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Lobbyists Guess What Obama WH Means

Lobbyists all over town are sizing up what the new Obama administration might mean to them and their clients. Some of these size-up reports are nothing more than rehashes of old news. But APCO Worldwide has turned up a few nuggets worth reading:

Health care

Obama won’t have to wait long to demonstrate his commitment and in what direction he may be moving when it comes to reform. There are two key health care issues that will come up early in 2009: physician reimbursement in Medicare and reauthorization of the [State Children's Health Insurance Program]. If Congress, with the backing of the new administration, tries to actually pass a long-term fix to the physician reimbursement formula rather than simply push it forward to next year, that may send a signal they are getting ready to take on the whole reform agenda. The reason is that fixing the formula is costly. The other bellwether is the SCHIP program. In the last Congress, Democrats tried hard to expand the program but were defeated by Republicans and the administration. Any expansion of the program will be expensive so if the new Obama administration is willing to take this step it may be yet another sign it is willing and intends to take on the larger reform issues. If they go beyond a simple reauthorization, they may also use the reauthorization to make some of their proposed reforms including mandating health care for children and an expansion of Medicaid among others.

A final sign of how seriously they are considering pushing their health care agenda is who they pick for HHS Secretary. If it’s Tom Daschle that would be a sign they intend to be aggressive and push reform, as it is hard to imagine Daschle coming on board unless he has the chance for major reform. If the HHS Secretary is someone with a low profile it may signal that health care reform is not a top-tier issue.

Foreign policy

Obama is likely to undertake an early initiative to form a genuine consensus with Europe — through NATO, the European Union and bilaterally — on a variety of issues, starting especially with the financial crisis, but including: global social issues (poverty, health, water, narcotics, trafficking in persons); security issues (nuclear weapons, terrorism, arms control); and governance (rule of law, corruption, political choice, media freedom, human rights, religious tolerance). He will press hard for greater European participation in addressing these problems, especially as they manifest themselves in Afghanistan and Pakistan. NATO member states can expect to be pressured strongly and early to contribute more substantially to the effort in Afghanistan.

For more, here’s the whole paper.

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