Capitol Hillbillies

Pelosi, Reid at war over Afghanistan

The eye roll said it all.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid emerged from the White House Tuesday with broad, bicameral smiles — until Reid put his arm around Pelosi to announce that “everyone” would support “whatever” Afghanistan policy the president produces.

The lazy, lax work schedule of Congress

Like most Americans, members of the House are expected to report promptly — no excuses — when summoned by their bosses for the start of another workweek. One difference: For lawmakers, starting time doesn’t come until about 6:30 Tuesday evening.

After taking control of the House in 2006 — and again when President Barack Obama was elected president in 2008 — Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) boasted that lawmakers would work four or five days a week to bring change to America.

But midway through Obama’s first year in office, Hoyer’s House has settled into a more leisurely routine. Members usually arrive for the first vote of the week as the sun sets on Tuesdays, and they’re usually headed back home before it goes down again on Thursdays.

Poll gives health care reform a new lease on life

The fever has broken. The patient is out of intensive care. But if you’re President Barack Obama, you can’t stop pacing the waiting room. Health care overhaul is still in guarded condition.

The latest Associated Press-GfK poll has found that opposition to Obama’s health care remake dropped dramatically in just a matter of weeks. Still, Americans remain divided over complex legislation that Democrats are advancing in Congress.

The public is split 40-40 on supporting or opposing the health care legislation, the poll found. An even split is welcome news for Democrats, a sharp improvement from September, when 49 percent of Americans said they opposed the congressional proposals and just 34 percent supported them.

Health care reform nears key vote in Senate

President Barack Obama gathered doctors from every U.S. state at the White House on Monday to press his case for healthcare reform in a week when the sweeping overhaul could clear a major hurdle in Congress.

The Senate Finance Committee, the last of five panels in Congress to move on healthcare legislation, aims to vote this week on Obama’s top domestic policy priority, an effort meant to cut costs, regulate insurers and expand health insurance coverage to the millions of Americans now going without.

“At this point, we’ve heard all the arguments on both sides of the aisle,” Obama told the crowd of 150 white-coated doctors who support the healthcare drive.

GOP silence on Ensign’s ethics problems

The second-ranking Senate Republican offered no support Sunday for embattled Sen. John Ensign, facing renewed criticism over an extramarital affair with an aide and the actions he took on behalf of her husband.

Asked on CNN’s “State of the Union” if Ensign can serve effectively or should step down, Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., did not address his colleague’s future and said he would await a Senate Ethics Committee investigation.

Kyl’s sidestep followed on Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell’s repeated refusals on Friday to answer questions about Ensign or pledge any support.

Can Harry Reid deliver on health care reform?

Forget mission accomplished. Try mission seemingly impossible.

With the Senate Finance Committee on the verge of approving a sweeping health overhaul bill Tuesday, the path might appear open for action by the full Senate.

Not so fast.

First the Finance Committee bill must be combined with a more liberal version that the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee wrapped up this summer. This merger is so rare that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has never attempted it on any piece of legislation — much less one as complex as President Barack Obama’s top legislative priority. The senator from Searchlight, Nev., will need plenty of guiding light.

Health care bill could increase Medicare costs

Medicare recipients could see higher premiums for prescription drug coverage as a result of changes to complex provisions in a Senate health care bill, a senior Republican said Friday.

At issue are marching orders for a powerful new commission that would recommend annual Medicare savings to Congress. Those recommendations would go into effect unless overruled by lawmakers.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said an amendment approved by the Finance Committee in the pre-dawn hours Friday would allow the commission to recommend changes leading to higher Medicare prescription drug premiums. The Democratic amendment was approved on a 13-10 party line vote.

Dems to GOP: Where’s your plan?

Even as Republicans pummel President Barack Obama’s health care proposals, some GOP leaders worry their party is being hurt by a Democratic counterattack: Where is your plan?

Republican leaders chose not to draft their own comprehensive bill, focusing instead on attacking Democrats’ plans as too costly and bureaucratic. Some prominent Republicans now fear they are getting tagged as the “party of no,” and they want the GOP to offer more solutions to the nation’s health care problems.

Health care bill could hit House, Senate floors mid-month

Historic health care legislation could be on the floor of both houses of Congress as early as mid-October as Democrats work to answer President Barack Obama’s call for greater protections for those who have unreliable insurance or no coverage at all.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Wednesday the Senate debate could begin the week of Columbus Day, Oct. 12, even though lawmakers are scheduled to be on vacation at the time.

Democratic aides said the House was working on roughly the same timetable, although after months of missed deadlines, neither House Speaker Nancy Pelosi nor Reid would provide a detailed schedule.

Debate in the Senate could take weeks, compared with mere days in the House.

Reid angers fellow Democrats with Medicare ploy

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid moved swiftly to ensure that his home state of Nevada wouldn’t be hurt by Medicaid changes included in the health care reform bill moving through the Senate Finance Committee.

Now some of his Democratic colleagues are demanding the same treatment for their states.

“We have to make sure Colorado is treated fairly,” Democratic Colorado Sen. Mark Udall said Wednesday.

“We’re going to take a look at the details, but if Colorado has a fair claim on being treated the same way Nevada has been, of course we’re going to ask to have that kind of treatment.”