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Inside the Beltway

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 19, 2011

HEALTHY QUESTION

"The House of Representatives lived up to its duties as the people's house and voted to repeal Obamacare, the disaster foisted on the American people. Now the question is: Will the Senate resolve to listen to will of the American people? Many have said that Majority Leader Harry Reid will not allow the bill to even be debated, let alone come to a vote in the Senate. What is he scared of?" asks Jenny Beth Martin, a founder of the 15-million member Tea Party Patriots.

GIPPERPALOOZA

Official celebrations begin in just over two weeks. Heavy media credentialing has begun for upcoming events honoring what would have been Ronald Reagan's 100th birthday, which portend to showcase that swell Gipper style, with a sense of occasion, gravitas and good humor. Incidentally, all the celebrations are privately funded; not one taxpayer dollar involved — "As President Reagan would have wanted it," observes John Heubusch, executive director of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation

Among the many entertainers, former officials and lawmakers on hand for the celebration at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., from Feb. 4 to 7: Nancy Reagan, former Vice President Dick Cheney, Gary Sinese, the Beach Boys, Amy Grant, Lee Greenwood, Fred Thompson, George Schultz, Edwin Meese, Newt Gingrich, Robert McFarlane and Pat Buchanan.

AND IN SUMMATION

"The Chinese president ended his speech on an upbeat note about the relationship between the two countries: 'In conclusion, America owes me the first months rent and the security deposit,' " notes comedian Andy Borowitz in his own waggish version of China's state visit to the U.S.

MET THE VETS

A round of applause, please, for Jimmie L. Foster, national commander of the American Legion, and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki, who met for over an hour to address a backlog of more than a million benefits claims with the agency. Mr. Foster describes the meeting as "relaxed, informal, warm and friendly." It also appears productive.

"It's a great challenge. Secretary Shinseki says Veterans Affairs processed about 900,000 claims this past year, but received 1.1 million more — with 1.45 million expected this year," he continues, reporting that the agency is "attacking the problem aggressively" with new training programs, a regional approach to claims processing and a universal electronics records system fully operational.

More applause, though. Mr. Foster also met with U.S. Office of Personnel Management director John Berry; the pair agreed to work together closely to help solve the unemployment crisis among America's veterans.

"It's personal with me. My father, a Marine, was on Guadalcanal during the whole invasion, and my uncle gave his life in the Pacific in World War II. The well-being of our veterans means an awful lot to me," Mr. Berry says.

PALINTOLOGY

A new CNN poll revealing Sarah Palin's favorability ratings "at an all-time low" has sparked an immediate round of gleeful Palin bashing in the press, complete with damning conclusions and churlish headlines. Indeed, CNN found that 56 percent of Americans — and 59 percent of those elusive "independents" — say they have an unfavorable impression of the former Alaska governor.

What did not get much play, however, were her positive ratings: 68 percent of Republicans continue to favor Mrs. Palin; 25 percent disapprove. Among conservatives, 63 percent favor her; 30 percent do not. The tea party base stands fast: 75 percent approve of Mrs. Palin; 17 percent do not. The politician in question remains unfazed.

"I'm not going to sit down and shut up," Mrs. Palin told Fox News earlier this week.

READY TO RUMBLE

A pair of volunteer stalwarts will flank new Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus as he marches into the rigorous, 30-day transition period for the party. Former committee Chairman Ed Gillespie and Nick Ayers, former executive director of the Republican Governors Association, will accept no payment or staff positions to serve on "the team that will help ensure Republicans have a topnotch ground game in the 2012 election cycle," Mr. Priebus says.

Other key players on the 20-member transition team: Steve King, former chairman of the Republican Party of Wisconsin; Henry Barbour, national committeeman for the Mississippi Republican Party; and Betti Hill, national committeewoman of the Montana Republican State Central Committee.

POLL DU JOUR

• 82 percent of Americans say it's "extremely" or "very" important that House Republicans work with President Obama and Senate Democrats to pass legislation both parties agree on.

• 77 percent of Republicans and 90 percent of Democrats agree.

• 80 percent overall say President Obama should work to pass legislation both parties agree on, even if it's not what Democrats want.

• 93 percent of Republicans and 70 percent of Democrats agree.

• 39 percent overall say it's "extremely" or "very" important for House Republicans to prevent President Obama and Senate Democrats from passing legislation Republicans disagree with.

• 55 percent of Republicans and 29 percent of Democrats agree.

Source: A USA Today/Gallup Poll of 1,032 adults conducted Jan. 14-16.

Rattles, battles, tattles to jharper@washingtontimes.com

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