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  • Quote of the Day: Kay Bailey Hutchison

    "I have had a wonderful last week of campaigning. So many people have said, I voted for you, I want you there. We need leadership in Austin. Most certainly, people think 14 years are too long for Governor Perry, and it's time for a change ... I think there's just time for politicians to realize that people want real people." —Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, who is expected to lose her Republican primary challenge to incumbent Gov. Rick Perry today.
  • 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...
  • The Tupperware Effect: Can Direct Sales Help Women Living in Poverty Throughout the World?

    While direct sales presents a potential career path for Americans looking for work, most of the growth for companies like Tupperware and Avon is happening abroad—specifically, in emerging markets like Africa and Indonesia. The presence of these companies in poor nations have provided a much-needed chance for women to gain economic independence. It's been a successful partnership on both sides, and the impact of these companies is starting to attract attention. Rick Goings, the CEO of Tupperware, recently returning from the World Economic Forum at Davos, where “more and more people are starting to talk about our kind of business,” he says. “Even in Davos, they’re talking about the Tupperware effect.”What is the Tupperware effect? It’s when direct-sales companies go into developing markets and, in the course of building their business, build up the opportunities for the women that work with them. “We will provide her microfinancing, we will train her, we will provide her with a coach...
  • Let's Talk About the 1995 NEWSWEEK Piece That Says the Internet Will Fail

    What's the most wrong you've ever been?I mean really wrong. Not, like, getting-the-capital-of-Illinois wrong. Not predicting-the-Mets-to-win-the-World-Series wrong. I am talking wrong wrong, a realm of inaccuracy known not even by Columbus (when he thought he'd reached the Indies) or the guys who thought New Coke was a good idea.What I'm saying is that there's wrong ... and then there’s Clifford Stoll’s NEWSWEEK essay about the Internet from 1995. Let's get this over with. Here is a list of things Stoll calls "baloney" on—each and every one of which has a thriving utility in 2010:telecommutinginteractive librariesmultimedia classroomselectronic town meetingsvirtual communitiestaking a computer to the beachgetting books and newspapers onlinee-commerce, online shopping, and e-paymentsbooking airline tickets and restaurant reservationscybersexStoll also complains at length that it is nigh on impossible to use this Internet contraption to find the...
  • Asia Still Set for Robust Growth

    As the global financial downturn drags on, some investors have started to question the pre-recession storyline of robust BRIC growth. Analysts like Morgan Stanley's Ruchir Sharma are predicting that inflation will throw cold water on emerging-market recoveries; others, such as emerging-market fund manager Mark Mobius, claim that cracks within the BRICs will soon develop. Mobius recently declared, for instance, that Brazil's economy will be "more sustainable" than China's because of resource self-sufficiency.But a new study from Capital Economics suggests that, despite these hurdles, it's still going to be an Asian century. While the U.S. and Europe are expected to slog through a meager 3 percent and 1.5 percent GDP growth this year, respectively, emerging Asia's GDP is set to surge 8 percent on average in 2010 and 6 percent in 2011. Not surprisingly, the rebound will be led by China--slated to grow 10 percent in 2010--followed closely by India (8.5...
  • Wait, What? Obama Still Smokes?!

    The First Physical came and went Sunday, handing down a clean bill of health for President Obama—but we've been loving the feverish reaction to doc Jeff Kuhlman's note about "smoking cessation efforts." The New York Daily News wonders how much the president is still smoking, while CBS calls him "Smoker In Chief"; The Christian Science Monitor helpfully suggests to the president that instead of Nicorette he try "not inserting a cigarette into [his] mouth." Politico went with reporterly deadpan: "The president is chewing nicotine gum, according to White House press secretary Robert Gibbs." But Huff Po's Andy Borowitz wins the Headline Award: OBAMA TO GOP: I WILL QUIT SMOKING IF YOU WILL QUIT BEING DICKS.
  • Why the EPA Struggles With Water Regulation

    State and federal debates over which rivers and lakes should be regulated have left some bodies of water full of pollution, and with little hope of a mandate to clean them anytime soon. The starkest diagnosis of the breakdown of water regulation comes from EPA lawyer Douglas Mundrick. “We are, in essence, shutting down our Clean Water programs in some states,” he told the Times. The main snag is big industry, which has argued—successfully—that it should be exempt from any cuts, so long as it dumps pollution into small waterways and not big ones, which the act covers.Yet the entire debate over jurisdiction in water regulation hopelessly ignores one of the inherent qualities of water on Earth: that it works in a cycle. When lawmakers argue that only "navigable" waterways—a fancy way of saying major ones and not the small ones that trickle through rural communities—should be regulated, they’re neglecting to note where that “navigable” water comes from (usually smaller streams...
  • Congress Cuts Medicare Payouts; Medicare Says 'Oh, No You Don't'

    Let's say an order comes down from the CEO of your company ordering that your salary be drastically cut. You tell your boss you'll have to quit because you can't survive on your meager new paycheck. Your boss says he thinks the pay cut is an atrocity and vows to fight it, but he has done nothing by the time your last full-size check gets written. You're starting to pack up your family photos when suddenly, a miracle: a guy from payroll swoops into your boss's office. "Sir," he says, "don't you want to reconsider this?" Your boss looks thoughtful. "Yeah," he says, "give me 10 more days."...
  • Spain's Budget Woes Won't Break up EU

    Europe's public debt crisis has lead to clamorous predictions of the euro zone's imminent breakup. With Greece already threatened by government default, last week attention shifted to Spain, a much larger economy stuck in a downward spiral of 20 percent unemployment, ongoing recession, and a public deficit that's soared past 11 percent of GDP. With richer euro-zone members like Germany balking at a bailout, some analysts argue the only way for these countries to save themselves is by exiting the euro zone and reintroducing their own currencies.But were an ailing country to leave, it would find itself in the mother of all financial crises as its new currency plummeted on world markets. Furthermore, expulsion by other members is prohibited by Europe's new Lisbon Treaty. And the history of currency unions shows that they aren't held together (or dissolved) on economic grounds but on political ones. It took the U.S. more than a century and many crises to install...
  • More on What Haiti and Chile (Don't) Have in Common

    On Saturday I pointed out that the Chilean quake would likely claim far fewer lives than the one that struck Haiti in early January, and offered some of the reasons for that (better building codes, a more earthquake-cognizant country, etc.). I want to add a few important technical points to that list.First, although the Chilean quake was significantly stronger than the Haitian one, it also occurred 22 miles below the earth's surface—twice as deep as the Haitian quake. That means there was twice as much earth to absorb the shock before it reached building foundations. It’s also worth pointing out that the epicenter of Saturday’s quake was about 70 miles from the nearest big city (Concepción), compared with 10 miles between city and epicenter in the Haitian quake. On top of that, Concepción has less than half the population of Port-au-Prince (900,000 versus 2 million).Even so, the Chilean quake and its aftermath are proof positive that, as many experts have been saying since the...
  • 'The District': Obama Gets Tough

    The ace NEWSWEEK video team is back with another exclusive installment of The District, the mock reality series chronicling what's going down, and who's talking smack, in Washington. In this episode, the president heads up to the Jersey Shore for some tips on how to get tough with Congress. Then he pulls out the big guns at his bipartisan health-care summit. Fist-pounds abound.
  • HIV Still Plagues the U.S.: Some Areas Have Higher Rates Than Africa

     By Jaime Cunningham In December, NEWSWEEK argued that new signs of life were showing in the AIDS activism movement. Let's hope so. Recent research published in The New England Journal of Medicine shows that within certain populations in America, the prevalence of HIV-infected people is higher than in certain parts of Africa:More than 1 in 30 adults in Washington, D.C., are HIV-infected—a prevalence higher than that reported in Ethiopia, Nigeria, or Rwanda. Certain U.S. subpopulations are particularly hard hit. In New York City, 1 in 40 blacks, 1 in 10 men who have sex with men, and 1 in 8 injection-drug users are HIV-infected, as are 1 in 16 black men in Washington, D.C. In several U.S. urban areas, the HIV prevalence among men who have sex with men is as high as 30%—as compared with a general-population prevalence of 7.8% in Kenya and 16.9% in South Africa.What’s interesting is that the research shows that a person’s sexual network, more than just his or her lifestyle choices...
  • News Alert: Dems Vying for Florida Senate Seat, Too

     With all the fixation on the Republican primary contest for Florida's open Senate seat, it's easy to forget that there are actually Democrats running, too. U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, the frontrunner, has been struggling mightily to break into the news cycle. One recent gambit involved his sponsoring a stock car in a NASCAR race in Daytona Beach, but that earned him only a smattering of local coverage. Today, though, The New York Times's Damien Cave came out with a piece that finally offers him some national exposure, yet makes clear the uphill battle Meek faces. "Kendrick's got it right—let [the Republicans] fight it out," a hopeful Buddy MacKay, a former Democratic lieutenant governor, told Cave. "You don't want your campaign peaking too early." The question, however, is whether Meek will ever peak....
  • 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:...
  • Newsverse: Ode to a Hummer

    By Jerry Adler  "General Motors said on Wednesday that it would shut down Hummer, the brand of big sport utility vehicles that became synonymous with the term gas guzzler, after a deal to sell it to a Chinese manufacturer fell apart." —The New York Times, Feb. 25, 2010
  • Best of NurtureShock / Research Blogging Awards Nominee

    If you are new to our work, there is a list of some of our favorite posts on this page (in the lower right column), and we can't resist sharing some others that we'd love you to take a look at – posts you might have missed along the way.
  • The House Puts Off the Medicare Pay Cut—Again

    OK, maybe the health-care summit was "a gabfest . . . with no tangible results," but Congress did do something concrete about health care yesterday: it started the process of blocking the pending 21.2 percent Medicare pay cut to doctors. Unsurprisingly, it did so by doing what it's done every single year that the pay cut has come up: it asked for more time. Last night the House gave the cut, along with several other expiring Medicare and health-related policies, a 30-day reprieve....
  • The Summit Spin: How the NYT Front Page Gets It Wrong and What Dems Do Next

    I was pretty surprised to see this New York Times front page land at my doorstep this morning. Not only did it survive a massive blizzard to make its way to Queens, but the lead photograph and accompanying headline just did not fit with the health-care-summit that I watched yesterday. First, and foremost, that picture: Joe and Barack looking so darn dismal. Granted, they did have to sit through an incredibly dull seven-hour meeting, but in general I thought Obama came across pretty well, while Biden was hardly a key player. Obama was concise, clear, and compelling. “What Obama did do was paint himself—for anyone who was watching—as someone genuinely interested in compromise and genuinely interested in engaging with his Republican colleagues,” Chris Cillizza writes over at the Daily Fix. The Daily Beast identifies Obama as “the best Democrat on display.” A photograph that would better represent the summit would be one of Obama engaging with a Republican, perhaps Lamar Alexander or...
  • Dialing Into the Future, From My Wrist

      Cell phones keep getting smaller and smaller—and now they're starting to disappear altogether, as the workings of a mobile phone can be contained in the guts of a wristwatch. For the past week I've been using the W Phonewatch made by Kempler & Strauss. The device is basically a slightly oversize wristwatch with a touchscreen face. You type out numbers on a tiny keypad, and use either a Bluetooth device (your own, or one that comes with the W phone) or the built-in speaker and microphone in the watch itself. To be sure, the W is far from perfect. It's tough pecking out numbers on that tiny keypad. Call quality isn't great. The menu system leaves a lot to be desired. In short, the W Phonewatch definitely won't replace your primary cell phone. But it costs only $200 and makes you feel like you've time-traveled into a futuristic sci-fi movie. Or time-traveled backward and you're Dick Tracy. Either way, it's very cool, a great conversation ...
  • The Link Between Engineers and Jihad

    By Benjamin Sutherland Intelligence agencies tasked with profiling the terrorist mind, and figuring out where future extremists might be found, have begun focusing on a surprising target: science students. As it turns out, many recruits in extremist groups such as Al Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hizbullah, and Hamas have backgrounds in medicine, engineering, and other hard sciences. In one study by Oxford sociologists -Diego Gambetta and Steffen Hertog, who will be publishing a book on the subject next year, out of 178 terrorists with higher education, almost half studied math or science. And the phenomenon is not limited to Islamists--strong links to science and engineering studies have been found among neo-Nazis, too, and engineers disproportionately supported Hitler and Mussolini during World War II....
  • Christopher Hill on the Iraqi Election

    On March 7, Iraqis head to the polls for the second time since the U.S. invasion in 2003. The last elections, in 2005, did not go smoothly: Sunnis boycotted and sectarian violence erupted a year later. Now there are echoes of similar problems stirring with a controversial de-Baathification push that eliminated several candidates. Critics say it was a deliberate attempt to knock out Sunni political opponents. Gen. Ray Odierno, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, blamed Iran. One person trying to keep the peace in this high-stakes political game is U.S. Ambassador Christopher Hill. He met with NEWSWEEK's Babak Dehghanpisheh at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad: ...
  • Feedback: How bin Laden Lost

    It is not until the religionists in power recognize where radicalism is taking them that the tide will turn.Tom Deshazo, Lincoln, Neb.The Saudi and Indonesian governments' efforts to tackle terrorism are commendable. Nevertheless, we cannot conclude that the war against extremists has ended and we are victorious. The improvements in regional security, especially in the Middle East, are just small steps toward global peace and stability. But let us not forget that there are still sporadic terror attacks across the world, and that each one brings more casualties. We should not count our chickens before they are hatched.Victor Looi Yi En, SingaporeYou are in an optimistic mood again. The reason the jihadists appear to be contained in the Middle East could be the mighty high-tech forces of the U.S. and its superior intelligence, not so much the efforts of moderates. But what happens when the U.S. withdraws its troops completely?Titan Monn, Bangkok, Thailand ...
  • Why This Health-Care Summit Won't Be a Game Changer

    Perhaps the most illuminating part of the health-care-reform summit wasn’t what happened at the Blair House, but what happened right afterward. Just moments after the summit ended, the Democratic leadership did a quick presser outside the White House where Sen. Harry Reid criticized Republicans for sticking to their talking points. A little while later the Republican leaders spoke from the same spot and went ahead and did just that. “Frankly, I was discouraged by the outcome,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said, later adding, “I do not believe there will be any Republican support for this 2,700-page bill.” Listening to callers to C-Span right after that, you heard pretty similar opinions among voters. No one seemed to be swayed. Depending on which party they identified with, this was either a case of the Democrats courageously moving forward or ramming unpopular legislation down the country's collective throat.Perhaps the one thing everyone could agree on was a phrase...
  • Quote of the Day: Rep. Louise Slaughter

    "I even had one constituent—you will not believe this, and I know you won't, but it's true—her sister died. This poor woman had no dentures—she wore her dead sister's teeth, which of course were uncomfortable, did not fit. Did you ever believe that in America that that's where we would be? This is the last chance as far as I'm concerned, particularly on the export business. We have fallen behind, we're no longer the biggest manufacturer in the world, we've lost our technological edge. We have an opportunity to do that, but a major part of the success of that is getting this health care passed." --Rep. Louise Slaughter of New York, speaking at this afternoon's health-care summit.
  • Today In Untrue News (Health-Care-Summit Edition!): Democrats Aren't Talking About Reconciliation

    A six-hour summit offered a plethora of opportunity for things to be made up and our politicians did not disappoint (see Politifact’s jam-packed Twitter feed for more). But there was one particularly bizarre untrue claim made today by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. He set the bar high when, in his opening statement, he claimed that “no one has talked about reconciliation.” Which is weird, since, a lot of people—people who are Democratic senators, no less—have talked about it. Like Chuck Schumer, who signed on to a letter urging for a public option via reconciliation. In an e-mail to his supporters last week, he specified “I just added my name to their effort to pass a public option through the reconciliation process, and I wanted you to be the first to know.” It’s not just Schumer—that letter, at last count, has 24 senators on board. A quick clip search shows that way back in August—eons ago health-care reform—Kent Conrad was already talking about reconciliation to The New York...
  • David Paterson: America's Sleaziest Governor?

    The New York Times dropped a bombshell today that has not only turned Albany upside down, but leaves New York Gov. David Paterson in a tight spot. According to the piece, state officials are now investigating whether Paterson acted improperly in the handling of a domestic-violence incident involving one of his top aides. The aide, David Johnson, had already come under fire earlier this month when the Times suggested that his rise to the top of the governor’s staff may have been influenced more by friendship than merit, but this whacks the ball a whole lot further, putting Paterson on the spot for some explanation. (The governor hasn’t denied any of the claims, saying he’ll wait for state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to launch an inquiry.) But even before he talks, this latest development lands Paterson high in the running for the sought-after title of being America’s sleaziest governor.He's got some competition. First there's former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich,...
  • McCain vs. Obama: The Panel Renders Its Scores

    The most exciting moment in the otherwise rather dull health-care summit today (so far!) has been a somewhat contentious exchange between President Obama and Sen. John McCain. After McCain called for reform to start again from scratch, Obama snapped back: "Let me just make this point, John, because we're not campaigning anymore. The election's over." McCain, with a clipped laugh and tight smile, responded, "I'm reminded of that every day," as Obama continued, "We can spend the remainder of the time with our respective talking points going back and forth. We were supposed to be talking about insurance." (The video is here.)...
  • What the Obama-McCain Rematch Really Means

     The one small firework at today's otherwise unilluminating health-care summit was set off when Barack Obama interrupted his former presidential rival, John McCain, and told him to ditch the talking points about "unsavory" Democratic shenanigans. "John, we're not campaigning anymore," he said. "The election is over."For those of us who enjoy political theater—and I'm assuming that includes everyone who's watching the live stream and reading the Gaggle at 2:30 on a Thursday afternoon—this was a nice little moment of drama. But Obama was wrong. The election is not over. In Washington, it never is.Which brings me to the question I've been asking myself ever since this summit started four long, dull hours ago: Who are they doing this for? Who's the intended audience? I can identify two. For most of the 25 politicians at the table—like, say, John McCain—it's clearly "the folks back home": i.e., the constituents...
  • Going Nuclear . . . or Not

    So much for the nuclear renaissance President Obama's energy plan was supposed to usher in. The Vermont Senate just voted yesterday, 26–4, to shut down the state's only nuclear-power plant by 2012. If the Vermont House of Representatives backs it up, it will be the first time in 20 years that a reactor has been closed by a state legislature. ...
  • The Halftime Analysis: Health-Care-Summit Substantive, Really Boring

    As we move into hour three of the health-care-reform summit, Democrats and Republicans have, unsurprisingly, come no closer to an agreement on health-care reform. But we do have one consensus growing: this summit is pretty darn boring. “Admit it...your interest is waning…” the Washington Post’s Chris Cizilla tweeted about an hour ago (he’s since announced he may quit tweeting altogether after lunch). Matt Yglesias has suggested switching to a live feed of Bo. If reporters who obsess over health-care reform can barely stand to watch this debate, I cannot imagine many Americans are rapt with interest. Why? The health-care summit is pretty much the same wonky, partisan debate that many of us watched for 229 hours on the Senate floor. It’s a summit about CBO estimates, high-risk insurance pools, and the individual mandate. Some of the discussions are substantively useful (like the lengthy debate over whether high-risk pools are tenable in the long term); some not so much (Obama and...
  • A Response to Andrew Sullivan's Question About NEWSWEEK's 'Terrorist' Taxonomy Debate

    Our e-mail conversation on why the media have been reluctant to label Joseph Stack a terrorist has generated a lot of critical discussion among prominent political bloggers. Apparently, some of the criticism stems from a misunderstanding of the fact that we were discussing the media's aversion, not our own, to labeling Stack a terrorist, and that when we laid out the logic of the media we were ironically mocking it, not endorsing it. ...
  • Health Care Summit Seating Chart

    For those of you watching on TV and unsure of who's addressing who, here's a handy seating chart, compliments of the White House.   
  • A Killer Deal for Russia

    Russia's campaign to balance U.S. power and prestige around the globe has found a new and willing partner--Latin -America--and Washington may be the unwitting facilitator. A new report by the International Institute for Strategic Studies claims that since the mid-2000s Latin America has become the hottest market for Russian arms. Moscow is cutting deals across the region, selling the latest hardware, from rifles to fighter jets, in exchange for influence and access to the area's plentiful oil and gas reserves. The Russians have recently made deals worth $5.8 billion with various Latin countries....
  • Health-Care Summit Starts With Discussion of Facts, Not Policy

    It used to be a bumper sticker, but lately the phrase “You’re entitled to your opinion but not your own facts” has become a mantra for partisans on health care, especially among Democrats accusing conservatives of twisting facts to support their priorities. President Obama started this morning’s health-care summit emphasizing that he wanted to put everything on the table, and discuss good ideas. But not even 40 minutes into the discussion, Democrats lobbed their first challenge. As GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander criticized the proposal the White House put online on Monday, Reid retorted, on script, when it was his turn. "Lamar, you're entitled to your own opinion, not your own facts."Indeed, in the first hour, Republicans, especially Alexander, have been on the defensive about where to start the discussion. During another statement, Alexander noted that the CBO’s latest numbers supported his and the Republicans’ notion that the costs are too simply high, and that Obama’s...
  • Why Medicare's 'Sustainable Growth Rate' Isn't

    It's pretty clear that today's health-care summit is going to revolve around the big, obvious issues: how to increase the number of people with insurance, how to tamp down costs. But I'm hoping another, more immediately pressing issue will also be on the table: an enormous cut in Medicare payments to doctors that's scheduled to go into effect on Monday. Congress has been stalling on this issue for years, deferring the cut whenever it comes time to make it. It now has three options: defer the cut again, decide to never make it, or do nothing and watch as the cut gets made—in which case there are going to be a lot of angry doctors and, once those docs start refusing to see Medicare patients, a lot of angry seniors as well....
  • The Summit Matchup That Wasn't

    In response tomy item on what will happen if Republican House Leader John Boehner's request that Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) be invited to the White House health-care summit, Stupak's spokesperson e-mailed to point out that Stupak has not actually been invited to attend the summit and is not planning to attend. Stupak gave us the following statement: “I had no prior knowledge of either the content of Mr. Boehner’s letter or his intentions to reach out to President Obama regarding tomorrow’s health care summit. His office informed me of his letter only after it had been sent to the President and released publicly. I am far more concerned with making real progress toward enacting comprehensive health care reform than with who received an invitation to tomorrow’s health care summit.” 
  • Stupak vs. Slaughter: A Summit Matchup to Watch

     In what looks to be the last addition to the tomorrow's summit guest list, Minority Leader John Boehner has requested that Rep. Bart Stupak of Michigan receive an invitation, citing his work on the "critical issue of life" and thus bringing a hugely contentious issue into an already contentious conference. Here’s a snippet from Boehner's letter to the White House: During the House floor debate on H.R. 3200, I individually questioned each of the Democratic committee chairmen with jurisdiction on health care issues to seek their assurances that the will of the House, as reflected by the support of a bipartisan majority for the Stupak amendment, would be preserved when a final health care bill is crafted by the Democratic majority in Washington. None committed to working to ensure that the House position is preserved in a final health care bill. These same majority committee chairmen will be representing the House in the February 25 summit....I write today to...
  • Quote of the Day: Rep. Anthony Weiner

    "The Republican Party is a wholly owned subsidiary of the insurance industry." —Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) during a House vote to repeal the antitrust exemption currently granted to health-insurance companies.
  • Republicans and Reconciliation Go Way Back, Too

    Earlier this afternoon, my Gaggle colleague Katie Connolly noted, quite correctly, that ""has never been used for this kind of major systemic reform." But to get a sense of exactly how much McConnell is overreacting, it's important to consider two other facts as well. First, reconciliation has not only been used to pass major health-care initiatives; it's actually been used to pass major initiatives of all sorts, including the Republicans' favorite "major systemic reform" of the last 20 years: the 1996 welfare-reform bill. And, second, it hasn't even been Democrats using reconciliation most of the time. It's been Republicans. Over at Slate (which, like NEWSWEEK, is owned by The Washington Post Company), Timothy Noah has a useful rundown of some of the biggest bills to pass through reconciliation in recent years. Take it away, Tim: Reconciliation has been used to raise taxes. It's been used to cuttaxes. It was used (by a...
  • Bernanke Predicts Clear Skies Ahead to Congress

    The most interesting part of Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke’s Congressional testimony today was his confidence that the economic recovery would continue. Some observers have expressed fears that the economy would falter as the effects of the Obama Administration’s “stimulus” program diminished and as businesses finished adjusting inventories. But Bernanke argued that the economy shows increasing strength in two crucial areas: consumer spending and business investment.“Consumer spending has recently picked up,” he told the House Committee on Financial Services, “reflecting gains in real disposable income and household wealth and tentative signs of stabilization in the labor market.” For the last half of 2009, consumer spending rose at a 2.4 percent annual rate; for the first half of the year, it dropped at a 0.3 percent rate. At the same time, he noted that business investment in equipment (new machinery and computers) and software “has risen significantly.” In the fourth...
  • 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...
  • Mullah Baradar Talking—But Not Saying Much

    The recently captured deputy leader of the Afghan Taliban, Mullah Abdel Ghani Baradar, is now talking to Pakistani and American interrogators—a little. But three U.S. national-security officials familiar with the situation, who asked for anonymity when discussing sensitive information, said that Baradar is not saying much, at least so far. One of the officials also said Pakistani authorities are tightly controlling the circumstances under which U.S. personnel are allowed access to the man who, until his capture earlier this month, was the Afghan Taliban's most-senior military commander....
  • 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...