POLITICAL WIRE’S HEADLINES – 3/19

Obama Invites House Democrats to White House

The entire House Democratic Caucus will meet with President Obama at the White House on Saturday afternoon, one day before they are set to vote on the health care reform legislation, Roll Call reports.

Meanwhile, Politico reports that some Democrats are “ducking calls” from the White House because they don’t want to “enter the wind tunnel of presidential persuasion”

A Brief Guide to This Weekend’s Health Care Vote

With assistance from David Waldman and Sarah Binder — and the caveat that we don’t know many details yet — here’s a very rough guide to what will happen with the health care reform bill this weekend:

The House Rules Committee will likely meet on Saturday morning to draft a special rule that allows the House to pass a bill by approving the rule and not necessarily the bill itself. By all indications, this rule will be the now famous “self-executing” rule which “deems” the Senate health care bill passed upon adoption of the rule.

While Republicans on the Rules Committee may try to amend the rule, they’re dramatically outnumbered by Democrats 9 to 4.

The House will likely debate the rule for about an hour and hold a vote on whether to end debate. Assuming that passes, the House holds another vote on adopting the rule. If the rule is approved with 216 votes, the House may begin debate on the reconciliation bill that makes fixes to the Senate version of the health care bill.

The House then debates the reconciliation according to guidelines set forth by the rule. Once debate is finished, the House will finally hold an up-or-down vote on the reconciliation bill. If it passes with 216 votes, the original Senate bill goes to the President for his signature.

However, the fireworks start all over again in the Senate next week as debate begins on the reconciliation bill with the “fixes.” Republicans have promised a flurry of amendments and other stalling techniques to try to block the bill.

No More Negotiating with Stupak

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was asked by ABC News about Rep. Bart Stupak’s (D-MI) suggestion that there could be another bill to address abortion funding but she closed the door.

Said Pelosi: “This bill is about health care and not about abortion. There will be no further changes in the bill.”

Romney Leads Close Republican Race

A new Public Policy Polling survey finds Mitt Romney leading Republican 2012 presidential race with 28% support, followed by Mike Huckabee at 24% and Sarah Palin at 23% and Ron Paul at 11%. However, the only reason Romney leads is that conservatives are split between multiple candidates.

“The main takeaway from these numbers? There continues to not really be a Republican front runner.”

The Problem With Discrediting the Process

When debating the merits of the health care legislation didn’t work, Republicans changed tack and attacked the legislative process itself. By focusing on the backroom dealmaking to the budget reconciliation process to self-executing rules, Republicans hope Americans will not trust anything that emerges from that process.

Ezra Klein: “The result of this constant assault on how a bill becomes a law — a process that has never before been subject to such 24/7 scrutiny from cable news and blogs and talk radio — will be ever more public cynicism…. Republicans, who’re likely to return to power with a majority that’s well below 60 seats in the Senate and a 40-vote margin in the House, will soon find themselves on the wrong end of that calculus.”

It’s almost a sure thing that Democrats will launch the very same attacks once they’re back in the minority.

Just Asking

First Read: “How did the Eric Massa mess dominate the news for an entire week, while the latest allegations surrounding John Ensign — which include an ACTUAL FBI investigation — have registered just a blip on the media radar?”

Obama’s Trajectory

Ron Brownstein looks back at President Obama’s 2008 campaign assertion that Ronald Reagan “changed the trajectory of America” more than Richard Nixon or Bill Clinton did.

“The health care struggle suggests that Obama views changing that trajectory as the ultimate measure of a presidency’s success. His aim is to establish a long-term political direction — one centered on a more activist government that shapes and polices the market to strengthen the foundation for sustainable, broadly-shared growth. Everything else — the legislative tactics, even most individual policies — is negotiable. He wants to chart the course for the supertanker, not to steer it around each wave or decide which crates are loaded into its hull.”

“Obama’s core health care goals have been to establish the principle that Americans are entitled to insurance and to build a framework for controlling costs by incentivizing providers to work more efficiently. He has been unwavering about that destination but flexible and eclectic in his route.”

Flipping Votes for Health Care

It’s been a good week for House Democrats as they’ve had three members — Dennis Kucinich (OH), Bart Gordon (TN) and Betsy Markey (CO) — say they’ll change their votes from “no” to “yes” on the health care reform bill when it comes to a vote on Sunday.

But Democrats may also have some votes switching the other way.

One plugged-in Democratic Capitol Hill source First Read “that several Dems who voted FOR last November’s health bill — Michael Arcuri (NY), Stephen Lynch (MA), Jerry Costello (IL), Paul Kanjorski (PA), Marion Berry (AR), and Marcy Kaptor (OH) — still need convincing. And the source says that they’re trying to get a few more no-to-yes switches like Scott Murphy (NY), Jason Altmire (PA), and Alan Boyd (FL).”

And then there’s Bart Stupak (MI) who told ABC News this morning that he was still opposed due to the abortion language in the bill but indicated he was open to a deal because he wanted reform to pass.

Critz Leads Burns in Special Election

We Ask America poll in Pennsylvania’s 12th congressional district shows Mark Critz (D) leading Tim Burns (R) in the special election to replace the late Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), 39% to 35%.

Ensign’s Unhappy Ending

With subpoenas issued, Jon Ralston notes that “it’s no longer a question of ‘if’ but of ‘when’ between now and January 2013 that John Ensign’s short, previously happy, suddenly unhappy life as a senator will end.”

“Politicians are notoriously solipsistic, but Ensign’s behavior since his confess-and-run news conference June 16 has set a new nadir. It’s one thing to be exposed as a spectacular hypocrite, a moral crusader with feet of clay, and yet try to hang onto your Club of 100 membership as if it were more important than anything. But it’s quite different to become the focus of criminal and ethics probes and continue to clutch onto the senatorial ring despite the carnage — real, quantifiable human carnage — you are leaving in your wake.”

GOP Insiders Say Steele is a Liability

The National Journal‘s Political Insider’s Poll finds that when Republican insiders were asked whether RNC Chairman Michael Steele was an asset or a liability, 71% said Steele was a liability, while only 20% said he was an asset. Another 9% said he was neither or both.

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