Congress is currently considering legislation to reauthorize and expand the popular State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), which currently insures close to 6 million children. The new proposal would expand “current levels of spending by $35 billion over the next five years” and “reduce the number of uninsured children by 4.1 million.”
Six Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee voted for the SCHIP expansion, which is being heavily opposed by the tobacco industry. But “in an unexpected turn of events,” the conservative leadership announced that it is caving to President Bush’s demands and is objecting to the legislation.
Bush has promised to veto the SCHIP expansion. Today in an event at the Center for American Progress, Sens. Bob Casey (D-PA) and Hillary Clinton (D-NY) sharply criticized the veto threat:
Casey: [Bush] wants to give a billion dollars a year of an increase for children’s health insurance, and tens of billions — by one estimate as much as a hundred billion dollars — in tax cuts to wealthy people. … I don’t understand it and we are not going to accept that because fortunately, unlike a lot of things on Capitol Hill, there is bipartisan agreement on this.
Clinton: [I]f he wants to have part of his legacy be vetoing the child health insurance program then we’ll try to override the veto because this is absolutely an imperative. … I just think it’s outrageous and offensive that the President would threaten to veto this legislation.
Watch it:var flvjpdcaseyclinton32024015044 = new SWFObject('/wp-content/plugins/flvplayer.swf?file=http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/07/jpdcaseyclinton.320.240.flv&autoStart=false', 'em-flvjpdcaseyclinton32024015044', '320', '260', '6', '#ffffff'); flvjpdcaseyclinton32024015044.addParam('quality', 'high'); flvjpdcaseyclinton32024015044.addParam('wmode', 'transparent'); flvjpdcaseyclinton32024015044.write('flvjpdcaseyclinton32024015044');
As Ezra Klein notes, the right-wing objections to SCHIP are “explicitly ideological.” They are based in a right-wing desire to see “as few individuals on government-based insurance as possible.” Conservatives are rallying opposition to children’s health care as “spring training” practice for future battles over universal coverage.
This year, SCHIP marks its 10th anniversary as a bipartisan, federal-state collaboration to improve the nation’s health coverage. Bruce Lesley of First Focus calls SCHIP “the one major healthcare success story over the past 10 years” for providing “cost-effective health coverage to millions of children with coverage that the private market by itself has been unable to provide.” Along with Medicaid, SCHIP has “reduced the proportion and the number of low-income children who are uninsured by about one third since 1997.”
Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) said today that he will soon propose legislation that calls for troop withdrawals from Iraq to begin in November and take about a year to complete. “This is big time,” Murtha told reporters of the upcoming war debate in September. “When you get to September, this is history. This is when we’re going to have a real confrontation with the president trying to work things out.”
UPDATE: More from Murtha:
“I’m hearing signals. They (Republicans) are trying to work out a deal where we leave 70,000 troops over there … That’s the White House telling them to do that, I’m convinced,” he told reporters.
The New York Sun reports today that Rupert Murdoch once “said he didn’t see what the Palestinians’ problem was.” His son, James, took issue with his father and argued “that they were kicked out of their homes and had nowhere to live.”
Today, the House passed a bill stating “it is the policy of the United States not to establish any military installation or base for the purpose of providing a permanent stationing of United States Armed Forces in Iraq.” Speaker Pelosi explained that “today’s vote can again make clear to the President, to the Administration, to the American people, to the people in the Middle East, to the people in Iraq — that the American people are opposed to a permanent military presence in Iraq.” Watch Pelosi’s floor speech:
The Gavel has more.
UPDATE: Read Rep. Barbara Lee’s statement here.
Earlier this month, President Bush affirmed his commitment to his escalation plan, stating, “I’m going to remind the people in the audience today that troop levels will be decided by our commanders on the ground, not by political figures in Washington, D.C.”
But the DC Examiner reports today that “a bunch of arm chair generals in Washington” from the American Enterprise Institute “almost single handedly convinced the White House to change its strategy” in weekend meetings last December. The AEI escalation plan reportedly “won out over plans from the Pentagon and U.S. Central Command”:
They banded together at AEI headquarters in downtown Washington early last December and hammered out the surge plan during a weekend session. It called for two major initiatives to defeat the insurgency: reinforcing the troops and restoring security to Iraqi neighborhoods. Then came trips to the White House by AEI military historian Frederick Kagan, retired Army Gen. John Keane and other surge proponents.
More and more officials began attending the sessions. Even Vice President Dick Cheney came. “We took the results of our planning session immediately to people in the administration,” said AEI analyst Thomas Donnelly, a surge planner. “It became sort of a magnet for movers and shakers in the White House.” Donnelly said the AEI approach won out over plans from the Pentagon and U.S. Central Command.
The Examiner adds that AEI still retains a strong influence on the Iraq war, as Keane (ret.) is an adviser to Petraeus and Kagan left for Iraq this past week.
In 2006, President Bush was debating a new strategy in Iraq and expressed that he was open to outside advice on troop levels. “I’m going to rely upon General Casey,” Bush said of then-Multinational Force commander when asked about his new strategy. But Casey pressed Bush not to increase troop levels, along with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who were unanimously opposed to the escalation. In response, Bush replaced Casey with Gen. David Petraeus.
“It was kind of the 11th hour, 59th minute,” an AEI analyst said of its escalation plan. Unfortunately, a hasty, last minute plan beat the advice of Bush’s own commanders.
The Army Times reports that “the Army has ordered 1,106 soldiers, former recruiters, away from their current assignments and back to recruiting duty starting on Friday.” The Army issued the order because it is “having significant difficulties getting new recruits because of the unpopularity of the Iraq War.”
In a 22-17 vote, the House Judiciary Committee approved “a Resolution and Report Recommending to the House of Representatives that Former White House Counsel Harriet Miers and White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten be cited for Contempt of Congress.” The AP reports, “a vote by the full House would most likely happen after Congress’ August recess.”
UPDATE: The Gavel has updates from the hearing.
UPDATE II: Tony Snow calls the citations “pathetic.”
Next week, Grover Norquist — head of Americans for Tax Reform and Abramoff crony — will meet with Karl Rove about the administration’s Iraq policies. In an interview with The Hill, Norquist says that he will tell Rove to change President Bush’s rhetoric:
“The one-paragraph explanation of what we’re doing in Iraq has to have the word ‘leaving’ in there,” said Grover Norquist, a conservative leader and the head of Americans for Tax Reform. “If Bush would move to ‘leaving,’ then other people, including the MoveOn.org people and the [Democrats], move to a more extreme position than you have, because they have put themselves in the anti-Bush position.”
Norquist…said Bush should reject a timeline and instead emphasize that he expects “fewer” troops in the region. If the administration changes nothing, it will allow Democrats to charge that the strategy isn’t working, which resonates with the public, added Norquist.
Bush has already tried emphasizing “fewer” troops. In his July 4 speech, Bush said that “we all long for the day when there are far fewer American servicemen and women in Iraq.” But he quickly added that withdrawing U.S. troops “prematurely” would “not be in our national interest.” In 2005, he said that he foresaw “fewer American troops” serving in Iraq in the next year; instead, he added more troops.
The American public wants more than rhetoric on Iraq. According to a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, 55 percent of the American public supports “legislation that would set a deadline for withdrawing U.S. combat forces from Iraq by next spring.” Bush has already vetoed such legislation, and has promised to veto even a symbolic timeline of withdrawal.
All the spin in the world won’t make any difference unless Bush supports legislation with a timeline for redeployment.
Fox News pundit Bill O’Reilly has embarked on a smear campaign to marginalize the netroots through a full frontal assault on the Daily Kos site. First, he was able to pressure JetBlue into distancing itself from the upcoming YearlyKos convention. Now, he is focused on preventing presidential candidates from attending the conference next week.
Last night on the O’Reilly Factor, he labeled Daily Kos a “hate website.” His guest, Howard Wolfson — a political adviser for Sen. Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign — defended the netroots as a community of people “participating in our democracy.” O’Reilly responded by cherry-picking a few comments that were demeaning and derogatory towards Clinton, prompting Wolfson to note that O’Reilly’s own site contains similar garbage:
WOLFSON: Bill, even your website has things on it that you would find objectionable.
O’REILLY: That’s bull. Look, we know what you’re going to say because the Kos planted someone in there. But when we see objectionable things, we take it off immediately. They traffic in it.
Watch the interview:
Yesterday, ThinkProgress perused the O’Reilly messageboard (available only to paid subscribers) to examine the contents of the comments posted there. We found Bill Clinton referred to as “cow manure,” Hillary as “the she devil,” Obama as “the anti-Christ,” and other derogatory remarks. Contrary to O’Reilly’s claim that “objectionable things” are taken off immediately, these comments are still on the site this morning:
I thought that Bill Clinton was a piece of cow manure, but he still was the President of the United States. [posted by vvatc, 7/23/07, 8:23 PM PT]
Yeppers, the she devil is the smart one. A turn towards the right does that for people. She’s crafty! [posted by Martha Wells, 7/24/07, 3:11 AM PT]
Obama may well be the anti-Christ for the way the media builds him up as the savior for all of the ills in the country. [posted by Mike Piche, 7/19/07, 5:56 PM PT]
RE: Illegal immigrants worth fighting for??? they breed likes rats 100 make 1000 in 9 months [posted by bullpen, 7/16/07, 11:16 AM PT]
My daughters looking through it the other day, sees Chertoff, says, “is that the guy in charge of our homeland? He looks like a Nazi mom.” I concur. [posted by Debra Sanders, 7/15/07, 9:48 AM PT]
UPDATE: Lane Hudson has more.
Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) warned Gonzales yesterday: “My suggestion to you is you review your testimony to find out if your credibility has been breached to the point of being actionable,” Specter said. Time reports, “The maximum penalty for being caught lying to Congress is five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 per count. Specter wryly noted to reporters during a break that there is a jail in the Capitol complex.”
According to a new Washington Post-ABC News survey, “65 percent of Americans disapprove of Bush’s job performance, matching his all-time low.” Only Nixon has “exceeded that level of public animosity,” hitting 66 percent four days before he resigned. Bush has “endured bad numbers” longer than any other president besides Harry Truman.
The Post also notes, “Around the White House, aides make gallows-humor jokes about how they can alienate their remaining supporters — at least those aides not heading for the door.”
In his testimony yesterday, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales claimed that when James Comey raised objections to the administration’s spying program, he was referring to “other intelligence activities,” not the warrantless wiretapping program that Bush has confirmed.
Yesterday, Sen. John Rockefeller (D-WV), who was ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee at the time, said he was never told of “other intelligence activities.” “As far as I’m concerned, there’s only one” intelligence program, Rockefeller said.
Today, Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), a former member of the so-called “Gang of Eight” who was briefed by the White House on the program, announced she too was unaware of other intelligence activities:
Two Members of Congress who were part of the Gang of Eight said if Gonzales approached Ashcroft about something that had been part of their discussions, it could only have been the terrorist surveillance program, whose existence the president confirmed in December.
“That doesn’t make any sense to me,” Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) said of Gonzales’ testimony. She said the TSP was “the only program we were ever briefed about.”
Harman was ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee at the time, and confirmed that she attended the March 10 meeting referenced by Gonzales.
Similarly, Senate Intelligence Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said there was only one program that the Gang of Eight was briefed on, and it was the program the president already has confirmed. Plus, both Harman and Rockefeller said the Congressional briefings were limited in scope.
“We were briefed on the operational details — period — not the legal underpinnings,” Harman said.
Harman and Rockefeller claim that the only program they were told about was the NSA domestic surveillance program. But yet, in his testimony before Congress yesterday, Gonzales claimed that when he rushed to John Ashcroft’s bedside in 2004, he was seeking authorization for a separate intelligence activity — a program for which Gonzales claims he received “consensus” approval from the bi-partisan “Gang of Eight” on the same day he visited Ashcroft.
Harman and Rockefeller are reporting that they never consented to “other intelligence activities.” Responding to a question about whether he believed Gonzales perjured himself Tuesday, Rockefeller responded, “Based upon what I know about it, I’d have to say yes.”
UPDATE: Harman also spoke to the New York Times about the meeting:
“The program had different parts, but there was only one program,” Ms. Harman said, adding that Mr. Gonzales was “selectively declassifying information to defend his own conduct,” which she called improper.
According to an official who sits in on the meetings, President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki often “talk about their faith in God” when they speak once every two weeks. The official said, “It is an issue that comes up between two men who are believers in difficult times, who are being challenged.”
Yesterday, House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) released a 52-page report “that for the first time alleges specific ways that several administration officials may have broken the law during the multiple firings of U.S. attorneys.” Today, the committee will vote on contempt charges for former White House Counsel Harriet Miers and chief of staff Josh Bolten.
Lt. Gen. Charles Jacoby, the commander at Fort Lewis in Washington state, is expected to decide today whether to go through with plans to hold memorial services for U.S. troops killed in Iraq once every month, instead of after each death. Military families and others have protested the proposal.
“A federal judge in California ruled Tuesday against the federal government’s attempts to stop investigations in five states of President Bush’s domestic spying program.” The judge ruled that “neither the Supremacy Clause nor the foreign affairs power of the government prevented a state from asking about phone records.”
Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), who championed the confirmation John Roberts and Samuel Alito, plans to review the Supreme Court justices’ Senate testimony to “determine if their reversal of several long-standing opinions conflicts with promises they made to senators to win confirmation.”
“The Agriculture Department sent $1.1 billion in farm payments to more than 170,000 dead people over a seven-year period,” according to a new Government Accountability Office Report. Forty percent of those payments “went to those who had been dead more than three years.” (more…)
In April, the New York Sun published an editorial entitled “Cheney’s Chance,” encouraging the Vice President to jump into the presidential race. The Sun argued that having a “defender on the campaign trail” would boost Bush’s approval ratings.
In a review of Stephen Hayes’ new biography of Cheney, Ira Stoll — the editor of the Sun — recycles his plea. Stoll writes that he believes the Hayes book is part of an effort by Cheney to drum up support for a potential campaign run:
The book quotes Senator McCain as saying, “Dick doesn’t like campaigning.” Nothing in the Hayes book suggests that Mr. Cheney is about to do it — except for that the vice president spent nearly 30 hours cooperating with the author and apparently gave the okay for many of his friends and colleagues to grant similar access. The Richard Cheney described in this book isn’t vain enough to do that simply for his reputation in history. My own guess — okay, hope — is that Mr. Cheney has taken a look at the Republican presidential field and sees an opening. If Iowa and New Hampshire Republicans start receiving copies of “Cheney” in their mailboxes, Mr. Cheney’s popularity may yet begin to climb.
Stoll acknowledges that his previous editorial calling for Cheney to run was “was widely mocked.” Apparently, once wasn’t enough.
TPM reports that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) raised objections to the NSA domestic surveillance program in 2004 after learning of the dissent that existed within the administration regarding its legality. A Pelosi spokesperson said, “She made clear her disagreement with the program continuing despite [former Deputy Attorney General Jame] Comey’s objection.” The disclosure is significant because it means that at least three members — Pelosi, Sen. John Rockefeller (D-WV), and Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD) — of the eight-member bipartisan congressional leadership briefed about President Bush’s warrantless surveillance voiced their disapproval at the time.
UPDATE: The Crypt has more from Rockefeller.
Karl Rove recently stayed at the Twin Lakes Nordic Lodge in Colorado and chatted with the owner, Charlie Gandy, about his plans after the White House. According to Gandy, Rove has “still got legal bills to pay” and he plans to “write books” after he leaves the White House in 18 months. When Gandy told a few guests that Rove was staying in the lodge, one visitor replied, “Karl Rove?! I’d like to kick his a$$.”
The Washington Times writes, “Senate Republicans are preparing to take aim at Majority Leader Harry Reid over the August recess for being ‘all talk but no action.’” Conservative operatives are complaining about “Reid’s harsh language when talking about Bush.” The attacks come on the same day that the new minimum wage takes effect, an important accomplishment of the 110th Congress. Reid’s office cites a list of other achievements. Carpetbagger, Kos, MyDD, and AmericaBlog have more.
Earlier this month, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) traveled to Iraq with a congressional delegation. In an interview with the Minnesota Star Tribune, Bachmann said that after her trip, she remains firm in her support for Bush’s escalation:
This month, Bachmann traveled to Iraq, and despite more GOP defections from Bush’s base of support, she returned as firm as ever in her conviction that the war is justified. Al-Qaida, she said, “doesn’t show any signs of letting up.” The congressional delegation met with Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq, in one of Saddam Hussein’s palaces.
What was the palace like?
“It’s absolutely huge,” she said. “I turned to my colleagues and said there’s a commonality with the Mall of America, in that it’s on that proportion. There’s marble everywhere. The other thing I remarked about was there is water everywhere. He had man-made lakes all around his personal palace — one for fishing, one for boating.”
In reality, Iraq is nothing like the Mall of America. Bachmann was able to talk only about the palace because she wasn’t allowed to leave the heavily-fortified Green Zone — an area most normal Iraqis aren’t even allowed to enter. According to a report from her trip, skyrocketing violence prevented Bachmann from “meeting any Iraqis, leaving the Green Zone or staying in Iraq overnight. She and other congressional members were required to wear full body armor, including Kevlar helmets, during the entire trip.”
Nevertheless, Bachmann still believes that Congress should support Bush’s escalation. “It hasn’t had a chance to be in place long enough to offer a critique of how it’s working,” she said. Maybe if she had actually been able to leave the Green Zone, she would have been able to speak to some actual Iraqis, 78 percent of whom believe the U.S. presence is making the security situation worse.
UPDATE: AmericaBlog compares the Mall of America to Iraq.