Obama courts uneasy Democrats on health care ‘reform’

Obama huddles with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Reuters)

President Barack Obama hopes he can convince reluctant Democrats who voted against his health care “reform” plan on its first trip through the House of Representatives.

The vote counters in the Democratic whip’s office say nine of the 39 Democrats who voted against the health care bill have softened their opposition and might be convinced to support the bill on its second trip through Congress.

So Obama will call them in for a White House version of “Let’s Make a Deal” to see what it will take to buy their support.

It’s a long shot and a risky move because nervous Democrats read the polls that say the American public thinks the current health care bills are a crock. The wavering Democrats are also unhappy with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi‘s comments that they should vote for the health care fill even if it costs them re-election in November.

To make matters worse, those who change their vote face being tagged as a “flip-flopper” by their opponents.

Obama is releasing a revised health care proposal Wednesday, the latest revision in a string of revamps that have failed to ignite any public passion for the bill or change anyone’s mind in Congress.

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White House wants simple up or down vote on health care reform

President Barack Obama: Can we vote, please? (AP)

The White House called for a “simple up-or-down” vote on health care legislation Sunday as Speaker Nancy Pelosi appealed to House Democrats to get behind President Barack Obama’s chief domestic priority even it if threatens their political careers.

In voicing support for a simple majority vote, White House health reform director Nancy-Ann DeParle signaled Obama’s intention to push the Democratic-crafted bill under Senate rules that would overcome GOP stalling tactics.

Republicans unanimously oppose the Democratic proposals. Without GOP support, Obama’s only chance of emerging with a policy and political victory is to bypass the bipartisanship he promoted during his televised seven-hour health care summit Thursday.

“We’re not talking about changing any rules here,” DeParle said. “All the president’s talking about is: Do we need to address this problem and does it make sense to have a simple, up-or-down vote on whether or not we want to fix these problems?”

DeParle was optimistic that the president would have the votes to pass the massive bill. But none of legislation’s advocates who spoke on Sunday indicated that those votes were in hand.

“I think we will get to that point where we will have the votes,” predicted Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., a member of the Senate Democratic leadership. “I believe that we will pass health care reform this spring.”

In a sober call to arms, Pelosi said lawmakers sometimes must enact policies that, even if unpopular at the moment, will help the public. “We’re not here just to self-perpetuate our service in Congress,” she said. “We’re here to do the job for the American people.”

Pelosi said it took courage for Congress to pass Social Security and Medicare, which eventually became highly popular, “and many of the same forces that were at work decades ago are at work again against this bill.”

It’s unclear whether Pelosi’s remarks will embolden or chill dozens of moderate House Democrats who face withering criticisms of the health care proposal in visits with constituents and in national polls. Republican lawmakers unanimously oppose the health care proposals, and many GOP strategists believe voters will turn against Democrats in the November elections.

Pelosi, from San Francisco, is more liberal than scores of her Democratic colleagues. But she generally walks a careful line between urging them to back left-of-center policies and giving them a green light to buck party leaders to improve their re-election hopes.

Her comments seemed to acknowledge the widely held view that Democrats will lose House seats this fall — maybe a lot. They now control the chamber 255 to 178, with two vacancies. Pelosi stopped well short of suggesting Democrats could lose their majority, but she called on members of her party to make a bold move on health care with no prospects of GOP help.

“Time is up,” she said. “We really have to go forth.”

Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, the second-ranking Republican leader in the House, made it clear Republicans see a Democrats-only bill as an election-year issue.

“If Speaker Pelosi rams through this bill, through the House … they will lose their majority in Congress in November,” he said.

The White House is redoubling efforts to remind voters that the Senate passed an Obama-backed health care bill in December with 60 votes. Every Republican voted against that bill. A Republican Senate victory in Massachusetts in January, however, left Democrats one vote shy of the number necessary to overcome GOP filibusters.

As a result, a new plan would call for the House to pass the Senate bill and send it to Obama. The Senate would then use budget reconciliation rules to make several changes demanded by House Democrats. Those rules prohibit filibusters.

Exactly what the legislation would look like remained a matter of negotiation within Democratic ranks. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, “is working with his caucus, the White House and the House leadership on strategy and next steps,” Reid spokesman Jim Manley said Sunday.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky renewed his party’s demand that Obama and the Democrats start over and write a bipartisan health care bill. He said that while the reconciliation process has been used to pass legislation in the past, it should not apply to health care legislation.

“There are a number of other Republicans who do not think something of this magnitude ought to be jammed down the throats of a public that doesn’t want it through this kind of device,” McConnell said.

Pelosi said that “in a matter of days” Democrats will have specific legislative language on health care to show to the public and to wavering lawmakers. She predicted voters will warm up to the bill once they understand its details.

“When we have a bill,” she said, “you can bake the pie, you can sell the pie. But you have to have a pie to sell.”

At that point, added House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland, top Democrats will make their pitch to their members.

“Within the next couple of weeks we’re going to have a specific proposal and start counting votes to see whether or not those proposals could pass,” he said.

Pelosi appeared on ABC’s “This Week” and CNN’s “State of the Union.” DeParle and Cantor were on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Hoyer was on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” while Menendez appeared on “Fox News Sunday” and McConnell spoke on CNN.


Associated Press writer Charles Babington contributed to this article.

Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press

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Pelosi: Back the health care bill even if it costs you your job

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has an incredible message for her Democratic colleagues: Support health care even if it costs them their seat in Congress.

Appearing Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” news talk program, Pelosi said health care is too important to play it safe politically.

“We’re not here just to self-perpetuate our service in Congress. We’re here to do the job for the American people,” Pelosi said.

Pelosi’s ultimatum is not likely to sit well with Democrats facing tough re-election campaigns in an election year when polls show most Americans don’t care for the so-called “reform” packages currently before Congress.

Moderate Democrats have come under fire from constituents over the massive, expensive health care “reform” bills in both the House and Senate. Polls show most Americans don’t support the legislation and recent gains by Republicans in special elections have Democrats nervous.

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Pelosi backs scandal-ridden Rangel

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi -- Standing by her bad men (again)

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, once again forgetting her pledge to “drain the swamp” of scandal from Congress, won’t ask scandal-scarred Ways & Mean Chairman Charles Rangel of New York to give up his chairmanship of Congress.

Instead Pelosi, as she did with ethics-challenged Pennsylvania Democrat John Murtha, who died earlier this month, is practicing the same double standard she always uses when it comes to protecting members of her other party — look the other way.

Pelosi also refused to take action against former Democratic Congressman William Jefferson of Louisiana after an FBI raid of his home uncovered a cache of bribe cash in his freezer.

The Speaker said Friday she will wait to “see what happens” in the latest ethics probe of wrongdoing by Rangel, who has already been caught hiding assets, falsifying disclosure reports and — in this latest investigation — accepting free vacations from corporations who get tax breaks from Rangel’s committee.

“Every member is entitled to have his day before the ethics committee,” Pelosi says, forgetting that Rangel has had other days and been judged unethical.

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More ethics problems for Rangel

Rep. Charles Rangel (AP)

The House Ethics Committee says 20-term Democratic Congressman Charles Rangel repeatedly violated ethics rules by accepting corporate money for lavish trips to the Caribbean.

Rangel, chairman of the powerful House Ways & Means Committee, also faces investigations into his use of office resources to raise money for a college center bearing his name and his failure to report hundreds of thousands of dollars in assets and income.

Rangel’s mounting problems add to problems haunting Democrats as they head into the 2010 mid-term elections with the increasing prospect of losing seats and, possibly, control of Congress.

The Rangel affair also raises more questions about the leadership of the House by Speaker Nancy Pelosi who promised to “drain the swamp” of ethics-challenged members of Congress and then threw her support behind scandal-scarred representatives like the late John Murtha or looked the other way when other Democrats got into trouble.

Rangel’s unreported assets including a credit union account and Merrill Lynch account each containing more than $250,000, thousands of dollars worth of municipal bonds and up to $100,000 in rent from a brownstone he owns in New York.

Rangel may also have cheated on his income tax returns by not reporting the assets and income.

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Winning campaign strategy: Bash Pelosi

Nancy Pelosi

Time-proven ploy of politics: Identify an enemy and then run against that enemy.

Many candidates run for Congress not by opposing the record of their opponent but by running against the President. Many Democrats who won House and Senate seats in 2006 won by running against then-President George W. Bush.

Republicans who hope to win elections this year have two enemies: President Barack Obama and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

And bashing Pelosi seems to be paying off.

Just ask Jimmy Higdon, a Kentucky Republican who won a state Senate seat by ignoring local issues and turning his race into a referendum on Pelosi. His opponent outspend him 4-to-one and still lost.

Higdon used Pelosi’s pictures in most of his TV ads and campaign propaganda.

“It worked for me,” he told McClatchey Newspapers. “I’m really happy that I had a good team that recognized that, because that’s not something I would have dreamed up.”

Republican political pros plan to put the strategy to work in other races this year

“The strategists will try to make her the lightning rod who represents all that is wrong in Washington ,” says Jeffrey McCall, media studies professor at DePauw University in Indiana .

Pelosi, like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, is in trouble back home as well. Her job approval rating in her district is an uber-low 39 percent and she is under fire not only from Republicans but also from Democrats.

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