Capital Briefs November 2, 2009

PELOSI’S HEALTH MONSTER: As senators remained in the dark late last week about the details of the huge committee-approved Senate healthcare bill, over on the House side of Capitol Hill, Speaker Pelosi last Friday unveiled a 1,990-page bill that, not surprisingly, is loaded with mandates, tax increases and a government-run public option and carries a 10-year price tag of $1trillion. But finally, the American people get to see the House version of Obamacare to be voted on as early as this week.

PUBLIC OPTION ON ROPES IN HOUSE? There could well be trouble ahead for Pelosi’s bill even within her own party. A highly confidential count by House Democratic Whip Jim Clyburn (S.C.) created a bit of a stir when it surfaced last week. According to the count, 47 House Democrats say they will vote No on a health care bill with public option and another eight are leaning No for a possible total of 55 opponents. Twelve other Democratic members were listed as undecided. Although whip memoranda are traditionally held in confidence, sources on Capitol Hill say this one became public because Clyburn’s office shared it with the far-left Progressive Caucus in order to “light a fire” under its members. While not confirming that the whip’s office was responsible for leaking the count, Clyburn’s spokeswoman Kristie Greco told the on-line publication Plumline that “We currently do not have the votes for a robust public option.”

PROCESSION TO HOFFMAN: With days to go before the nationally watched House race in New York’s 23rd District, late last week what appeared to be a Who’s Who of conservative Republicans weighed in for Conservative Party nominee Doug Hoffman over liberal Republican State Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava. Among those getting on the Hoffman bandwagon the were 1996 presidential hopefuls Steve Forbes and Gary Bauer, 2008 vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson, and 12 Republican U.S. House Members: Todd Aiken (Mo.), Michele Bachmann (Minn.), Paul Broun (Ga.), Mary Fallin (Okla.), Floyd Flake (Ariz.), Trent Franks (Ariz.), Steve King (Iowa), John Fleming (La.), Tom McClintock (Calif.), Jerry Moran (Kan.), John Shadegg (Ariz), and Todd Tiahrt (Kan.). (Tiahrt and Moran are opposing each other for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate from Kansas next year, ). Although it is very difficult for a third-party candidate to win a House seat, late polls showed Hoffman with the momentum.

DEMOCRATS, DEFICITS, AND THE DEBT: With the one-year anniversary of Barack Obama’s election this month, and three years after Democrats won control of both houses of Congress, the U.S. Department of the Treasury reported that under Democratic control, 2009 was the worst fiscal year in the nation’s history. The Treasury figures show that the FY 2009 federal deficit was $1.417 trillion — the highest amount ever and three times last year’s deficit of $458 billion. In addition, the combined amounts of deficits that the White House predicts over the next years under the President’s budget is $9.050 trillion. The same figures show that the current national debt, including Treasury securities held by the government, is $11.952 trillion. Noting that this works out to $38,840 owed by each man, woman, and child in the U.S., the House Republican Conference put out a statement listing the figures and concluding that “Democrats have abandoned their lofty promises to voters and continued the pattern of reckless spending and government expansion. The results have been historically disastrous.”

CLIMATE-CHANGE WORRIERS ON THE DOWNSWING: As the Obama Administration underscores its support for the “cap and trade” climate-control legislation now under Senate committee consideration, a just-completed Pew Research poll shows a sharp decline in the past year of Americans who see solid evidence global temperatures are rising. Pew’s latest finding is that 35% of Americans nationwide say that global warming is “a very serious problem,” compared to 44% who felt that way in April 2008. The same poll found that 55% of Americans have not heard about the “cap and trade” energy-tax measure that the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is set to hold hearings on soon.

CNN RUNNING LAST: According to the just-released official monthly numbers, CNN has hit a new low by finishing fourth and last among the cable news networks with the audiences the networks depend on for advertising. This means that CNN, which invented the cable news network in the late 1980s, trailed Fox News, MSNBC, and its own sister network HLN (Headline News). With three of its four shows between 7 and 11 p.m. finishing last among the four networks, this is the poorest showing in the ratings for the news channel that many conservatives used to call the “Clinton News Network.”

HAGEL RECORD ‘TROUBLING’ TO JEWISH GROUPS: With the news that former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R.-Neb) will be named as co-chairman of President Obama’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, the Republican Jewish Coalition warned last week that his “troubling record on critical foreign policy issues makes this appointment a matter for serious concern.” According to RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks, Hagel (who never endorsed former friend John McCain last year and whose wife said she would vote for Obama) “does not seem to understand that the U.S. and Israel are fighting a war against terrorists whose agenda is an existential threat to our free and democratic system.” Brooks cited an ’02 op-ed by Hagel in which he wrote that President Bush had erred by not meeting with the late Palestinian leader Yassir Arafat and that “Palestinian reformers cannot promote a democratic agenda for change while both the Israeli military occupation and settlement activity continue.” When Hagel was considering his own bid for President in 2008, the National Jewish Democratic Council had raised similar concerns and pointed out that the Nebraskan “has a lot of questions to answer about his commitment to Israel.” Hagel was quoted in Aaron David Miller’s book The Much Too Promised Land as saying: “The political reality is that . . . the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here.”