Looking into the Cloudy Ball

Thursday, April 15, 2010 \AM\.\Thu\.

Tax day is a day when all Americans are reminded about the importance of politics and think about the importance of the political future so they can adjust their budgets accordingly. Most of the time in politics we have a reasonably good idea of what’s going on: what the issues are going to be, who the favorites in the next election are, who are the main blocs, etc. Of course, there are always surprises and upsets.

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What Have We Got Into With ObamaCare

Thursday, April 1, 2010 \AM\.\Thu\.

I’m praying for ObamaCare to be repealed.

Though it will be difficult and painful.

Thank you Mr. President, you’ve done more in one year in causing deep division in this great nation than was humanely possible.


Pro-life Dems and ObamaCare

Monday, March 22, 2010 \PM\.\Mon\.

Thanks to Jill Stanek, and a hattip to Father Z,  for putting together this overview of how Democrats calling themselves pro-life voted on the Senate version of ObamaCare:

# The only pro-life Democrat to change his vote from a yes to a no due to the failure to include the Stupak-Pitts amendment was Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL), …. (Lipinski is the congressman for the district in which Christ Hospital, my [Jill Stanek’s] former employer, is located. His father, Congressman Bill Lipinski, was a co-sponsor of the Born Alive Infants Protection Act.)

# Other pro-life Democrats who had previously threatened to change their votes from a yes to a no, agreed to an Executive Order reiterating the Senate bill’s accounting scheme in exchange for their votes at the last minute. 20 of the Members who were urged to change their vote from a “yes” to “no” on pro-life grounds, but failed to do so are: Carney (PA), Costello (IL), Dahlkemper (PA), Donnelly (IN), Doyle (PA), Driehaus (OH), Ellsworth (IN), Hill (IN), Kanjorski (PA), Kaptur (OH), Kildee (MI), Langevin (RI), Mollohan (WV), Oberstar (MN), Ortiz (TX), Perriello (VA), Pomeroy (NC), Rahall (WV), Stupak (MI), and Wilson (OH)….

# 19 pro-life Democrats voted against the Senate bill and for the motion to recommit. They are Altmire* (PA), Barrow* (GA), Berry* (AR), Boren (OK), Bright (AL), Chandler* (KY), Childers (MS), L. Davis (TN), Holden (PA), Lipinski (IL), Marshall (GA), Matheson (UT)*, McIntyre (NC), Melancon (LA)*, Peterson (MN), Ross (AR)*, Shuler (NC), Skelton (MO), and Taylor (MS). (* denotes Members with a limited or mixed pro-life voting record.)

# Representatives Costello (IL) and Donnelly (IN) both voted for the Senate bill, but also vote for the motion to recommit.

# Representatives Artur Davis (AL), Lynch (MA), Space (OH), and Tanner (TN) voted against the Senate bill, but also voted against the motion to recommit despite having voted for a similar amendment offered last fall.

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Twenty Things You May Not Know About ObamaCare

Monday, March 22, 2010 \PM\.\Mon\.

Now that ObamaCare has become law rather than just the fevered dream of leftie bloggers, it is time to begin discovering what is in it.  David Hogberg begins the process at Investor’s Business Daily.

1. You are young and don’t want health insurance? You are starting up a small business and need to minimize expenses, and one way to do that is to forego health insurance? Tough. You have to pay $750 annually for the “privilege.” (Section 1501)

2. You are young and healthy and want to pay for insurance that reflects that status? Tough. You’ll have to pay for premiums that cover not only you, but also the guy who smokes three packs a day, drink a gallon of whiskey and eats chicken fat off the floor. That’s because insurance companies will no longer be able to underwrite on the basis of a person’s health status. (Section 2701).

3. You would like to pay less in premiums by buying insurance with lifetime or annual limits on coverage? Tough. Health insurers will no longer be able to offer such policies, even if that is what customers prefer. (Section 2711).

4. Think you’d like a policy that is cheaper because it doesn’t cover preventive care or requires cost-sharing for such care? Tough. Health insurers will no longer be able to offer policies that do not cover preventive services or offer them with cost-sharing, even if that’s what the customer wants. (Section 2712).

5. You are an employer and you would like to offer coverage that doesn’t allow your employers’ slacker children to stay on the policy until age 26? Tough. (Section 2714).

6. You must buy a policy that covers ambulatory patient services, emergency services, hospitalization, maternity and newborn care, mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment; prescription drugs; rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices; laboratory services; preventive and wellness services; chronic disease management; and pediatric services, including oral and vision care.

You’re a single guy without children? Tough, your policy must cover pediatric services. You’re a woman who can’t have children? Tough, your policy must cover maternity services. You’re a teetotaler? Tough, your policy must cover substance abuse treatment. (Add your own violation of personal freedom here.) (Section 1302).

7. Do you want a plan with lots of cost-sharing and low premiums? Well, the best you can do is a “Bronze plan,” which has benefits that provide benefits that are actuarially equivalent to 60% of the full actuarial value of the benefits provided under the plan. Anything lower than that, tough. (Section 1302 (d) (1) (A))

8. You are an employer in the small-group insurance market and you’d like to offer policies with deductibles higher than $2,000 for individuals and $4,000 for families? Tough. (Section 1302 (c) (2) (A).

9. If you are a large employer (defined as at least 101 employees) and you do not want to provide health insurance to your employee, then you will pay a $750 fine per employee (It could be $2,000 to $3,000 under the reconciliation changes). Think you know how to better spend that money? Tough. (Section 1513).

10. You are an employer who offers health flexible spending arrangements and your employees want to deduct more than $2,500 from their salaries for it? Sorry, can’t do that. (Section 9005 (i)).

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Why Bart Stupak’s Executive Order is Meaningless

Monday, March 22, 2010 \AM\.\Mon\.

Why the figleaf that Bart Stupak had handed to him by Obama in the form of an executive order  is meaningless is succinctly explained by Ed Morrissey at Hot Air:

More to the point, though, this EO will never have any effect. As a host of actual Constitutional authorities have already made clear, any court challenge will wind up with the government forced to obey the law Congress passed and the President signed for the same reasons Obama states in this clip. Congress makes law, not the President, and when an EO conflicts with the law, it’s the law that prevails. Otherwise, the President really does become a “monarch”, as Obama states in this clip, and Congress becomes an advisory board.

Obama knows this. The Republicans know this. Hell, even Bart Stupak knows this, but he just needed an excuse to change his vote, and everyone knows it.

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A Tale of Two Votes

Monday, March 22, 2010 \AM\.\Mon\.

In my law practice, when my clients come to me for some legal help regarding some disaster that has occurred in their life, I often will tell them that no experience is wasted if a person learns from it.  What did we learn last night from the greatest defeated suffered by the pro-life cause since Roe v. Wade?  I think that can be summed up in two votes, both involving the Stupak amendment.

On November 7, 2009,  all but one Republican in the House voted for the Stupak amendment, realizing that by doing so they were probably ensuring that ObamaCare passed in the House.  I wrote about this vote here.  The Republicans voted for the Stupak language because Republicans are an overwhelmingly pro-life party, even though they were criticized by some on the right for paving the way for the passage of ObamaCare in the House.  They were joined by 68 Democrats.

Last night the Republicans voted to recommit the ObamaCare bill with the Stupak language.  They were defeated in that effort, with every Republican voting for it, but only 21 Democrats this time joining them.  Stupak, the author of the original amendment, voted against it and spoke against it, satisfied with the worthless executive order figleaf he was granted by Obama.

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What We Know Now

Monday, March 22, 2010 \AM\.\Mon\.

As it so happened, I was in Washington DC on that National Mall as congress was voting on the mess which is our “health care reform” bill. I hadn’t been to our capitol city before, and it was a simply beautiful afternoon — one on which it was hard to believe that our elected representatives were bringing us one large step closer to a major budgetary crisis point, and Representative Stupak was busy selling out the principles everyone had imagined to be as solid as the Rock of Gibraltar for a rather paltry executive order which may (or may not) come after the fact. (Call me a cynic, but I could well imagine the EO never coming. Though in a sense, why not issue it: It would have no effect and could be repealed at any time. Still, there would be a great deal of justice and truth in Obama using the old Microsoft line, “Your mistake was in trusting us.”)

Still, though sun, green grass, and stone monuments are fresh in my mind, and the largest looming problems in my mind revolve around children wailing that they need a bathroom right now while traveling on the metro (let’s just say that didn’t end well) I don’t want to seem as if I’m discounting the importance of what we’ve just seen. And there seem to be some fairly clear conclusions we can draw:

1) Stupak had no desire to be to abortion what Joe Lieberman chose to be to foreign policy. Lieberman was hounded out of his party and continues to hold office only because of people who disagree with him on nearly every other issue admired his principled stands on Iraq, Israel, etc. If Stupak had brought down the Health Care Reform bill in defense of the unborn, he would have received similar treatment from his own party to what Lieberman has received, and he clearly didn’t want to be that person. Instead, having talking himself into a corner he really didn’t want to be in, he seized upon a fig leaf when it was offered and did what he’d clearly wanted to do all along:

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November 2009, Stupak Never Intended to Vote No on ObamaCare

Monday, March 22, 2010 \AM\.\Mon\.

Last November during a town hall meeting near the Upper Peninsula Representative Bart Stupak of Michigan, an alleged “pro-lifeDemocrat that recently voted for government funding of abortion, made it clear that he was never going to vote “No” on ObamaCare.

Biretta tip to Sydney Carton and Alicia Colon.


The Cost is Too High; The Loss is Too Great

Wednesday, March 17, 2010 \AM\.\Wed\.

Francis Cardinal George, the President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, has issued a statement explaining why the Bishops are opposed to the Senate version of ObamaCare.

The Cost is too High; the Loss is too Great

The Catholic Bishops of the United States have long and consistently advocated for the reform of the American health care system. Their experience in health care and in Catholic parishes has acquainted them with the anguish of mothers who are unable to afford prenatal care, of families unable to ensure quality care for their children, and of those who cannot obtain insurance because of preexisting conditions.

Throughout the discussion on health care over the last year, the bishops have advocated a bipartisan approach to solving our national health care needs. They have urged that all who are sick, injured or in need receive necessary and appropriate medical assistance, and that no one be deliberately killed through an expansion of federal funding of abortion itself or of insurance plans that cover abortion. These are the provisions of the long standing Hyde amendment, passed annually in every federal bill appropriating funds for health care; and surveys show that this legislation reflects the will of the majority of our fellow citizens. The American people and the Catholic bishops have been promised that, in any final bill, no federal funds would be used for abortion and that the legal status quo would be respected.

However, the bishops were left disappointed and puzzled to learn that the basis for any vote on health care will be the Senate bill passed on Christmas Eve. Notwithstanding the denials and explanations of its supporters, and unlike the bill approved by the House of Representatives in November, the Senate bill deliberately excludes the language of the Hyde amendment. It expands federal funding and the role of the federal government in the provision of abortion procedures. In so doing, it forces all of us to become involved in an act that profoundly violates the conscience of many, the deliberate destruction of unwanted members of the human family still waiting to be born.

What do the bishops find so deeply disturbing about the Senate bill? The points at issue can be summarized briefly. The status quo in federal abortion policy, as reflected in the Hyde Amendment, excludes abortion from all health insurance plans receiving federal subsidies. In the Senate bill, there is the provision that only one of the proposed multi-state plans will not cover elective abortions – all other plans (including other multi-state plans) can do so, and receive federal tax credits. This means that individuals or families in complex medical circumstances will likely be forced to choose and contribute to an insurance plan that funds abortions in order to meet their particular health needs.

Further, the Senate bill authorizes and appropriates billions of dollars in new funding outside the scope of the appropriations bills covered by the Hyde amendment and similar provisions. As the bill is written, the new funds it appropriates over the next five years, for Community Health Centers for example (Sec. 10503), will be available by statute for elective abortions, even though the present regulations do conform to the Hyde amendment. Regulations, however, can be changed at will, unless they are governed by statute.

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The Wonders of Government Medicine

Wednesday, March 10, 2010 \AM\.\Wed\.

As ObamaCare goes through its death throes, my reaction is that the nation has dodged a bullet.  The whole purpose of this exercise was to bring closer the day when the country would have a single payer system.  I believe that if such a system had been achieved the results could well have been nightmarish.  The National Health Service in Great Britain I believe would have been a model of what the US health system would have become if completely controlled by the government.

A recent survey of 900 nurses in Great Britain revealed:

“A woman ‘barely coping’ after a miscarriage being sent to a ward with male patients.

Children left at ‘high security risk’ and a threat of infection when adults were put on their ward.

One overflow ward being so crammed a nurse could not reach the emergency buzzer when someone had a heart attack. She had to run into the corridor to yell for help.

One patient being left in a mop cupboard where there was only room for a chair, not a bed. At another hospital, a kitchen was set aside for two beds.

A hospital discharging elderly patients before they were ready.

Another using a ward which had been ‘condemned’ for patient use.

Up to three patients being crammed into a tiny office cluttered with staff belongings.

Eighteen patients being stuck on trolleys in the corridor of a medical assessment unit. “

“Maintaining single-sex areas was often impossible because of the sheer numbers of extra patients.

Nurses have to take blood samples in corridors and beds are sometimes placed in isolated corners, meaning nurses cannot see if a patient needs help.

Elderly patients are ‘parked’ in day rooms while waiting to be transferred to another hospital, and left ‘soiled and neglected’, and ‘needing fluids’.

Sometimes spare beds run out – and people have to sleep on chairs or mattresses on the floor.

Nearly half the nurses said patients in non-clinical areas did not have proper access to water, oxygen, suction and a call bell.

Four in ten said they did not have the screening to protect their dignity and privacy.

‘If a patient suddenly had a cardiac arrest, we would not be able to get the crash trolley to them,’ said one nurse at a hospital which squeezed extra beds into wards.

Others said cramming patients into wards put them at risk of cross-infection.

One added: ‘Urine bottles are not emptied, meals are missed as staff are not aware of the patient.’

Many nurses had complained to managers but the practice had stopped in only a handful of cases.

Last night, nursing leaders said poor standards meant ‘compassion fatigue’ set in, meaning nurses did not treat patients with the dignity and respect they deserved.”

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Show Me The Money Ben Nelson

Monday, February 1, 2010 \AM\.\Mon\.

Even though the health care bill seems all but dead, this video is a fine example of what happens when you sell out your conscious to political pressure.


Scott Brown: Good News for Obama 2012?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010 \AM\.\Wed\.

At first glance, it would appear that Scott Brown’s unlikely victory is bad news for President Obama’s long-term political future. Senator-elect Brown explicitly ran against the current health care reform bill, favoring federalist experimentation rather than a one-size-fits-all national approach. As health care reform was the central focus of President Obama’s first year in office, and Massachusettes is one of the most liberal states in the country, Brown’s victory there is a clear repudiation of the leadership of President Obama and Congressional Democrats during the past year. Nevertheless, I think a case could be made that Scott Brown’s victory will help the President in the long run. There are three main reasons:

1) Brown’s victory was too stunning to ignore. No one would have predicted it even a month ago, and I was still skeptical yesterday that Massachusetts was going to elect a Republican senator for the first time since 1972 – and to replace Ted Kennedy, of all people. Congressional Democratic leadership and the Administration will no longer be able to convince Blue Dog Democrats they know best and that Obama will be able to leverage his popularity to preserve their seats. That card has been played – not only in Massachusetts, but also in Virginia and New Jersey – and it wasn’t  a winner. This means that the Administration and the Congressional leadership will have to adjust their strategy, and pay more attention to voter sentiment. It’s probably too late at this point for this to help the Democrats much in November; they will take a well-deserved beating in this election. Nevertheless, it’s a lesson the Obama Administration will keep in mind going forward, just as the Clinton Administration pivoted after the Hillarycare debacle. President Obama will be forced to govern more like the moderate, fiscally responsible Democrat he campaigned as. And that is likely to increase his odds of re-election.

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The Massachusetts Miracle: What Does It Mean?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010 \AM\.\Wed\.

Well Massachusetts has elected a Republican US Senator for the first time in 37 years.  What does this political upset of the century mean?

1.   ObamaCare is dead.  Not only because the Democrats now lack 60 votes to invoke cloture in the Senate, but because opposition to ObamaCare was the signature feature of Scott Brown’s campaign and the results of this race in bluest Massachusetts will send chills down the spine of too many Democrats.

2.   We now have further evidence that the Democrats are looking at a political storm of the first magnitude in the Fall.  If a US Senate seat in Massachusetts isn’t safe for the Democrats, it is hard to imagine what seat in Congress outside of urban centers they can take for granted in November.

3.   The fundraising success of Scott Brown over the internet was astounding.  A demonstration that the internet fundraising effort of the Democrats in 2008 now has a GOP counterpart.

4.   Look for a wave of Democrat retirements in Congress as more Democrats decide that ending their political careers with a voluntary retirement is preferable to defeat.

5.   More Blue Dog Democrats in Congress will follow the example of Congressman Parker Griffith and announce that they are switching to the Republican Party.

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Massachusetts Predictions

Tuesday, January 19, 2010 \AM\.\Tue\.

Go here to see the last polls on the Senate race in Massachusetts.  The seat that is up has been in the hands of the Kennedy family since 1953, four years before my birth.   The last time the Republicans won a Federal senate race in Massachusetts was in 1972 when I was 15 years old.  Against all the odds Scott Brown has engineered the political upset of this century.  In November he trailed Martha Coakley by 30 points.  He has run a superb campaign and she has run an abysmal one, but the key issue has been his opposition to ObamaCare.  If ObamaCare is  a losing issue in Massachusetts, in what State in the Union can it be a winning issue?  Brown 52;  Coakley 47;  Kennedy 1.  That is my prediction.   What is yours?


Now This, This Would be a Sign of the Apocalypse!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010 \AM\.\Wed\.

A Republican may be elected to serve out Ted Kennedy’s unexpired term?  It could happen! Public Policy Polling, a Democrat leaning polling outfit shows the election a toss up between the Democrat Coakley and the Republican Brown.  Scott Rasmussen, the best political pollster in the business in my opinion, shows Coakley up by two.  Last week he showed her up by nine.  On Monday Brown raised over a million dollars in one day in internet donations.

If Brown wins the Senate race in the Peoples’ Republic of Massachusetts, it will send a political shock wave across this country the like of which hasn’t been seen in many a year.  If Ted Kennedy’s senate seat isn’t safe, what seat is safe for the Democrats?  Oh, I don’t believe that I should call it Ted Kennedy’s seat per Mr. Brown.


Bye Bye Byron

Tuesday, January 5, 2010 \PM\.\Tue\.

Byron Dorgan, Democrat Senator from North Dakota, decided it was better to retire rather than to be tossed out in November.  His retirement is an indication of just how grim the political environment is becoming for Democrats, especially in red states.    The news of Dorgan’s exit is sending out shock waves on Capitol Hill among Democrats.  Which Democrat Senator will decide next that “retirement” sounds better than “defeated”?

Update I: Politico takes a look here at the sudden wave of Democrats retiring.