Capitol Hillbillies

Senators target Bush’s abuses

A group of US Senators unveiled legislation Thursday aiming to strip telecommunications firms that took part in a hugely controversial Bush-era spying program of immunity from lawsuits.

The bill aims to “fix problems with surveillance laws that threaten the rights and liberties of American citizens” without crippling the government’s ability to track suspected terrorists, the lawmakers said in a joint statement.

The legislation would affect the way the US government can search Americans’ personal records, conduct wiretapping, and otherwise collect and use information on US citizens.

Dems pissed over tax hike in health care bill

Unhappy Senate Democrats on Thursday found plenty to complain about in the fine print of the latest health overhaul bill, particularly a tax provision they fear would hit hard at middle-class Americans, from coal miners in West Virginia to firefighters in New York.

The opposition sprang up a day after Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., unveiled long-delayed legislation that would transform the nation’s health care system, requiring almost everyone to buy insurance, making insurance companies cover people with pre-existing medical conditions and reining in spiraling health care costs.

The bill has given fresh momentum to President Barack Obama’s top domestic priority of extending health coverage and controlling costs.

Democrats unhappy with Baucus

President Barack Obama’s call for an overhaul of the nation’s health care system gained fresh momentum with the introduction of long-delayed Senate legislation to rein in spiraling medical costs and require nearly everyone to be carry health insurance.

The proposal by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus “will move this historic debate forward,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, although she quickly added that Baucus’ plan was less desirable than a bill taking shape in the House.

Other Democrats were less enthusiastic, and not a single Republican announced support when Baucus introduced the measure Wednesday after months of closed-door talks and numerous missed deadlines.

Lobbyists love Baucus’s bill

The latest health overhaul plan circulating on Capitol Hill gives health insurers, drug makers and large employers reasons to heave sighs of relief, sparing them the higher costs and more burdensome rules included in other Democratic-written alternatives.

Industry players that have already struck bargains with President Barack Obama’s administration and leading Democrats to help pay for revamping the health system saw most of those deals left intact — and in some cases sweetened — in the $856 billion proposal unveiled Wednesday by Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., the Finance Committee chairman.

I’m a woman, hear me spend

There used to be a water-cooler line the gist of which was that women had to work twice as hard as men to get half as far in the workplace. Peggy Lee sang the song, “I’m a Woman” including the lyrics, “I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan.”

Even though both have become ossified cliches because women have proven themselves over and over, a new study seems to prove women are still overachieving, this time in Congress. A study released this week by researchers at Stanford University and the University of Chicago says that, on average, women in Congress whip up more bills than their male counterparts, arm-twist more members of their own party and the opposition to co-sponsor these bills and (here comes the song allusion) bring back more federal pork to their constituents than their male counterparts.

Paying big to buy Congress

Sen. Max Baucus, a leader in the troubled effort in Congress to write a health care overhaul bill, has received more campaign donations from the health industry than any elected federal official except President Barack Obama and three other senators.

Baucus, who is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, has collected $3.9 million in donations from the health industry since 1989. Yet, when it comes to generous campaign contributions from doctors, drug makers, hospitals and other medical interests, the Montana Democrat has company from a group of colleagues he’s seen a lot of lately.

‘Racist? No, not my daddy’

U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson’s oldest son defended his father against a claim by former President Jimmy Carter that the congressman’s outburst during a speech by President Barack Obama was “based on racism.”

Responding to an audience question at a town hall at his presidential center in Atlanta, Carter said Tuesday that Wilson’s outburst was also rooted in fears of a black president.

“I think it’s based on racism,” Carter said. “There is an inherent feeling among many in this country that an African-American should not be president.”

But Wilson’s son disputed that.

‘GOP? We don’t need no stinkin’ GOP’

Sen. Max Baucus’ decision to release his long-awaited health care overhaul bill with no Republicans on board dims the chances for a bipartisan compromise on President Barack Obama’s top domestic priority.

The Senate Finance Committee chairman insisted Tuesday that he’ll keep negotiating with the three Republicans and two fellow Democrats who’ve been in closed-door talks with him for months on the bill he was to reveal Wednesday. Baucus, D-Mont., said he hopes that by the time the committee votes on the bill, as early as next week, Republicans will be there.

Dems not happy with Baucus health plan

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus has been trying for months to write a health care bill that could win Republican support. If he succeeds he may find it’s fellow Democrats he has to worry about.

Baucus, D-Mont., said Monday that “we’re getting very close” to finalizing sweeping health legislation to enact President Barack Obama’s priorities of extending coverage to most of the 50 million uninsured and holding down spiraling health care costs.

Following weeks of closed-door negotiations with two other Democratic senators and three Republicans, Baucus plans to unveil his bill Wednesday, and he hopes Republicans are with him. Such a bargain could mark a turning point for Obama’s top domestic priority.

Wilson faces rebuke from House

Barring a last-minute apology to Congress, Republican Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina faces what is likely to be a partisan vote scolding him for shouting “You lie!” at President Barack Obama.

Democratic aides said House leaders were preparing to introduce a resolution of disapproval Tuesday afternoon, with a vote likely later in the day.

Democrats confirmed Monday night that they were moving forward with the rebuke.

Wilson has apologized to the White House for his outburst last week during Obama’s speech to Congress. But Democrats say Wilson also should apologize to Congress for what they call an unprecedented breach of decorum.

Wilson has refused to do so, saying his initial apology was sufficient.