Things got busy fast this week in DC as Congress returned from the month-long summer break.
Finance committee chair Sen. Max Baucus released his long-awaited health reform proposal on Tuesday after months of closed-door meetings with the so-called “Gang of Six,” and President Obama stood up the next day for a speech in the House where he tried to re-frame the health care debate.
The President couldn’t have asked for better luck in the House, where GOP Rep. Joe Wilson shouted out “You lie” in the middle of the speech. The break in House decorum shocked all comers, where it’s considered talk-to-the-hand rude when people just refuse to clap for the President, and in my view sucked up most of the media coverage of health reform opponents. Obama couldn’t have positioned the nay-sayers better with a month of campaigning to do it. We know from experience -- he didn’t manage all August.
But Baucus’ proposal did just what we here at CW were afraid it would: gave the insurance industry the ability to get out of state consumer protections (like a guaranteed second opinion and bans on drive-thru deliveries), and eliminated provisions to help make that insurance affordable for consumers (like a public plan alternative for people required to obtain health insurance, and subsidies for many low-income consumers).
The question in the end is how much the Prez and Dems are willing to give up real reform of the health industry to get a few Republican votes.
Consumer Watchdog’s John M. Simpson was in the Capitol Hill office with me this week, intending to make his rounds on the Hill on internet privacy issues. He ended up being a surprise witness before the House Judiciary committee about a Google court settlement that’s both anticompetitive and threatens reader privacy. John stopped by to talk to committee staff on Tuesday and gave them our take on the books deal (definitely evil) and they asked him to submit some testimony for the record. After reading it Wednesday morning they were on the phone by noon to let John know they could squeeze him into the panel after all.
Judiciary Chairman John Conyers let our John know his testimony “did not disappoint.”
And finally, with all that business going on there had to be lots of parties too. The Sunlight Foundation’s PoliticalPartyTime.org reported 44 fundraisers this week through Sunday. My favorite? The dove hunt. Who doesn’t love shooting peace-loving birds? But don’t worry, if you missed these parties there’s more than twice as many set for next week.
The week to come will see financial regulatory reform heat up. The House markup for a key piece of financial reform – creating a Consumer Financial Protection Agency to create and enforce consumer protections for all financial products – was scheduled for Sept. 23rd, a signal by House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank that Congress isn’t going to let financial regulatory reform fall by the wayside just because they’re doing health care too. President Obama addresses the nation on the same front Monday.