- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 16, 2009

COUNTDOWN

“Don’t blink: The fate of the world’s most costly health care system will be shaped in the next six weeks. A leading indicator will be reactions to a report in a few days by people who have no vote on it,” Albert R. Hunt writes at www.bloomberg.com.

If a major overhaul of the U.S. health care system, now President Barack Obama’s top priority, doesn’t clear the House or Senate - the two bodies are jockeying over who goes first - by the early August congressional recess, prospects of anything happening are dim. …

“On Wednesday, a bipartisan study group headed by former Senate leaders Tom Daschle, a Democrat, and Republicans Bob Dole and Howard Baker will release recommendations. These will displease interest groups on all sides, and may also form a realistic basis for any final compromise,” Mr. Hunt said.

“Barring snags, the committee will call for universal coverage and a radical change in the system of reimbursements, while offering only a minimal, perhaps fallback, plan for a public insurance entity, and spelling out ways to pay for it. These would include taxing employer-provided health benefits that exceed the generous federal health plan. That would raise more than $400 billion over the next decade, or one-third of the cost.

“The group will espouse other tax increases, such as those on sugary drinks, and savings of about $350 billion. That would achieve about two-thirds of the cost of the health care reform. The panel will simply lay out options to consider for the difficult, final $400 billion.

“If liberals, unions and industry interest groups pronounce this unacceptable, the prospects for the whole enterprise may blow up. If these groups offer conditional support, it may be a catalyst for the political and policy trade-offs that will ensue.”

UNDUE INFLUENCE?

Rep. Barney Frank, chair of the House Banking Committee, says his successful intervention to keep a General Motors distribution center open in his Massachusetts district isn’t evidence that Congress will have undue influence in running the new 60 percent government-owned auto company,” John Fund writes at www.opinionjournal.com.

” ‘I don’t think this will lead to a pattern,” Mr. Frank assured the Hill newspaper last week after word spread that his phone calls had secured a new lease on life for a GM facility in Norton, Mass.

“The Obama administration has repeatedly said decisions by the new GM will be made by its executives without undue government influence. But influence doesn’t have to take the form of overt orders from the White House to be ‘undue,’ as Mr. Frank’s calls to GM CEO Fritz Henderson showed.

“Mr. Frank says his involvement isn’t likely to be replicated because the facility he went to bat for wasn’t an auto plant or a dealership. He said keeping the distribution center open was environmentally sound because otherwise auto parts would have had to be trucked to New England from a facility in Philadelphia. Mr. Frank also waved off a suggestion that the episode proved that rules are needed to stop lawmakers from jawboning to keep plants or dealerships open.

” ‘I can’t make the connection’ that would give the justification for such rules, Mr. Frank cheerfully says. After all, he added, he didn’t call the Obama administration to keep the Norton facility open, but instead went right to GM management.

“Hmm. That’s an argument that disproves any hope of GM being run in a ‘nonpolitical’ matter. On the contrary, the administration might have to intervene regularly just to protect the company from 535 legislators. GM Chief Henderson is hardly in a position to ignore requests from powerful committee chairmen like Mr. Frank, because GM will never be done needing government favors, from tax rebates for car buyers to fine-tuning of mileage rules.”

WAR ON CIA

“On May 4, Philip Mudd, a veteran intelligence officer who has worked for the CIA and the FBI, was nominated to be undersecretary for intelligence and analysis at the Department of Homeland Security,” Rep.Peter Hoekstra, Michigan Republican, writes at National Review Online (www.nationalreview.com).

“Last week, Mudd withdrew his nomination out of concern that attacks by Senate Democrats over his work on anti-terror programs would be a ‘distraction’ to the Obama administration. This past November, CIA officer John Brennan pulled his nomination to be CIA deputy director for the same reason,” said Mr. Hoekstra, the ranking member on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

“Democrats are using highly qualified intelligence officers as pawns in a political game. These officers are being punished not for any wrongdoing but for their success in administering innovative anti-terror programs that kept our nation safe from terrorist attack over the last seven years. The programs they helped run were not rogue operations; they were briefed to, reviewed by, and funded by Congress. Indeed, the record shows that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was among the U.S. lawmakers who were briefed on these programs from the start. …

“President Obama, unfortunately, has been part of the problem. His statement that the CIA committed ‘mistakes’ in its interrogation programs, along with his decision to release memos on terrorist interrogations, sent a message to intelligence professionals that he will not stand behind them.

“It’s time to stop this assault on our intelligence community, which is not just wrong but also dangerous.”

HONORARY CITIZENS

“On a recent trip to Afghanistan, I learned that the Obama Justice Department is reading Miranda rights to foreign terrorist suspects - effectively extending constitutional protections reserved for US citizens to terrorists picked up on the battlefield,” Rep. Mike Rogers, Michigan Republican, writes in the New York Post.

“The International Committee of the Red Cross is following up by explaining to the suspects their new ‘rights’ - so that terror suspects are now asking for lawyers and refusing to talk. This creates a major problem for U.S. intelligence officers - a major barrier to questioning that in the past has helped protect Americans and U.S. interests. …

“What’s wrong with applying the investigative techniques, evidentiary standards and protections for the accused of a U.S. criminal investigation to foreign terror suspects captured outside of the United States? Simple: It will allow many suspects to game the U.S. legal system - and free some terrorists to fight again,” said Mr. Rogers, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee’s terrorism subcommittee and a former FBI agent.

• Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or [email protected]


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