Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Heros of Health Care

Think Progress: Obama, 3 years ago: ‘I will judge my first term as president based on’ whether we delivered health care.

In just a few minutes, President Obama will sign a comprehensive health care reform bill into law. On March 24, 2007 — nearly three years ago to this day — then-candidate Obama attended a health care forum in Las Vegas sponsored by the Center for American Progress Action Fund and SEIU. At the forum, Obama delivered this pledge:

OBAMA: In addition to those basic principles, what I think is most important is we recognize that every four years we hear somebody’s got a health care plan. Every four years, somebody trots out a white paper — they post it on the web. But the question we have to challenge ourselves: Do we have the political will and the sense of urgency to actually get it done? I want to be held accountable for getting it done. I will judge my first term as president based on the fact on whether we have delivered the kind of health care that every American deserves and that our system can afford.

Watch it:

The health care forum in 2007 served as a kind of epiphany for Obama. Time’s Karen Tumulty, who moderated the forum, wrote that Obama “was noticeably uncomfortable when pressed for details” about his health care plan. As Ezra Klein wrote at the time, “Compared to John Edwards, who had a detailed plan, and Hillary Clinton, whose fluency with the subject is unmatched among the contenders, he seemed uncertain and adrift.” Obama himself acknowledged that the health care forum revealed, “I am not a great candidate now, but I am going to figure out how to be a great candidate.” Now, by delivering on the basic health care principles he pronounced three years ago, Obama is already earning praise as “one of America’s finest presidents.”

Krugman: From The Jaws Of Defeat

Just one more reminder of what a victory Obama and Pelosi pulled off: here’s the Intrade price on passage of Obamacare from the aftermath of the Massachusetts election to actual success:


Yglesias: A New Day

Here once again is the parking lot by the entrance to the Capitol South Metro Station that I’m always complaining about:


For the past 48 hours or so I’ve decided to think of it as the future location of the Pelosi House Office Building to go alongside Canon, Rayburn, and Longworth.

Sully: Nudging Toward Bethlehem

Sprung pivots off Klein:

Ezra Klein on the strange beast that is the health care reform bill:
It is a comprehensive reform with an incremental soul.
Reverse that formula, and you have Barack Obama: an incremental reformer with a comprehensive soul.
Glastris: NO BENEN, NO BILL..

How important was Steve Benen's blogging and his strategy memo in getting the health care legislation back on track after Martha Coakley's loss in January? Very, says Andrew Sabl. Tim at Balloon Juice agrees. So do his colleagues at the Washington Monthly. Congratulations, Steve. Congrats also to two other bloggers whose work Sabl rightly credits with helping turn the tide, Kevin Drum and Brian Beutler--both of whom, I'm proud to say, are alumni of this magazine.

Paul Glastris 7:33 AM Permalink
  • Tim F. adds:
    Also, if you have not heard about about the role Steve Benen played in keeping HCR momentum alive after the Brown panic, take a minute to read Andrew Sabl’s write-up here at SameFacts. In fact if anything Sabl’s piece, which does not mention the influential strategy memo that Benen wrote, understates the contribution that Benen made. Staffers have told me that Benen’s memo crossed the desk of a number of influential Representatives, so it is perhaps not a coincidence that the memo eerily predicted the pass-and-amend strategy that Pelosi successfully adopted. Major kudos to Steve.
TimF.: Comment Of The Day

Kairol Rosenthal.

I am a young oncology patient and healthcare blogger. Thank you Moses 2317. I posted your congressional call list on my blog and mobilized scored of young adult cancer patients to make calls.

The cancer community is shockingly silent when it comes to mobilizing patients around healthcare issues. Most cancer organizations are more worried about offending the slim minority opposed to healthcare reform than they are about fighting for the interests of their uninsured young adult constituents – many of whom are diagnosed at later more advanced stages of cancer because of lack of coverage. Leading up to the vote (and throughout this entire debate) advocates in the cancer community tweeted about their mocha lattes and walks for the cure, but not a word about reform.

I am again so grateful to Moses2317 and Tim F. at Balloon Juice for posting that targeted call list, which I circulated widely to the young adult cancer community. Today I am flooded with emails, phone calls, and facebook messages from 20 and 30-something cancer patients thanking me for posting that list and enabling them to make calls and make a difference!

Kairol Rosenthal
Everything Changes:
The Insider’s Guide to Cancer in Your 20s & 30s

John Cole: The Post Mortem

I’m wondering who will be the historian to chronicle the ups and downs and ins and outs of the roller coaster ride that was health care reform the past year and a half. One thing that I think has to be mentioned is the role of blogs. As Tim has noted before, McJoan and the front pagers at DKOS and DDay and Jon Walker at FDL basically wrote the path for the House months ago, passing the Senate bill with an immediate reconciliation fix, long before I heard anything coming from the House or in the MSM.

I think that is a pretty big deal.

Anne Laurie: Thanks, Tim…

As the BJ front-pager whose main contribution to the Great PTDB Push was staying the heck out of everyones’ way, I want to thank Tim F. (and commentors MCC and Moses2317) for so earnestly and effectively keeping us focused and on-target. Tim is the guy who’s been posting about the arcane Congressional travails of H.R. 4872, the Health Care & Education Affordability Reconciliation Act of 2010, keeping us up on the Congresspersons and the numbers involved as circumstances evolved, nagging us to get involved despite all our blogger-introvert instincts and preference for quirky snark over earnest activism. Tim, even if you never posted so much as a one-line Open Thread notice ever again, your work here over the last many weeks has made a place for you in the record books far beyond the borders of Balloon Juice. You have made the world a better place!

In the same celebratory vein, the Boston Globe has a statement from Victoria Reggie Kennedy:

“As Ted Kennedy said, across the decades, in the best and the most discouraging hours, health care was the cause of his life. Tonight that cause becomes more than a dream, it becomes America’s commitment.

“This landmark moment belongs to President Barack Obama, to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the courageous members of the House, and to the colleagues he cherished in the Senate. Most of all, it belongs to America—and it is one of the rare legislative achievements that belongs to the ages.

“When Ted stood with Barack Obama in 2008, he said he had new hope that we would break the old gridlock and guarantee that every American—north, south, east, west, young, old—would have decent, quality health care as a fundamental right and not a privilege. And now they do and from now on they will… “
Tim F.: Credit Where Credit Will Help

It’s time to thank Democrats in tough districts who stood up early for Health Care Reform. These guys did not ask for a special deal from their caucus. They risked their career to deliver health care reform for Americans who need it. The RNC will undoubtedly target Reps on this list the hardest.

These are the kind of Democrat that I am proud to have in my Party. Please help make sure that we keep them around this November.

As of right now, here is the list:

*Nancy Pelosi (to re-distribute cash to needy campaigns at her own discretion)

*Tom Perriello

*Betsy Markey

*Jerrold Nadler (for being the first Rep to propose a realistic path out of the Brown miasma)

*John Boccieri

*Melissa Bean

*Henry Cuellar

*Chris Carney

*Brad Ellsworth

*Gabrielle Giffords

*Ann Kirkpatrick

*Debbie Halvorson

*Russ Carnahan

*Alan Grayson

Goal  Thermometer


Smith: Weiner's game ball


If you kept C-SPAN on after the health care vote closed in the House Sunday night and the cable networks turned their attention to the White House, you would have seen New York Rep. Anthony Weiner, talking extremely fast through the evening's uncontroversial business, like a resolution honoring the 65th Anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima.

Weiner, a native of Brooklyn, can talk very fast, and it's a talent that has given him the honor before, when Democrats are eager to wrap up a long evening.

"I'm the closer," he said.

His reward: The original, handwritten tally of one of the evening's momentous health care votes, signed on the back by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

"I got the game ball," he said.

(photo by John Shinkle)

There's no shortage of heroes on health care reform , but the political world should keep one truth in mind: without Speaker Pelosi's determination, the fight would have failed. This will likely serve as a crowning achievement for the California Democrat, but it will also make clear that Pelosi the Powerhouse ranks among the most effective House Speakers ever.

The NYT had a fascinating report yesterday, before the outcome of last night's votes was clear, highlighting the behind-the-scenes role Pelosi played in making reform a reality -- even when some were prepared to walk away.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi was at her wits' end, and she let President Obama know it.

Scott Brown, the upstart Republican, had just won his Senate race in Massachusetts, a victory that seemed to doom Mr. Obama's dream of overhauling the nation's health care system. The White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, once Ms. Pelosi's right hand man on Capitol Hill, was pushing Mr. Obama to scale back his ambitions and pursue a pared-down bill.

Mr. Obama seemed open to the idea, though it was clearly not his first choice. Ms. Pelosi scoffed. "Kiddie care," she called the scaled-down plan, derisively, in private.

By all accounts, Obama didn't need much convincing, but it was the Speaker who refused to let the initiative die, and pressed the White House to seize the opportunity.

Her leadership was instrumental, and her commitment never wavered. Pelosi knew when to push, and when to wait.

"The main thing was Pelosi sticking with it and doing the quiet work of bringing people back to saying, 'We're doing this,' " said John Podesta, a former chief of staff to President Clinton.

Just last week, when it was far from clear if 216 votes would materialize, House Democratic leadership aides approached Pelosi with the names of 68 lawmakers -- more than a fourth of her caucus -- who needed some work. The idea was to divvy up the names among the party's top leaders.

"I'll take all 68," Pelosi declared.

And let's also note that while health care reform was the biggest lift, Pelosi has also passed an economic recovery package, a Wall Street reform bill, student loan reform (twice), and cap-and-trade. All, by the way, in 14 months.

They tend to name buildings after leaders with records like these.


It's almost amusing to think back to the commentary of last fall, when prominent voices -- from pundits to Saturday Night Live -- perceived President Obama as accomplishment-free.

After succeeding on health care reform -- where seven other presidents had failed -- I don't imagine we'll be hearing this talk anymore.

Yglesias believes Obama will likely "go down in history as one of America's finest presidents," and a leader who has "reshaped the policy landscape in a way that no progressive politician has done in decades." Chait is only slightly more circumspect: "Let me offer a ludicrously premature opinion: Barack Obama has sealed his reputation as a president of great historical import. We don't know what will follow in his presidency, and it's quite possible that some future event -- a war, a scandal -- will define his presidency. But we do know that he has put his imprint on the structure of American government in a way that no Democratic president since Lyndon Johnson has."

Assessing a presidency after 14 months is inherently tricky -- it's impossible to predict what the next three (or seven) years have in store -- but speculating about Obama's place in history, given his record thus far, is hardly outlandish.

Time will tell what else the president can accomplish, but we can say with confidence that health care reform -- a seemingly impossible task -- would have failed were it not for his leadership. He knew a defeat would leave his presidency badly hobbled, but Obama put everything on the line anyway. The accomplishment will likely help define his tenure.

And it's not just health care. I'm reminded of this piece Jacob Weisberg, published in late November.

We are so submerged in the details of this debate ... that it's easy to lose sight of the magnitude of the impending change. For the federal government to take responsibility for health coverage will be a transformation of the American social contract and the single biggest change in government's role since the New Deal. If Obama governs for four or eight years and accomplishes nothing else, he may be judged the most consequential domestic president since LBJ. He will also undermine the view that Ronald Reagan permanently reversed a 50-year tide of American liberalism.

Obama's claim to a fertile first year doesn't rest on health care alone. There's mounting evidence that the $787 billion economic stimulus he signed in February -- combined with the bank bailout package -- prevented an economic depression. [...]

When it comes to foreign policy, Obama's accomplishment has been less tangible but hardly less significant: He has put America on a new footing with the rest of the world. In a series of foreign trips and speeches, which critics deride as trips and speeches, he replaced George W. Bush's unilateral, moralistic militarism with an approach that is multilateral, pragmatic, and conciliatory. Obama has already significantly reoriented policy toward Iran, China, Russia, Iraq, Israel, and the Islamic world.

As the first 14 months of a presidency go, I'll go out on a limb and say Obama's off to a reasonably impressive start. Given that he inherited arguably the single most challenging landscape any modern president has had to deal with, along with the most obstructionist and least constructive congressional opposition in generations, the future of this presidency looks rather bright.

Greg Sargent:

* A great tick tock from Ceci Connelly on how Obama and Dem leaders resolved to get reform done during its darkest hour. Key takeaway: Obama advisers realized they botched things by leaving the details to Congress and that he had to take charge.

People who like dissecting such pieces for clues to who’s leaking and why will note that Obama is presented as the primary driver, with Nancy Pelosi playing less of a starring role than in a recent spate of similar pieces.

* Pelosi says it was all Obama, telling ABC News that she privately told the President that “it would not have happened without his vision.”

* The conventional wisdom inside the Beltway, which had for so long held that Dems were courting political disaster if they passed reform, has suddenly swung violently in the other direction — another reminder that when you win, people view you as, well, a winner.

* Here, for instance, is Adam Nagourney on the political risks Republicans face with their health care strategy.

* Mike Allen goes further, saying the “new conventional wisdom” is that reform “could turn out to be a net positive” for Obama and Dems by “goosing his base, re-engaging new Obama voters, giving his party something clear to promote, and providing a blunt instrument for whacking Rs.”

Jonathan Bernstein: Harry Reid and other Heroes of Health Care
I'm seeing a lot of praise for Barack Obama today, and a lot of praise for Nancy Pelosi. Both well deserved. I'm not hearing nearly enough praise for Harry Reid.

Pelosi did a very good job of using the office that Tip O'Neill more or less created.* Pelosi, however, managed to hold together about 87% of her caucus, not counting the one she lost to the Republican conference a while ago, or the two who resigned (one from scandal, one because he didn't want to wait a bit before getting his campaign for governor fully underway). Harry Reid had to, and did, hold together 100% of the Democratic Senators, including the one that he helped entice into switching to the Democrats earlier in 2009. Pelosi needed to get a vote on a rule, on final passage (twice), and on the one amendment that the Republicans were allowed to offer, on abortion -- the same was basically true on original passage, with the Stupak amendment as the tough one to deal with. Reid had to deal with various procedural motions, all of which required every single Senator to attend whatever the hour despite illness, injury, old age, and Shabbat restrictions. But he also had to deal with amendments on abortion, on Medicare, on taxes, and on drug reimportation, most if not all designed to make it hard for Democrats to hang together. To be fair, Reid didn't need unanimity on most of those votes, but he did need unanimity for moving to the bill despite everyone knowing that numerous tough votes were coming.

And he had to do all that without many of the sticks that Pelosi can command -- Senators don't really care that much about committee assignments or even committee chair positions, and the leadership can't freeze them out of other goodies nearly as easily as can the House leadership. Not to mention that he had to do it while facing an uphill fight for reelection, something that Nancy Pelosi never has had to spend five minutes on.

I don't know how much of it was Harry Reid, and how much was the president, or Rahm Emanuel, or what, but from what's on the record so far I'd have to say that Reid really deserves a much larger share of the huzzahs than he's received to date.

As long as I'm at it, by the way: also very much deserving of credit are, I'd guess, Henry Waxman...wait, I want him in a sentence by himself. OK, continuing on...George Miller, Chris Dodd, Max Baucus, Charley Rangel. Phil Schilero, and Peter Orszag. Members of Ted Kennedy's staff, I suspect, whose names I don't know. That's the people I'm pretty confident deserve a lot of praise. There are others I suspect also did very well, but I know less by reputation or good reporting, so I won't list them...what I can say is that I watched the House Democratic leadership's press conference late last night, and I was impressed that I didn't really know of any weak link among the group (which included the key committee and, I think, subcommittee chairs). A lot of these are old-fashioned workhorses, people who aren't necessarily on MSNBC three times a week (granted, I don't watch enough to know, but I don't recall seeing, say, Rosa DeLauro on there all the time).

I'd love to see a few feature stories on some of these people. Yes, Obama did a great job, and so did Pelosi, but they were not the only ones.

*It's shorthand -- modern Speakership was created by reforms that took place over roughly 1959-1975, and Tip O'Neill was the first one to really figure out and use the reforms to create a powerful office -- and until Pelosi, I think, the only one to really master it.

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