanford to Resign

House Speaker Bobby Harrell (R) “became perhaps the most powerful South Carolina politician to call” on Gov. Mark Sanford (R) to resign, reports The State.

In a letter, Harrell said Sanford’s resignation “would allow the state to move forward from the distractions created by Sanford’s secret trip to Argentina in June and the subsequent confession that he’d been engaged in an extramarital affair.”

There were no threats of impeachment, however, in the letter.


Meehan Will Not Run for Senate

Confirming an earlier report, former Rep. Marty Meehan (D-MA) told WBZ-TV that he will not run in the race to succeed Sen. Ted Kennedy in the U.S. Senate.

Meehan, who is currently the chancellor of UMass-Lowell, was widely considered one of the strongest candidates due to a $5 million war chest he still maintains.

Meanwhile, the AP reports Rep. Michael Capuano (D-MA) will draw nomination papers later today and make a formal announcement about his intentions next week

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