Howard Fineman

Stories by Howard Fineman

  • It Didn't Start With Nancy

    When I get confused about the procedural and historical mysteries of Congress there is only one thing to do: call Norm Ornstein....
  • House Dems Wary of Health-Care Bait and Switch

    Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Rahm Emanuel are running the final days of the health-care bill like a three-card monte game on Times Square. You have to admire their skill and audacity, even if you can't quite follow what they are doing. The suckers in this con could be wavering House Democrats, who may well place their fateful bets ("yes" votes) and lose their shirts.Silly me, I thought that I understood what the Democratic leaders (and White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs) meant when they declared that health care would be "the law of the land" by this coming Sunday.I was assuming that they were aiming for final congressional action by then—before President Obama jetted off to Indonesia for his truncated (and now-non-spring-break-for-the-kids) trip. I was way wrong.Here, after patient explanations by Democrats on the Hill, is the scenario:Democrats are hoping that, on Saturday or Sunday, the House will pass the long-since-passed, original Senate version...
  • NEWSWEEK Offers Condolences on Passing of Theodore Olbermann

    I got this e-mail from my good friend Keith Olbermann, whose father passed away over the weekend.  Theodore Olbermann's story—his late-life care, and the agonizing options involved—became an illustrative saga about health issues in and for America. We all offer our condolences to Keith. Here is the obituary:Theodore C. Olbermann died, in the city of his birth, New York, Saturday. He was 80 years old.Though the financial constraints of his youth made college infeasible, he became an architect licensed in 40 states, and practiced for 40 years. Much of his work was commercial and there was a time in the 1970s when nearly all of the Baskin-Robbins outlets in the country had been built to his design, and under his direction. He was predeceased last year by his wife of nearly 60 years, Marie. He died peacefully after a long fight against the complications which ensued after successful colon surgery last September, with his daughter and son at his bedside, the latter reading aloud to...
  • Sen. Harry Reid's Wife and Daughter Injured in Car Accident

    As if Sen. Harry Reid didn't have enough of a weight on his shoulders, now he has this to deal with: his wife, Landra, and his daughter, Lana, were injured—Landra quite seriously—when their car was rear-ended by a truck on Interstate 95 in Washington....
  • The Beginning of Staff-Hunting Season

    So I'm at the gas station on Sunday and I see a guy I've known forever—one of the best plugged-in Democratic corporate lobbyists in town. The first words out of his mouth: "So Rahm's out," he says. I thought he was telling me news, but no, he was just poking me for gossip, based on the buzz around town. He had a kind of hunter's smirk on his face, as though he'd just sighted a slow-moving buck in the  Pennsylvania woods.This is the kind of season Washingtonians love: staff self-immolation in the White House. As soon as a president loses his 'mo, it's time for the staff to turn on each other and for the local spectators to get their popcorn.Somebody's got to be blamed. Rahm sensed a month ago (as I did, as so said on the Today show) that it was gonna be him.He built his defenses through The Washington Post, but now The New York Times is after him, I hear, and the Times is stirring the pot by going after David Axelrod as well.My gas...
  • Health Care Is Going to Overtime

    There's nothing more fun than handicapping a vote count in Washington. It’s our version of studying an IPO on Wall Street, or filling out a March Madness bracket on Tobacco Road.The biggest vote of 2010 is coming up one of these days in the not too distant future in the House of Representatives. It is, arguably, the make-or-break vote of the Obama presidency. It is of course on health care. Last November 7, the House passed a version of the bill by a razor-thin 220-215 margin. A switch of only three votes would have killed it.Since then, the Senate passed a far different version (with a tax on high-cost health-care plans, sweetheart deals for senators and less sweeping anti-abortion language).  Now the key question is whether the House will accept that version—which would send the measure to Obama. Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are working on various mollifying “fixes,” which would be voted on later in the House and Senate, either in the “reconciliation” budget process...
  • Six Reasons Sen. Evan Bayh Is Retiring

    If you unexpectedly leave Washington, the Beltway assumes some dark personal secret. And that's exactly why the senator is getting out.
  • Downtown Scotty Brown: The New GOP Senator Looks Like a Partisan

    I just eyeballed newly sworn-in Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., the undertaker of the Kennedy legend and the man who sent shock waves through Democratic Party. I watched his swearing in, chatted him up in the hallway, and then attended his maiden presser....
  • A Farewell to Arms?

    Killing time here in the Capitol before the official coronation of Scott Brown, I happened by the Senate  and, as it turned out, witnessed something I hadn't expected and that we rarely see up here: a genuine, moving moment. ...
  • Why Plouffe's Return Might Be a Problem

    On the NBC's Today show this morning, I suggested that odd new configuration of Barack Obama's political team could spell trouble in this election year. The reason: the lines of authority (and responsibility) aren't clear. David Plouffe isn't officially going into the White House or the Democratic National Committee─or running Organizing for America, for that matter. But now he is supposed to be overseeing the Democrats' 2010 effort, layering the line of authority that runs from chief of staff Rahm Emanuel through deputy chief Jim Massina and Political Director Patrick Gaspard. I also noted that Emanuel was conspicuous by his absence after the Democrats' Massachusetts Senate debacle. ...
  • Gibbs Offers Early Look at White House Spin Lines

    The vultures (including me) showed up for Robert Gibbs’s briefing today as voters in Massachusetts went to the polls to cast their vote for U.S. Senate. The operating assumption, which Gibbs did not dispute, was that Democrat Martha Coakley would lose the seat—held by the late Ted Kennedy since 1962—to a Republican nonentity named Scott Brown, a military lawyer and state senator whose main claim to fame until this month was that he had, decades ago, posed in the almost-totally-nude for Cosmopolitan magazine.Gibbs's mood was businesslike but a little somber and, while he deflected questions about the election, he did quietly try out a few lines of excuse, explanation, and apology. He will, if necessary, perform the Full Monty (so to speak) at tomorrow’s briefing.In the meantime, here is what I glean about the spin lines:Massachusetts voters were as angry and upset as everyone else (other than the big bankers) about the continued weakness of the economy. That problem began in...
  • Why Hurricane Katrina Looms Over Obama's Relief Efforts in Haiti

    The gods of politics have an ironic sense of justice. They can force a president to confront more complex versions of the very problems we thought we had solved by electing him. As you judge, so shall you be judged: sometimes there is an almost mathematical precision to it. Just ask President Barack Obama. ...
  • Congressional Hearings Could Damage Obama

    President Obama’s decision to preemptively take the heat for the Christmas almost-bombing was shrewd and successful, at least initially, unless there are further damning disclosures....
  • Minnesota Gov. Pawlenty on 2012

    He doesn't have Sarah Palin's pizzazz or Mitt Romney's money. But the governor of Minnesota may be a shrewd Republican bet in 2012.