Grassley votes no as Senate Finance Committee approves health care bill

The Senate Finance Committee approved its health care reform bill on a 14-9 vote yesterday, with all Democrats and Republican Olympia Snowe of Maine voting in favor. Ranking Republican Chuck Grassley, a key member of the committee’s “gang of six” negotiators this summer, joined the rest of the Republicans in voting against the bill. Speaking to the Des Moines Register Grassley “said he has no regrets about working with majority Democrats on the committee, only to oppose the bill. Given more time, he might have struck a deal, he said.”

This guy is the perfect picture of a bad-faith negotiator. From the Register:

Grassley said he objects most to provisions in the bill that would require Americans to obtain health insurance. But Grassley also said the bill does too little to block federal money being spent to provide abortions and provide coverage for illegal immigrants.

“Those aren’t the only things, but I think they are the most controversial or the most difficult to deal with,” Grassley told The Des Moines Register.

As Jason Hancock reported for the Iowa Independent last week, Grassley publicly supported the idea of an individual mandate to purchase health insurance this summer. I agree that requiring individuals to purchase insurance is problematic if there is no broad-based public health insurance option (because then the government is just subsidizing private insurers), but of course Grassley opposed the public option too.

In addition, the “gang of six” made changes in the bill before markup to address groundless Republican claims about illegal immigrants. According to PolitiFact, the “Baucus plan explicitly states that no federal funds – whether through tax credits or cost-sharing credits – could be used to pay for abortions (again, except for rape, incest, or the life of the mother).”

Trying to cut deals with Grassley is a waste of time. For more on that point, check out the skipper’s recent diary.

Speaking of Grassley, Cityview’s Civic Skinny thinks he should be worried about a potential race against attorney Roxanne Conlin. When a reporter asked Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack whether his wife, Christie Vilsack, might run against Grassley, he replied, “You should ask her about that.” (UPDATE: Dave Price did ask her and wonders whether she is the mystery candidate.)

As for the health care bill, the Finance Committee and HELP Committee versions have to be merged before a floor vote. It’s imperative that a public option be included in the version sent to the floor, and HELP Committee representative Chris Dodd says he will fight for that. On the other hand, Snowe and a few Democrats, like Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, might vote against the bill on the floor if it contains a public option. Chris Bowers wrote more at Open Left about the merging process in the House and Senate.

Continue Reading...

Don't punt the public option debate to the states

Senate Democrats have not given up on passing health care reform through normal procedures requiring at least 60 votes to overcome a Republican filibuster. The problem is, several conservative Senate Democrats are on record opposing a public health insurance option. Meanwhile, a bill with no public option will have trouble passing the House of Representatives, where the overwhelming majority of the Democratic caucus supports a robust public option tied to Medicare rates.

The obvious political solution is to include some watered-down public option in the bill, giving cover to Progressive Democrats who insist on a public option while placating House Blue Dogs and Senate conservatives who want to protect private insurers’ market share.

The “triggered” public option favored by many industry allies didn’t fly, because most Democrats understand that the trigger would never be pulled. This past week, a new possible compromise emerged:

It was pulled out of an alternative idea, put forth by Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and, prior to him, former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, to give states the power to determine whether they want to implement a public insurance option.

But instead of starting with no national public option and giving state governments the right to develop their own, the newest compromise approaches the issue from the opposite direction: beginning with a national public option and giving state governments the right not to have one.

I consider this idea’s pros and cons after the jump.  

Continue Reading...

Iowa caucus memories open thread

A year ago tonight, nearly 240,000 Iowans spent a couple of hours in overcrowded rooms during the Democratic precinct caucuses.

Thousands of others came to freezing cold Iowa to knock on doors or make phone calls for their presidential candidate in late December and early January.

Share any memories you have about caucusing or volunteering in this thread.

After the jump I re-posted my account of what happened at my own caucus. I was a precinct captain for Edwards.

Continue Reading...

FISA capitulation open thread

The Senate will debate the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act today. Despite the heroic efforts of Senators Chris Dodd and Russ Feingold, all signs point toward capitulation by the Democrats.

Glenn Greenwald again tells you why you should care.

Daily Kos front-pager smintheus explains why the advocates touting this new, improved version of FISA are wrong about the oversight potential of inspectors-general.

The Barack Obama supporters against the FISA bill have been organizing at an incredible pace, but he indicated last week that he will vote for the bill. How far will he go in supporting various amendments offered by Senate Democrats?

I won’t be watching C-SPAN today, but if you are, feel free to “document the atrocities” in the comments (as Atrios might say).

UPDATE: mcjoan has more detail on the key votes that will take place today.

SECOND UPDATE: The FISA bill passed 69-28, with three not voting. McCain dodged another big vote.

The roll call vote is here:

http://www.senate.gov/legislat…

No surprises from the Iowa senators: Grassley voted yes, and Harkin voted no.

Obama voted yes, as expected. Hillary voted no.

Continue Reading...

A few good links on FISA

Paul Rosenberg put up a post well worth your time if you are disturbed by the House vote on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Key point:

MapLight.org is reporting that House Democrats who changed their vote to support Telco immunity received much more, on average than their counterparts who did not change position.  This is a group correlation, of course.  Not all those who voted for immunity received more money than those who voted against.  Indeed, 11 of those who voted for immunity received nothing at all from the three Telcos.  But the group correlation is quite strong.

Click the link to find a chart listing all 94 House Democrats who voted against retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies on March 14, but voted for the FISA bill containing immunity on June 20. (Our own Leonard Boswell is in this group). The chart shows how much money each of them received in PAC contributions from AT&T, Sprint or Verizon.

Boswell is in the middle of the pack, having received $10,000. I wouldn’t assume those contributions are the only reason he has favored the telecommunications companies’ interests over protecting constitutional rights. But he does have a long history of voting with Republicans and corporate interests rather than with the majority of House Democrats on a lot of issues.

The Des Moines Register ran a strongly-worded editorial on FISA in the Wednesday edition:

Federal law authorizing secret intercepts of international communications may need amending to account for changes in technology and behavior of terrorist groups, but the job should be put off for a new Congress and a new president next year. In the current political climate, with an election looming, the temptation is to ram something – anything – through to avoid the accusation of being weak on terrorism, even if the constitutional privacy rights of American citizens are sacrificed in the process.

That apparently motivated 105 House Democrats to go along with 188 Republicans to give President Bush what the Washington Post described as “one of the last major victories he is likely to achieve.” That, along with the administration’s last-minute decision to allow the Democrats to toss in an additional $95 billion in domestic spending in a war-appropriations bill.

That’s a pathetically small price for authorizing this president, and future presidents, to ignore the 4th Amendment restrictions on “unreasonable searches and seizures.” […]

Those are just some of the problems with the House bill. It’s hard to say how many others exist, however, because there was precious little public debate. The operations of the spying program are classified secrets, and only a select few members of Congress have been clued in on how it works. Even legal experts are struggling to decipher the bill.

This is in stark contrast to 30 years ago, when the FISA law was enacted after months of public discussion, hearings and testimony. Changing the law implicating a fundamental constitutional right mandates nothing short of that same process today.

My only quibble with this editorial is where were the Register’s reporters on this issue during the third district primary campaign?

Boswell advocated retroactive immunity for telecoms in February, then changed his position in March. In early May, there was some speculation that he had cooperated with House Republicans to get this provision back on the table.

I tried for weeks to get Boswell’s office to comment on this issue and got the runaround. Naturally, they were not going to return phone calls from a blogger supporting Ed Fallon. But the Register’s Jane Norman or Thomas Beaumont could have at least forced Boswell to clarify where he stood on FISA before Iowa Democrats voted on June 3. Why didn’t the Register’s assignment editors give this issue some space this spring?

Glenn Greenwald has been writing extensively on FISA over at Salon, and I highly recommend his latest post, Chris Dodd’s speech and a glimmer of hope for stopping the FISA bill. It’s long and includes some great quotes from Dodd and Senator Russ Feingold, as well as many other links to good commentary on this issue.

Speaking of Feingold, Josh Orton of MyDD linked to the Progressive Patriots Fund Campaign Store. (Feingold is the honorary chair of that fund.) At the store you can buy t-shirts and mousepads with the slogan “Don’t Spy On Me” and a drawing of a telephone cord curled up like the famous Revolutionary War-era “Don’t Tread On Me” flag featuring a rattlesnake.

Continue Reading...

Which presidential candidate had the best celebrity supporters? (w/poll)

Ben Smith put up a post about Barack Obama’s prominent early supporters, who came on board when he was seen as having little chance of beating Hillary Clinton. Here is his list:

Senator Richard Durbin

Former Majority Leader Tom Daschle

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller

Oprah Winfrey

Iowa Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald

Former Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Gordon Fischer

Ted Sorensen

Virginia Governor Tim Kaine

Alabama Rep. Artur Davis

New Hampshire Rep. Paul Hodes

It’s easy to forget now that Gordon Fischer was on the fence between Clinton and Obama for some time last summer. He told the story of how Obama’s campaign hooked him in an interview with New Yorker journalist Ryan Lizza:

Obama, who had sometimes seemed to eschew the details of campaigning which Clinton appears to revel in, has become more enmeshed in the state’s idiosyncratic politics. Consider the conquest of Gordon Fischer, a former chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party. Every campaign wanted Fischer’s endorsement, but the Obama campaign pursued him relentlessly. At a recent lunch at the Des Moines Embassy Club, a restaurant on the forty-first floor of the tallest building in the state, Fischer explained how Obama’s Iowa operatives used his closest friends to persuade him to back Obama. One, Lola Velázquez-Aguilú, managed to decorate part of Fischer’s house with photographs of Obama that featured thought bubbles asking for Fischer’s endorsement. (“Has anyone told you how great you look today?” an image of Obama taped to a mirror said. “So, are you ready to sign a supporter card?”) When Obama staffers learned that the late Illinois senator Paul Simon was a hero of Fischer’s, they asked Simon’s son-in-law, Perry Knop, to call Fischer and make the case for Obama. At one point, Obama himself invited Fischer onto his campaign bus and told him that he had to stay aboard until he agreed to an endorsement. When Fischer insisted that he had to make the decision with his wife, Monica, Obama demanded Monica’s cell-phone number, and he called her at once. “Monica, this is Barack Obama,” he said when her voice mail came on. “I’m with your husband here, and I’m trying to go ahead and close the deal for him to support my candidacy… . Discuss it over with your man. Hopefully we can have you on board.” The Fischers were sufficiently impressed to endorse him, two weeks later. “I think the Iowa campaign has been run better than the national campaign,” Fischer said.

When I read Lizza’s article last November, I showed that passage to my husband, who remarked, “That’s actually a really good argument for scrapping the caucuses.” I’m sure that wasn’t Fischer’s intention, though!

But I digress.

Ben Smith’s post reminded me that I’ve been meaning to put up a poll about which candidate had the best celebrity supporters.

For the purposes of this diary, I am focusing on celebrities who publicly endorsed or campaigned for a candidate. Lists of famous donors can be deceiving, since many rich and famous people give large sums to multiple candidates:

Actor Michael Douglas, for example, has contributed to five current and former Democratic presidential candidates. As of Sept. 30, the latest reports available, he had donated the maximum $4,600 $2,300 for the primary campaign and $2,300 for the general election to Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama, Bill Richardson and Chris Dodd, and $1,500 to Dennis Kucinich.

[…]

Another serial donor in the current election is Paul Newman, who gave the maximum contribution to Obama, Clinton, and Dodd, and $2,300 to Richardson.

Some donors have spread the wealth around but have decided to back one candidate. Barbra Streisand gave $2,300 each to Clinton, Edwards and Obama, and $1,000 to Dodd, but recently endorsed Clinton for president.

[…]

Steven Spielberg and Rob Reiner are two other celebrities who donated to multiple presidential candidates four a piece before settling on Clinton. Reiner also shot a spoof video for Clinton’s Web site.

Actress Mary Steenburgen gave money to both Edwards and Clinton, but has backed Clinton, a friend for three decades, from the get-go. Steenburgen, a native of Newport, Ark., met the Clintons when Bill Clinton was in his first term as governor of Arkansas.

Last month the Huffington Post published this piece on the top ten celebrities for Clinton and Obama. Here is their list for Obama:

1. Oprah

2. will.i.am

3. the Kennedy women (Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg and Maria Shriver)

4. Ben Affleck

5. George Clooney

6. Scarlett Johansson

7. Samuel L. Jackson

8. Chris Rock

9. Robert De Niro

10. Jennifer Aniston

At least I have heard of these people. When I first saw will.i.am’s “Yes We Can” video, I swear that the only person I recognized was Kareem Abdul Jabbar.

HuffPo’s list of top ten Clinton supporters:

1. Ellen DeGeneres

2. Elton John

3. Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen

4. Jack Nicholson

5. Natalie Portman

6. Mario Lavandeira (I never heard of him, but apparently he is the celebrity blogger Perez Hilton)

7. America Ferrera (star of “Ugly Betty”)

8. Magic Johnson

9. Barbra Streisand

10. Eva Longoria Parker (star of “Desperate Housewives”)

The list of other famous people who have donated to Obama or Clinton is of course very long. I know that Bruce Springsteen and Tom Hanks are also public Obama supporters. If I’ve left out celebrities who played an important public role in either candidate’s campaign, please let me know in the comments.

John Edwards: A bunch of big Hollywood names donated to his campaign, but most of them did not play any public role, and many also gave money to other Democratic candidates.

I was fortunate enough to see one of the mini-concerts Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne did for Edwards in Iowa last November. They also campaigned for him in New Hampshire. Tim Robbins came to early-voting states to stump for Edwards as well. I heard from a friend who saw Robbins in Des Moines that his first comment to the crowd was, “I’m not Oprah.” Ben “Cooter” Jones, former Congressman and star of the tv show “Dukes of Hazzard,” also campaigned for Edwards in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

UPDATE: I can’t believe I forgot that Madeleine Stowe, Kevin Bacon, and James Denton (of “Desperate Housewives” fame) also came to Iowa to help out Edwards. In addition, Danny Glover and Harry Belafonte endorsed Edwards. Jon Mellencamp not only supported Edwards, he also invited him on stage during a concert in Des Moines.

Bill Richardson: Again, a lot of big Hollywood names maxed out to his campaign, but most of them didn’t endorse him. The exception was Martin Sheen, who came to Iowa in December to go out on the stump with Richardson. Sheen endorsed Obama after Richardson dropped out.

Joe Biden: The famous people listed here as his donors mostly contributed to other candidates as well. I cannot recall any celebrities coming to Iowa to campaign with Biden, but please correct me in the comments if I am wrong. He was often accompanied by family members, especially his sons Beau and Hunter. (UPDATE: I forgot that Richard Schiff, who played Toby the communications guy on “The West Wing,” came to Iowa to campaign with Biden.)

Chris Dodd: Many of the famous people who donated to his campaign also donated to other candidates. However, it is worth mentioning that singer-songwriter Paul Simon campaigned with Dodd in Iowa last July, and former Democratic Senatorial candidate Ned Lamont campaigned with Dodd in Iowa last November.

Dennis Kucinich: Viggo Mortensen came to New Hampshire to campaign with Kucinich after the candidate was left out of the last presidential debate before that state’s primary. Apparently Sean Penn gave Kucinich money during the 2004 campaign.

I am not aware of any celebrity supporters of Mike Gravel.

Click “there’s more” to take the poll after the jump.

Continue Reading...
View More...