Stories by Katie Connolly

  • 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. ...
  • Clinton Wanted to Mail His Ear to NEWSWEEK? Huh?

    Since Susan Page's exclusive preview of Taylor Branch's upcoming book about Bill Clinton appeared on the front page of on Monday, we've been treated to all sorts of juicy tales from the Clinton years. Courtesy of a series of recorded interviews Branch conducted with Clinton, we've heard about drunken Boris Yeltsin trying to hail a cab in his underwear on Pennsylvania Avenue and Clinton's tiffs with Al Gore after the VP lost the 2000 election. But none of these stories grabbed our attention more than this one, which we learned about from David Corn at :Clinton insisted to Gore that he hadn't cared about how Gore had...
  • Sarah Palin 2.0

    Sarah Palin 2.0 was unveiled last night at a speech to Asian bankers and investors in Hong Kong. The event was closed to the media, which is perhaps unsurprising. She's made no secret of her disdain for the press, and if she's testing out new ideas, she won't want them mercilessly picked apart by a news media that is admittedly prone to criticizing her. But, of course, audio from the speech has emerged, so we have a pretty good idea of what she said. She covered a range of topics including the financial meltdown─"We got into this mess because of government interference in the first place ... We're not interested in government fixes, we're interested in freedom"─and the rise of China, which she said "rightfully makes a lot of people nervous." She also spoke extensively about cultural and economic links between Alaska and the Pacific Rim and about the need for a rebirth of the GOP. There was no mention of death panels or lies about her....
  • The Post-Speech Polls: Where Obama Is At

    It's no secret that August was a bad month for the President. Health care reform stalled, his approval ratings slid and the faces of angry voters castigating their representatives were plastered all over the media. So has September treated him any better? Judging by a series of polls conducted since the President's speech to Congress, things are looking up a little for the president, but the evidence is far from overwhelming....
  • Public Option Revived by a Republican. No, Really.

    Liberals were disappointed when Max Baucus's long awaited health-care bill was unveiled last week without a public option. Baucus had instead included not-for-profit co-ops as his preferred mechanism for providing affordable coverage to the uninsured. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) gave voice to the general feeling on the Congressional left when he pronounced the Baucus plan "dead on arrival," largely because of it's lack of a public plan. But now amendments to the Finance chair's bill are flooding in (there's over 560 of them), and Maine Republican Olympia Snowe is offering some relatively progressive revisions, including reviving the notion of a public plan. Snowe would have a public plan enacted via a "trigger," that is, if insurance companies in any particular state fail to provide uninsured residents with an affordable plan, then that would "trigger" the creation of a public plan in that state. This way, insurance companies are...
  • Bipartisanship Ain't What It Used to Be

    Kevin Drum, over at Mother Jones magazine, made a compelling case earlier this week for the merits of true bipartisanship. He writes:...
  • Weekly Obsession: Outbursts and Apologies

    Edmund Burke famously once said that manners were more important than laws: "Manners are what vex or soothe, corrupt or purify, exalt or debase, barbarize or refine us, by a constant, steady, uniform, insensible operation, like that of the air we breathe in". This week will likely be remembered as the week America forgot its manners. From Wilson to Kanye, incivility has been rife. Our talented video team has put together an homage to those who just couldn't keep their mouths shut in a new feature, Weekly Obsession. Enjoy.
  • What You Need to Know About the Baucus Proposal

    Sen. Max Baucus's health-care reform proposal, released yesterday, will likely dominate the reform conversation for the next few days. At 220 pages, the chairman's mark, as it is called, is an easier read than H.R. 3200, the House bill. Still, it's a lot to get through. So I've put together this cheat sheet:1.    Illegal immigrants: Baucus vowed to reexamine this issue following Rep. Joe Wilson's outburst last week. His bill goes further than the House's, which explicitly prohibits government subsidies for undocumented workers. Baucuscare will require a citizenship check for individuals wanting to purchase insurance through a health-insurance exchange, although parents in the country illegally who wish to buy insurance for lawfully present children will be permitted to do so. For more on the issue of illegals and insurance─and how denying them access will probably end up costing you more money─read Andrew Romano's insightful analysis.2.    Co-ops:...
  • About Those Czars...

    Anyone who watches cable news surely knows that conservatives are getting themselves all hot and bothered over the Obama administration's appointment of so-called czars. Today, the Democratic National Committee is going nuts in response. I've got more e-mails from them about this today than I care to count. This whole debate is descending into complete partisan hackery: GOP operatives are fanning ridiculous fears while Democrats are proffering inflated claims to counter them. That said, a lot of people do appear concerned by the existence of "czars," so I think the issue merits a quick discussion. Of course, the points I'm about to list come with the caveat that a lack of accountability for public officials should always be of concern in a democracy. But these czars aren't beyond the bounds of reproach, nor are they entirely apart from the democratic process—they're accountable to the White House, which of course is elected. Some of them even...
  • SCOTUS Watch: More on Justice Stevens Retiring

    Earlier today, NEWSWEEK's Howard Fineman reported that Justice John Paul Stevens has not appointed a full contingent of clerks for next year, prompting his prediction that the longest-serving current Supreme Court justice (and the oldest) will retire next spring. This afternoon Fineman learned that two days ago, Justice Stevens sent an unusual e-mail to all his former Supreme Court clerks─several dozen lawyers, dating back to his early days on the court─inviting them to attend a reunion in D.C. next May. Stevens has never been the socialite of the court. He doesn't share some of his colleagues' penchant for ceremony, nor does he care much for reunions, so the e-mail invite struck many as conspicuously out of character. One clerk told Fineman that many of the clerks have concluded among themselves that Stevens will announce his retirement at next May's reunion. I'm not much of a gambler, but based on this latest tidbit, I wouldn't be betting against...
  • Senate Dems' Game Plan on Health Care

    Ben Smith at Politico has got his paws on an interesting memo from David Binder, one of the guys who ran President Obama's polling and focus groups for his campaign. Binder conducted focus groups in Arizona to gauge voter reaction to Obama's address to Congress Wednesday night. Here's what Binder found:The most strongly rated passages of the President's speech (with...
  • Reform or Not, Health Care Is Changing

    NEWSWEEK's economics guru Daniel Gross has a fascinating column out today about whether, health-care reform notwithstanding, we are entering an era in which only a minority of Americans have access to employer-based coverage. Gross uses census data to make his point. Here are the important stats:...
  • Tort Reform: Obama's Silver Bullet

    In last night's speech to the joint session of Congress, the president was pretty tough on his opponents, pounding them on "scare tactics" and accusing them of trying to score short-term political points at the expense of the nation's well-being. But he held out one glimmer of hope to Republicans: medical-liability, or tort, reform. "I don't believe malpractice reform is a silver bullet, but I've talked to enough doctors to know that defensive medicine may be contributing to unnecessary costs," the president said, prompting enthusiastic applause from the GOP. He unveiled a plan to pursue "demonstration projects" in various states that would explore several options for reducing defensive medicine practices while ensuring patient safety. Obama has directed Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius to commence work on the projects immediately.Tort reform has long been a pet issue for Republicans, and it's broadly...
  • Grading the Health-Care Speech

    It's been more than six months since I last sat in the chamber of the House of Representatives to watch President Obama address a joint session of Congress. In some ways it felt very similar. Obama still got a rock-star reception when he entered the room. Hillary Clinton was again greeted warmly, like an old friend, by her former Senate colleagues. John McCain and Lindsey Graham sat together, chattering to each other at every opportunity, reluctantly joining the standing ovations at a few choice points. Anthony Weiner couldn't stop checking his BlackBerry. Nancy Pelosi popped up so promptly and often that she appeared animatronic. In between, she surveyed the room with her cool, critical eye. Not everything felt the same, though. For starters, Al Franken was on the floor. And this time, John McCain got props for a health-care proposal and gave the president a big grin and a thumbs-up. In a marked departure from his February speech, Obama got heckled and, at one point,...
  • Musical Chairs in the Senate Present Worries for Enviros

    Last night The Washington Post reported Sen. Chris Dodd's decision to decline the chairmanship of the powerful Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee (HELP), previously chaired by Ted Kennedy. Dodd wants to stay put as chair of the Senate banking committee so he can have a strong hand in developing a robust new regulatory framework for the finance sector. As a result, the HELP chairmanship will likely fall to Iowa's Tom Harkin. The committee is a natural fit for the reliably liberal Harkin, who is best known for championing disabilities legislation.  To take up the new position, Harkin will vacate his seat at the head of the agriculture committee, opening it up for Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln, thus striking fear into the hearts of environmentalists. Why? Lincoln is a cautious moderate from a relatively conservative state. She's been a holdout on health-care reform and flatly opposes a public option. "For some in my caucus, when they talk about a...