Capitol Hillbillies

‘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.

Democrats headed for big trouble

Despite sweeping Democratic successes in the past two national elections, continuing job losses and President Barack Obama’s slipping support could lead to double-digit losses for the party in next year’s congressional races and may even threaten their House control.

Fifty-four new Democrats were swept into the House in 2006 and 2008, helping the party claim a decisive majority as voters soured on a Republican president and embraced Obama’s message of hope and change. Many of the new Democrats are in districts carried by Republican John McCain in last year’s presidential contest; others are in traditional swing districts that have proved tough for either party to hold.

More Democratic opposition to Afghan war

A powerful senator warned against sending more American troops to Afghanistan, signaling growing skepticism over the war within President Barack Obama’s own party.

Carl Levin, the influential chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, was the latest top Democrat in Congress to voice opposition to a fresh military build-up in Afghanistan, as the White House weighs deploying yet more troop combat troops.

But his comments came as the Pentagon confirmed it intended to send more troops to Afghanistan to tackle a growing threat from improvised explosive devices.

Levin called for redoubling efforts to bolster Afghan security forces before any further expansion in US troops, which are set to reach 68,000 by the end of the year.

Health care debate heats up

The fierce national debate over health care is entering a new phase, with advocates on all sides focused on a handful of legislative bottlenecks that will determine the ultimate overhaul of the $2.5 trillion medical care system.

President Barack Obama’s prime-time address to Congress on Wednesday reassured some nervous Democratic lawmakers, and he aligned himself more closely with certain proposals. While Obama’s words seemed to halt and possibly reverse the momentum that conservative groups had gained in August, they did not resolve all the concerns of centrist Democrats who will play pivotal roles, especially in the Senate.

House plans action against Joe Wilson

Democratic leaders are planning a House vote early next week to admonish Republican Rep. Joe Wilson if he does not apologize on the House floor for yelling “You lie!” during President Barack Obama’s health care address to Congress.

National attention from the heckling episode has money pouring into Wilson’s campaign treasury and that of his 2010 Democratic challenger. Wilson had raised more than $700,000 since the incident as of Friday, according to the National Republican Congressional Committee. His opponent, Rob Miller, had received more than $1 million from 25,000 donors nationwide, said his campaign manager, Lindsay Zoeller.

Rude Republican breaches protocol

Democrats and Republicans alike are denouncing Rep. Joe Wilson for shouting "You lie" at President Barack Obama during his speech to Congress, an extraordinary breach of decorum for which the South Carolina Republican swiftly apologized.

"There’ll be time enough to consider whether or not we ought to make it clear that that action is unacceptable in the House of Representatives," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said late Wednesday on WTOP radio when asked about possible punishment for Wilson. "I’ve talked to Republican members who share that view."

Pelosi: Government health care ‘essential’

The top Democrat in the House of Representatives insisted Tuesday that a government-run insurance option was "essential" to passing President Barack Obama’s health reform plan.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s comments followed growing suggestions that the so-called "public option" could be jettisoned or delayed in a final compromise intended to secure Obama’s top legislative priority.

"I believe that a public option will be essential to our passing a bill in the House of Representatives," Pelosi said after meeting Obama and Vice President Joe Biden at the White House.

Disorganized Dems: A headache for Obama

Democrats remain sharply divided over what to do about the nation’s health care system and return to Congress this week without any clear plan or consensus on reform.

After a month of rowdy town meetings, the picture for health care reform remains as muddled as ever on Capitol Hill and few believe President Barack Obama’s attempt to rally support with a speech to a joint session of Congress Wednesday night will improve the situation.

"You’re looking at one screwed-up mess," a long time Democratic operative told Capitol Hill Blue over the weekend. "Democrats lack focus on the issue."