Politico Says Dem AGs Boxed in By HCR, Omits OR-AG Backing Bill

Healthcare reform is terrible for Democratic Attorneys General around the country. Just ask Politico:

They played almost no role in crafting or passing the new federal health care legislation, but Democratic attorneys general have suddenly emerged as prominent actors in the post-passage drama over the constitutionality of the landmark law.

Until recently, the Democratic attorneys general have largely sat on the sidelines as more than a dozen of their GOP counterparts banded together to pursue a lawsuit against the centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s domestic policy agenda. Like many in their party, they dismissed the suit as a naked political play without any legal grounding — an opinion based on the fact that many of the Republicans advancing the cause are seeking higher office.

But now, some of the Democratic AGs have become reluctant combatants, dragged into the fray by GOP governors and legislators who insist that their reluctance to join the case is a clear attempt to protect their national party’s interests.

Politico goes on to list, at great length, all of the Democratic AGs around the country who are supposedly politically hindered by the recent health legislation -- including, apparently, Connecticut's Richard Blumenthal, who (and you won't read this in the Politico article) leads all of his Republican opponents in the upcoming Senate election by margins in excess of 30 percentage points. Let's just say I'd be a little more credulous of this argument if Blumenthal's lead were in the single-digits, or even under 20 percentage points.

But Politico is off-base in yet another way: Completely overlooking the contrary evidence in the form of Oregon's Democratic Attorney General John Kroger, who, along with the state's Democratic Governor (a former state Supreme Court Justice and Attorney General himself), has been standing up in defense of the constitutionality of healthcare reform legislation.

Count Oregon on the side of states defending the new national health care reform plan.

Gov. Ted Kulongoski and Attorney General John Kroger said Wednesday that Oregon would take legal action to defend the constitutionality of the plan. Oregon hopes to join the litigation to argue that the new legislation does not violate the U.S. Constitution.

[...]

“The health care reform cases present some of the most important Constitutional issues facing this generation,” Attorney General Kroger said.

“Opponents of the bill seek to turn back the Constitutional clock 100 years, returning to a time when the U.S. Supreme Court routinely struck down legislation designed to protect the health, safety and well-being of the American people,” said Kroger.

Not only is Kroger, with the strong backing of Kulongoski, taking legal steps in favor of healthcare reform -- he is also inviting other Attorneys General from around the country to join him in such an effort. Might be worth mentioning in an article about how the politics of healthcare reform impact Democratic AGs. Then again, maybe not...

Democrats Moving On Up in Ohio

So sayeth Quinnipiac:

Democrats are having a mini-surge in Ohio as two possible candidates for the open U.S. Senate seat have come from behind to pass the Republican contender, and Gov. Ted Strickland remains ahead of Republican challenger John Kasich, 43 - 38 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

And President Barack Obama's job approval is up from a negative 44 - 52 percent February 23 to an almost even 47 - 48 percent today, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe- ack) University poll finds.

In the Senate race, Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher leads Republican Rob Portman 41 - 37 percent, reversing a 40 - 37 percent Portman lead February 24. Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner edges Portman 38 - 37 percent, reversing a 40 - 35 percent Republican lead.

[...]

Strickland's reelection lead matches his 44 - 39 percent lead February 23. The Governor's 49 - 40 percent job approval and his 46 - 35 percent favorability rating both are statistically the same as his scores in February. There is no gender gap in the Governor's race with 44 percent of men and 42 percent of women backing Strickland.

There are still a large number of undecideds in this survey, and the Democrats are far from a lock from holding on to the state's Governorship or picking up the Senate seat being vacated by the retiring George Voinovich. That said, it's hard to spin this one as bad news for the Democrats, or good news for the Republicans, for that matter -- especially with the well-known GOP candidates failing to even crack the 40 percent mark. So much for the notion that the Democrats are dead in the water ahead of November...

Fiorina Passover Email: "As We Break Bread"

Score another one for the web team of California Senate candidate Carly Fiorina. Here's the email that went out under the subject line "Best wishes for a safe and happy Passover."

Passover is a time of remembrance and thanks. This festival provides us all – Jewish, Christian and all faiths – an opportunity to reflect on the challenges we have faced and the triumphs we have achieved together. It is also a reminder of the resilient spirit that has carried people through trials of every kind through every generation.

This week, as we break bread and spend time with our families and friends, I hope we also take a moment to say a word of thanks for our freedom and for those who have given their lives in freedom’s name. Let us also look ahead with hope to the opportunities to come.

Best wishes for a safe and happy holiday.

Sincerely,

Carly Fiorina

It's very nice of Fiorina to send out a Passover email to supporters. As a Jewish voter in California, I would say thank you, and chag sameach back to her. But I might also say one other thing: When one sends out an email wishing people a "happy Passover" -- a holiday celebrated through bread abstinence -- one might not want to use the line "as we break bread." Just a thought...

A Historically Memorable Speakership

Today is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's birthday, and in light of the occasion -- as well as the monumental achievement over the past few days that was the passage of healthcare reform legislation (with student lending reform, to boot) -- I thought it worthwhile to take a moment to lay down a few thoughts on the Pelosi speakership.

When Nancy Pelosi was first elected Democratic leader in late-2002, the time was bleak for her party. The Democrats, who had been expected to fare well in the midterm elections -- perhaps even retaking the House of Representatives -- not only lost seats in the House but also lost control of the Senate. Indeed, the party's caucus in the chamber (205 members, including Independent Bernie Sanders) was as small as it had been in 54 years.

Today, after two straight elections in which Republicans sought to make Nancy Pelosi an issue, the Democratic caucus is strong and robust. At its peak earlier in this Congress, before retirements and a death marginally reduced the Democrats' numbers, the Democratic majority stood larger than any Republican majority in the House since just after the 1928 elections. Think about that. The current Democratic majority is larger than the Republicans have had in nearly 80 years -- this, after Republicans sought to make the last two battles for the House about Nancy Pelosi. Yes, there were hiccups along the road, and House Democrats lost further ground during the 2004 election. Still, today, it's quite clear that Pelosi has been, at least on an electoral level, a boon for her party rather than the albatross Republicans sought to make her.

And over the past few days, weeks and months, we have come to see that Nancy Pelosi has been a historically effective leader of the House. This week, the President signed the most monumental piece of domestic legislation in nearly a half-century. Just as Barack Obama was able to do what no President in more than 100 years had been able to do in making the case for universal healthcare coverage, so too was Nancy Pelosi able to do what no other Speaker in more than 100 years had been able to do in shepherding such legislation through the House. And not just healthcare reform legislation. The House has also passed, with the agreement of the Senate, major legislation in the areas of student lending reform, economic stimulus, jobs, anti-discrimination, credit reform, and tobacco regulation. The House under Pelosi's Speakership has also moved the ball forward on important climate change legislation, which while not yet passed by the Senate has nonetheless kept the issue at the fore. 

This is an historic Speakership -- there's no other way of describing it. So happy birthday Nancy Pelosi, a leader of the House of Representatives whose name is now firmly on path to join the names like Henry Clay, Joseph Cannon, Champ Clark, Sam Rayburn and Tip O'Neill.

Dangerous Times

Things are getting out of hand:

Days after his address was posted online by a Virginia Tea Party activist, the FBI and local law enforcement officials are investigating a "suspicious incident" at the home of Rep. Tom Perriello's brother.

A line to the propane tank on his brother's gas grill had been "severed," an aide to the Democratic congressman told CNN.

This news comes not long after reports that Tea Party protestors used the worst kind of racial epithet in addressing Congressman John Lewis -- who got his head bashed in 45 years ago trying to march for his rights in Alabama -- and that Congressman Anthony Weiner was receiving anti-Semitic notes during the healthcare debate.

This is simply unacceptable in this country and must stop. As Congressman Jim Clyburn just said at a press conference, where it was revealed that 10 members of Congress are now receiving beefed up security after threats over the healthcare vote, "silence breeds consent" -- so the time is now to speak up and say "no more."

Heathcare Reform Signing Event

Watch the historic event starting at 11:15 AM Eastern here:

Healthcare D-Day

The Moderate Voice founder Joe Gandelman calls today D-Day on healthcare reform -- a metaphor I find to be quite apt. Check out his whole piece.

Here is a list of people I will be following to get my news leading up to today's vote on healthcare reform. If you think someone's missing, please shoot me a tweet @jonathanhsinger or leave a comment in the thread below.

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Today's the day. This is history in the making.

UPDATE from desmoinesdem: The vote on the rules for the reconciliation bill debate passed 224-206 (roll call). A few Democrats who voted for the rules of debate on reconciliation are expected to vote against the health insurance reform bill later. The final vote on the Senate bill will be late tonight.

Tough Day for Republicans

Getting away from the policy, for a moment, and to the politics, today has been a bad day for Republicans. First, the scandal surrounding John Ensign is blowing up, touching not only the GOP Senator from Nevada but also the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which Ensign recently chaired.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee has been subpoenaed by a federal grand jury looking into the aftermath of Sen. John Ensign’s extramarital affair with a former staffer, adding a new political problem for GOP leaders in their response to the dual criminal and ethics probes of the Nevada Republican.

The NRSC was asked to turn over documents related to Ensign’s tenure as NRSC chairman. Ensign chaired the committee during the 2007-08 cycle.

[...]

A Las Vegas TV station, KLAS, reported on Wednesday night that at least a half-dozen Nevada businesses with ties to Ensign have received document subpoenas from the grand jury in Washington, D.C.

KLAS also said that federal agents, including a prosecutor from the Justice Department’s Public Integrity unit, are looking into allegations that Ensign offered to help a Nevada credit card company block new legislation in return for a $28,000 donation to the NRSC.

Ensign's is not the only ethics scandal hitting Republicans today.

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford has agreed to pay $74,000 to settle charges that his travel and campaign spending violated state ethics laws.

The Republican governor is accused of breaking 37 laws, including improperly using pricey plane tickets for a trip to Argentina where he saw the mistress he infamously called his soul mate.

Under a consent agreement signed Thursday, Sanford doesn't admit guilt but does not contest the charges either.

It's going to be pretty hard for Republicans to prove to the American people that they learned the lessons of 2006 and 2008 when they allow the Ensigns and Sanfords to remain in their midst.

Cuccinelli Doesn't Understand Vote Maneuver He's Challenging

Earlier today on MSNBC, Virginia's ultra conservative Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (don't say we didn't warn you about him a long time ago) explained why he believes the self-executing rule by which the House intends to pass the healthcare reform legislation already approved by the Senate at the same time as it passes a reconciliation bill fixing the Senate legislation is unconstitutional. I have already written about how this argument is more or less bunk. But it's worth adding that listening to Cuccinneli speak, it's not clear that he understands at all what a self-executing rule entails. Here's what he had to say:

They can do a number of procedural things to vote on it in ways that might be different than usual. But ultimately the record has to reflect that the Members of the House are voting on the same language -- even if they vote on something else at the same time, perhaps (that's an angle that we hear batted around) -- as the Senate bill.

What Cuccinelli highlights as a constitutionally sound mechanism of voting is in effect exactly what the House intends to do -- hold a majority vote on both the Senate bill as well as fixes to the Senate bill at the same time. As leading Congressional scholar Thomas Mann recently put it, such a rule would "make clear that the vote on the reconciliation package is in effect also a vote on the underlying Senate bill."

So if Cuccinelli intends to file suit, he might want to brush up on the legislative rule he's claiming to be improper.

Health Reform to Slash Deficit By $1.3 Trillion over 20 Years

Ezra Klein has the details:

According to a Democratic source, CBO has finished its work and will release the official preliminary score later today. But here are the basic numbers: The bill will cost $940 billion over the first 10 years and reduce the deficit by $130 billion during that period. In the second 10 years -- so, 2020 to 2029 -- it will reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion. The legislation will cover 32 million Americans, or 95 percent of the legal population.

To put this in context, that's more deficit reduction than either the House or Senate bill, and more coverage than the Senate bill.

It will be worth digging into these numbers once the full CBO score is released to see, for instance, if it is still the case that roughly half of the the 32 million newly insured Americans under this legislation will be receiving coverage through a government program (Medicaid or CHIP), as well as exactly what aspects of the House legislation have been incorporated into the reconciliation package. But if these numbers are borne out, they would certainly seem to keep Congress on track to sending a final bill to the President's desk this weekend.

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