Katie Connolly

Stories by Katie Connolly

  • What Do Health Care Reform and the Farm Bill Have in Common?

    I saw this fascinating graphic yesterday about the impact of farm subsidies on our eating habits:  It's an interesting graphic for so many reasons, not least of which is active government sponsorship of foods that aren't so good for us. But this is a political blog so my main reason for posting it was that it helped me put the health care debate in perspective. We've heard so much talk about how complicated health care is; how Congress should have moved incrementally, passing small bits at a time; how we can't afford subsidies for poor people to gain insurance. But you know what else is complex, expansive and costly but still manages to get reauthorized every five years or so? The farm bill. The 2008 farm bill cost tax payers $288 billion. Large chunks of that money goes to a small group of people, who arguably don't need it. According to the Wall Street Journal in 2008, "Today, farmers make up less than 1% of the U.S. population, and...
  • Gallup Poll Shows Reasons People Oppose Health Care Reform

    One number in this new Gallup poll on health-care reform caught my eye, because, oddly, it has good news for both sides of the debate. Gallup asked the 48% of people who oppose health care reform about why they're against the Democrats' plans. The most popular reason, cited by 20% of people, was a concern that the plan would raise premium prices or end up costing them more. That's good news for Republicans. It means their talking points are getting through. The notion that the cost of health insurance would rise was repeated by several Republicans at the recent White House summit. When Gallup asked the same question last September, only 9% of people were most worried about their costs going up. Score one for the Republican message machine. (Interestingly, only 2% of people were worried about abortions being covered. I guess that line of attack isn't sticking.)But this nugget is also good news for Democrats. Why? Because the CBO declared, after rigorous analysis...
  • Eric Massa Story Gets Even Weirder

    The whole Eric Massa saga just keeps getting ickier. Earlier in the week, he claimed the harassment allegations against him stemmed from some "salty" language he used while at a wedding with some junior staffers. (It involved the word "frack," which I'm not convinced is salty but certainly isn't a word normal people use.) Then, Massa told a bizarre story about actually being the victim of harassment himself, when he got into a naked argument with Rahm Emanuel, whom he called "son of devil's spawn." Here's how Massa described the close encounter: "I'm sitting there showering, naked as a jaybird, and here comes Rahm...
  • Harvard Poll of Young Voters Should Worry Democrats

    Harvard's Institute of Politics released the latest results from its ongoing survey of young adults this morning, and they don't look good for Democrats. As in the rest of the population, President Obama remains personally popular (56 percent approval), but support for his individual initiatives, like health-care reform, is much weaker. Only 38 percent of young people (defined as 18- to 29-year-olds) approve of the president's handling of the deficit, and a majority disapprove of his economic management (51 percent) and his work on health care (53 percent). Young people are unimpressed with congressional Democrats, with only 42 percent approving of their performance. That's still higher than for congressional Republicans—who have a mere 35 percent approval rating—but Democratic approval is down 6 points since last November, which is a worrying trend going into the midterms.The worst sign for Democrats is voter enthusiasm. Young voters are a critical demographic...
  • Obama Probably Will Cave on KSM Trial

    Jonathan Alter vented his frustration earlier today about the possibility that the Obama administration won't try accused 9/11 mastermind The question of how to bring accused terrorists to justice is an...
  • Social Secretary Steps Out: Four Observations

    White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers told Lynn Sweet from the Chicago Sun-Times this afternoon that she would be stepping down from her role. White House watchers pointed the finger of blame at Rogers during last year's media circus over the Salahis, a Virginian couple who crashed the State Dinner for India's prime minister. I've got four relatively unrelated thoughts on this:...
  • Health Care and Reconciliation? They Go Way Back!

    Julie Rovner from NPR is out today with a fascinating history of health care and the budget-reconciliation process in the Senate. She shows how every major health-care innovation of the last three decades has been done through reconciliation. One of her best examples is COBRA, that vital and popular law that allows people to keep their health insurance for a period after they've lost their job. The acronym actually stands for the reconciliation bill that established the program: the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985. The Children's Health Insurance Program—which, together with Medicaid, gives one third of all American children access to health care—was also done via reconciliation. It's hardly the dastardly procedure some in Congress would have you believe it is. Here's Rovner:"The use of expedited reconciliation process to push through more...
  • Republicans Who Tried to Kill the Senate Jobs Bill Just Voted for It

    If there's a reason Americans are frustrated with Washington politics, it's this. On Monday just five Republican senators joined Democrats to vote for cloture on a $15 billion job-creation bill. That is, they voted in favor of overcoming a filibuster so the Senate could proceed to a vote on the bill itself. Today, six Republicans who had voted against cloture, and two Republicans who didn't vote on the cloture motion at all, voted yea on the bill itself. It's nonsensical. Why would you try to kill a piece of legislation you're going to end up voting for? It's the worst form of blind, unproductive partisanship. We're probably going to hear a string of excuses, such as they were hoping to offer an improved version of the bill later but once it went to the floor and it was clearly going to pass then there's no reason not to vote for it. Maybe some of the senators were working on their own pieces of legislation, but once Harry Reid's bill...
  • The Health-Care Summit Isn't a Negotiation, It's a Math Problem

    Writing in The Wall Street Journal yesterday, Gerald Seib made an observation about tomorrow's health-care summit that I think is critical to understanding the proceedings. "The first is that the most basic predicate for success in any...
  • Reading the Tea Leaves on the Senate Jobs-Bill Vote

    Harry Reid's rather anemic jobs package passed an important hurdle tonight, with 62 senators voting to averting a potential filibuster and let the bill proceed to a floor vote. Five Republicans voted with Democrats: Scott Brown (Massachusetts), Olympia Snowe (Maine), Susan Collins (Maine), Kit Bond (Missouri) and George Voinovich (Ohio). Six other Republicans skipped the vote, while Democrat Ben Nelson voted against the bill and New Jersey's Frank Lautenberg was absent. The final tally was 62–30.How much can we read into this vote? Reid, for one, would like to see it as a sign. "I hope this is the beginning of a new day here in the Senate," he told reporters. But it may just be a sign of how divided the Senate remains. Reid's bill should have received broad bipartisan support. At $15 billion, it was a restrained measure by Senate standards, and focused on small-business tax breaks—the kind that many Republicans believe can stimulate the economy. It also...
  • What the President's Health Care Plan Means: Full Steam Ahead

    The health-care-reform plan unveiled by the White House this morning sends one clear message to Republicans: this is happening with or without you. The administration has structured its plan as a series of fixes to the Senate health-care bill. On a conference call with reporters this morning, White House officials emphasized to reporters that “the president believes people deserve an up-or-down vote” on health-care reform, so they’ve structured their plan with the “flexibility” to achieve passage should Republicans take the “extraordinary step” of filibustering. When asked, officials said that meeting the procedural requirements to pass their fixes through the budget-reconciliation process, which circumvents the filibuster and only requires 51 votes, “was certainly a factor” in their thinking. Translation: if Republicans don’t play ball, Democrats will go ahead regardless.The plan is far from a sure bet. It still requires approval of the Senate bill by the House, and we’re yet to...
  • The President's Health Care Plan: A Cheat Sheet

    Ahead of Thursday’s bipartisan White House health-care summit, the White House has unveiled the president’s blueprint for the way forward. As expected, there are no sweeping changes (and by that I mean, there’s no public option, even while some Senate liberals are attempting its revival.) The president basically offers a bunch of tweaks to the version that passed the Senate on Christmas Eve. Here are the big-ticket items:1. The “Cornhusker Kickback,” Ben Nelson's special deal to help Nebraska pay for Medicaid extensions, is eliminated. Instead, the administration is offering additional payments to all states to help cover Medicaid payment increases that result from the bill.2. The president’s plan will set up a new Health Insurance Rate Authority charged with helping states review unfair premium hikes by private insurers. The government will have the power to ban or roll back such rate hikes.3. The Medicare “donut hole” will be closed. In 2020, all Medicare recipients will pay...
  • Selling Health Insurance Across State Lines Won't Work

    My new (sort of) colleague Ezra Klein wrote a great post yesterday explaining why the Republicans' big idea for health care reform—allowing insurers to sell their plans across state lines—is, in his words, "a terrible, no good, very bad health-care idea." Here's Klein:...
  • Poll: Public Blames Bush for Recession. That's Not Good News for Obama.

    A poll released by CBS/New York Times today shows that more Americans (31 percent) blame the Bush administration than the Obama administration (7 percent) for the country's economic woes. The DNC blasted out the findings to its press list, presumably to highlight that people still recall Bush's role in the mess, but I don't think the poll is actually good news for Democrats. Sure, Americans recall that the recession began before Obama took office, but they're looking to Obama to fix it, and right now are largely unimpressed with the results. Fifty-six percent of respondents didn't think Obama had a plan to create jobs; 52 percent disapprove of his handling of the economy; and 58 percent disapprove of his handling of the deficit.Even if the public blames Bush for the problem, it's put the responsibility for the solution squarely on Obama's shoulders (as it should, seeing he's the president and all). Blaming Bush doesn't give the president...
  • California's Anthem Problem Underscores Need for Health-Insurance Reform

    A few days ago, California insurer Anthem Blue Cross announced that it would be hiking  its premiums on some customers. Some of these unfortunate folks would see their rates jump as much as 39 percent. Disturbed by the increase, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius wrote Anthem demanding an explanation, particularly in light of the company's reported earnings of $2.7 billion last quarter. Today she got her answer, and with it, a compelling rationale for health-care reform. Per Politico: Financial woes have pushed healthier people to drop coverage or buy...
  • Democrats Should Dare Republicans to Filibuster Their Jobs Bill

    Senate Democrats today released their $85 billion jobs bill. Predictably, it's far less ambitious than its House counterpart, which focuses more on job-creating infrastructure projects. Why? Because Max Baucus, chair of the Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over this bill, is embarking on another attempt at bipartisanship. Unlike his painful, prolonged attempt to get GOP support for health-care reform, this time Baucus already has a cosponsor, ranking member Chuck Grassley of Iowa. The result is a bill that's heavy on the GOP's sanctified cure-all: tax cuts. The problem, which will soon be the president's problem, is that these tax cuts don't create jobs....
  • Rep. John Murtha Dies at 77

    Pennsylvania Democrat John Murtha died this afternoon at a hospital in Virginia, following complications related to gall bladder surgery he underwent in January. Murtha, 77, had served in the House for 36 years. The first Vietnam veteran elected to Congress and chair of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, Murtha wielded enormous power over defense related issues and boldly sought earmarks that benefited his district. For more on Murtha, his life, achievements and brushes with scandal, The Washington Post has a comprehensive obit.
  • The White House Health-Care Summit: Jedi Move or Giant Fail?

    Jon Stewart has said on a couple of occasions that he can’t tell if Obama is like a Jedi master, three moves ahead of the rest of us all the time, or if this health-care thing is kicking his ass. It’s unclear which category yesterday’s announcement of a televised, bipartisan health-care-reform summit at the White House falls in to. On first blush it seems like a smart move. Rather than letting Republicans snipe on the sidelines, slowly killing the bill, Obama is bringing them in, squarely implicating them in the legislation’s fate. Keep your enemies close and all that. Republicans will get what they’ve been clamoring for─a transparent set of negotiations, live on TV. They’ll be able to raise their issues with the bill and be forced to articulate their alternatives, rather than just offering blanket opposition. But (and for Republicans this is a big but) they won’t be starting from scratch. They’ll be working to alter the bills that have already passed the House and Senate....
  • Obama Seeks to Change the Narrative at DNC Meeting

    A tieless Barack Obama ditched his presidential limo in favor of an SUV this morning and made a short trek up 16th Street in snow-covered D.C. (four minutes, according to the pool report) to fire up the Democratic National Committee’s winter meeting. If one thing has become abundantly clear about Obama throughout both his campaign and his time in the Oval Office, it’s that he is most energized when his back is against the wall. For all the talk about the woes his administration is facing, the president brought his game face today, his feisty demeanor demonstrating he’s in the mood for a fight. And he’s not giving up on health-care reform. “We are moving forward,” he forcefully declared, twice, to a rousing ovation from the audience.Knowing that uncertainty and apprehension are quickly taking hold of his party, the president sought to combat the increasingly accepted narrative that his administration has achieved little. Not true, he told Democrats, as he listed his achievements,...
  • Two Words the Administration Fears

    Nancy Cook gives a great rundown on the reasons why today's jobless figure is good news, but not worthy of a celebration. But there's one more reason the administration is reacting cautiously, and it boils down to two words likely to strike fear in the heart of any government economist: jobless recovery. Yep, those words are starting to be tossed around to describe the U.S. economy's slow revival. ...
  • Need More Evidence the Senate Is Absurd? Look No Further

    If somebody were looking for evidence of the absurd dysfunctionality of the U.S. Senate, they'd need look no further than the nominations process. In a body that actually valued effective governance this would be a straightforward process, where the head of state nominates individuals to largely noncontroversial posts, and the Senate, after a reasonable period of examining the candidates, approves or rejects them. But this is the U.S. Senate, and nothing is that simple. While there are bound to be a few appointments that cause a stir—this is politics after all—a large majority have always been, and will continue to be, pretty safe. Sure there will be differing ideologies from administration to administration, but that's one of the perks of winning the presidency. Remember that whole "elections have consequences" thing? Apparently Republicans don't, and nor do they have any interest in or respect for the effective delivery of government services, or so the...
  • Corporation Launches Bid for Congress

    The Supreme Court's controversial decision to lift restrictions on corporate spending on political campaigns rested in part on the notion that constitutional free-speech provisions should apply to corporations as well as to individuals. For the court's purposes, corporations are akin to people. Now a left-leaning PR firm called Murray Hill Inc. has decided to test the limits of this rationale by launching its own bid for Congress. That's right: a corporation is running for office in Maryland's Eighth District. It's got all the trappings:  a Web site, press releases, and a Facebook page that says, "Until now, corporations . . .  influenced politics with high-paid lobbyists...
  • Senate Likely to Move (Uncharacteristically) Quickly to Seat Brown

    Just when you thought the Senate was at risk of never being able to do anything at all, an issue comes along upon which they're willing to act immediately: seating Senator-elect Scott Brown. The Senate's newest member was slated to be sworn in on Feb. 11, but the process has moved more swiftly than expected. The results of the election will now be certified by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick tomorrow, and Republicans are calling for him to be seated tomorrow afternoon. According to Marc Ambinder, Harry Reid won't stand in Brown's way. So why is the so-called cooling saucer of our political system exhibiting a newfound propensity for rapidity? The Republican motivations are pretty clear: the jobs bill moving its way toward the floor and a vote on the nomination of Craig Becker to the National Labor Board. (Conservatives have been railing against his nomination, la Cass Sunstein, arguing he's too pro-worker.) For Democrats, it's probably nervousness...
  • Colin Powell Scuttles McCain's 'Don't Ask' Rationale

    Back in the day, when Sen. John McCain used to distinguish himself from his GOP colleagues by taking positions outside the Republican orthodoxy (see campaign-finance reform, immigration, torture), he did so by staking out a reasoned middle ground. But during the "don't ask, don't tell" portion of yesterday's Armed Services Committee hearing, McCain stood out for the opposite reason: he seemed stuck in an outdated, reactionary pose. (Even conservative Orrin Hatch told MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell that he's open to the repeal, saying service members shouldn't have to lie about being gay.) Today, McCain's words are coming back to bite him. Unlike his wife and daughter, both vocal proponents of gay rights, McCain expressed serious reservations about repealing the policy. Michael Shear notes in The Washington Post that stance seems at odds with previous statements:"The day that the leadership of the military comes to me and says,...
  • Democrats and Tea Party Activists Find Common Ground

    Zachary Roth at Talking Points Memo is reporting that tea partiers are railing against the Supreme Court decision in the Citizen's United case, which removed major restrictions on corporate spending on political campaigns. Running counter to RNC Chairman Michael Steele's praise of the decision, Dale Robertson, the leader of TeaParty.org told the Reid Report:...
  • Bipartisan Group Demands Question Time

    By now, Gaggle readers are no doubt well aware of the president's remarkable question-and-answer session with House Republicans last Friday. He's doing the same thing right now with Senate Democrats. I've already made clear my feelings of the importance of these debates in advancing political discourse. Now, thanks to a bipartisan group of journalists and politicos, you can too. They've set up an online petition at demandquestiontime.com asking both the president and members of Congress to hold televised question-and-answer sessions on a regular basis. You can sign it here.