The daily Progressive Breakfast serves up what progressive movement members need to know to start their day.
Preliminary Health Care Deal Struck
…one of the trade-offs will be to extend a version of the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan to consumers in the exchanges. Insurance companies will have the option of creating nationally-based non-profit insurance plans that would offered on the exchanges in every state. However, according to the aide, if insurance companies don’t step up to the plate to offer such plans, that will trigger a national public option.
Beyond that, the group agreed–contingent upon CBO analysis–to a Medicare buy in. That buy-in option would initially be made available to some uninsured people aged 55-64 in 2011, three years before the exchanges open. For the period between 2011 and 2014, when the exchanges do open, the Medicare option will not be subsidized … so will likely be quite expensive … However, after the exchanges launch, the Medicare option would be offered in the exchanges, where people could pay into it with their subsidies.
It appears as if liberals lost out on a Medicaid expansion that would have opened the program up to everybody under 150 percent of the poverty line … the group has tentatively agreed to new, and strengthened, insurance regulations, which the aide could not divulge at this time … CBO will evaluate a menu of options, some of them interchangeable, so there’s no certainty that this list won’t change in the coming days.
HCAN-led coalition criticizes. LAT: “‘Using nonprofits to replace a public option won’t work,’ a coalition of left-leaning groups said Tuesday in a joint statement coordinated by Health Care for America Now. ‘In fact, with half of people in private insurance currently enrolled in nonprofit plans, they are part of the problem.’”
Ezra Klein approves: “A public option partnered with Medicare might have been better than these policies, but national non-profits and direct competition between Medicare and insurers is more promising than the compromised public plans that succeeded the initial policy idea. In fact, it’s like we split the strong public option into two parts … we’ll see how long it is before representatives begin getting calls from 50-year-olds who’d like the opportunity to exchange money in return for insurance as good as what 55-year-olds can get.”
White House approves reports NYT.
Politco reports Rep. Grijalva rips deal as a “whitewash.”
HuffPost reports Sen. Rockefeller has a “smile” and Sen. Harkin would reluctantly “support”
The Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder has Sen. Feingold’s mixed reaction “Sen. Russ Feingold rejected the compromise, but he did not say it would force him to vote against final passage.”
Howard Dean likes, reports Wonk Room: “Proponents of the public option should be happy to hear that the Senate is considering a provision that would allow Americans to buy into the existing Medicare program … I’ve been a long-time strong supporter of opening up the Medicare system to any American who wants to enroll in it…”
Lieberman and Snowe yet to take position on compromise. CQ: “Two other centrist senators whose votes are seen as pivotal — independent Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut and Republican Olympia J. Snowe of Maine — said they were interested in learning more about the proposal and did not rule out voting for it. But of the two, Lieberman voiced considerably more enthusiasm.”
Labor Leaders Amp Up Fight Against Insurance Tax
Labor leaders seek to strip out insurance tax in House-Senate conference. CQ: “The labor leaders said a Senate amendment to scale back the tax was still possible, but it might be difficult for tax opponents to garner the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster. Instead, unions are pinning more of their hopes on a House-Senate conference committee. More than 180 House Democrats have signed a letter opposing the excise tax. ‘I’ll make a flat-out prediction,’ said Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, D-Va., whose district includes many federal employees. ‘Whatever Sen. Reid feels he needs to get to 60 in the Senate is one thing. But once we sit down in conference, I can assure you that the excise tax as currently contained in the Senate bill will not survive.’”
OurFuture.org’s Richard Eskow on broad impact of insurance tax: “…the so-called ‘Cadillac tax’ – sold as a tax on extravagant executive plans – is likely to affect one-fifth or even more of the American workforce and their families. That’s a stunning number – and it’s based on a large sampling of health plans. This tax is looking less like a Cadillac and more like a family station wagon every day.”
Healthcare Amendment-palooza Continues
Nelson anti-abortion amendment falls short of needed 60 votes. Swampland’s Amy Sullivan: “…only Nelson has said he will vote against final passage of health reform because of abortion (among other issues). Which leaves Harry Reid back where he was yesterday–either needing to jump through Nelson’s hoops to see if anything could convince the Nebraska senator to vote in favor of health reform, or turn his attention to Olympia Snowe … Tuesday’s vote does put the Catholic bishops conference in the position of following through on its pledge to vigorously oppose health reform if Stupak/Nelson language is not included … There is something symbolically more weighty about actually working to defeat health reform–a goal that the bishops have supported for decades–than just threatening to do so. And it might be a tougher sell among Catholics in the pews.” CQ adds: “[Nelson's] tone changed Tuesday evening, after his amendment was tabled.”
Stupak defends his amendment in NYT oped.
Amendments going after Big PhRMA are on tap. Swampland’s Kate Pickert: “Dorgan’s amendment … would allow pharmacies and pharmaceutical wholesalers to import drugs from other countries – like Canada – where they are available more cheaply than in the U.S. The Congressional Budget Office estimates this amendment would save the federal government $19 billion over 10 years. But it could cost drug makers a lot more and passage of the Dorgan amendment would blow up the White House PhRMA deal … Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson also has an amendment that would destroy the White House PhRMA deal. His amendment would shift drug coverage for Americans who qualify for [both] Medicaid and Medicare … from Medicare to Medicaid … the shift would lower costs for the federal government and, according to Nelson, cost the drug industry ‘extra profits worth about $106 billion over 10 years.’”
NYT’s Leonhardt praises cost-cutting proposal from first-term Senators but worried prospects are dimming for a strong independent commission to wring out Medicare savings.
Obama Announces Jobs Plan, TARP Funds For Small Biz Lending
House Maj. Leader Hoyer nudges back schedule on jobs bill: “Hoyer said it was ‘not necessarily essential’ to introduce a jobs bill in the House before the Christmas break, but vowed action by early next year.”
Hoyer also says more than one jobs bill is possible. CQ quotes: “I don’t think anybody feels that this package will be the only package, in terms of jobs, that we’ll look at over the next two to three months.”
LAT on use TARP funds: “‘It was very clear that the TARP money, if not spent, was supposed to go to deficit reduction,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). ‘So now they want to use that $200 billion as another slush fund.’ But senior administration officials said the only job-creation effort that TARP money would be used for would be to continue the Treasury Department’s efforts to encourage small-business lending.”
W. Post on progressive calls for bold action: “[Obama's plan] leaves important details — including the cost of the plan — to be hashed out by Congress … Some liberal advocates want Congress to expand on Obama’s proposal. ‘I urge the president and the Congress to remember that the scale of their job creation plan matters tremendously,’ said Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute. ‘The plan must be big enough to have a major impact.’”
LAT reports House has infrastructure bill planned: “Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), a member of the House leadership team, said he expected the House to vote on a package this month centered on $50 billion to $70 billion of spending on infrastructure projects.”
W. Post’s Harold Meyerson calls for direct job creation: “The infrastructure investments Obama proposed will go part of the way toward meeting that goal, but specific programs of public employment, such as those created by Franklin Roosevelt and that notorious radical Richard Nixon (who signed into law the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act, or CETA) are needed as well.”
Cash For Caulkers part of plan. WSJ: “One lawmaker who feels vindicated after today’s speech: Vermont congressman Peter Welch. He wrote energy-efficiency legislation this spring that became part of the Waxman-Markey energy bill. Now, the plan is to carve it out and make it part of the jobs package. The ‘cash for caulkers’ bill as written would offer $20 billion over two years to help homeowners make their houses more energy efficient. Rep. Welch says that would save about $3.3 billion per year in energy bills—as well as creating 600,000 to 850,000 jobs over two years.”
Homeowners may be eligible for $12,000 in rebates for energy-efficiency home improvement. CNN/Money.com (via Treehugger): “Steve Nadel, director at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, who’s helping write the bill, said a homeowner could receive up to $12,000 in rebates … The plan will likely create a new program where private contractors conduct home energy audits, buy the necessary gear and install it, according to a staffer on the Senate Energy Committee and Nadel at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. Big-ticket items like air conditioners, heating systems, washing machines, refrigerators, windows and insulation would likely be covered, Nadel said.”
Economist Mark Zandi tells Stateline states need more aid: “If no more aid is forthcoming, then they’ll be cutting jobs, programs and raising taxes.”
Climate Bill On Track, Need For Formal Treaty Downplayed
Climate bill still on schedule in Senate after Reid-Kerry meeting. The Hill: “‘The leader is committed to move to this after we finish the financial regulatory reform,’ Kerry told reporters in the Capitol. ‘The president is in sync with that schedule.’ Kerry said this plan keeps intact Reid’s goal of bringing up a climate bill in the spring.”
US climate envoy argues political agreement better than binding treaty. Mother Jones: “Pershing, a well-known scientist who has worked on climate change for decades, maintained that a binding treaty … could easily stall. It would have to be ratified by the U.S. Senate (which would require 67 votes) and winning Senate approval would be no easy feat … He pointed out that the 1997 Kyoto global warming accord, which the US Senate never approved, took five years to be ratified around the world. If Copenhagen did produce a binding treaty, Pershing said, it would be years before it could go into effect. In the meantime, emissions would continue to flow. A political deal, he contended, could kick in immediately…”
Grist’s David Roberts cautions against overplaying Copenhagen stories: “…virtually nothing of significance to an international agreement will be decided before the final days, perhaps the final hours, of the talks. What are all those journalists going to write about? … they’ll report the hell out of it every time any representative of any government says anything about anything. Every bit of pre-positioning gossip and bluster will be blown up to billboard size. There is, in short, immense incentive to exaggerate the significance of every piece of ‘news.’ Keep that in mind as you wade through the deluge of stories over the next two weeks.”
NYT reports global climate agreement economically manageable yet slaps misleading “Big Price Tag” headline on story: “…what is all this going to cost? The short answer is trillions of dollars over the next few decades. It is a significant sum but a relatively small fraction of the world’s total economic output. In energy infrastructure alone, the transformational ambitions that delegates to the United Nations climate change conference are expected to set in the coming days will cost more than $10 trillion in additional investment from 2010 to 2030, according to a new estimate from the International Energy Agency. As scary as that number sounds, the agency said that the costs would ramp up relatively slowly and be largely offset by economic benefits in new jobs, improved lives, more secure energy supplies and a reduced danger of climate catastrophe. Most of the investment will come from private rather than public funds, the agency contends.”
Media Matters chastises W. Post for publishing another dishonest Palin oped: “Wash. Post publishes falsehood-laden Palin op-ed that is contradicted by scientists, temperature data, and … the Post itself.”
House conservatives to bring their lies to Copenhagen. Politico: “House Republican leaders Tuesday laid out their plans for the U.N. climate conference, which will be to essentially buck all Democratic climate-change platforms.”
Foreclosure Relief In House Financial Reform Bill
Additional foreclosure relief to smooth passage of financial reform. CQ: “… the Congressional Black Caucus is expected to back a broad financial regulatory overhaul when it reaches the House floor this week, thanks to the inclusion of $4 billion to address the foreclosure crisis.”
Wonk Room’s Pat Garofalo looks at plans to add “cramdown” amendment to reform bill: “[The Administration's mortgage effort is] suffering on multiple fronts, from banks dragging their feet and outright violating their contract with Treasury, to design flaws preventing all of a borrower’s debts from being taken into account when the modification is designed. To fix this, House Democrats are looking (yet again) to revive cram-down, a measure which would allow bankruptcy judges to rework the terms of a mortgage … cram-down’s chances of passing the Senate appear no brighter than last time.”
More bad reports on current mortgage effort. AP: “Only one in three homeowners who have signed up for the Obama administration’s mortgage relief plan have sent back the necessary paperwork, highlighting continuing problems for the government’s effort to stem the foreclosure crisis … lenders have made loan modification offers to just 680,000 borrowers, far short of the administration’s goal of up to four million.”
Bernanke Vote in Cmte Set For Next Week
CQ reports Senate Banking will vote on Bernanke nomination 12/17: “Independent Bernard Sanders of Vermont, who is critical of Bernanke’s tenure, has placed a hold on the nomination but is not a member of the Banking panel.”
SEC flinched from punishing big banks. McClatchy: “During the past three years, some of the nation’s largest financial firms have been accused by the government of cheating or misleading clients and ripping off tens of thousands of consumers of their investments. Despite these findings, these financial giants got, sometimes repeatedly, special exemptions from the Securities and Exchange Commission that have saved them from a regulatory death penalty that could have decimated their lucrative mutual fund businesses. Among the more than a dozen firms that have gotten these SEC get-out-of-jail cards since January 2007 are some of Wall Street’s biggest, including Bank of America, Citigroup and American International Group.”
Congressional oversight panel concludes TARP averted crisis, but did not articulate clear goals. NYT: “The Treasury’s lack of clarity about the program’s goals, the oversight panel said, made it hard to assess its overall effectiveness. Mr. Geithner is scheduled to testify on Thursday in his quarterly appearance before the five-member panel. Also making it difficult to gauge the program’s impact, the panel said, is that other forces have helped rescue the financial system and the overall economy, including actions of the Federal Reserve and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., the $787 billion stimulus program of spending and tax cuts that Mr. Obama and Congress enacted, and similar stimulus efforts by foreign governments. ‘Even so,’ the panel concluded, ‘there is broad consensus that the TARP was an important part of a broader government strategy that stabilized the U.S. financial system by renewing the flow of credit and averting a more acute crisis.’”
Geithner plans to extend life of TARP. Bloomberg: “Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner plans to tell Congress that the Obama administration will extend the $700 billion financial-rescue program until next October … The Obama administration, preparing the ground for an extension, has emphasized that the program may also be used to aid homeowners and small companies.”