From Volume 38, Issue 5 of EIR Online, Published Feb. 4, 2011

United States News Digest

Dems Split on Social Security; GOP To Work with Obama

Jan. 30 (EIRNS)—In appearances on the Sunday talk shows today, the two top Republican leaders in Congress indicated that they will have to work with the Obama White House directly in order to dismantle Social Security, because of opposition from Senate Democrats and others.

House Speaker John Boehner, speaking on Fox News Sunday, made it clear that he wants "entitlements" to be on the table for cuts. "I think the White House is interested in having that same conversation," Boehner declared, adding, "But ... we've got the Senate Majority Leader who says there's no problem" with Social Security. Boehner identified this as the major obstacle to the "adult conversation" on entitlements that he and Obama want to have.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, appearing on NBC, said that there is great unity among Republicans, but "I think the most interesting unreported divisions in the town are among Democrats." McConnell said cutting "long-term unfunded liabilities," in which category he falsely included Social Security, has to be done on a bipartisan basis, and he pointed out what happened to George W. Bush in 2005 when he went after Social Security. "We're happy to sit down and talk about entitlement reform with the President," McConnell offered. "We know Social Security is in trouble.... We know Medicare is on an unsustained path.... Look, we need to get serious about this."

Obama Renominates Berwick as Medicare Rationer-in-Chief

Jan. 28 (EIRNS)—President Obama has again submitted the nomination of British death-care enthusiast Sir Donald Berwick to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Obama put Berwick in charge of CMS by recess appointment last July, after his April nomination stalled in the Senate—not because of Republican opposition, but because Senate Democrats were afraid to hold a confirmation hearing in which Berwick could be grilled on his praise of Britain's National Health Service ("I am romantic about the National Health Service," Berwick told a London audience in 2008, "I love it") and its National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), which Berwick helped set up in 1999.

The Senate Finance Committee's senior Republican, Orrin Hatch, said yesterday: "A day after the President committed to coming together to move our country forward, he's chosen to renominate one of his most contentious nominees to head an agency that impacts the lives of more than 100 million Americans.... Given Dr. Berwick's controversial views, Republicans will expect a full hearing to understand how the administration is implementing the $2.6 trillion health law, its impact on the American people, and the consequences to the future of Medicare and Medicaid."

Berwick will face a hearing in the Finance Committee, and then confirmation by the full Senate, were he to be approved by that committee.

IPAB Repeal Could Be Approved by Congress, Says Dem Consultant

Jan. 27 (EIRNS)—The effort to repeal Obama's health-care rationing board is a "bipartisan" effort, said its chief spokesman, Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), yesterday, pointing out that he will seek Democratic cosponsors. And it stands a real chance of making it through Congress, says a Democratic healthcare consultant.

"Could it pass the Senate now, with Democratic support? Sure," said Len Nichols, described as a leading health-care economist and former Clinton Administration official, quoted in a Mother Jones article attacking the repeal effort, "given the intensity of lobbyist opposition to it, liberal opposition to it, and Republican desire to strip anything out of [health reform] and call it a victory over the President." The same article quotes even senior Democrat Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) as saying he has "some concerns" about IPAB, because it delegates so much Congressional authority to the Board. Mother Jones notes that 72 House Dems signed a letter last session opposing IPAB, and 4 House Democrats joined 71 Republicans in voting against it last year.

In his press conference, Roe again compared IPAB to the NICE board in Britain, which limits and denies medical treatments. And he repeatedly warned how IPAB could deny care in the U.S. "The board will decide, maybe you're 80 and that's a little too old to have your knee redone," Roe warned, saying that the board could declare: "No, you can't have this treatment, because you've hit a budget limit."

In Virginia, 'Government of the Banks, by the Banks, and for the Banks'

Jan. 27 (EIRNS)—With the connivance of the Governor's Foreclosure Taskforce, the Virginia legislature's House Courts of Justice Committee this week scuttled a bill that would have done away in Virginia with the speculators' nationally used Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems (MERS), which has facilitated the mortgage-backed securities fraud, and allowed banks and other financial institutions to throw millions of people out of their homes, while thumbing their noses at longstanding existing law.

The bill was introduced by Republican Del. Robert Marshall, who told the Associated Press after the voice vote by the committee, "What you saw in there was government of the banks, by the banks, and for the banks."

A staffer in Marshall's office told EIR that the bill was sent to the Governor's taskforce "for study" at the urging of its chairman, Terrie Suit. Suit, an Assistant to the Governor whose primary title is Homeland Security Advisor, and who is the direct liaison between Republican Gov. Robert McDonnell and the Federal Department of Homeland Security, earlier spent three years as a gubernatorial appointee to the Virginia Real Estate Board. The next time her subgroup of the Governor's Housing Policy Framework Initiative meets is after the Feb. 26 closing of this year's session of the legislature. So, by sending the bill #1506 to the taskforce for study, the committee has pretty well ensured that it will not be allowed to be voted on during this session, although Marshall's office said the Delegate is looking for another germane bill to which 1506 could be attached as an amendment.

Obama's 'Illegal End-Run' on Death Counseling Challenged

Jan. 26 (EIRNS)—Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) confronted Obama's "regulations czar" Cass Sunstein over the secret Section 1233 end-of-life counseling regulation today, accusing the Administration of an "illegal end-run" by sneaking it into the new Medicare regulations "in the dead of night," without allowing public comment.

During a hearing of the House Energy & Commerce Committee on President Obama's executive order on regulations, with Sunstein of OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs as the sole witness, Rep. Gingrey boxed Sunstein in, asking him who in the Administration had the authority to sneak in this regulation, "in the dead of night?" Sunstein said he didn't know.

Gingrey, an Ob-Gyn, asked Sunstein if Obama's new Executive Order would prevent this type of thing from being done in the future, and Sunstein answered "yes." Gingrey then asked: "Can you assure us that this Administration won't allow such an illegal end-run in the future?" Sunstein meekly again answered "yes," without ever protesting Gingrey's characterization of the Administration's actions as "illegal."

National Governors' Association's Letter from Fantasy-Land

Jan. 25 (EIRNS)—Yesterday, Governors Christine Gregoire of Washington and Dave Heineman of Nebraska wrote to the leaders of the House and Senate on behalf of the National Governors' Association, on the catastrophe facing the Federal states. They seem to imagine that their letter deals with harsh, unavoidable realities—but in truth, it is more of a suicide note.

Gregoire and Heineman note that states now face estimated budget deficits of $175 billion from now through 2013, on top of prior budget gaps of $230 billion from 2009-11. Unlike the Federal government, they say, states must balance their budgets. "More cuts will be necessary, but with all the easy cuts exhausted, the next round will require more layoffs, fewer state services, and potential cuts to core programs like K-12 education and public safety. Despite states' difficult fiscal situation, governors are not calling for new one-time help from the federal treasury." This is because they've been told it's "not in the cards"—that is, while avoiding Glass-Steagall!

Instead, all they ask is some greater flexibility under the remaining federal programs, now that all the Federal "stimulus" money has been exhausted.

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