Will the Government Health Care Bill be Defeated? More likely than not

Stupak caves. The government health care bill will get passed.

UPDATE: Last night I said that as long as the existing "no" votes held, the bill would be defeated if one of these four (Davis, Mollohan, Pomeroy, and Tanner) switched to vote "no." Davis and Tanner have now said that they will vote "no." The Hill now lists Pomeroy and Mollohan as the remaining "undecided" votes, and I wouldn't be surprised if one of them ends up voting "no." What this means is that the Dems must now admit that they need the votes of those who don't think that the government should pay for abortion. The Dems are offering Stupak an executive order in exchange for his vote on the law, but that isn't a serious offer because the law is permanent and the executive order can be changed at any time. Everything now depends upon whether Stupak sells out or not. If I had to guess, I don't think that he will. His career would be over if he does, and an executive order can't trump a law. I still think that the odds are that the government health care bill will be defeated.

The very fact that Dems are still negotiating with Stupak shows that they don't have the votes to pass the bill.

Original post:

Based on published reports in the NY Times and The Hill Newspaper, it looks likely that the government health care bill will be defeated, but it is extremely close and one would think that the Dems can get their own party members to vote "yes." The Democrats started this Congress with an 80 seat majority so you would think that they could get anything that they wanted, but it is a testimony to how left wing their legislation is that they have developed bi-partisan opposition.

All that said, this chart is from the NY Times.

The Hill newspaper data that I will use below is from 10/20/10 at 7:27 PM. The NY Times claims that the totals are: 207 "yes" and 206 "no." If they are right and 10 of the 18 vote "no," the bill will be defeated. So how are those 18 likely to vote? Of the NY Times 18 (from 10/20), here is the breakdown from The Hill.

Berry, Boucher, Costello, Donnelly, Driehaus, Lipinski, Nye, Rahall, and Stupak are listed by The Hill newspaper as likely "No" votes.

Baird, Dahlkemper, Davis, Kanjorski, Kaptur, Mollohan, Pomeroy, and Tanner are listed by The Hill as "undecided."

Cuellar is listed by The Hill as "yes."

If both the NY Times and The Hill are correct, all the "no" side has to do is get one of the eight "undecided" votes. Let's call these eight the "undecided" from now on. Seven of the eight "undecided" votes voted "yes" on the abortion amendment. One of the eight are in really tough re-election races and three are in "leaning" Democrat districts. All of these four were "yes" votes on the Stupak abortion amendment, were in districts won by McCain, and in tough races (Davis, Mollohan, Pomeroy, and Tanner). Of those four, three also claim to be fiscally conservative "Blue Dogs" (Davis, Pomeroy, and Tanner).

Will two of these three or four votes vote "no"? It would look like these four should have a hard time voting "yes" on the government health care bill if they want to stay in office. Again, if both the NY Times and The Hill are correct, how this vote will go could well be determined by these four congressmen. These four are also slightly more conservative than the average Congressional Democrat (the average 2008 ADA score is 89 percent, Davis (80), Mollohan (85), Pomeroy (85), and Tanner (80)). Other undecided congressmen could also vote "no," but these four would seem to be very likely candidates to supply the one vote needed.

Davis, Mollohan, Pomeroy, and Tanner

UPDATE: As of at least 10 AM, the Dems apparently didn't have the 216 votes that they needed.

"We don’t have a hard 216 right now," Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) said during an appearance on "Fox News Sunday."
She did express confidence that Dems would hit the number, adding, "I firmly believe we will have 216."

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told NBC’s "Meet the Press" that “there are still members who are looking at it and making up their mind, but we still think there are going to be 216-plus votes when we call the roll.” . . .

On the other side, Dems seem to think that a promise by Obama not to use the money for abortions will be enough to get Stupak and other Dems votes. It is hard to believe that Stupak thinks that this is a good deal, but if he does this, he is caving. On the one hand you have a law that allows government funded abortions and on the other side you essentially have a promise from the president not to do it. If Obama changes his mind or you have another president, where will Stupak be then?

House Democratic leaders are struggling to gain the 216 votes they need to win a healthcare vote on Sunday.

House Democratic leaders struggling to gain the 216 votes they need to win a healthcare vote earned two more crucial supporters on Sunday.

Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) announced she’d support the bill, saying she was convinced it would prevent federal funds from being used for abortion services.

Separately, MSNBC reported that Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) would vote for the bill.

Stupak earlier on Sunday had said he was close to a deal with the White House on an executive order on the abortion issue. The order would specify there would be no public funding for abortions in the healthcare bill. . . . .


John Stossel on the supposed Monopoly Power of Insurance companies

My son Maxim was involved with this segment. I wish that they had gotten some more into how many companies provide the self-insurance.

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Democratic Congressman Hastings: "There Are No Rules Here ... We Make Them Up As We Go Along"

Alcee Hastings was impeached in 1988 for corruption as a Federal Judge. The impeachment vote was 413 to 3. Hastings then ran for Congress in 1992 in a very heavily Democratic district and won. It seems appropriate that he is on the House Rules Committee.

The Washington Examiner has some background on what transpired before Hastings' quote here.

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Another Broken Promise: Obama promised to strip out deals from government health care bill

So much for a new way of doing things. Has there ever been so much deal making involving such large amounts of money?

While Democratic leaders picked up some yes votes, they remained short of the 216 needed for passage, and the bill's chance of success remained unknown Friday as lawmakers pressed for changes to the bill. Demands from wavering Democrats included boosting Medicare payments to hospitals and doctors in rural states, easing the likely burden on California agricultural producers and securing a White House commitment to retool immigration laws.

The deal-making appears to be at odds with a commitment from the White House to strip out provisions designed to benefit a particular state or special interest. The legislation has become controversial not only in the ways it would alter U.S. health care, but also because of public concern about the machinery employed to push it through the legislative process. . . .

Some of the deals

Action: New York, 10 other states and Washington DC get a total of $8.5 billion in federal funds to provide health-care coverage

Targets: members of the New York congressional delegation

Result: Most New York Democrats are voting for the legislation

Action: $100 million in federal funding to hospitals in Tennessee that provide care for poor people

Targets: Rep. Bart Gordon (D., Tenn.) and other members of the state's delegation

Result: Mr. Gordon announced his support for the legislation Thursday

Action: Additional water supplies to central California

Targets: California Democratic Reps. Dennis Cardoza and Jim Costa

Result: The lawmakers remain undecided.

Action: President Obama issues statement pledging to push for comprehensive immigration reform this year

Targets: Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D., Ill.) who opposed the healthcare bill because of a Senate provision that would it would prevent illegal immigrants from buying health insurance from the government.

Result: Mr. Gutierrez says he'll vote for the bill.

Not mentioned in the WSJ piece are deals such as allowing one bank in the nation that is located in North Dakota to keep issuing student loans.

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Copy of Health Care Reconciliation Bill: ‘‘Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act of 2010’’

A copy of the bill is available here.

Not only is there a lot of costs left out of the CBO estimates (see here and here), but the Dems and the media are making up numbers that aren't even there.

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The Medicare "fix" that Dems have promised will mean the CBO predicts a deficit

Just another trick by Dems. The health care bill cuts $500 billion so that they can claim that the health care bill is in the black. Then the "fix" adds money back in separately, but they can still claim that the health care bill is in the black.

Congressional budget scorekeepers say a Medicare fix that Democrats included in earlier versions of their health care bill would push it into the red.

The Congressional Budget Office said Friday that rolling back a programmed cut in Medicare fees to doctors would cost $208 billion over 10 years. If added back to the health care overhaul bill, it would wipe out all the deficit reduction, leaving the legislation $59 billion in the red.

The so-called doc fix was part of the original House bill. Because of its high cost, Democrats decided to pursue it separately. Republicans say the cost should not be ignored. Congress has usually waived the cuts to doctors year by year.

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New Fox News piece: Demonizing the Insurance Industry Is Not the Answer

My newest piece with Scott Harrington starts off this way:

In a last ditch effort to cram their health care reform package through Congress, Democrats have ramped up their demonization of private health insurers. They blame an alleged lack of competition in health insurance for all sorts of ills – from higher premiums to insurers denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions or dropping people who get sick.

According to the White House blog last week: "the insurers’ monopoly is so strong that they can continue to jack up rates as much as they like." In The New York Times on Friday, Paul Krugman attacks what he calls the "vileness" of profit driven insurance companies. These arguments are echoed in Congress. In an ostensible effort to promote competition, the House recently passed legislation to exclude health insurance from the partial anti-trust exemption for the “business of insurance.” The 39 percent premium increase by Anthem Blue Cross for its individual (non-group) policyholders in California is continually touted as evidence of this monopoly power.

But what are the facts of this alleged monopoly power? Despite claims that it produces huge profits, health insurers’ profits generally average 3-5 percent of premiums. During the first nine months of 2009, profit margins were just 2.4 percent. . . .

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White House: Monopoly insurance companies responsibility for all problems

From the White House blog:

the insurers’ monopoly is so strong that they can continue to jack up rates as much as they like – even if it means losing customers – and their profits will continue to soar under the status quo. . . .

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Obama corrected twice on misspelling Syracuse

Let's get this straight, Syracuse is spelled correctly right in front of him, but Mr. Obama misspells it twice (see about 2:50 into this clip for the second discussion). When Dan Qualye was VP he misspelled "potato" when the card that he was given misspelled the word and he was attacked as an idiot. Here Obama misspells a word twice when it is written down correctly in front of him and it is generally a non-issue in the press. Do I personally care if someone misspells a word? No. But this example surely shows how the media treats Republicans and Democrats differently.

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Howard Stern: "I will never vote for a Democrat Again"

Two votes short of stopping the health care bill?

The Hill Newspaper says that there are 36 firm or leaning "no" votes. If 38 Dems vote against the bill, it will be killed. So if all the "no" votes hold and two of the 49 undecideds vote "no," the bill will be stopped.

John Fund has a list of the 8 Dems who are being lobbied hardest. Three are on the "no" list currently.

Rick Boucher of Virginia -- already under fire for his role in crafting a cap-and-trade bill that is a focal point of anger in his Coal Country district. Mr. Boucher, a 28-year-veteran, faces his toughest race in years.

Mike McMahon of New York -- representing the most conservative part of New York City (i.e. Staten Island), Mr. McMahon faces a tough re-election race. But he also has to watch his left flank. He's been visited by union officials who have told him that, should he vote "no" on health care, they might put up a candidate from the Working Families Party, a group with links to ACORN, in the fall and drain away liberal votes he would otherwise get.

Harry Teague of New Mexico -- Mr. Teague is already in hot water in this energy-producing district for voting for the cap-and-trade bill last year. In addition, Steve Pearce, his GOP predecessor, is running to reclaim his old seat in a district that John McCain carried in 2008. Mr. Teague will announce his position on health care today. He may well become a "yes" vote, having concluded he is unlikely to win re-election in any event.

Five Dems are listed as undecided on The Hill list.

Jason Altmire of Pennsylvania -- A former hospital executive, Mr. Altmire has teased Democratic leaders with his willingness to consider switching his vote. But this week he called leadership efforts to avoid an up-or-down vote on health care "wrong," signaling he may be tough to pull over.

John Boccieri of Ohio -- A freshman, Mr. Boccieri declined to appear with President Obama when he visited Ohio this week. Representing a district that voted for John McCain, he also knows ObamaCare is less popular in Ohio than in most states.

Glenn Nye of Virginia -- a Navy veteran who returned home to Norfolk to run for Congress. Mr. Nye represents a district that swung away from Democrats in last year's race for governor and knows he is highly vulnerable.

Scott Murphy of New York -- the narrow winner of a 2009 special election, Mr. Murphy represents a GOP-leaning district but has more wiggle room than most because he failed to draw a top-flight opponent this year.

Suzanne Kosmas of Florida -- a freshman who won in 2008 largely because the GOP incumbent was touched by scandal. Ms. Kosmas might be persuaded to take a political risk and vote "yes" after getting assurances that higher local funding for NASA is being considered.

If these eight split half-and-half and Dems all the other "nos" vote "no" and "Undecideds" vote "yes," the bill will be defeated.

Hannity has an updated list that show 42 Dems are going against the bill.

These lists indicate that it is going to be hard for Dems to win the vote.


New Fox News piece: The CBO's Sleight of Hand On Health Care

My new piece at Fox News starts this way:

At the beginning of the week, the Congressional Budget Office gave House Speaker Nancy Pelosi their estimates of the how much the health care reconciliation bill will cost. But Pelosi decided to wait days to release those numbers. For Democrats anxious to pass the bill, the delay has been extremely frustrating as Congress must wait 72-hours after the release of the CBO estimates before voting. They desperately wanted to vote before Sunday morning, when Obama leaves on his trip for Indonesia, Australia, and Guam. Naturally, Democrats want President Obama around to do any last-minute arm-twisting that might be necessary. Thus, the House cut would have had to release the CBO estimates by Wednesday night. They missed that deadline.

But, despite delaying the vote until after Obama leaves on his trip, Pelosi had good reasons for waiting to release the numbers. The CBO probably estimated the costs for the health care bill to be too high, probably over the magic one trillion dollar price tag, which she thinks means even more congressmen opposing the bill.

What is going on behind the scenes during this delay? Probably a lot of number crunching. Congressional Democrats have the CBO equations used to calculate expenditures and taxes and have spent the last few days changing different numbers in the bill to jimmy the total costs below a trillion dollars. Yet, no one really believes that the CBO equations accurately measure the costs of the health care bill to the government or to anyone else. Once one knows what costs the CBO counts and which ones are ignored, gaming these numbers can allow Democrats to hide huge parts of the bill’s costs. . . .

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Bret Baier does a good job interviewing Obama

Obama has a hard time directly answering Baier's questions.


"CBO feels crush of health care requests"

The CBO scoring process has been manipulated in part because the Republicans haven't been able to get the CBO to estimate what some key parts of the health care bill are going to do to total costs. Whether on purpose or by accident it doesn't really matter. What is the impact of banning different insurance premiums based on pre-existing conditions? I think that it will be huge, but CBO has refused to answer saying that they have been kept too busy by the Democrat majority.

President Obama's agenda has so overloaded Congress that its legislative gatekeepers - the analysts who score each bill and the auditors who weed out waste and fraud - can't keep up.

Repeated requests from lawmakers seeking to have their health care reform plans evaluated have overwhelmed the Congressional Budget Office, where some health analysts are putting in 100-hour workweeks. Meanwhile, the Government Accountability Office, Congress' chief investigative arm, says it needs an additional 144 staffers just to track waste and abuse from the $862 billion Recovery Act that was enacted last year.

"The almost-round-the-clock schedule maintained this past year by CBO's current staff cannot be maintained much longer," that agency's director, Douglas W. Elmendorf, testified Wednesday to a House Appropriations subcommittee as he made a pitch to add new staff to his stressed-out team. . . .

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More Washington Times Editorials


The cost of reducing reimbursement rates

Democrats think that they can just save money by reducing the rate that doctors and hospitals are reimbursed for services. This has lead to cost shifting, where private insurance has to pick up the losses imposed on medical care providers. Now this story from Washington state.

Effective April 16, Walgreens drugstores across the state won't take any new Medicaid patients, saying that filling their prescriptions is a money-losing proposition — the latest development in an ongoing dispute over Medicaid reimbursement.

The company, which operates 121 stores in the state, will continue filling Medicaid prescriptions for current patients.

In a news release, Walgreens said its decision to not take new Medicaid patients stemmed from a "continued reduction in reimbursement" under the state's Medicaid program, which reimburses it at less than the break-even point for 95 percent of brand-name medications dispensed to Medicaid patents.

Walgreens follows Bartell Drugs, which stopped taking new Medicaid patients last month at all 57 of its stores in Washington, though it still fills Medicaid prescriptions for existing customers at all but 15 of those stores. . . .

Fred Meyer and Safeway said their pharmacies would continue to serve existing Medicaid patients and to take new ones, though both expressed concern that the reimbursement rate is too low for pharmacies to make a profit. . . .


Is this how the Stimulus was supposed to be working?

I think that these predictions are overly pessimistic. Possibly they are playing the expectations game, but while unemployment will likely stay above 9 percent, saying that it will be at 10 percent is too high.

U.S. employers won’t hire enough workers this year to lower the jobless rate much below the level of 9.7 percent reached in February, three Obama administration economic officials said today.

The proportion of Americans who can’t find work is likely to “remain elevated for an extended period,” Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, White House budget director Peter Orszag and Christina Romer, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, said in a joint statement. The officials said unemployment may even rise “slightly” over the next few months as discouraged workers start job-hunting again.

“We do not expect further declines in unemployment this year,” the officials said in testimony prepared for the House Appropriations Committee. They predicted the economy would add about 100,000 jobs a month on average -- not enough to bring the jobless rate down substantially.

Today’s projections are in line with the 10 percent average unemployment forecast for this year in last month’s budget plan. Christopher Rupkey, chief financial economist at Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd. in New York, said the administration’s language risks damping expectations for a recovery.

“They need to work on the message, and right now the message is that there is not a lot to be hopeful about,” Rupkey said. “Warning about a slow jobless recovery can help make it a reality.” . . .


5th state passes "Firearms Freedom Act"

Despite the fact that I think that any reasonable reading of the interstate commerce clause would make these laws unnecessary, given past decisions by the Supreme Court, it seems unlikely that these laws will be upheld.

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Natoma Canfield, Obama's exaggerated example of the financial troubles posed by health care crises

Obama spent a third of his talk on health care at Strongsville, Ohio on Natoma's case.

I want to thank Connie -- I want to thank Connie, who introduced me. I want to thank her and her family for being here on behalf of her sister, Natoma. I don't know if everybody understood that Natoma is in the hospital right now, so Connie was filling in. It’s not easy to share such a personal story, when your sister who you love so much is sick. And so I appreciate Connie being willing to do so here today, and -- (applause) -- and I want everybody to understand that Connie and her sister are the reason that I’m here today. (Applause.)

See, Connie felt it was important that her sister’s story be told. But I want to just repeat what happened here. Last month, I got a letter from Connie’s sister, Natoma. She’s self-employed, she’s trying to make ends meet, and for years she’s done the responsible thing, just like most of you have. She bought insurance -- she didn’t have a big employer who provided her insurance, so she bought her health insurance through the individual market.

And it was important for her to have insurance because 16 years ago, she was diagnosed with a treatable form of cancer. And even though she had been cancer-free for more than a decade, the insurance companies kept on jacking up her rates, year after year. So she increased her out-of-pocket expenses. She raised her deductible. She did everything she could to maintain her health insurance that would be there just in case she got sick, because she figured, I didn’t want to be -- she didn’t want to be in a position where, if she did get sick, somebody else would have to pick up the tab; that she’d have to go to the emergency room; that the cost would be shifted onto folks through their higher insurance premiums or hospitals charging higher rates. So she tried to do the right thing.

And she upped her deductible last year to the minimum [sic], the highest possible deductible. But despite that, Natoma’s insurance company raised her premiums by more than 25 percent. And over the past year, she paid more than $6,000 in monthly premiums. . . .

Unfortunately, Natoma’s worst fears were realized. And just last week, she was working on a nearby farm, walking outside -- apparently, chasing after a cow -- (laughter) -- when she collapsed. And she was rushed to the hospital. She was very sick. She needed two blood transfusions. Doctors performed a battery of tests. And on Saturday, Natoma was diagnosed with leukemia.

Now, the reason Natoma is not here today is that she’s lying on a hospital bed, suddenly faced with this emergency -- suddenly faced with the fight of her life. She expects to face more than a month of aggressive chemotherapy. She is racked with worry not only about her illness but about the costs of the tests and the treatment that she’s surely going to need to beat it.

So you want to know why I’m here, Ohio? I’m here because of Natoma. (Applause.) I’m here because of the countless others who have been forced to face the most terrifying challenges in their lives with the added burden of medical bills they can’t pay. I don't think that’s right. (Applause.) Neither do you. That’s why we need health insurance right now. Health insurance reform right now. (Applause.) . . .

There is only one problem with the story the concerns that Obama raised about her financial costs aren't true.

Natoma Canfield, the cancer-stricken woman who has become a centerpiece of President Obama's push for health care reform, will not lose her home over her medical bills and will probably qualify for financial aid, a top official at the Cleveland medical center treating her told FoxNews.com.

Though Canfield's sister Connie Anderson said her sibling is afraid she'll lose her house and Obama warned at an Ohio rally Monday that the patient is "racked with worry" about the cost of tests and treatment, she is already being screened for financial help.

Lyman Sornberger, executive director of patient financial services at the Cleveland Clinic, said "all indications" at the outset are that she will be considered for assistance.

"She may be eligible for state Medicaid ... and/or she will be eligible for charity (care) of some form or type. ... In my personal opinion, she will be eligible for something," he said, adding that Canfield should not be worried about losing her home.

"Cleveland Clinic will not put a lien on her home," he said. . . .

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Voter unhappiness with Congress reaches record levels

Rasmussen Reports has a new survey out.

Voter unhappiness with Congress has reached the highest level ever recorded by Rasmussen Reports as 71% now say the legislature is doing a poor job.
That’s up ten points from the previous high of 61% reached a month ago.
Only 10% of voters say Congress is doing a good or excellent job.
Nearly half of Democratic voters (48%) now give Congress a poor rating, up 17 points since January. The vast majority of Republicans and voters not affiliated with either party also give Congress poor ratings.
Seventy percent (70%) of voters say Congress has not passed any legislation that would significantly improve life for Americans, up 10 points over the past month and the highest level of dissatisfaction measured in regular tracking in over three years. Only 15% say Congress has passed such legislation.
Forty percent (40%) of voters nationwide now say it is at least somewhat likely Congress will seriously address the most important issues facing the nation. That’s down from 59% last March. Only 9% say it is Very Likely Congress will address these issues. . . .

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Organizing for American organizing mass calls for moderate Democrats

From Politico:

Rep. Chet Edwards, a Texas Democrat who remains a firm “no,” said he’s getting calls spurred by Organizing for America, the president’s unofficial outreach arm. He said he’s fine with constituents expressing their opinions — and even with the right of OFA to engage — but noted of the Obama organization, “It’s clear to me they could care less about my political future.” . . .

Lots of other tactics are being used:

“We’re having donors, even donors outside of our district, that are being called and asked to urge support” for the bill, said a senior aide to one conservative Democrat, who indicated the tactics could backfire on the health care bill. “If you want to play Chicago-style politics, and that’s what this is, then we will come out firmly against it.” . . .

Obama also promises not to campaign for any Democrats who votes against the bill, but I am not sure that Obama's appearances would help in the vast majority of the congressmen who plan on voting "no."


Dems don't want to vote on the bill that Obama has called for an up-or-down vote on

Let me get this straight. Obama wants an up-or-down vote, but Congress wants to pass it without directly voting on the Senate version of the bill.

The Dems in the House want to combine the votes on the Senate bill and the reconciliation bills into one vote, then have the president sign the Senate bill and send the reconciliation bill to the Senate. The problem is that the House must pass the exact same bill that the Senate passed. The problem is also that the Senate parliamentarian has ruled that the Senate can only take up the reconciliation bill if it is passed by the House after the original Senate bill has become law.

The notion that the Dems want this health care bill to become law without an official vote on the bill so that they can deny responsibility for what is in the bill seems impossible to believe, but it also shows how hard Dems think it will be for them to get the votes. I can only imagine that this bill is blowing up in their faces.

On Monday Pelosi said that "nobody wants to vote for the Senate bill." It is understandable why they want to avoid a clean vote.

From the Washington Post today:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters Monday that she is leaning toward a parliamentary maneuver under which the House would vote on a package of changes to the Senate-approved reform bill, and the underlying Senate bill would then be "deemed" to have passed, even though the House had never voted on it. That may help some House members dodge a politically difficult decision, but it strikes us as a dodgy way to reform the health-care system. Democrats who vote for the package will be tagged with supporting the Senate bill in any event. Why not be straightforward about it?

More worrying is that Congress and the country have yet to see the changes, for which Democrats hope to win quick House approval and which they then hope to speed through the Senate under a procedure that would bar filibusters. . . .

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Obama main example in Ohio accidentally shows why his health care plan will raise insurance premiums

Here is how the NY Times piece today starts off:

STRONGSVILLE, Ohio — Declaring that “every argument has been made” on his health care overhaul, President Obama sought to seal the deal with Congress and the American people Monday by focusing on a single patient: a self-employed cleaning woman who dropped her costly insurance plan and just discovered she has leukemia. . . .

Obama seems to think that people should be able to buy their insurance when they get sick without any penalty. In that case, everyone will wait until they get sick before they buy insurance. How much will that raise the price of insurance? It will no longer be insurance if Obama gets his way.


Democrat confusion over vote count and timing of vote

The Hill has all this back and forth over whether the Dems have the votes or not.

“There’s tremendous anticipation, and certainly a lot of anxiety, but I believe we have the votes and that we will get this bill done this week,” Larson, the fourth-ranking House Democrat, said.

But Larson’s statement immediately made him the highest-ranking optimist in the Democratic ranks.

Over the weekend, Clyburn said that Democrats are still short votes, by his count. In a Tuesday interview with McClatchy Newspapers, Clyburn said that he “thinks” he’ll get 216 votes. But in that interview Clyburn also said that he “wouldn’t bet” on the House actually taking the healthcare vote prior to the Easter recess, let alone by Sunday.

So who’s vote count is right?

“The whip is responsible for counting the votes,” Hoyer said. “And I will defer to Mr. Clyburn’s judgment on that issue.”

“We’re working on the votes” was all Hoyer would say when asked if he thought Democrats had 216 yes votes.

At the same time, Hoyer said that his “expectation is that we will do healthcare reform later in the week,” seeming to reject Clyburn’s pessimism while embracing the optimism of Larson about the “when” question. . . .



IRS sends agents to collect 4 cents, plus the $202.31 in penalties and taxes assessed on that debt

I suppose that one could say that this will convince all those other people owing a dollar or two to pay up, but it still doesn't seem very cost efficient.

It was every businessperson's nightmare.

Arriving at Harv's Metro Car Wash in midtown Wednesday afternoon were two dark-suited IRS agents demanding payment of delinquent taxes. "They were deadly serious, very aggressive, very condescending," says Harv's owner, Aaron Zeff.

The really odd part of this: The letter that was hand-delivered to Zeff's on-site manager showed the amount of money owed to the feds was ... 4 cents.

Inexplicably, penalties and taxes accruing on the debt – stemming from the 2006 tax year – were listed as $202.31, leaving Harv's with an obligation of $202.35.

Zeff, who also owns local parking lots and is the president of the Midtown Business Association, finds the situation a bit comical.

"It's hilarious," he says, "that two people hopped in a car and came down here for just 4 cents. I think (the IRS) may have a problem with priorities."

Now he's trying to figure out how penalties and interest could climb so high on such a small debt. He says he's never been told he owes any taxes or that he's ever incurred any late-payment penalties in the four years he's owned Harv's.

In fact, he provided us with an Oct. 22, 2009, letter from the IRS that states Harv's "has filed all required returns and addressed any balances due."

IRS spokesman Jesse Weller isn't commenting "due to privacy and disclosure laws."

Zeff says he's as offended as much as anything else by what he considers rude behavior by the IRS guys. . . .


The future of golf?

For some reason I don't think that this is going to catch on (link is here). I suppose that you would still have to have clubs for putting and short distances.
NcStar AR15 GOLF BALL LAUNCHER (AGOLF) Specifications Let the fun begin! NcSTAR introduces The Golf Ball Launcher that attaches to virtually any AR-15 with a threaded barrel. This simple to use design is ready to go by simply removing the Flash Hider from your AR-15 and installing The Golf Ball Launcher. Then you load Blank Ammunition into your rifle drop the ball into the launcher and propel golf balls down range! Manufacturer: NcStar Model Number: AGOLF SKU: NC_AGOLF

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Dems on vote trading on health care: We have made so many deals that we can't make any more without interfering with the deals that are already made

So much for Obama's promise to cut out special deals in the health care bill. There are so many deals already made that they can't do any more without interfering with the existing deals.

House Democratic leaders are closing down their trading post on the health care bill. Party leaders are beginning to spread the word to rank-and-file lawmakers that they won’t be changing the text of a carefully negotiated “reconciliation” bill to win votes at this point because they can’t undo deals that already have been hammered out, Democratic sources say.

“What they say is it was a tri-party negotiation with the House, Senate and White House,” said one source familiar with the decision.

“No horse trading,” said another source. “They are closed for business.”

That could be bad news for any number of lobbyists and outside groups who have been working to shift the legislation in their favor. For example, few expect the bill will include the “public option” that liberal groups have been pushing for. The decision to preclude any changes means those groups are likely to be disappointed.

Still, this doesn’t mean party leaders can’t or won’t court votes with the lure of provisions in future bills or campaign help from the president, but it indicates that House leaders plan to go to the floor with the reconciliation bill they have rather than making last-minute changes at the Rules Committee to attract more support. . . . .

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If Pelosi knew about Massa in October last year, why did the Democrats wait until a couple of weeks ago to push him out?

Rep. Michele Bachmann asks the question here.


Demand curves are downward sloping even for prison guards

This appears to be a pretty big difference in rates between male and female prison staff having sex with prisoners -- more than a two-to-one difference.

Inmate Michael Murphy usually started by seeking a small favor. That would often lead to a kiss or love letters. And in at least five cases, he convinced female prison employees to have sex with him or do other illegal favors.

In each of those cases, the female corrections employees were caught, shamed and forced out of a job, according to documents detailing an investigation by Montana prison officials and obtained by The Associated Press after an open-records lawsuit.

The female officers described Murphy as the aggressor, even as the predator. But that makes no difference in either state or federal penitentiaries, where prison employees — male or female — are the violators if they have sex with inmates.

A Justice Department study shows that cases like Murphy's are common: Female staff are more often implicated than their male counterparts in prison sexual misconduct. While many cases could be considered consensual, incarceration experts and female prison guards say the problem is much more complicated.

In some cases, the women reported that they couldn't say no to the inmate out of fear, or were afraid to go to a co-worker out of shame at what had happened. One small mistake often led to something else. . . .

Martin Horn, now a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said female workers who have sex with inmates are often treated less harshly by officials than male worker who do the same.

"As long as we have a double standard we are going to see these kind of behaviors," Horn said. "It is a very slippery slope we go down if we say we are not going to hold female officers to the same standard."

A 2007 U.S. Department of Justice study analyzing the prevalence of sexual assault in state and federal prisons found that 58 percent of staff perpetrators of sexual misconduct were female. . . .

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Google's "do no evil" saying

Google seems more than a little selective on what it thinks is good and bad behavior.

If Freedom is so important to Google, please explain why Google's search results in China are censored so as not to bring up any results concerning the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, sites supporting Tibet and Taiwan independence, the Falun Gong movement, and other information that the People's Republic of China doesn't like the Chinese people to know about or discuss?

Apple put the Dalai Lama into their advertising in 1997. Google deleted him from their search results in China in 2006. . . .

Some other problems with Google are discussed here.

From USA Today:

Google has been at loggerheads with the Chinese government since January, when Google said it would stop censoring its search results after it was hit by a cyberattack it traced to China.

China routinely blocks Internet content, restricting access to sites such as Facebook and YouTube. (Google started operations in China in 2006 and had censored search results since.)

Though Google executives have huddled with government officials about operating an unfiltered search engine, Chinese ministers have publicly said Google must continue to obey Chinese law or face consequences. . . .


The Next Check Bouncing Scandal?

It probably won't raise to the level of the infamous 1994 checking kiting scandal, but it is pretty outrageous.

At least 10 House members are spending more than $1,000 a month in taxpayer money to lease cars.

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver appears to be the biggest spender.

In the last quarter of 2009, the Missouri Democrat doled out $2,900 a month to lease a WiFi-equipped, handicap-accessible mobile office that runs on used cooking oil.

“Rather than paying for an additional office, the congressman has a mobile office, with all the capabilities to do casework across the district,” Cleaver spokesman Danny Rotert wrote in an e-mail. “We can go where our constituents are and accommodate those in wheelchairs with the mobile office’s lift.” . . .

But at least nine other members are paying more than $1,000 a month for more basic rides. . . .

Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas) -- $1,628 to lease a GMC Yukon
Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-Mich.) -- $1,230 per month
Pedro Pierluisi, the Democrat who represents Puerto Rico, spends $1,400 each month on his hybrid GMC Yukon
Rep. Harry Teague (D-N.M.) -- spends $1,279 in taxpayer money on his vehicle, a 2009 Chevy Malibu
Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) spent $1,259 per month last quarter for a hybrid Toyota Highlander
Rep. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.), who represents St. Louis, spends $1,059 a month on a hybrid Ford SUV
Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.) spends $1,026 each month on a hybrid Mercury Mariner
Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas) spends $1,143 each month
Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-Mass.) leases a hybrid Ford SUV for $1,108 a month
Reps. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) pays $998 a month for his Lexus.

Some lawmakers spend far less on leases. Indiana Rep. Joe Donnelly, a Democrat, spends $450 each month. And Rep. David Drier (R-Calif.) spends $366 a month. . . .


Brit Gov Agency Strikes Down British Government Ads on Global Warming, saying they exaggerate concerns

I don't know which is worse, the fact that a government agency is trying to indoctrinate kids about global warming or that there is a government agency that looks at the content of ads. In the case of government ads, if you are going to have to have them, why not have another government agency to check for accuracy? My first choice though is to get rid of the ads.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled that the adverts – which were based on the children's poems Jack and Jill and Rub-A-Dub-Dub – made exaggerated claims about the threat to Britain from global warming.
In definitely asserting that climate change would cause flooding and drought the adverts went beyond mainstream scientific consensus, the watchdog said.
It noted that predictions about the potential global impact of global warming made by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) "involved uncertainties" that the adverts failed to reflect.
The two posters created on behalf of the Department of Energy and Climate Change juxtaposed adapted extracts from the nursery rhymes with prose warnings about the dangers of global warning.
One began: “Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. There was none as extreme weather due to climate change had caused a drought.” Beneath was written: “Extreme weather conditions such as flooding, heat waves and storms will become more frequent and intense.”
The second advert read: "Rub a dub dub, three men in a tub — a necessary course of action due to flash flooding caused by climate change.” It was captioned: “Climate change is happening. Temperature and sea levels are rising. Extreme weather events such as storms, floods and heat waves will become more frequent and intense. If we carry on at this rate, life in 25 years could be very different.”
Upholding complaints from members of the public, the ASA said that in both instances the text accompanying the rhymes should have been couched in softer language. . . .

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Obama on School Reform

This quote pretty much summarizes it all:

It would set firmer standards for success while lifting nearly all the measures that the Bush law uses to try to prod change at failing schools. . . .

Critics have also singled out the law's heavy focus on standardized tests and its emphasis on reading and math over other subjects like science, history and art. . . .

If tests do such a bad job of measuring student performance, possibly we should just get rid of all tests in school. The best option might be to simply stop federal government involvement in education, but that is the last option that Obama will consider.

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Something to keep in mind with all the ruckus about Toyota's sudden acceleration

This WSJ piece puts the current discussion in some perspective. It is quite possible that people are getting freaked out over drivers making mistakes.

It took Audi 15 years to rebuild its U.S. sales to the level the company had achieved before the CBS show "60 Minutes" made sudden acceleration a household phrase in November 1986.

The "60 Minutes" segment, featuring the late Ed Bradley, showed owners of the Audi 5000 sedan who said their cars had suddenly and unexpectedly surged out of control. Some of the people were suing the company.

To dramatize the problem, "60 Minutes" showed an Audi 5000 moving on its own. Later, a consultant for plaintiffs lawyers disclosed he had altered the car's transmission for the shot, according to media reports.

In a subsequent report, the show discussed a 1989 study sponsored by the U.S. government that concluded the sudden acceleration in Audis was largely the result of driver mistakes, not mechanical issues.

A "60 Minutes" spokesman said, "There's nothing to add to the last update, broadcast 21 years ago, that included the NHTSA findings." . . .

Another article in the WSJ raises real questions about whether the latest incident involved fraud.

On Monday James Sikes, 61 years old, called 911 and told the operator his blue 2008 Toyota Prius had sped up to more than 90 miles per hour on its own on Interstate 8 near San Diego. He eventually brought the vehicle to a stop after a California Highway patrolman pulled alongside Mr. Sikes and offered help.

During and after the incident, Mr. Sikes said he was using heavy pressure on his brake pedal at high speeds.

But the investigation of the vehicle, carried out jointly by safety officials from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Toyota engineers, didn't find signs the brakes had been applied at full force at high speeds over a sustained period of time, the three people familiar with the investigation said.

The brakes were discolored and showed wear, but the pattern of friction suggested the driver had intermittently applied moderate pressure on the brakes, these people said, adding the investigation didn't find indicators of the heavy pressure described by Mr. Sikes. . . .

The investigation's findings aren't 100% conclusive and still must be finalized. But they are likely to cast doubt on how the situation was described by Mr. Sikes. . . .

During the 911 call, the operator urged Mr. Sikes to shift the car into neutral. He later said he was afraid doing so might cause the car to "flip" or shift into reverse. . . .

A reader points me to an interesting article by Michael Fumento that indicates that at least the most recent event in California looks fraudulent. Thanks to juandos for the link.

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And the point of the gun tracing is what?

Given all the police departments that sell guns, what are the odds that one police department would have this happen? It seems incredibly high to me. I also don't see the difference between a gun sold by a police department that gets used in a crime and a gun from any other sale. Does a gun become different just because that particular one is used in a crime? Does it function differently later? Hardly.

DEVLIN BARRETT at the Associated Press apparently thinks that this is newsworthy. Note the balance in this story. John Timoney's quote is balanced off how?

Two guns used in high-profile shootings this year at the Pentagon and a Las Vegas courthouse both came from the same unlikely place: the police and court system of Memphis, Tenn.

Law enforcement officials told The Associated Press that both guns were once seized in criminal cases in Memphis. The officials described how the weapons made their separate ways from an evidence vault to gun dealers and to the shooters.

The use of guns that were once in police custody to attack police officers highlights a little-known divide in gun policy in the U.S.: Many cities and states destroy guns gathered in criminal probes, but others sell or trade the weapons in order to get other guns or buy police equipment.

In fact, on the day of the Pentagon shooting, March 4, the Tennessee governor signed legislation revising state law on confiscated guns. Before, law enforcement agencies in the state had the option of destroying a gun. Under the new version, agencies can only destroy a gun if it's inoperable or unsafe.

Kentucky has a similar law, but it's not clear how many other states have laws specifically designed to promote the police sale or trade of confiscated weapons.

A nationwide review by The Associated Press in December found that over the previous two years, 24 states — mostly in the South and West, where gun-rights advocates are particularly strong — have passed 47 new laws loosening gun restrictions. Gun rights groups are making a greater effort to pass favorable legislation in state capitals.

John Timoney, who led the Philadelphia and Miami police departments and served as New York's No. 2 police official, said he doesn't believe police departments should be putting more guns into the market. . . .

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If 38 Dems vote "no," the health care bill can be stopped in the House

Given the huge Democratic majority in the House, it is a sign of the bill's unpopularity that the is such strong bi-partisan opposition to it. With 38 no votes, this can be stopped. The Hill newspaper claims 35 are leaning "no." 72 are undecided (see list here). Can the 35 stick in there and can 3 of the 72 be turned? Sean Hannity's list makes it look as if things are moving slightly against the bill over the weekend, with one more "lean no" being picked up (Bishop NY). Hannity's list has 19 lean no and 24 probably no, a total of 43. Bishop is not on The Hill's list. So we might be at 36, just two short.

From the Hill newspaper: Firm No, Leaning No, Likely No (35)
John Adler (N.J.) (N) Waiting to see bill. Sounded like a no on Fox News, saying House and Senate bills fail to address cost containment
Michael Arcuri (N.Y.) (Y) Some reports have him as firm no, but Rules Committee member hasn't closed the door yet
John Barrow (Ga.) * (N) Voted no last year in committee and on floor. Likely no
Marion Berry (Ark.) * (Y) Has been critical of the president since announcing his retirement. Strong backer of Stupak language
Dan Boren (Okla.) * (N) Won't be changing his mind — firm no
Rick Boucher (Va.) (N) GOP target who has told local press outlets in Virginia he has major problems with Medicare cuts and "unsavory deal making" that benefited Nebraska, Louisiana and Florida. Leaning no
Bobby Bright (Ala.) * (N) Voted against House health bill, stimulus and climate change. Firm no
Ben Chandler (Ky.) * (N) His office told The Plum Line his position hasn't changed since November
Travis Childers (Miss.) * (N) In toss-up reelection race
Henry Cuellar (Texas) * (Y) Cuellar told Investor's Business Daily that without changes to abortion language, he's a no. Under pressure from Speaker and the president, Cuellar did back climate change bill and House healthcare bill last year. Cuellar, who is heavily favored to win reelection, cannot be counted as a firm no
Artur Davis (Ala.) * (N) Running for governor, but will make sure to return to D.C. to vote no
Lincoln Davis (Tenn.) * (N) Voted no first time, and most expect him to vote no again
Joe Donnelly (Ind.) * (Y) Among the Stupak dozen — will vote no unless abortion language in Senate bill is changed, according to The Rochester Sentinel
Steve Driehaus (Ohio) * (Y) In toss-up race in November. Member of Stupak's group but is not a firm no.
Chet Edwards (Texas) (N) Perennial GOP target. Edwards spokesman told CNN he will vote no
Luis Gutierrez (Ill.) (Y) Citing immigration language, Gutierrez said on MSNBC that "I can't support this bill." Lawmaker has lambasted the president on not moving immigration reform yet. Warned that other Hispanic lawmakers will also vote no
Larry Kissell (N.C.) (N) GOP target, but reelection chances on the rise. Firm no
Frank Kratovil (Md.) (N) Voted for climate change; says he will vote no
Dennis Kucinich (Ohio) (N) Progressive was on the fence before House vote last fall — not this time. He's a firm no
Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (S.D.) (N) Congresswoman told the Rapid City Journal she's a no, noting she is not a fan of reconciliation. She also voted no on education reform bill expected to move in reconciliation with healthcare reform
Tim Holden (Pa.) * (N) Voted against healthcare and climate change in 2009. Told The Republican Herald that he is a no, citing abortion and "significant" cuts to Medicare and Medicaid
Daniel Lipinski (Ill.) * (Y) Will not vote for abortion language in Senate bill, but has other concerns as well. Democratic leaders cannot count on Lipinski
Jim Marshall (Ga.) * (N) Perennial GOP target, but favored to win reelection. Told The Hill he's a no
Jim Matheson (Utah) * (N) President Obama this year tapped brother for post, but Matheson still a likely no
Mike McIntyre (N.C.) * (N) Seven-term lawmaker rejected House health bill and climate change. Spokesman tells The Hill McIntyre is a no. Expected to win reelection easily even though Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) won district
Mike McMahon (N.Y.) (N) Suggested last month he was a no to the Staten Island Advance. McMahon told The Hill on March 12 he is leaning no. Voted no on education reform bill that is expected to move with healthcare reform in reconciliation
Charlie Melancon (La.) * (N) Senate hopeful voted no in November and no in committee. Likely no
Walt Minnick (Idaho) (N) One of the House's most conservative members. Firm no
Collin Peterson (Minn.) * (N) Ag chairman not shy in bucking leadership. Firm no
Mike Ross (Ark.) * (N) Voted for bill in committee, but not since. Firm no
Heath Shuler (N.C.) * (N) CNN reporting Shuler is a no. Doesn't hold his tongue when he opposes Democratic leaders. Critic of reconciliation
Ike Skelton (Mo.) * (N) GOP targeting his seat. Armed Services Committee chairman is a firm no
Bart Stupak (Mich.) * (Y) No deal with leadership on abortion = no vote on final bill for Stupak and other Democratic opponents of abortion rights
Gene Taylor (Miss.) * (N) Has been a firm no all Congress. Constituents last summer urged him to get others to vote no
Harry Teague (N.M.) * (N) Told The Hill that he will review bill to see if final bill brings costs down. If "we are in the same place — a no"

UPDATE: Since then Chris Carney (Pa.) has been added to the probably "no" list, raising the number to 36 "nos."

Of the undecided ones, these should be the most like to vote "no" since they were members of Stupak's 12, that is assuming that they really believe what they claim on government funded abortions.

Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper, D-Pa.
Rep. Brad Ellsworth, D-Ind.
Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio
Rep. Charlie Wilson, D-Ohio
Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio
Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Ga.


Tom Hanks a kooky left winger?

Even very liberal radio show host, Mark Levine, says that Tom Hanks went too far: "I am not defending everything that Tom Hanks said."