Democrats Push Reid to Let Public Read Health Care Bill

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A group of eight Democrats today asked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for the health care reform bill to be posted online for 72 hours before a vote on the measure and once again before a vote on the conference report that will meld the House and Senate versions.

The senators told Reid that health care reform should be more transparent and easier for their constituents to understand. A CBS poll released last month showed that two-thirds of Americans say the issue is confusing and just 31 percent say they have a clear understanding of what reform will mean for their own care.

The senators wrote, “At a time when trust in Congress and the U.S. government is unprecedentedly low, we can begin to rebuild the American people’s faith in their federal government through transparency and by actively inviting Americans to participate in the legislative process.”

The senators are borrowing the idea from Kentucky Republican Sen. Jim Bunning, who offered an amendment during the Finance Committee debate that would have put the health care reform bill into legislative language, scored it by the Congressional Budget Office, and put it online for the public to read for three full days before the committee voted on it.

When he introduced his idea, Bunning said, “Quite frankly, I think Americans are tired us us taking the easy way out, tired of us not reading or having the time to read the bills. They expect more from us and we should deliver it.” The Democrats are asking Reid to deliver on all three of Bunning’s suggestions.

When Bunning introduced his amendment last month, Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) accused him of trying to stall progress on health care reform and the committee rejected the amendment.

Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) crossed party lines to vote for it and took the lead on circulating the letter among her colleagues this week. Seven other moderate Democrats signed on: Evan Bayh of Indiana, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Joe Lieberman (independent Democrat) of Connecticut, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Jim Webb of Virginia.

“We believe the American public’s participation in this process is critical to our overall success of creating a bill that lowers health care costs and offers access to quality and affordable health care for all Americans,” the letter concluded. The Finance Committee has posted the final version of its bill online prior to the committee vote, but the bill has not yet been scored by the CBO and remains in conceptual, rather than legislative, language.


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The Obama Wedding Anniversary: The Date Night

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For the first time since 2006, the Obamas celebrated a wedding anniversary without a presidential campaign hanging over their heads. President Obama and First Lady Michelle were married on Oct. 3, 1992 and last Saturday — 17 years later — the First Couple dressed up and took themselves out for a fancy dinner.


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‘Real Housewives of D.C.’ on Bravo; Casting Buzz Inside Washington

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Bravo announced Tuesday that the cable channel added the TV reality show, “Real Housewives of D.C.,” to its program offerings for next year. The franchise is currently being filmed here in the Capitol. Washington has been abuzz since May about which D.C. women would be cast on the show.

Although several candidates have been seen with film crews around the city in recent weeks, Bravo has not yet announced the final cast for our group of “housewives.”


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Sen. John Ensign: I Broke No Law, and I Won’t Resign

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Nevada Republican Sen. John Ensign, under increasing attack following his affair with a staffer,
told CNN Tuesday he did not break Senate ethics rules by helping to secure a lobbying job for the woman’s husband.


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How the Taliban Might Respond to McChrystal’s New War Plan

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The Taliban’s response to the Afghan war strategy proposed by Gen. Stanley McChrystal could be shocking and grim, with insurgents redoubling suicide attacks and ambushes against American troops, aircraft and road convoys, triumphantly setting up “liberated zones,” and executing Afghan police and collaborators in areas abandoned by U.S. and allied forces. The first months of the new strategy, rather than feeling like a winning new campaign, could feel a lot like losing.


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Obama Will Make Up His Own Mind About Afghanistan, White House Says

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As advice on the Afghan war flies at President Obama from every direction, the White House is making it clear that the president’s decision will be his own, the AP reported Tuesday afternoon. As Obama and his other administration officials meet with Congress, urge advisors to keep things confidential, and face avalanches of recommendations, predictions, opinions and polls, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said in his daily briefing that the President would not primarily base his decision on the cacophany of input. He would, Gibbs said, not necessarily bow to public opinion or the mood in Congress.

“The president is going to make a decision – popular or unpopular – based on what he thinks is in the best interests of the country,” Gibbs said Tuesday. As for support from lawmakers, he said Obama is focused on getting his war strategy right, not on “who’s for or who’s against what.”

White House: Obama Will Make Up Own Mind On Afghanistan [Associated Press]


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Catholic Bishops for Obama?

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Apparently, views of the first African-American president are a bit different in the Africa hierarchy than they are among America’s bishops, some of whom have been the fiercest critics of President Obama and his policies. From a Catholic News Service story about a synod (a special gathering of top churchmen to discuss a particular topic) being held this month at the Vatican on the theme of the church in Africa:

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — U.S. President Barack Obama was mentioned three times by two different bishops on the first full day of the special Synod of Bishops for Africa.

Archbishop Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa, Congo, told the synod Oct. 5 that Obama’s election was of historic importance and could signal a major step forward in peaceful relations between people of different ethnic groups and between the North and the South of the world.

The archbishop’s task at the synod was to report on developments — positive and negative — since the first Synod of Bishops for Africa was held in 1994.

Looking at the theme of reconciliation, Archbishop Monsengwo Pasinya suggested that the Old Testament story of Joseph and his brothers, who had sold him into slavery, could be a key for reading the last 500 years of African history, particularly the slave trade.

“Joseph interprets his departure for Egypt as though it were the will of God who sent him ahead of the others (his brothers) to save their lives for a greater deliverance,” the archbishop said.

He suggested that people could see the Africans brought to America against their will as the first contributors to building a nation of people who would learn to accept one another and work together.

If people recognize that “the election of a black as head of the United States of America was a ‘divine sign’ and a sign from the Holy Spirit for the reconciliation of races and ethnic groups for peaceful human relations,” he said, the synod and the church “would gain from not ignoring this important event in contemporary history, which is far from a trivial game of political alliances.”

Obama also was mentioned twice by Cardinal Peter Turkson of Cape Coast, Ghana, the recording secretary of the synod.

The cardinal was asked at the opening day press conference if he had been surprised by Obama’s election.

He replied that it was a surprise on some levels, but it was not unthinkable since the United States presents itself as a beacon of equality and freedom around the world.

I’m just sayin’…


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