Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Daily Headliners--GM/UAW make deal, House approves S-CHIP, McCain's "No Surrender," Craig refusing to resign

Here is today's Daily Headliners.

UAW reaches tentative agreement with GM: The nationwide UAW strike appears to be over now that both General Motors and the United Auto Workers have reached a tentative agreement for a new contract. According to MSNBC News, a trust fund will be created, of which GM will fund and the UAW will administer, to pay for retiree health care benefits. This deal shifts the $51 billion unfunded retiree health care obligation that is currently on the GM books to this new trust fund, and allowing the fund to take over the health care responsibility for 340,000 GM hourly retirees and spouses. It is a short-term fix here. GM gets to take off the $51 billion health care costs off its books, allowing the company to compete against the Japanese automakers. The UAW will administer a GM-funded trust fund to help pay for the health care of its retirees, providing that the UAW doesn't bankrupt the fund in making bad investment decisions. You can expect Ford and Chrysler to negotiate similar deals with the UAW in order to shift their own retiree health care obligations off their balance sheets.

House Passes Children's Health Bill: I've been watching this story for a while, but really have yet to comment on it. The Washington Post reports that the House of Representatives has approved a a $35 billion expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP) by a bipartisan vote of 265 to 159. According to the WaPost;

The compromise package would expand the $5 billion-a-year children's health insurance program by an average of $7 billion a year over the next five years, for total funding of $60 billion over the period. That would be enough to boost the program's enrollment to 10 million, up from 6.6 million, and dramatically reduce the ranks of America's 9 million uninsured children, supporters said.

Chart shows allotments under the State Children's Health Insurance Program from 2002-2012. From The Associated Press.

"What we're hoping to do is to galvanize the support of the American people behind this legislation," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). "The president will find himself alone."

Indeed, the compromise worked out between the House and the Senate has garnered the support of the health insurance industry, AARP, the American Medical Association, governors from both parties and a platoon of children's health advocates.

But Bush and GOP leaders said the measure would push children already covered by private health insurance into publicly financed health care, while creating an "entitlement" whose costs would ultimately outstrip the money raised by the bill's 61-cent increase in the federal tobacco tax.

"The current bill goes too far toward federalizing health care and turns a program meant to help low-income children into one that covers children in some households with incomes of up to $83,000 a year," asserted the White House yesterday, continuing to push Bush's far more modest $5 billion expansion.

Backers of the congressional bill, including conservative Republican Sens. Orrin G. Hatch (Utah) and Charles E. Grassley (Iowa), have said repeatedly that Bush is dead wrong about the $83,000 figure. Only New York has sought to cover children from families with incomes that high, and the administration turned down the request.

So we've got a bipartisan Congress that has voted to expand a popular children's health insurance program, and how does the President Bush respond? He wants to veto the program, declaring that Congress is turning it into socialized medicine. Of course, the real irony here is that while President Bush is threatening to veto this 60 billion children's health insurance program, he's asking Congress to approve nearly $190 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Guess we know where President Bush's priorities are.

McCain's new campaign slogan--No Surrender: This is just hilarious. From MSNBC News;

WATERLOO, Iowa - Senator John McCain’s famous “Straight Talk Express” was gone, replaced by a bus emblazoned with a sign that read “No Surrender.”

Mr. McCain and a group of veterans — including former prisoners of war who were held with him in Vietnam, and newly minted Iraq veterans — piled into the bus and drove across Iowa, stopping in V.F.W. posts and American Legion halls to argue that the current strategy in Iraq is working, and that Democrats and wavering Republicans who want to withdraw the troops now are making a terrible mistake.

“If we leave, there will be chaos and genocide in the region, and we will be back,” Mr. McCain said Wednesday at V.F.W. Post 737 in Council Bluffs, vowing to lead the debate on the Senate floor for keeping the troops in Iraq and warning that Iran would step into the void if the United States pulls out. The veterans in the packed hall, who wore blue “No Surrender” stickers, cheered.

Of course, the phrase “No Surrender,” could be applied to the McCain campaign as well. It was practically written off over the summer when it nearly ran out of money, forcing it to reduce its staff sharply and scale back its operations in all but three states, Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. In a trip here just last month, Mr. McCain was asked by local reporters at nearly every stop of the way if he was dropping out of the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

No one asked if he was dropping out this week. And the McCain campaign, buoyed by good reviews Mr. McCain received last week at a debate in New Hampshire and by the prospect of his taking on a high-profile role in the Senate debate over Iraq, is very much hoping that it is beginning a comeback.

Is it me, or did reporter Michael Cooper have an ironic sense of humor in dispatching this story from Waterloo, Iowa? Just when you think John McCain is out of the presidential race, he revamps his entire campaign with a strong military theme of "No Surrender," and surrounds himself with former Vietnam era POWs and Iraq war veterans. It is almost like McCain is trying to present himself as the most pro-war Republican presidential candidate. If we leave, there will be chaos and genocide in the region, and we will be back McCain's campaign stops are mainly at V.F.W. posts and American Legion halls--campaign stops that have a very strong military presence which allows McCain to express this "No Surrender" theme of continuing the Iraq war. I'd say that the money problems that the McCain campaign has experienced has forced John McCain to contract his campaign towards courting the hard-lined conservative and pro-war military vote with this one campaign theme of supporting the war. This is the means by which John McCain is planning his comeback, to hammer into the GOP base that he is the president who will continue fighting the war and fighting against the terrorists. It is rather ironic, when you consider how former Rudy Giuliani has positioned himself to be the 9/11 president where Giuliani courting the base that he will continue fighting against the terrorists, and support the Iraq war. The ultimate goal here is to court the GOP base by showing just how pro-war you are. And that is what McCain will be doing until January 2008.

Craig coy on resignation: I found this story through TPM Election Central, with the source story coming from The Hill;

Idaho Republican Sen. Larry Craig declined to say Tuesday whether he would resign his seat as planned if his guilty plea stemming from a Minneapolis bathroom sex sting is not overturned this week.

“We are waiting for the legal determinations and I have nothing more to say,” Craig told reporters Tuesday.

The senator would not comment on what he would do if the court case were not decided by Sunday, the original date of his planned resignation from the Senate.


A county judge will hear Craig’s case Wednesday morning in Edina, Minn., though it is unclear whether the court will make a final ruling on the senator’s request. Craig said he had been advised not to attend the hearing.

Most of Craig’s Senate GOP colleagues, led by leaders determined to avoid entanglement in the scandal, have nudged him towards resignation this month. Asked for comment on Craig’s decision to put off filing an official resignation with Idaho’s Republican governor, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) appeared visibly unnerved.

“I really don’t have anything to add on that issue to what I said a couple of weeks ago,” McConnell said.

Seems to me like Senator Craig is refusing to resign his seat, even though Craig promised to resign if his conviction was not overturned. This is certainly going to throw a monkey wrench into the GOP scandal-ridden control spin.

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