Obama's Victory Of Persistence

ajtr

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Obama's Victory Of Persistence


Yes, in the end, he got all the primary delegates House votes he needed. Yes, he worked our last nerve to get there. But, yes, too, this is an important victory - the first true bloodied, grueling revelation that his persistence, another critical Obama quality, finally paid off in the presidency. He could have given up weeks ago, as the punditry advised (because they seem to have no grasp of substance and mere addiction to hour-to-hour political plays). But he refused. That took courage. And relentlessness. Fallows puts it well:

For now, the significance of the vote is moving the United States FROM a system in which people can assume they will have health coverage IF they are old enough (Medicare), poor enough (Medicaid), fortunate enough (working for an employer that offers coverage, or able themselves to bear expenses), or in some other way specially positioned (veterans; elected officials)... TOWARD a system in which people can assume they will have health-care coverage. Period.

The biggest shift in social policy since welfare reform - but involving far more people. My view is that it will also empower Obama abroad, because there is a linkage between domestic success and foreign policy clout. From my column today:

Watching the various whip counts going back and forth reminded me of the agonising, delegate-counting path to primary victory that Obama took. It works your last nerve. It’s like England in extra time at the World Cup.

Imagine the narrative shift if this bill is passed. Obama will not have imposed this monstrosity on the country from on high; he will have ground it through the bloggers, and the pundits will declare a resurrection. The narrative will be about his persistence and his grit, rather than his near-divinity and his authority. And suddenly it will appear — lo! — as if this lone figure has not just rescued the US economy from the abyss, but also passed the biggest piece of social legislation in decades.

There is only one story better than Icarus falling to earth; and it’s Icarus getting back up and putting on some shades.

The media will fall for it. The public will merely notice that the guy can come back and fight. Even when they don’t always agree with such a figure on the issues, they can admire him.

Again, the real parallel is Ronald Reagan.

People forget how unpopular Reagan was at the same point in his presidency — and passing a big tax cut was legislatively a lot easier than reforming a health sector the size of the British economy. But like Obama he persisted and, with luck and learning, aimed very high.

Obama has bet that this is his destiny. He is extremely cautious from day to day, staggeringly flexible on tactics, but not at all modest when you look at the big picture.

He still wants to rebuild the American economy from the ground up, re-regulate Wall Street, withdraw from Iraq, win in Afghanistan, get universal health insurance and achieve a two-state solution in Israel/Palestine in his first term. That’s all. And although you can see many small failures on the way, and agonising slowness as well, you can also see he hasn’t dropped his determination to achieve it all.

Meep, meep.
 

ajtr

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Will people down the road think OBAMA a great president?

Will people down the road think him a great president? I don't know.

What I can say is that Andrew Sullivan is right (I linked the most recent thing I could find, but he says it constantly, and rightly so): Obama's great strength is patience. He has, as no one I can think of has had in recent times, an ability to just completely ignore the 24 hour news cycle. Whether it was his pre-Iowa nomination lull, or his summer 2008 doldrums, or his methodical planning for Afghanistan, or, over and over again, his refusal to panic on health care, the pattern is about as clear as any could be.

Of course, we don't know. We don't know what if anything he gained from taking all the time he thought he needed on Afghanistan. We don't know whether he might have won Iowa more decisively. We don't know whether some grand gesture during Crazy Town Hall August could have yielded a quicker bill, or if an immediate reaction to the Massachusetts Senate election might have made things easier. When you win, no one questions your strategy...but of course one can win with a terrible strategy. So what we can say for sure is that he has the ability to ignore the daily news cycle; proving that it helps him is really another matter. That said...

Yes, I do think it's an enormous strength. Partially because winning each and every news cycle is almost certainly a waste of time. Partially because everyone else is putting so much effort into it, so the player who doesn't is freeing up an enormous amount of time and energy. Partially, I suppose, for the same reason that (warning: actually horse racing analogy coming) I'll always bet the only closer against a field of speed horses.

The Republicans, collectively, seem right now to exemplify the opposite approach. I don't know that they could have won this battle; a whole lot of legislating comes down to the numbers, and I'm not at all as certain as some are that there was a winning strategy available to a party with a minority in the House and only (at the key moment) 40 Senators. Still, I think there's quite a lot to what David Frum says, and even more. After all, Frum, as I read him, believes that Republicans could have had a policy victory (or avoided what for them is a policy disaster) had they compromised. I wonder whether Republicans might have successfully sabotaged the whole thing had they made a more plausible effort to compromise. If Grassley and Enzi had skipped the town halls and stuck to a mantra of trying to reach an agreement...if petty obstruction (not the basic filibuster, but all the extra votes and late nights and reading the bill aloud and all) hadn't angered people such as Evan Bayh...if Republicans had shown up at the summit with a serious compromise proposal...perhaps they could have managed to push just hard enough that liberal and moderate Democrats couldn't agree with each other. Instead, as Alex Massie points out, the GOP practically begged the Dems to unify against them, and they got their wish tonight.

The iconic image of the Republicans from the health care reform battle was their choice to spend the very last week before the vote attacking the legitimacy of a process which not only was, in fact, legitimate, but which was only a rumor in the first place. They did a great job of it! They came up with a catchy name -- this group of Republicans is just great with catchy names -- and they all spoke, as if with one voice, of the coming outrage. Just as, of course, they spent the previous month focusing on demonizing another perfectly unobjectionable procedure, or the month before that stirring up anger at a minor provision of the bill that will soon be repealed at no cost to the underlying bill. Or, how about this one. Did you notice that almost every Republican who came to the floor to briefly register opposition to the bill used the exact same formula (..."this flawed bill," if I remember correctly). What terrific, and utterly pointless, message discipline!

I should wander back to Obama, shouldn't I. Oh yes: he apparently just doesn't care at all about winning the news cycle, or the day, or even the week. He wants to win elections, and passage of legislation, and, I suspect, the war in Afghanistan. He seems, as far as I can tell, surrounds himself with people who have the same view.

I'll say one thing: I wouldn't bet against him.
 

ajtr

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Waterloo

Conservatives and Republicans today suffered their most crushing legislative defeat since the 1960s.

It’s hard to exaggerate the magnitude of the disaster. Conservatives may cheer themselves that they’ll compensate for today’s expected vote with a big win in the November 2010 elections. But:

(1) It’s a good bet that conservatives are over-optimistic about November – by then the economy will have improved and the immediate goodies in the healthcare bill will be reaching key voting blocs.

(2) So what? Legislative majorities come and go. This healthcare bill is forever. A win in November is very poor compensation for this debacle now.

So far, I think a lot of conservatives will agree with me. Now comes the hard lesson:

A huge part of the blame for today’s disaster attaches to conservatives and Republicans ourselves.

At the beginning of this process we made a strategic decision: unlike, say, Democrats in 2001 when President Bush proposed his first tax cut, we would make no deal with the administration. No negotiations, no compromise, nothing. We were going for all the marbles. This would be Obama’s Waterloo – just as healthcare was Clinton’s in 1994.

Only, the hardliners overlooked a few key facts: Obama was elected with 53% of the vote, not Clinton’s 42%. The liberal block within the Democratic congressional caucus is bigger and stronger than it was in 1993-94. And of course the Democrats also remember their history, and also remember the consequences of their 1994 failure.

This time, when we went for all the marbles, we ended with none.

Could a deal have been reached? Who knows? But we do know that the gap between this plan and traditional Republican ideas is not very big. The Obama plan has a broad family resemblance to Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts plan. It builds on ideas developed at the Heritage Foundation in the early 1990s that formed the basis for Republican counter-proposals to Clintoncare in 1993-1994.

Barack Obama badly wanted Republican votes for his plan. Could we have leveraged his desire to align the plan more closely with conservative views? To finance it without redistributive taxes on productive enterprise – without weighing so heavily on small business – without expanding Medicaid? Too late now. They are all the law.

No illusions please: This bill will not be repealed. Even if Republicans scored a 1994 style landslide in November, how many votes could we muster to re-open the “doughnut hole” and charge seniors more for prescription drugs? How many votes to re-allow insurers to rescind policies when they discover a pre-existing condition? How many votes to banish 25 year olds from their parents’ insurance coverage? And even if the votes were there – would President Obama sign such a repeal?

We followed the most radical voices in the party and the movement, and they led us to abject and irreversible defeat.

There were leaders who knew better, who would have liked to deal. But they were trapped. Conservative talkers on Fox and talk radio had whipped the Republican voting base into such a frenzy that deal-making was rendered impossible. How do you negotiate with somebody who wants to murder your grandmother? Or – more exactly – with somebody whom your voters have been persuaded to believe wants to murder their grandmother?

I’ve been on a soapbox for months now about the harm that our overheated talk is doing to us. Yes it mobilizes supporters – but by mobilizing them with hysterical accusations and pseudo-information, overheated talk has made it impossible for representatives to represent and elected leaders to lead. The real leaders are on TV and radio, and they have very different imperatives from people in government. Talk radio thrives on confrontation and recrimination. When Rush Limbaugh said that he wanted President Obama to fail, he was intelligently explaining his own interests. What he omitted to say – but what is equally true – is that he also wants Republicans to fail. If Republicans succeed – if they govern successfully in office and negotiate attractive compromises out of office – Rush’s listeners get less angry. And if they are less angry, they listen to the radio less, and hear fewer ads for Sleepnumber beds.

So today’s defeat for free-market economics and Republican values is a huge win for the conservative entertainment industry. Their listeners and viewers will now be even more enraged, even more frustrated, even more disappointed in everybody except the responsibility-free talkers on television and radio. For them, it’s mission accomplished. For the cause they purport to represent, it’s Waterloo all right: ours.
 

ajtr

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The Most Significant Democratic Triumph in 40 Years

Presidents have been trying to cover the uninsured since LBJ sat in the Oval Office. None have succeeded. Until now. It doesn't matter whether one approves of the bill or thinks it likely to work or not, one should be able to recognise the legislative achievement and, hence, the scale of this Democratic victory. It's probably the most significant progressive-inspired* piece of legislation in 40 years.

So how did it happen? A bit of luck, some arm-twisting, a lot of perseverance from Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the House leadership and, with the benefit of hindsight, a spot of GOP blundering. There aren't, I suspect, 216 members of the House of Representatives who actually like this bill, far less 216 who could vote for it on the merits. But, as I suggested the other day, when substance runs into politics it's politics that usually wins. And so it was on this occasion too. (See Nate Silver's analysis too.)

Republicans, in retrospect, sealed their fate when it became clear that they weren't interested in doing a deal and when they decided that killing healthcare could a) revitalise the party's spirits, b) perhaps be the springboard for winning back the House in November and c) above all do terrible damage to the Obama presidency. At that moment this ceased - if it had ever been - being a question of health care or health insurance reform and became a brutal, bloody battle for political survival.

The GOP argument was, in the end, as odd as it was contradictory. In terms of the politics of the matter, the party argued that the bill's unpopularity (some genuine, some the product of some measure of scaremongering) ensured that, whether it passed or not, Democrats and the Obama administration were stuck with it and that this would, in the end, be the beginning of the end for both Pelosi and the President.

Simultaneously, however, they had to suggest to wavering Democrats that abandoning the bill was both a matter of good conscience and something that wouldn't really hurt the Democratic party. After all, Clinton recovered from his health care debacle didn't he? But that was in good economic times and, in any case, was a plan that never even made it onto the House floor. This would be different. Voting no would be to shatter progressive dreams just as the party was closer than ever before to passing this monumental piece of legislation. This time, in the midst of a terrible recession which threatens their health anyway, Republicans were asking Democrats to double down and betray their President (elected, like the Democratic House and Senate with a mandate for this stuff) - and they were promising that doing this would bring nothing but ruin upon the Democratic party. Some incentive!

Really, just about the only thing that can unite the Democratic party is the Republican party. Some achievement! As David Frum argues: heck of a job Rush.

Make no mistake: the more virulent GOP opposition to the plans became - and, if you like, the more hysterical - the more Democrats had to pass it if only to save face. Sceptical Blue Dogs, Pro-Lifers and Leftists were all forced to club together for the greater good of the party. Left to their own devices they almost certainly couldn't have agreed on a bill, any bill.

Will this bill pay for itself? I suspect the fiscal projections are bound to be on the optimistic side and that the revenue-raising measures are likely to be inadequate. But, unlike the GOP's last expansion of Medicare, there is at least an attempt to pay for this.

Democrats may well still pay a price at the mid-terms - though they'll argue that the economy is the cause of their troubles not the health bill - but they'll also gamble that their reforms will, in the end, prove surprisingly popular. And at the very least, around 30 million more Americans will have access to (affordable) health insurance.

Like I say, that's something Presidents of both parties have spent 40 years trying to achieve. And now, for better or worse and for all the side-deals and grubby compromises, it's happening. That's the sort of thing you're supposed to go into politics to accomplish. In theory, anyway. You don't have to be a Democrat or a Democratic sympathiser to appreciate that this is big.

Will it work? Ah well, that's a matter for another day. What next? A breather perhaps but then, in theory, banking regulation, cap and trade and maybe even comprehensive immigration reform. It's unlikely all that can or will pass but, just supposing it did, there'd hardly be any need for Obama to run for re-election.

For now, however, Democrats are sighing with relief and smiling in the slightly stunned silence brought on by achieving something that was always supposed to be an unachievable dream. And they couldn't have done it - or done it this way at least - without the Republican party.

*Welfare Reform needed Republican votes.

UPDATE: For more see Marc Ambinder and Jon Chait. As Jon says, one thing is for sure: on the domestic front at least Barack Obama is now a genuinely consequential President.
 

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Health care latest: Obama says House made 'the right vote'

Follow the very latest on the health care vote and find out what it means for you, tonight on CNN. Watch the debate online, on TV and your iPhone.
Washington (CNN) -- The House passed on Sunday the Senate's health care reform bill and a package of measures meant to reconcile differences between the Senate bill and the one it passed last year.
Here's the latest on what's happening:
11:48 p.m.: President Obama says that the House's vote on health care "wasn't an easy vote but it was the right vote."
Speaking from the East Room of the White House, the president, who made health care reform a priority for his administration, said the vote wasn't a victory for a political party but for the American people.
Obama said the reform plan won't fix everything wrong with the nation's health care system, "but it moves us decisively in the right direction."
11:30 p.m.: The House has passed the package of fixes meant to reconcile differences between the bill the House passed last year and the Senate bill it passed earlier Sunday night.
Those vote was 220-211.
The reconciliation package now heads to the Senate.
11:20 p.m.: The House is voting on passage of the reconciliation bill. This is the final vote of the day on health care reform.
The reconciliation bill is the package of "fixes" to the Senate health care bill that made it more attractive to balking House Democrats.
11:18 p.m.: The House votes down the Republican motion to recommit the bill.
11:08 p.m.: CNN's Brianna Keilar reports: A Republican lawmaker shouted out "baby killer" as Rep. Bart Stupak explained why he would not support the motion to recommit.
Stupak sponsored an amendment in the House bill that included tougher language on restricting federal funding of abortions.
Stupak decided to support the Senate bill after President Obama said he would sign an executive order that would make sure the health care reform law would be consistent with current restrictions on federal funding for abortions.
10:55 p.m.: Republicans have offered a motion to recommit, which is their last chance to kill the bill.
The Republican motion is to amend the language on abortion in the just-passed Senate bill.
10:48 p.m.: The House passes the Senate health care bill, 219-212.
All 178 Republicans opposed it, along with 34 Democrats.
The House then moved on to consider the reconciliation package.
10:31 p.m.: Lawmakers are voting on the health care legislation. The vote will last for 15 minutes.
10:17 p.m.: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi praised the health care legislation for its ability to "unleash tremendous entrepreneurial power into our economy."
Pelosi said the fact that the bill is on the cusp of passing is due to the leadership of President Obama.
She also cited the legacy of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, who wrote in a letter to Obama that health care is the "great unfinished business of our society."
"That is -- until today," she said.
10:07 p.m.: House Minority Leader John Boehner delivers fiery remarks, slamming the contents of the health care bill and the process leading up to the vote.
Video: Obama: This is change Video: Some black leaders mad at Obama Video: Vicki Kennedy praises Obama Video: 7 days of debate in 2 minutes
RELATED TOPICS
Health Care Reform
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Speaking about the way the bill was written, Boehner asked, "Can you say it was done openly, with transparency and accountability? Without backroom deals struck behind closed doors, hidden from the people?
"Hell no you can't!"
10:01 p.m.: CNN's Ed Henry reports: In his remarks after the health care vote, President Obama will be blunt about casting the House's expected passage of his health care legislation as an achievement of historic proportions that shows he's starting to deliver on the dramatic change he promised on the campaign trail, according to Democratic officials familiar with the planned remarks.
"He's going to say we delivered -- that we rose to the challenge," said one of the Democratic officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss Obama's speech before it is delivered. "It's about change, and what change looks like."
9:45 p.m.: Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Virginia, said that when it comes to health care reform, the only bipartisanship he's seen is in the opposition to it.
"We believe this government must stop spending money that it doesn't have," said Cantor, the House minority whip.
"The choice before us is very clear. The choice is whether we want to become a country that is unrecognizable or one that will fulfill the American dream."
9:40 p.m.: Democratic Rep. Allen Boyd, a member of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats, said that while the health care bill is not perfect, "the other side has brought us no viable alternatives."
"If not this, then what? If not now, then when?" the Florida lawmaker asked.
8:58 p.m.: Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop of New York said that "amidst angry and at times even hateful rhetoric, amidst the misinformation and scare tactics, there exists one simple truth, and that truth is that the current system is unsustainable."
Last summer, Bishop suspended his town hall meetings following a particularly unruly event.
8:38 p.m.: Republican Rep. Tom Price, a doctor from Georgia, said health care is a "moral endeavor and should be grounded in principle."
"This is a sad day, yes, because there are so many wonderful and positive and patient-centered solutions that could be enacted. You see, we trust patients and families. They trust government," he said.
7:57 p.m.: In an impassioned speech, Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, urges his colleagues to pass health care reform.
"This may be the most important vote that we cast as members of this body. We have a moral obligation today, tonight to make health care a right and not a privilege," Lewis said.
"On this day, at this moment, in this chamber, answer the call of history, answer the spirit of history and pass health care. Give the American people a victory. Give health care a chance," he said to applause.
Republican Rep. John Linder, also from Georgia, said he feels "rude trying to inject some fact into this Kabuki Theatre but I'm going to try."
"This has never been about health care. This is about government," he said, arguing that the proposed legislation would destroy health care for those who are happy with the coverage they have.
7:54 p.m.: If House Democrats pass the Senate bill Sunday night, as is expected, a senior administration official said "it won't be signed today," CNN's Dan Lothian reports.
Instead, the president will deliver remarks after the vote in the White House East Room.
7:38 p.m.: Rep. Anh "Joseph" Cao will vote "no" on the health care bill, CNN's Dana Bash reports.
Cao was the one Republican who voted for the House bill in November.
The Louisiana representative said he will not support the Senate bill because of its abortion language.
Cao does not think the executive order goes far enough, his chief of staff said.
7:26 p.m.: Republican and House members are lined up for what might be their last opportunity for a voice in the debate over health care.
The arguments echo what has been heard in larger debate over health care reform over the last year.
Republicans are criticizing the landmark legislation as a "takeover" of the health care system that would expand federal funding of abortion and saddle future generations of Americans with debt.
Democrats are lauding the legislation as allowing all Americans health care coverage and preventing insurance companies from denying coverage from those who need it most.
6:52 p.m.: Debate will be followed by three votes: a vote on the Senate bill, a vote on the motion to recommit on the reconciliation package (a Republican motion), and a vote on the reconciliation package.
Republicans are expected to throw up parliamentary roadblocks throughout the debate.
6:43 p.m.: House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer opens debate.
Republicans and Democrats have one hour each to make their case.
6:28 p.m.: The House votes to move into general debate over the health care legislation. The vote is 224-206.
Debate is slated for two hours.
The fact that the motion to debate passed is an indication that Democrats have enough votes to pass the legislation itself.
6:04 p.m.: House Republicans blast the executive order in a news conference.
Republican Rep. Jean Schmidt said an executive order "is not worth the paper it is printed on."
"It is not the law of the land and it can be rescinded in the blink of an eye," she said.
5:04 p.m.: President Obama will make a statement following the House vote.
4:50 p.m.: Asked whether Democrats have the 216 votes needed to pass health care legislation, House Majority Whip James Clyburn said, "We're feeling good, with room to spare," CNN's Dana Bash reports.
4:39 p.m.: Asked her reaction to the deal over abortion funding, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, "We're very pleased that we have more votes for the bill," CNN's Kevin Bohn reports.
4:07 p.m.: Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Michigan, announces that he, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the White House have reached an agreement that protects "the sanctity of life in health care reform."
Stupak and other anti-abortion Democrats had said they would oppose the Senate bill because of concerns it would expand federal funding of abortion.
House vote on health reform expected to be extremely close
4:07 p.m.: One hour of debate has begun on the rules for debate and vote on the health care legislation.
3:59 p.m.: President Obama will issue an executive order after a health care bill is passed "that will reaffirm its consistency with longstanding restrictions on the use of federal funds for abortion," White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said.
The order does not change the law, but it will provide "additional safeguards to ensure that the status quo is upheld and enforced, and that the health care legislation's restrictions against the public funding of abortions cannot be circumvented."
3:35 p.m.: Republican Rep. David Dreier of California said lawmakers know with "absolute certainty" that the only thing they are guaranteed is what's in the Senate bill, which all House Republicans and a number of Democrats oppose.
Democratic Rep. Louise Slaughter interrupted, saying, "No you don't!"
"The best way that they can achieve their ends of removing the things that are objectionable from the Senate bill is to support reconciliation," she said as lawmakers cheered and jeered.
3:28 p.m.: Stupak, D-Michigan, will hold a news conference at 4 p.m., CNN's Deirdre Walsh reports.
Stupak is part of a coalition of Democrats who oppose the Senate bill because they say it would expand federal funding of abortion.
3:02 p.m.: The House defeats a Republican point of order from Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin.
Another Republican point of order from Darrell Issa of California is now being debated.
2:40 p.m.: Ryan called the health care bill a "fiscal Frankenstein."
"It is not too late to get it right. Let's start over. Let's defeat this bill," he said.
2:30 p.m.: Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-Rhode Island, son of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, said there are significant parallels between the struggle for civil rights and the fight to make quality, affordable health care accessible to all Americans.
Quoting the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Kennedy said, "Of all forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane."
1 p.m.: The House convenes.
Lawmakers spend about an hour giving one-minute speeches and taking votes on issues unrelated to health care.
Do Democrats have the votes?: Democratic leaders continue to try to round up the 216 necessary votes to pass the bill in the House.
Rep. John Larson, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said told CNN's "State of the Union" that "We've got the votes."
"This is a historic day and we are happy warriors," Larson said.
But the chief deputy whip in the House was cautious.
"We don't have a hard 216 right now," Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Florida, told "Fox News Sunday" just as Larson was speaking to CNN. But, she added, "I firmly believe we will have 216."
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Sunday morning, "We are going to get the votes this afternoon."
Latest vote count: According to CNN's latest count, 33 Democrats plan to vote against the legislation. Thirty-eight Democratic "no" votes are needed to kill the bill.
Six House Democrats have told CNN they haven't yet decided how they will vote, and two have not responded to CNN's repeated inquiries.
See how Democrats plan to vote
Can Republicans block the vote?: Democrats control Congress, so they should be able to bring the Senate bill, and a package of changes to it, to a vote. But Republicans plan to impede the process as much as they can.
Without spelling out specifics, House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence of Indiana promised to do just that.
"We are going to use every means at our disposal to oppose this government takeover of health care," Pence told "State of the Union." "Because quite frankly, as thousands gather at rallies all across this country and here in the nation's capital yesterday, you know, the American people are sick and tired of runaway federal spending by both parties, of borrowing and bailouts and takeovers. And I believe this is going to be a historic weekend."
Asked what measures Republicans might take, Pence replied, "Stay tuned, it's going to be an interesting day."
Working the phones: Former President Clinton made several phone calls Saturday to lobby wavering Democrats to sign on to the health care reform bill, Democratic sources told CNN.
11th hour appeal: President Obama on Saturday made his last appeal for the reform bill, telling House Democrats on the eve of the historic vote: "Let's get this done."
"If you agree that the system is not working for ordinary families, if you've heard the same stories that I've heard everywhere, all across the country, then help us fix the system," Obama said.
'Deeming' ditched: Democratic leaders on Saturday decided to abandon a controversial legislative mechanism that could have avoided a direct vote on the legislation. They will hold an up-or-down vote on the reform plan that the Senate has already passed.
If the Senate bill passes the House, Obama will sign it into law. If the package of changes is passed, it will be taken up by the Senate.
Protests get ugly: Three black Democratic lawmakers -- including civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis of Georgia -- said demonstrators against the health care bill yelled racist epithets at them Saturday as they walked past. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri said a protester spit at him. Capitol police said a demonstrator was arrested in that incident.
In addition, protesters yelled anti-gay comments at Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, an openly gay Democrat.
Leaders of both parties condemned the protesters' actions.
iReport: Make your case on health care reform
Obama targets insurers in final health care push
Obama's Sunday plans: A White House official said the president is "in the West Wing, getting updates, dropping in on staff, and like the rest of America, examining the rubble of his [NCAA basketball] bracket."
The official added that Obama "made a surprise appearance at an 11 a.m. meeting of senior staff," and is "preparing to make and take member phone calls as we move toward the vote."
Legislation revealed: Democratic leaders unveiled the text of the reconciliation act for health care on Thursday. Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act of 2010 (pdf)
Section-by-section analysis (pdf)
The price tag: The compromise health care bill drafted by top Democrats will cost $940 billion over the next 10 years, according to a preliminary analysis released Thursday by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
Read the CBO preliminary estimate (pdf)
The bill cuts the deficit by $138 billion during that period, the CBO report said. It would further reduce the deficit by another $1.2 trillion in the following decade, two House Democratic sources said.
GOP leaders said the new CBO estimates had not changed their opinion of the bill, which they vehemently oppose.
What happens next?: Democrats hope to pass the Senate bill Sunday and the package of changes designed in part to make the overall legislation more acceptable to House Democrats. President Obama can sign the bill into law if it passes.
The Senate would vote to approve the changes to its bill this week by a simple majority vote.
See which parts of the health care plan would kick in quickly
 

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Barack Obama hails immigration overhaul plan

WASHINGTON: Two senators Thursday outlined a bipartisan framework for comprehensive immigration reform legislation, drawing immediate praise

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from President Barack Obama.

Democratic Senator Charles Schumer and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham's bill would lay the path to legalization for the country's estimated 11 million illegal immigrants, reinforce border controls and create a process to admit temporary workers and produce biometric Social Security cards.

"It thoughtfully addresses the need to shore up our borders, and demands accountability from both workers who are here illegally and employers who game the system," Obama said in a statement.

He called on the senators to translate their plan into legislation, urging Congress to act "at the earliest possible opportunity."

The senators unveiled their plan on The Washington Post's website just days before tens of thousands of immigrants and pro-immigration activists plan to march on Washington Sunday to press Congress and the White House to pass immigration reform.

Graham and Schumer said their approach for legalization would be a "tough but fair" program requiring illegal immigrants to admit they broke the law, perform community service and pay fines and back taxes.

Undocumented immigrants would also have to pass background checks and demonstrate they are proficient in English before they can earn lawful permanent residence and eventually citizenship.

Prospective employers would have to swipe the new Social Security cards through a machine to confirm the worker's identity and immigration status. Those who do not swipe the cards or hire unauthorized workers would be made to pay "stiff fines" and face prison sentences for repeat offenses.

"Ensuring economic prosperity requires attracting the world's best and brightest," Schumer and Graham wrote in the Post.

They said their bill would award green cards to immigrants who receive a doctorate or master's degree in science, technology, engineering or mathematics from a US university.

"It makes no sense to educate the world's future inventors and entrepreneurs and then force them to leave when they are able to contribute to our economy," the senators added.
 

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