Katie Connolly

Stories by Katie Connolly

  • Medicare Bill Fails Because of Nervous Democrats

    Yesterday afternoon, the Senate rejected a cloture motion that would have brought Sen. Debbie Stabenow's Medicare Physician Fairness Act of 2009 to the floor. Here at the Gaggle we don't normally write about the daily dramas on the Senate floor. So why is this vote worth analyzing? Because it shows how deeply nervous Senate Democrats are about spending increases.Stabenow's bill would have changed the payment regime for doctors treating Medicare patients; those doctors are facing a 21 percent cut in reimbursement rates as a result of a quirky formula dating back to 1997. Each year Capitol Hill scrambles to come up with a temporary fix for the situation, fearing that reductions in reimbursements will prompt doctors to start turning away elderly patients. That's not a situation any politician wants, ethically or politically. They rarely forget that seniors tend to take voting seriously. With Stabenow's bill dead, Harry Reid has promised yet another one-year fix...
  • Why So Few D.C. Residents Are Married

    Yesterday over at the Washington City Paper, sex and gender blogger Amanda Hess picked up an interesting nugget from Pew's latest research into the state of American marriage. She writes:The District of Columbia has the lowest marriage rate in the country....
  • First GOP, Now Progressives Challenge Harry Reid's Leadership

    Last week, Holly wrote about the tough race Harry Reid will face next year in Nevada. Republicans, she wrote, are eager to knock him off, as they did Tom Daschle in 2006. And if his poll numbers are any indication, Reid should be worried. Sensing an opportunity to pressure the majority leader, progressives are leaping into the fray, hitting him from the left on health care. A group called the Progressive Change Campaign Committee is running an emotional ad pressuring Reid to fight for a public option. It features a plaintive nurse with serious health issues questioning whether Reid is "strong and effective enough as a leader to pass a public option into law."...
  • Should Olympia Snowe Represent Her Voters or Her Party?

    Olympia Snowe's Tuesday vote in favor of Max Baucus's health-care plan inspired much chatter about her "bucking the party" and whether the GOP will retaliate and strip her of her coveted seniority. But the polling data Ben Smith uncovered yesterday got me thinking about a different tension in politics: an old three-way conflict between representing your party, representing your constituents, and plain old intellectual leadership. Although Snowe's moves are easily characterized as a shift away from her party's power brokers, they could also be seen as a genuine attempt to represent the folks who elected her to office....
  • Clinton Poll Numbers Reinforce The Same Old Narrative

    Gallup released new polling data this morning showing that Hillary Clinton has higher favorability ratings (62%) than President Obama (56%). Like Obama, her numbers have declined since January, but in her case it is only by 3 percentage points. Since Gallup started tracking the former first lady in the early 1990s, the only other time Clinton's favorability ratings have been higher was in the middle of the Lewinsky scandal in December 1998, when she benefited from an outpouring of support over her husband's lewd misadventures. Her only marginal decline in polls this year can be perhaps be explained by her relative absence from the spotlight. While Obama has been on our TV screens approximately every 7.5 seconds since taking office—mostly talking about dramatic interventions that make Independents nervous, such as bailing out auto companies—Clinton's appearances before the cameras have been more sporadic. She hasn't yet been faced with unpopular choices or had to...
  • Why It's No Surprise Lindsey Graham Supports Climate-Change Legislation

    Lindsey Graham's actions on climate change in the last few days have set the greenosphere abuzz. First, he penned an op-ed, with John Kerry, where he committed to work with Democrats to pass a comprehensive climate-change bill. Then he got called a wussypants for his trouble (along with a lot of unwarranted and nasty things), and was yelled at by foamy-mouthed loons at a town-hall event in South Carolina. Environmentalists have heralded Graham's oped  as a game changer on the environment. They're probably right. Graham's advocacy of climate change legislation is a huge boost for the Boxer-Kerry bill (although he hasn't officially endorsed it). But it's not unexpected....
  • On Tort Reform, the Kiwis Have Some Good Ideas

    After the Senate Finance Committee vote on health-care reform today, I’m left wondering, again, why Senate Democrats continue to make life so hard for themselves by refusing to discuss one key compromise. I’m talking of course about medical-malpractice reform. It may not be the cure, but it certainly offers potential relief. Admittedly, medical malpractice doesn’t fall directly within the Senate Finance Committee’s jurisdiction, but surely there are other mechanisms for incorporating it into the discussion? And let’s not forget that senators are adept at making tricky arguments to invoke processes that move them toward their preferred legislative end. Would anyone really put up a serious fight if Senate Finance tried to consider it?The political case is pretty compelling. The president has already said he believes that defensive medicine prompted by fear of malpractice suits adds to the cost of health care. He very publicly supported forays into tort reform and committed funding to...
  • Snowe to Vote Yes; Bipartisanship Limps On

    Democrats on Capitol Hill just collectively exhaled, joyously. Maine Senator Olympia Snowe has told the Senate Finance Committee that she intends to vote yes on Max Baucus's health care reform bill today. All the committee's Democrats have also committed to voting aye, so the bill is well on its way to the Senate floor. Hopes of bipartisan support for a final bill are now slowly rekindling. Snowe's blessing opens the door for her Maine colleague, Susan Collins, to think twice about her vote, and it may even pull a couple of other moderate Republicans, a dwindling breed, along with her....
  • Weekly Obsession: Sore Feet, Retired Capezios

    This week in the weekly obsession: former House majority leader Tom DeLay shook his groove thing on Dancing With the Stars so much his feet failed him. As he hung up his Capezios, TV pundits everywhere mourned the loss. The Weekly Obsession is a new video series dissecting the issues that dominate our 24/7 news cycle, by our talented video-ess extraordinaire Sarah Frank.
  • The Best Nobel Prize Tweets

    Twitter has been buzzing about the president's Nobel prize this morning, and it's been enormously entertaining. Here's a sampling of our favorite tweets so far, a tweet-ology if you will. (Blogging about tweeting, alarmingly postmodern I know.) ...
  • Six People Ticked Off by Obama's Nobel Win

    Obama has won the presidency, a Grammy and now the Nobel Peace Prize. The only award he can’t get it seems, is an honorary degree from Arizona State University. His award today is clearly ruffling a few feathers. Here’s six people who must be seriously ticked off.1. Nicolas Sarkozy.   Obama’s French frenemy is already tired of living in the American’s shadow, both literally and figuratively. The diminutive president’s days of being the world’s most dashing leader—complete with notably fashionable wife—came to an abrupt end when Obama was elected. A few months later, he was busted trashing Obama as naive and inexperienced. This morning he expressed his “very great joy” for Obama. Holly informs me that is French for “drop dead.”2. Michelle Obama. Not only is her stinky, snore-y husband  president, but he’s now an internationally-honored Nobel Laureate. Keeping his ego in check must already be a daily struggle for the first lady. Imagine trying to get him to lift a finger ...
  • Nobel Prize No Cause for Celebration in the White House

    America awoke this morning to the stunning news that President Obama had won one of the world’s most coveted distinctions, the Nobel Peace Prize. According to the Nobel committee’s citation, it was awarded for “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples,” with particular emphasis on Obama’s “vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.” It’s a remarkable justification for the award, given he’s made so little progress in achieving either goal. After all, he’s not been president for even 10 months yet.While presumably honorees grandly celebrate these kinds of awards (that is, when they are not being persecuted by oppressive regimes or being detained in their houses), it’s likely that the White House is eyeing the award with caution. It comes at a time when the president is weighing a possible escalation of the eight-year war in Afghanistan. Is this the international community’s way of telling Obama to proceed with caut...
  • What the CBO Estimate Means for Health-Care Reform

    Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus might be cracking open the champagne tonight, now that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has released its preliminary analysis* of the health-care bill he slaved over for months. The numbers look good for Democrats. The CBO estimates that Baucus’s bill will actually reduce the deficit by $81 billion over 10 years, and will cost about $829 billion over that period. That’s  a deeper deficit reduction than previously anticipated, and the total falls well within the president’s parameters. Score one for Baucus, who probably needs an ego boost after being roundly trashed for his bipartisan efforts. The CBO expects the bill will extend coverage to an additional 29 million Americans, bringing the total proportion of Americans with health insurance to 94 percent, which is an impressive increase over the current 83 percent. As such, it also meets Obama’s other goal of significantly decreasing the number of uninsured Americans. By 2019, about 5...
  • GOPers Snicker Over Obama's Loss

    In the wake of the president's failed attempt to bring the Olympic Games to his hometown of Chicago, some conservatives are partying like they live in Rio. On his radio program today, Rush Limbaugh was positively gleeful, declaring this the worst day of Obama's presidency. "Obama demeaned the office of the president going on this sales pitch," Limbaugh said. He told listeners Obama had been "bitch-slapped" upside his head. "He doesn't understand how delighted the world is to make him look...
  • Losing the Olympics Bid Is Good for Obama

    Chicago has been eliminated in the first round of IOC voting. Wow—I did not see that coming. The way I figured it, this White House is far too protective of the president’s strategically crafted image to allow him to travel thousands of miles only to fail on the world stage. I thought it was a done deal—who's better at vote-counting than the Obama people? I would have bet money that Rahm and Axelrod knew they had the numbers in the bag before they let him step on Air Force One. I was so very wrong. Not only did they fail, they failed in the first round! It's a bad look for the president, especially coming on the heels of this morning’s depressing unemployment figures.     This is pretty embarrassing for the White House. (Especially letting Obama having to fail in front of his wife—ouch!) But ultimately, it’s a good thing for him. As I wrote on Monday, the Olympics are notorious for running massively over budget. The organizing committees are always rife with infighting and...
  • This Week in Political Sex Scandals

    Will the excitement ever stop? Two of this year's juiciest political sex scandals are becoming full-blown ethics scandals for the GOP. This evening we learned, via The New York Times, that disgraced Sen. used his influence to get a job for the husband of the woman he was sleeping with. That man, as we know, was one of Ensign's staffers, Douglas Hampton. After reaching out to numerous friends and contacts, Ensign lined up a political-consulting gig for Hampton and then organized for his donors to become Hampton's clients. The Times reports than Ensign and his staff then "repeatedly intervened" with federal agencies on behalf of Hampton's clients. The Gray Lady presents a detailed and damning examination of Ensign's wheeling and dealing to keep his former staffer content, and his affair a secret. It will be interesting to see how this plays in Nevada. GOPers are madly hoping that they'll be able to knock Harry Reid off in the 2010 elections,...
  • Tim Pawlenty Joins the 2012 Fray

    Looks like Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty has finally bitten the bullet and has submitted papers to register a PAC—usually the first step in any presidential bid—thus ending the most predictable speculation in the 2012 race so far. Pawlenty will call his PAC Freedom First, continuing the GOP trend of corny freedom-themed PAC names. (Mitt Romney's is called Free and Strong America.) Over at Politico, J-Mart reports that Pawlenty has been quietly collecting high-profile campaign staff and supporters, including Vin Weber to co-chair his campaign. Weber, a former Minnesota congressman and a prominent GOP player, threw his weight behind Romney in 2008. Pawlenty has wrapped up a few other big names from the 2008 cycle, including RNC communications director Alex Conant and McCain campaign manager Terry Nelson, who will be big assets to his bid.While anything could happen between now and the 2012 primaries (remember when Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani were the presumptive 2008 nominees...
  • Abstinence-Only Education Is Back

    After weeks of railing against the price tag of health-care reform, Senate Republicans managed to bond over pumping up the budget for one aspect of health-care reform yesterday: abstinence-only education. Proposed by Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, the amendment reinstates $50 million in funding for abstinence-only education that President Obama had previously removed in his budget proposal earlier this year. Committee Republicans were joined by Democrats Blanche Lincoln and Kent Conrad in voting up the measure, which passed 12-11....
  • Dems Vote Down Public Option Twice

    Five Senate Democrats sounded the death knell for Jay Rockefeller's public-option amendment in the Finance Committee today. Rockefeller's amendment was voted down 15-8. Joining all the GOP members in voting against the amendment were committee chairman Max Baucus (Montana), Blanche Lincoln (Arkansas), Bill Nelson (Florida), Kent...
  • The Odd History of the American Filibuster

    Over at The Washington Post this morning, Ezra Klein offered some thoughts on a recent Monkey Cage post by Gregory Koger, a congressional expert at the University of Miami, regarding the importance of the filibuster. In light of Senate's convoluted health-care-reform discussions, the filibuster an interesting topic to ponder. As someone who grew up outside of America,I've always considered the 60-vote filibuster-ending (cloture) rule a puzzling quirk of the U.S. system. I've been further perplexed by the attachment that Americans appear have to this arcane procedure. In discussions with friends, they often confidently assert that the cloture system is an integral component of the Founding Fathers' vision for the legislature. Really? They imagined minority-party obstructionism and governing by filibuster? (The word "filibuster" actually wasn't even used until the 1850s.) While I fully appreciate the role of the Senate as the "cooling saucer...
  • Chicago's Olympic Bid: Both a Blessing and a Burden

    The White House announced today that President Obama was dispatching the nation's most powerful messenger to make the final pitch for Chicago's 2016 Olympics bid: himself. He'll be joining a star-studded bid team; the White House had previously advised that the first lady and senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, another Chicago native, would be heading up the charge. The first couple will each make a presentation about why Chicago is best placed to host the celebrated games and to "celebrate the ideals of the Olympic movement," according to the White House press release....
  • Climate Change: It's All in the Messaging

    I have a story out today about the arduous battle that Barbara Boxer and John Kerry will face when they drop their climate-change bill in the Senate, which is likely to be any day now. The short version is that the politics are very complex and negotiations are likely to be drawn out. We probably won't see a vote on it this year. One political aspect I didn't discuss in the piece is public opinion, mostly because that's a whole different can of worms. Perhaps unsurprisingly, what the public thinks about climate-change legislation like the Waxman-Markey bill depends almost entirely on messaging. Two recent polls show how disparate the responses can be. ...