November, 2013

Clinton Rebuilds Bonds with Black Voters

New York Times: “Since Mrs. Clinton left the secretary of state post in February, she and her husband have sought to soothe and strengthen their relationship with African-Americans, the constituency that was most scarred during her first bid for the presidency. Five years after remarks by Mr. Clinton about Barack Obama deeply strained the Clintons’ bond with African-Americans, the former first family is setting out to ensure that there is no replay of such trouble in 2016.”

“This task has taken on new urgency given the Democratic Party’s push to the left, away from the centrist politics with which the Clintons are identified. Strong support from black voters could serve as a bulwark for Mrs. Clinton against a liberal primary challenge should she decide to run for president in 2016. It would be difficult for a progressive candidate, such as Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, to rise if the former first lady takes back the black voters she lost to Mr. Obama and retains the blue-collar white voters who flocked to her.”

The Rise of the Populist Left

Washington Post: “As Obama struggles to achieve his second-term domestic agenda, a more liberal and populist voice is emerging within a Democratic Party already looking ahead to the next presidential election. The push from the left represents both a critique of Obama’s tenure and a clear challenge to Hillary Rodham Clinton, the party’s presumptive presidential front-runner, who carries a more centrist banner.”

“The left’s influence will be on display in coming weeks when a high-profile congressional committee formed after the government shutdown faces a deadline to forge a budget agreement. Under strong pressure from liberals, the panel has effectively abandoned discussion of a ‘grand bargain’ agreement partly because it probably would involve cuts to Social Security.”

Inside the Effort to Rescue Obamacare

The New York Times has a good behind-the-scenes look at the White House effort to fix and relaunch the Obamacare website.

“The political dangers were clear to everyone in the room… For 90 excruciating minutes, a furious and frustrated president peppered his team with questions, drilling into the arcane minutiae of web design as he struggled to understand the scope of a crisis that suddenly threatened his presidency.”

“Out of that tense Oval Office meeting grew a frantic effort aimed at rescuing not only the insurance portal and Mr. Obama’s credibility, but also the Democratic philosophy that an activist government can solve big, complex social problems. Today, that rescue effort is far from complete.”

Obama’s Second Shot at Health Care Reform

“Contrary to the cliché, there are second acts in politics. They just don’t usually come two months after the first,” the Huffington Post reports.

“On Nov. 30, the Obama administration will have a second chance to showcase its capacity to administer a website and oversee health care reform. Senior officials in the administration are quick to insist that the date is merely a point on a calendar, not a moment when a switch is suddenly flipped and all the problems surrounding Obamacare disappear.”

“But as a political matter, they also understand the scrutiny that comes after Nov. 30 will be heightened, and the stakes a bit higher. More than one administration official over the course of reporting this article said they fully expect that the first time a consumer encounters an error message on the website on Dec. 1, it will be used as a cudgel by the critics.”

Healthcare Website Still Improving

“As the Obama administration’s weekend deadline for a smoothly functioning online marketplace for health insurance arrives, more than a month of frantic repair work is paying off with fewer crashes and error messages and speedier loading of pages,” the New York Times reports.

“But specialists said weeks of additional work lie ahead, including a major reconfiguration of the computer hardware, if the $630 million site, Healthcare.gov, is to accommodate the expected flood of people seeking to buy health insurance. Without the additional changes, experts predict, the website may continue to crash during periods of peak use.”

Washington Post: “Officials are preparing to say Sunday that they have met their deadline for improving the website, in part by expanding its capacity so that it can handle 50,000 users at once. But other goals remain.”

However, the Wall Street Journal says the site still has problems with its “ability to verify users’ identities and transmit accurate enrollment
data to insurers, officials say. The data center that supports the site
faces continuing challenges, and tools for processing payments to
insurers haven’t been built.”

Obamas Might Stay in Washington After Presidency

President Obama told ABC News that he and his family might stay in Washington, D.C. after his second term is over because youngest daughter Sasha will still be in high school as a sophomore.

Said Obama: “So we’ve gotta–you know we gotta make sure that she’s doin’ well… until she goes off to college. Sasha will have a big say in where we are.”

“If the Obamas do stay in Washington and maintain a residence in the city, President Obama would be the first president to do so since Woodrow Wilson.”

Kentucky Making Obamacare Work

“Relations between President Obama and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear have not always been friendly… But leading one of the nation’s poorest, sickest states, Beshear has improbably overseen one of the most successful rollouts of Obama’s troubled healthcare overhaul and become, deep in his long public career, a hero to Democrats grasping to find a redeeming figure amid the political wreckage,” the Los Angeles Times reports.

“He’s an unlikely champion, not least because Kentucky’s two U.S. senators are both implacable opponents of the program.”

Said Beshear: “I knew if I was going to make a huge difference in the health status of Kentucky, it was going to take some kind of transformational tool to do that, and that’s what the Affordable Care Act is for me.”

It’s Still Possible to Block Obama Judicial Nominees

“The decision by Senate Democrats to eliminate filibusters for most judicial nominations only marginally enhanced President Obama’s power to reshape the judiciary, according to court watchers from across the political spectrum, because Republican senators can still veto his nominees to most currently vacant appeals court seats,” the New York Times reports.

“The new Senate rule clears the way for eight appeals court nominees who have already had confirmation hearings to win approval with simple majority votes, including three on the powerful Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which reviews federal policies and regulations. But it left unchanged the Senate’s ‘blue slip’ custom, which allows senators to block nominees to judgeships associated with their states.”