Capital Briefs July 20, 2009

DEMOCRATS WANT QUICK ACTION ON HEALTH CARE: The Democrats’ plan to revamp the nation’s health-care system moved forward rapidly last week as House Democratic leaders on Tuesday unveiled their 1018-page comprehensive health-care plan. Then on Wednesday, the Senate Health Committee passed 13 to 10 its own health-care bill on a party-line vote. The House bill plans to pay for expanding coverage to the uninsured with an income tax surcharge starting at 1% for individuals making over $280,000 or families making over $350,000, and up to 5.4% for family incomes over $1 million or individuals earning over $800,000. Democratic leaders in both chambers are hoping they can force the legislation through Congress before adjournment for the August recess.

COUNTING ON GRASSLEY: Meanwhile, conservative eyes were increasingly focused on the ranking Republican on the Finance panel as one of the chief roadblocks to a costly package. Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley has made some promising noises amid closed-door negotiations with Democrats. Regarding the income surtax on wealthy individuals, Grassley signaled opposition. “When is enough enough?” he commented to the Wall Street Journal. As for the concept of creating a nonprofit cooperative that would compete with private insurers that is favored by many Senate Democrats, Grassley made it clear he would not be in favor if the cooperative were run with taxpayer money and the government were required to pick up the tab if losses occurred.

GOP ON 2012:  Eight months after the last presidential election and nearly three years before the next one, Republicans have no obvious candidate to oppose Barack Obama in 2012. According to a just-completed Rasmussen poll of Republicans nationwide, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is favored as the next presidential nominee by 25% of registered Republicans, with 24% favoring Sarah Palin, and 22% backing former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was favored by 14% in the same survey, with Governors Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota and Haley Barbour of Mississippi tied for fifth place with 1% each.  

: That’s all that opponents of President Obama’s first nominee to the Supreme Court were privately hoping for in the eventual Senate floor vote as the hearings on Sonia Sotomayor began last week. If more than half the 40 Republican senators opposed Sotomayor, nomination foes say, it would be one more negative vote than Chief Justice John Roberts received in 2005 and would reflect a respectable opposition vote. As to whether any Democrats will oppose her, the senator most frequently mentioned as a possible ‘no’ vote is Ben Nelson (D.-Neb.). “If the National Rifle Association opposes her and sends out a mailing in Nebraska, he could easily vote no,” an activist nomination foe told HUMAN EVENTS. So far, the NRA has sent a letter expressing concerns over Sotomayor’s 2nd Amendment stand, but has not yet come out for her defeat.  

AFTER SOTOMAYOR: Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor dominated the judicial news last week, but several of Barack Obama’s nominees for lower courts are likely to attract opposition. One in particular is U.S. District Court Judge Andre Davis, named by Obama to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals and already cleared by a vote of 16-to-3 by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Clinton appointee Davis has been overturned on decisions in criminal cases 13 times by the court Obama wants to elevate him to. Opponents cite the 60-year-old Davis’s blatant urging of three violent drug offenders to plead guilty in a 2006 case so they could get lighter sentences. The 4th Circuit unanimously overturned Davis, saying his dealing with the defendants “affects the fairness, integrity, and public reputation of judicial proceedings.” In 2004, Davis also ruled that police did not have probable cause to arrest and search a drug dealer who used a Mail Boxes Etc. branch to pick up cocaine shipments, even though they had eyewitness testimony linking the man to the boxes. Again, Davis was unanimously overturned by the 4th Circuit.

CBO’s Perjury Continues: After the House hastily passed its global-warming, energy tax bill, Americans began to notice some disturbing provisions. One, called the Climate Change Worker Adjustment Assistance (CCWAA) program, would provide assistance to those who lost their jobs because of the legislation, which would place a cap on carbon emissions via rationing, taxing and eliminating consumer choice. CCWAA provides wage replacement, health insurance coverage, job training, etc for those newly unemployed by the energy tax. The supposedly non-partisan Congressional Budget Office claimed this program would cost only $4.3 billion over nine years. However, the Heritage Foundation calculated that only 14,553 displaced workers could be covered per year at that funding level, whereas nearly 1 million Americans will probably be unemployed because of the national energy tax. In other words, only one out of every 68 displaced workers would receive benefits. Covering every displaced worker would cost $291 billion over nine years — 70 times CBO’s estimate