Brief of the Week July 27, 2009

THE CENTER CANNOT HOLD: Barack Obama and his supporters like to point out that the President has won some tough legislative fights by reaching out to centrist Republicans. Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas, for example, gave Obama critical early support on his $787 billion stimulus package. The controversial cap- and-trade legislation passed the House 219 to-213, thanks to eight GOP lawmakers who went for the energy tax package. But these days, the White House is having difficulty getting its Republican allies to line up behind his health-care package. Emerging from a meeting with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at the National Governors Association last week, incoming NGA Chairman Douglas appeared to be throwing cold water on “Obamacare” when he told reporters: “I think the governors would all agree that what we don’t want from the federal government is unfunded mandates.” Referring to the fear of governors that the Obama-backed plan would make them more liable for already-surging Medicaid costs, Douglas said: “We can’t have the Congress impose requirements that we are forced to absorb beyond our capacity to do so.” When HUMAN EVENTS Political Editor John Gizzi later asked White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs about Douglas’ criticism, Gibbs soft-pedaled it, saying, “As I understand it, again, Medicaid in the Senate is under the jurisdiction of the Finance Committee, and that’s still being worked through, but anything additional for Medicaid as it’s related to the House bill is funded by the House bill.”