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While you shop, Congress talks: Healthcare comments here from Boehner, Obama, Steele, others

December 19, 2009 |  3:22 pm

Andrew Kermick skis tol mark global warming on Capitol Hill 12-19-09

They're skiing on Capitol Hill, so forget global warming for a few minutes:

Looks like Democratic President Barack Obama and Democratic Sen. Harry Reid, desperate for a deal on their embattled healthcare bill, have got one for the moment.

Nebraska senator and ex-Gov. Ben Nelson announced today his concerns over eased abortions have been assuaged along with, who knows, maybe some spending sweeteners for his home state, and so the Nebraska Democrat will vote to block Republican debate and for the legislation. (See news video below.)

So after controlling both houses of Congress for three years and picking up new intellectual heavyweights like Al Franken and Arlen Specter, independent ex-Dem Joe Lieberman doesn't matter so much.

That's the Magic #60 vote for Reid to shut up the minority GOP once and for, well, all of this week anyway, when the rest of the world is focused on some approaching holiday.

But, of course, none of this weekend maneuvering affects the talking off the floor of Congress. You may even hear a word or two about all this on the Sunday talk shows (guest lineups available right here).

Meanwhile, here's a collection of reaction and comment from A to B, so you don't have to go looking:

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele:

Today we learned that Harry Reid's backroom deals and closed-door meetings have led to a health care bill that will cost American taxpayers nearly a trillion dollars. And get this: Harry Reid and the Democrats are celebrating. 

While they claim victory, the American people will be faced with higher taxes, increased premiums and cuts to Medicare. 

They are ramming this government-run health care program through Congress - when Americans don't want it, and our country can't afford it. At the beginning of....

...this debate, eight 'moderate' Democrats insisted that Harry Reid pledge to allow senators and the American people 72 hours to read the full legislative text and CBO score prior to voting. 

A number of those Democrats remain uncommitted to this bill - now is their chance to keep their word. Any so-called 'moderate' Democrats who try to use this CBO score as a fig-leaf to hide their vote to expand government and increase Americans' health care costs, while denying the American people time to read and consider this bill, will quickly learn their constituents will not be fooled.

House Republican Leader John Boehner:

The American people have rejected the Democrats’ government-run approach to health care loudly and clearly, and it’s time to scrap Senator Reid’s bill and start over. 

The bill will fundamentally change something as personal and important as the relationship between a patient and a doctor, and yet Democrats are attempting to sneak the bill through before Christmas in the hopes the American people aren’t watching what they’re doing. Why? Because Senator Reid knows the more the American people find out about this bill, the more they oppose it.

The Democrats’ government takeover of health care will increase premiums for families and small businesses, raise taxes during a recession, cut seniors’ Medicare benefits, add to our skyrocketing debt, and put bureaucrats in charge of decisions that should be made by patients and doctors. 

The bill also authorizes government-funded abortions, violating long-standing policies prohibiting federal funding of abortion. That’s not reform. My message to the American people is now is not the time to give up. Now is the time to fight harder. When the American people are engaged, Washington listens. Now is the time to speak out, more loudly and clearly than ever, against this monstrosity.”

The president, not so fresh back from a long Copenhagen night flight (but don't worry too much, he's got a double bed, shower, servants and automated window blinds on there), created a rare Saturday media opportunity for himself to be on video (See below still).

But, of course, he took no questions to distract from his administration's intended message: We are this close and there's no time to waste. Oh, wait, no. No time to waste is why we must hurry on stopping global warming as the snow continues to fall on Washington.

Healthcare has "not a lot of time left." Or something will happen. Anyway, we're all in a hurry because we are.

Here's the White House transcript:

THE PRESIDENT: Hello. Good afternoon, everybody. You know that I am from Chicago, so let me first say that with the place where I live covered with snow I’m finally starting to feel like home. And I am sorry to drag you guys out in this weather, but I wanted to speak briefly to you about the significant progress that we’ve made on two of the major challenges facing the American people: the crushing cost of health care and our dangerous dependence on fossil fuels.

On health care, with today’s developments it now appears that the American people will have the vote they deserve on genuine reform that offers security to those who have health insurance and affordable options to those for do not.  And so I want to thank Senator Harry Reid and every senator who’s been working around the clock to make this happen.

There’s still much work left to be done, but not a lot of time left to do it. But today is a major step forward for the American people.  After a nearly century long struggle we are on the cusp of making health care reform a reality in the United States of America.

As with any legislation, compromise is part of the process. But I'm pleased that recently added amendments have made this landmark bill even stronger. Between the time the bill passes and the time when the insurance exchange gets up and running there will now be penalties for insurance companies that arbitrarily jack up rates on consumers.

And while insurance companies will be prevented from denying coverage on the basis of pre-existing conditions once the exchange is open, in the meantime there will be a high risk pool where people with pre-existing conditions can purchase affordable coverage.

And a recent amendment has made these protections even stronger. Insurance companies will now be prohibited from denying coverage to children immediately after this bill passes. There’s also explicit language in this bill that will protect a patient’s choice of doctor. And small businesses will get additional assistance as well.

These protections are in addition to the ones we’ve been talking about for some time. No longer will insurance companies be able to drop your coverage if you become sick and no longer will you have to pay unlimited amounts out of your own pocket for treatments that you need.

Under this bill families will save on their premiums; businesses that will see their costs rise if we don’t act will save money now and in the future. This bill with strengthen Medicare and extend the life of the program.   Because it’s paid for and gets rid of waste and inefficiency in our health care system this will be the largest deficit reduction plan in over a decade.  In fact, we just learned from the Congressional Budget Office that this bill will reduce our deficit by $132 billion over the first decade of the program, and more than one trillion dollars in the decade after that.

Finally, this reform will make coverage affordable for....

... over 30 million Americans who don’t have it -- over 30 million Americans.

As I said before, these are not small changes. These are big changes. They’re fundamental reforms. They will save money.  They will save lives.  And I look forward to working with the Senate and the House to finish the work that remains so that we can make this reform a reality for the American people.

I also want to briefly mention the progress we made in Copenhagen yesterday. For the first time in history all of the major -– the world’s major economies have come together to accept their responsibility to take action to confront the threat of climate change.  After extremely difficult and complex negotiations this important breakthrough lays the foundation for international action in the years to come.

This progress did not come easily and we know that progress on this particular aspect of climate change negotiations is not enough. Going forward we’re going to have to build on the momentum that we established in Copenhagen to ensure that international action to significantly reduce emissions is sustained and sufficient over time.

At home, that means continuing our efforts to build a clean energy economy that has the potential to create millions of new jobs and new industries. And it means passing legislation that will create the incentives necessary to spark this clean energy revolution.

So even though we have a long way to go, there’s no question that we’ve accomplished a great deal over the last few days. And I want America to continue to lead on this journey, because if America leads in developing clean energy, we will lead in growing our economy and putting our people back to work, and leaving a stronger and more secure country to our children. That's why I went to Copenhagen yesterday and that's why I will continue in these efforts in the weeks and months to come. Thank you very much, everybody.    ###

Speaking of hunky-dory, the president brought up Copenhagen, not about not getting the Olympics for Chicago but about all the heated talk about global warming.

The White House Press Office finds only good things being said about Copenhagen accord. So, nothing going on here. Move along, folks. Here's the press secretary's collected climate comments and, in the middle, a news video about winter striking the Eastern United States, which caused Obama to leave the global warming meeting early:

Americans Praise the Copenhagen Accord
Diverse Groups Commend the President’s Leadership, Note the Economic Opportunities for the United States

Yesterday, the President traveled to Copenhagen to meet with world leaders and for the first time in history the world’s major economies have come together in agreement to accept their responsibility in confronting climate change. After extremely complex and difficult negotiations, yesterday’s breakthrough will lay the foundation for international action in the years to come.
Washington Snow Tiki likes this kind of global warming 12-19-09
In the U.S., the Obama Administration plans to continue efforts to build a clean energy economy and urge Congress to deliver comprehensive energy legislation to the President’s desk.

The President’s announcement was promptly met with strong support from a diverse group of leaders representing Congress, business and environmental organizations.  

Key quotes are highlighted below:   

Steve Howard, founder and CEO of the Climate Group:
"If you think back a year or so, imagine the U.S., Brazil, China, India, Australia, and Russia all turning up and making definitive national commitments to significant emissions reductions—and the world committing to $100 billion a year for the developing world," says Howard. "It would have been inconceivable a year ago. This is the biggest peacetime mobilization of global effort on anything."

Greg Pruett, Senior Vice President, PG&E Corporation:
"We applaud the President's  leadership and efforts in Copenhagen and are encouraged by the progress made.    We join other companies and organizations in calling upon the Senate to complete its work on a comprehensive climate and energy bill.  We pledge our continued support in that effort and look forward to working constructively with the Administration and all members to pass a bill early next year."  

Michael T. Eckhart, President of the American Council on Renewable Energy:
"We applaud President Obama's wisdom in achieving an agreement on the aspirational goal, limiting the outcome which we all care about, because this will stand to rule all else that comes in future negotiations.”

We Can Lead, a network of over 150 companies and top business leaders from 30 states:
“[President Obama’s] actions send vitally important signals to both domestic and global markets that help provide the necessary incentives to move the US away from traditional fossil fuels. This will give US companies the ability to compete and lead the world in the race for clean energy while we usher in a wave of new green American jobs."

Vice President of sustainable business and innovation at Nike, Hannah Jones:
"Nike welcomes the President's sense of urgency and recognition that companies need certainty and a level playing field in order to move to a low-carbon economy which will unleash the next wave of jobs and prosperity." From Copenhagen, she said, "We're pleased with tonight's agreement between several developed and developing countries."

League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinski:
"While there is still much work to be done, the deal reached in Copenhagen is a breakthrough for international climate cooperation and provides a path forward towards a binding global treaty in 2010. Significantly, the United States and China will -- for the first time -- both be at the table, working to tackle the historic challenge of global climate change.”

"Moving forward, it is absolutely critical....

...that the U.S. lead by example and work swiftly to enact comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation next year. We applaud President Obama for his leadership in helping to reach this important step toward a meaningful agreement."

Environmental Defense Fund President Fred Krupp:
"Today’s agreement leaves the U.S. in control of its own destiny. We have always known that the path to a clean energy economy goes through Washington, D.C. As President Obama said today, strong action on climate change is in America’s national interest.

"Today’s agreement takes the first important steps toward true transparency and accountability in an international climate agreement. The sooner the U.S. speaks through Senate legislation, the sooner we can set the terms of engagement for talks to come."
Larry Schweiger, President and CEO, National Wildlife Federation:
“I applaud President Obama for his determination to not let these talks fail, and his success working with China. The deal is incomplete, and we’re not done yet.  But at long last all of the top polluters of the world, including the United States and China, are putting numbers on the table to cut pollution in a transparent way.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid:
“President Obama and world leaders - including leaders from China, India, South Africa and Brazil – have reached a bold agreement that will help secure a safer, cleaner and more prosperous future for our children. 

This Copenhagen Accord to address global warming was made possible by strong U.S. leadership and recent investments in our national energy policies.  This agreement was also aided by constructive engagement with the world community – a result of President Obama’s leadership.

“This is a significant and historic agreement, but there is more negotiating and trust building to do before there is a treaty for thWashington Snow defies global warming and cancels numerous flights at Washington's Reagan National Airport 12-19-09e Senate to review.  With the momentum generated today, we can continue U.S. leadership on this issue and build on the success of this agreement.  

Today’s developments strengthen our resolve to pass comprehensive clean energy legislation this spring that creates jobs, reduces pollution and improves our energy independence.”

Senator John Kerry, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee:

“President Obama’s hands-on engagement broke through the bickering and sets the stage for a final deal and for Senate passage this spring of major legislation at home.

It’s a powerful signal to see President Obama, Premier Wen, Prime Minister Singh, and President Zuma agree on a meeting of the minds.  These are the four horsemen of a climate change solution.  With this in hand, we can work to pass domestic legislation early next year to bring us across the finish line.”

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi:
“The agreement reached tonight in Copenhagen is a breakthrough in the global effort to combat the climate crisis and could not have been reached without President Obama’s active involvement and leadership. 

The President has secured a critical agreement that includes an achievable mitigation target, transparency measures and a financing mechanism – the three key fundamentals outlined in the President’s speech today and embodied in the House-passed Waxman-Markey bill.

End of White House stuff:

If you've read this far, you are no doubt desperate to know the crucial role that Obama's vital team partner and loyal sidekick Vice President Joe Biden is playing in this historic legislative maneuvering over healthcare. After all, he was a senator when Obama was in elementary school.

Well, actually Biden's not doing much, it seems. And he doesn't have anything to say about the healthcare storm.

Washington activities are so important and so urgent that JB is silent (lest he screw it up with something spontaneous?).

According to his official White House weekend schedule, Biden's taking another entire weekend off to catch up on whatever he catches up on up in Delaware:

The Vice President will be in Wilmington, Delaware. There are no public events scheduled.

So you can finish your holiday shopping in peace.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photos: Associated Press (Andrew Kermick ignores global warming to ski Capitol Hill today); (One Washington resident, a Siberian husky named Tiki, enjoys this kind of global warming); (Flight board at Reagan National Airport today).