Politico on the head count: “By late Thursday, aides and lawmakers said Democrats were within a dozen of the 218 votes needed to pass the legislation. Democratic sources said their leaders aimed to lock in 230 yes votes — and leaning on key Blue Dogs such as Reps. Earl Pomeroy of North Dakota and South Dakota’s Stephanie Herseth Sandlin so that more vulnerable members such as Reps. Eric Massa of New York and Maryland’s Frank Kratovil can vote no.”
Rep. Mike Doyle tells Grist of both optimism and uncertainty: “I don’t know that we’ll get to the point where you say we have 218 hard yeses. But I think we’re so close now, and there’s so many undecideds leaning ‘yes,’ that there’s a sense once you put it on the floor, they’re going to vote with us.”
AFL-CIO pledges its support. TPMDC: “…this is also the first time the group has supported energy legislation like this, and the move gives cover to moderates and representatives from blue collar districts to support the bill and avoid inevitable jobs attacks.”
Climate Progress’s Joe Romm: “If you want to know what the best talking points on the bill are, read what [the President] said today. Not only is this a ‘jobs bill’ (that will create 1.7 million net new jobs across the country) and that “will protect consumers from the costs of this transition” (especially with 7% lower electric bills by 2020), but “the price to the average American [household] will be just about a postage stamp a day,” (as reported by the CBO).”
Grist’s Meredith Niles offers nuanced criticism of the final compromise with farm-state Dems: “I want to congratulate the Peterson amendment for the positive things it does do—consider numerous progressive agricultural practices as part of a comprehensive climate bill. I recognize just how powerful that is and I certainly do not want to underplay such inclusions. Progressive farmers absolutely must play a role in the climate change debate and mitigation strategies—no doubt. But to create an amendment that does so and then turns right around and grandfathers in questionable biofuels, pushes aside science and doesn’t include other government agencies in its GHG Advisory committee is counterproductive to the point that I have to wonder how effective the amendment will be in achieving the overall goal of the Waxman-Markey bill.”
Further compromise in the Senate may break coalition. Time: “the bill does have the backing of dozens of groups, including unions — even steel workers and coal miners — as well as six of the seven largest utilities, the Nuclear Energy Institute and, tacitly, Wall Street, which will benefit from the creation of a massive new energy trading market. The majority of environmental groups support the bill … Still, the support of their groups remains tenuous. ‘It’s not a perfect bill and we’re concerned that the Senate might weaken the near-term emissions reduction caps,’ said Brenda Ekwurzel, a member of the Union of Concerned Scientists, holding a placard behind Waxman. ‘We’d look at that closely before giving our final support.’”
TNR’s Brad Plumer on how the House vote may impact the Senate: “In Indiana, for instance, Democrat Barron Hill voted for the bill in the energy committee, while the state’s three other Dem representatives—Brad Ellsworth, Joe Donnelly, and Peter Visclosky—are now hemming and hawing. If all or most of Indiana’s Democratic delegation votes for Waxman-Markey, that makes it a lot harder for Evan Bayh to oppose a climate bill in the Senate. A similar situation could apply in Ohio and Michigan.”
Baucus Bill Scales Back Support for Working Families
W. Post on Senate Finance proposals to lower 10-year size to $1T: “Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) said the Finance Committee had reduced the overall cost of its bill by cutting subsidy levels for uninsured people. He said members had not yet resolved the issue of the ‘public option,’ a government alternative to private insurance, although he said discussions continued to focus on a member-owned cooperative model … The package also is expected to include just over $300 billion in new taxes on health insurance benefits that millions get from their employers. The leading proposal would tax as income any premiums exceeding about $17,000 a year, starting in 2013. Currently … premiums for employer-sponsored coverage — whether paid by the employer or the worker — are tax-free.”
NYT adds: “Assistance would originally have been available to people with incomes up to 400 percent of the poverty level ($88,200 for a family of four). Democrats have lowered the ceiling to 300 percent of the poverty level ($66,150 for a family of four). Senators said the cost of the bill might also be reduced by dropping or scaling back a plan to give tax credits to small businesses, to help them buy insurance.
Sen. Wyden seeks to add new tax deduction to complement reduction of old tax exemption. CQ: “The Oregon Democrat has submitted a proposal to Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., that would give people with health insurance a standard, above-the-line tax deduction — as much as $17,240 for families. All employer-sponsored health benefits are currently exempt from federal taxes. Wyden’s draft, which he provided to Congressional Quarterly, would eliminate that exemption and replace it with the deduction, which would apply to people who have any form of health insurance, not just employer-sponsored plans. Any health benefits above $17,240 would be taxed, so the plan would raise money to help pay for the health care overhaul. But Wyden says the plan would essentially be a tax cut for the millions of households whose annual benefits do not reach that dollar figure.”
EPI: Why a public health insurance option is key to saving costs.
Beat The Press’ Dean Baker calls out W. Post again for ignoring health costs role in long-term deficits: “The Post (a.k.a. Fox on 15th Street) only told readers the second part of this story. CBO projected that the deficit would exceed 42 percent of GDP in 2080 under its baseline assumptions. This is like telling people what the deficit would be after a nuclear war without calling attention to the fact that the projection assumes a nuclear war. If the health care costs underlying these projections prove accurate, the economy will be so badly wrecked, no one will care about the size of the deficit.”
NPR photog snaps crowd at Senate hearing, asks listeners to spot the lobbyists.
Sen. Specter indicates new support for public plan option. TPMDC: “Speaking … to a large and animated crowd of union organizers and health reform advocates in a brewing house just North of the Capitol, Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) said he supports a public insurance option. ‘Schumer has it right about having a public component,’ Specter said … Before Specter switched parties this spring–and for a brief period afterward–he said he did not support the public option.”
OurFuture.org has video from yesterdays’ successful Health Care ’09 rally of several thousand, featuring Sens. Sherrod Brown, Robert Menendez and Barbara Mikulski.
Bernanke Hearing May Hurts Fed Chances for New Reg Power
Bloomberg: “Chairman Ben S. Bernanke’s grilling by legislators over Federal Reserve conduct in Bank of America Corp.’s takeover of Merrill Lynch & Co. may reduce the odds the central bank will win new powers in a regulatory overhaul. Bernanke failed to resolve some lawmakers’ questions on whether the Fed bullied executives and stepped over other regulators in the name of financial stability in a three-hour congressional hearing yesterday. Republicans asserted the Fed interfered with commercial decisions, and Democrats said it should have wrung more concessions in return for taxpayer aid.”
W. Post adds: “…Republicans repeatedly asked whether the Fed had inappropriately pressured Bank of America to complete the deal, while Democrats pressed Bernanke to explain why the Fed concealed for weeks its plans to provide aid to the company. Bernanke strongly defended his role and the Fed’s performance, saying that no laws were broken and that the merger has proved successful. He also repeatedly denied that he had pressured Bank of America executives to go forward with the deal. But he became visibly frustrated as he answered the same questions again and again without quieting his interrogators.”