N2K Top 10: A Push to Privatize; A Committee Divided
Thursday, January 27, 2011 | 7:33 a.m.
- PUSH TO PRIVATIZE. House GOP members are considering a measure to convert the government-backed Medicare program into a voucher system. The measure would be part of the House budget, which will be shaped next month. Republican Conference Chairman Jeb Hensarling of Texas said the he expects Republicans to support the provision, which would require Medicare to give seniors an allotment of money to buy private coverage starting in 2021. The eligibility age would also be raised, from 65 to 69.
- A COMMITTEE DIVIDED. The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission comes out with its long-awaited findings this morning, and the verdict is... muddled. The majority report, authored by the panel's Democrats, will blame ineffective regulation and risky Wall Street practices. But in separate dissents, Republicans point to broader economic forces and government housing policy. Depending on which view of the crisis takes hold, oversight of the financial system could be affected for decades to come.
- PENCE WATCH. Hoosier Hamlet Mike Pence said he’d decide by the end of the month whether to run for governor of Indiana or president, but it looks like he might announce this weekend. The GOP congressman abruptly bagged plans to attend this weekend’s Heritage Foundation retreat at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif. One possible clue as to which way he's leaning: Indiana sources say Pence is booked for a lot of GOP dinners in his home state over the next month -- and none of those have been canceled.
- WHO GETS PAID IF THERE’S NOT ENOUGH MONEY? Members of the Republican Study Committee introduced a bill on Wednesday that requires the Treasury to pay principal and interest on public debt before anything else if Congress doesn't raise the debt ceiling. “This gives our creditors the certainty that U.S. Treasuries are still the safest investment in the world,’’ said a spokesman for Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif. But Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., blasted the GOP debt bill. “Basically what they are saying is pay China first,” Conrad said. “Are we going to forget about the American public and the things that they need? Somehow they are secondary?”
- 1099 IN 112th. Senate Democrats and Republicans have been especially eager to pass a repeal of the much-maligned 1099 tax provision of the health care law, and now it seems the House is ready to act as well. A spokesperson for the House Ways and Means Committee said the panel would be “acting soon” to put a repeal bill through committee and onto the floor.
- PATRIOT GAMES. The Democratic-controlled Senate and GOP-dominated House are on a collision course over reauthorizing three expiring provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act. Senate Democrats are expected to push for reforms, while House Republicans want a simple reauthorization. GOP lawmakers have the upper hand: The provisions expire February 28, meaning there probably isn’t time to vet any reforms.
- TOLD YOU SO. As Egypt cracks down on and arrests protesters, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton urged the Egyptian government not to block peaceful protests or social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. Clinton’s comments during this flash point come two weeks after her unusually blunt warning to Arab leaders during her Persian Gulf trip, when she insisted Arab governments must be more open to their citizens and enact political reforms -- or else face violent unrest within their countries.
- MAN OF THE PEOPLE. Obama will revive his reputation as a hugely successful candidate on the Internet this afternoon when he does a YouTube interview with Steve Grove, the head of news and politics at YouTube. The one-on-one interview isn’t his best format -- the president tends to do best in large campaign settings -- but it will provide him yet another opportunity to make his State of the Union pitch for innovation to the nation. The interview will take place at 2:30 p.m.
- POWERFUL DUO. Michelle Obama will make an appearance on Oprah Winfrey’s show today -- one of the last of the show’s final season -- to talk about the difficulties that military families face. She taped the episode last Friday in Chicago. The first lady will also travel to South Carolina for an event that highlights the importance of physical fitness for military readiness. It will bring together some of her most important issues: combating childhood obesity, physical fitness, and military families.
- CLASHING GOALS. Once President Obama’s call for a clean-energy standard moves into the legislative weeds in Congress, it will likely clash with his administration’s contentious carbon regulations, which various factions of both chambers are seeking to delay and upend. Moderate fence-sitting senators will want an EPA delay to be paired with a clean-energy standard, while liberal Democrats are open to the standard but not a delay. It will be politically hard to deal with one and not the other, as it was last Congress with climate legislation and EPA preemption.
(YOU DON'T NEED TO KNOW. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is going to announce today that the department will eliminate the nation’s color-coded alert system by April 27. Instead, DHS will inform Americans about terror threats much like it already does: through the news media.)
Today’s Need-to-Know Video: The Difficulty of Cutting Spending.