| HEALTH CARE
Sometimes When You Win, You Really Lose
Conservative lawmakers in the House of Representatives sided with President Bush yesterday in denying millions of children the opportunity to receive health insurance. Congress fell 13 votes short of the two-thirds majority needed to override Bush’s veto of the popular and successful State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), but in doing so, picked up eight votes from the original House vote just a few weeks ago. Forty-four Republicans voted for the override. White House spokeswoman Dana Perino triumphantly declared, “We won this round on SCHIP.” For the White House, indeed the debate about expanding SCHIP was a political game to be won or lost. But for millions of children who were denied health care coverage because of Bush’s veto, yesterday’s vote was a somber reminder that the president stands squarely against their interests. “Eight in 10 Americans favor expanding the State Children’s Health Insurance Program,” and only 22 percent approve of Bush’s handling of the issue. Congressional leaders “vow[ed] to keep up the fight,” and pledged to re-ignite the legislation in the very near future. For the cost of just 41 days of war in Iraq, the nation could insure 10 million children for one year.
NEXT STEPS: Realizing that he stands isolated, Bush has recently suggested he is open to a “compromise” between his proposal of $5 billion versus Congress’s $35 billion proposal. But the important number is who will or will not be covered. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has stated that Bush’s proposal is actually “a diminishment of the number of children who are covered at the present time.” The Congressional Budget Office reports that more than 700,000 children will lose coverage under Bush’s proposal, so there is little ground to find compromise. After the House vote, Pelosi said, “In the next two weeks, we intend to send the president another bill that provides health care for 10 million children.” That goal, she said, is “not negotiable.” “We intend to sit down with the president any time he is ready,” Pelosi added. “We hope that will be soon.” But “chances for a quick compromise with the White House looked slim.” Pelosi explained: “So when the president wants to have $4 or 5 billion for children in this initiative, is he the one, the decider, who wants to go to that family and say, ‘Your child is out’?”
BUSH’S QUEST FOR RELEVANCE: A defensive Bush said in a press conference this week that he vetoes bills to “ensure that I am relevant.” On the CBS Evening News, Bob Schieffer said, “I think this was the President’s declaration that ‘I am not a lame duck.’ When he says he is going to use the veto to show he is still relevant, that shows you someone that really doesn’t have a lot to brag about at this point.” Bush has registered four vetoes — on stem cells (twice), Iraq redeployment, and health insurance for kids, all of which pit Bush firmly against the will of the American public. Bush’s stance on SCHIP has caused anger among his traditional supporters. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) said the White House has been willfully propagating myths about SCHIP. Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA), generally a conservative ally of the president, said Bush is “not going to get away” with his position on SCHIP. “He’s jeopardizing people’s careers,” complained Davis.
RIGHT-WING HYSTERIA: The few right-wing lawmakers who continue to stand with Bush have rallied around an imaginary provision in the SCHIP bill, claiming it provides health insurance for undocumented immigrants. Rep. Steve King (R-IA) said the bill provided care for “illegals and their parents.” Rep. Nathan Deal (R-GA) engaged in similar demagoguery, claiming the bill was a “multi-billion giveaway to illegal aliens.” The SCHIP legislation does not cover undocumented immigrants. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports that “undocumented immigrants have never been eligible for regular Medicaid or SCHIP,” and the current bill “maintains this prohibition.” As Congress revisits the legislation in the coming weeks, some “face-saving alterations” may be made to attempt to win more conservative support, even though the bill already explicitly says undocumented immigrants will not covered. “Democratic leaders suggested…they would tighten language to ensure that the children of illegal immigrants would not receive benefits.” Four moderate Republicans sent Pelosi a letter “outlining what they thought could win passage,” including an expressed prohibition on covering undocumented immigrants. “The modifications needed are relatively modest,” said Rep. Heather A. Wilson (R-NM).
JUSTICE — MUKASEY REFUSES TO CALL WATERBOARDING ‘TORTURE’: Throughout his confirmation hearings, Attorney General nominee Mike Mukasey has consistently denounced the use of torture. Torture is “antithetical to what this country stands for,” he said yesterday. But under questioning from Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Mukasey refused to classify the practice of waterboarding — in which a suspect has water poured over his face to simulate drowning — as unconstitutional, repeatedly claiming it depends on how one defines “torture.” “If it amounts to torture, it is not constitutional,” he claimed. As Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has pointed out, there’s no question that waterboarding is torture: “[T]o make someone believe that you are killing him by drowning is no different than holding a pistol to his head and firing a blank. I believe that it is torture.” Mukasey’s position also puts him at odds with CIA director Michael Hayden, who has reportedly banned waterboarding from CIA terror interrogations. Human Rights First observes that Mukasey’s statements imply “that forms of coercive interrogation which violate Common Article 3 may be practiced by government agencies, including the C.I.A.”
IRAQ — REPORT: U.S. EFFORTS TO FOSTER RECONCILATION HAVE ‘FAILED’: A report released yesterday by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) found that “attempts by American-led reconstruction teams to force political reconciliation, foster economic growth, and build an effective police force and court system in Iraq have failed to show significant progress in nearly every one of the nation’s provincial regions and in the capital.” Examining all 32 provincial reconstruction teams (PRT) in Iraq, the report “pieced together an almost encyclopedic view that has been sorely lacking” and found that progress will require “years of steady engagement.” “If the story of Iraq reconstruction tells anything, teaches any lesson, it is that the U.S. government was not well structured and was not well poised in 2003 to engage in the kind of post-conflict relief and reconstruction operations we have faced,” SIGIR Stuart Bowen told a House panel yesterday. The counselor for public affairs at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad “said that the embassy had some reservations about the way Mr. Bowen’s office had gauged progress by the P.R.T.’s in Iraq.”
ENVIRONMENT — SENATE BILL A ‘BREAKTHROUGH’ IN THE FIGHT ON GLOBAL WARMING: Sens. John Warner (R-VA) and Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) proposed legislation yesterday designed to fight global warming by cutting “annual emissions by 15 percent in 2020 and 70 percent by 2050.” The bill, which Center for American Progress senior fellow Daniel J. Weiss said has “bipartisan momentum that could help it go the distance to become law,” generated positive reviews from environmentalists. “We think it’s a very strong bill,” said Dan Lashoff of the Natural Resources Defense Council. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) called the bill “a turning point” that “would be the strongest global warming program in the world in terms of its reach.” Carol Browner of the Center for American Progress praised the bill for achieving reductions “via a cost-effective ‘cap and trade’ system.” She explained, “The Clean Air Act successfully employed this method to reduce the sulfur emissions that cause acid rain, and clean-up costs were much lower than industry predicted.” Browner also praised the bill for “rewarding states that implement their own programs to reduce global warming pollution more quickly than the federal program.” Recently, the Bush administration fought “to block the efforts” of individual states seeking to reduce their carbon emissions.
The Senate Intelligence Committee yesterday voted 13-2 to approve a bill tightening rules on government wiretapping. The legislation would also contains a “highly controversial” grant of legal immunity for telecoms, a provision demanded by the White House.
House aide Greg Lankler, who has been subpoenaed in the corruption investigation of Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA), has promised to “fight” the order. Prosecutors in Los Angeles are investigating Lewis’s steering of valuable earmarks for lobbyist Bill Lowery’s clients.
“The majority of treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder that are used to treat hundreds of thousands of veterans lack rigorous scientific evidence that they are effective,” according to a report issued yesterday by the National Academies.
In “one of the most concrete signs of the effect of a warming climate on government operations, the Coast Guard is planning its first operating base there as a way of dealing with the cruise ships and the tankers that are already beginning to ply Arctic waters.”
136: Number of people who were killed by a suicide bomber in Karachi, Pakistan, yesterday. Thousands turned out for the return of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.
Oil prices have soared to “another record high,” hitting $90.07.
And finally: Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) won second place in the annual D.C.’s Funniest Celebrity contest, beating out Wonkette founder Ana Marie Cox and Grover Norquist. Watch it here.
KANSAS: State agency becomes “the first government agency…to cite carbon dioxide emissions as the reason for rejecting an air permit for a proposed coal-fired electricity” plant.
COLORADO: New health insurance proposal would cover “[m]ore than 85 percent of uninsured Coloradans.”
ENVIRONMENT: “The Southeast’s worst drought in more than a century is forcing parched states and communities into crisis measures.”
THINK PROGRESS: Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) rips the reported FISA compromise: Senate Intelligence Committee is “caving” to White House pressure.
DOWN WITH TYRANNY: Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) to announce retirement as evidence mounts of his involvement in the “Duke” Cunningham scandal.
BALKINIZATION: Attorney General nominee Michael Mukasey is agnostic on whether waterboarding is lawful.
AMERICA BLOG: Reuters trumpets President Bush’s exploitation of the “Osama card” for political purposes.
White House science adviser John Marburger gave an “explicit endorsement of the latest major review of climate science from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).”
— BBC, 9/14/07
Marburger “said yesterday there is no solid scientific evidence that the widely cited goal of limiting future global temperature rises to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels is necessary to avert dangerous climate change, an assertion that runs counter to that of many scientists as well as the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.”
— Washington Post, 10/19/07