Friday, July 29, 2011

Finally Friday Edition

If it weren't for the fact that the world's economy is on the brink of collapse, what's going on in Washington would make a great made for TV movie. Speaker Boehner couldn't get the votes in the House to support his plan -- not only were the Dems against it, but the staunch, Michelle Bachmann Tea Partiers are against raising the debt limit under any circumstances, so they would vote no. Indeed, Tea Partiers have been threatening GOP members with primaries if they don't tow the line. So Speaker Boehner can't get a majority without the Dems, it appears. Which means he now has no choice but to negotiate. I hope. Although his aides say he is "reconfiguring" his plan. And he's given no indication that he's willing to anger the conservative GOP in the House by pushing through a bill that the Dems will vote for. The Dems have a plan that would still raise the debt limit in 2 stages, but for the second one, the President could raise the limit and Congress would need a 2/3 vote to overturn it. But the arm-twisting to try to get the GOP votes continues. He may be as close as only 4 or 5 votes, so the undecideds are being pushed hard by GOP leadership. For me, the thought of doing this again in 6 months -- which the White House reminds us would fall in the middle of the holiday shopping season -- is thoroughly repugnant. But for Speaker Boehner, he's put his whole life on the line for this. If he can't get the votes, who knows if he can survive as Speaker.

It appears that there may be a few more days after August 2 due to higher than expected revenues. But all of the experts -- other than Michelle Bachmann, and I don't consider her an expert in economic policy -- say that the results of a default will be horrendous. If -- as Bachmann suggests -- the US makes its August debt payments, it will have to defund huge chunks of government in order to make up the difference. Somebody's not going to get paid -- Social Security recipients, veterans, government contractors -- any of the many millions of people and businesses who receive federal checks every month. A group of religious leaders was arrested at the Capitol for protesting budget cuts to programs for the poor.

But where's President Obama? He and Speaker Boehner haven't spoken in a few days. There are still some who think he should unilaterally raise the debt limit under the 14th amendment to the Constitution. However, he's already said his lawyers don't think it's defensible. The GOP wants to know what the White House will do in case of default. The White House wants to wait and see what happens in the House.

Meanwhile, companies are making contingency plans in case no deal is reached. The declining value of the dollar already is making an impact around the world. If the country's credit rating is down-graded, so will the ratings of the municipalities surrounding Washington, DC.

If you're having trouble following all of this -- and it is sort of baffling -- here's an excellent Q & A from USA Today.

And even when all this is over, eventually Congress will have to deal with the rising costs of Medicare. It seems both President Obama and Speaker Boehner agree that the eligibility age should be raised to 67.

In other news, a federal judge ruled yesterday that federal funding of stem cell research can continue.

The wonderful Jonathan Cohn explains why the Independent Payment Advisory Board -- part of health reform that is supposed to help drive down Medicare costs -- is essential.

This is a really interesting piece about an organization called Health Leads, which recruits volunteers to staff help desks at clinics in several states to help people get the help they need to get and stay well -- food stamps, housing, other benefits. Great idea.

Super bacteria resistant to antibiotics is hard to kill and not yet fully understood.

And that's today's news. Have a great day! Jennifer

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