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Morning Bulletin – Monday, May 11, 2009

A roundup of news, schedules, and key stories from CBS News Political Director Steve Chaggaris:

5001780President Obama will meet with leaders from various health care industry groups this morning when they'll detail their agreement to curtail $2 trillion in health costs over the next 10 years.

At 11:30 a.m. ET, "They will present a letter (saying that they plan) to reduce the growth rate of health care spending by 1.5 percentage points a year over the next 10 years…This is a major and unprecedented move by this group made up of very sophisticated trade associations and groups, some of which have been opponents of health care reform in the past," said a White House official.

"This fundamentally allies these groups with the President's goal of getting health care reform this year and that's a game changer, in our opinion…and it makes clearer than ever that health care reform is going to happen this year in Congress. These groups realize that we are all in the same boat and we are rolling in the same direction towards health care reform."

The groups include the American Hospital Association, American Medical Association, PHrMA, AvMed, America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), The Greater NY Hospital Association, and The California Hospital Association.

Following the meeting, at 12:30 p.m., President Obama will speak about health care reform and will say, according to excerpts released by the White House, ""We cannot continue down the same dangerous road we've been traveling for so many years, with costs that are out of control, because reform is not a luxury that can be postponed, but a necessity that cannot wait."

"It is a recognition that the fictional television couple, Harry and Louise, who became the iconic faces of those who opposed health care reform in the '90s, desperately need health care reform in 2009. And so does America."

"That is why these groups are voluntarily coming together to make an unprecedented commitment. Over the next ten years - from 2010 to 2019 - they are pledging to cut the growth rate of national health care spending by 1.5 percentage points each year - an amount that's equal to over $2 trillion."

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
The Wall Street Journal's Janet Adamy points out, "Monday's pledge doesn't aim at cutting health-care spending overall, but merely restraining its rate of growth," adding, "Mr. Obama has said he wants his health-care overhaul to improve the quality of care and lower costs. The White House is leaving the details to Congress while working behind the scenes to guide the effort. This week, the Senate plans meetings on how to widen coverage and pay for the plan."

"'The heavy lifting is still on how to write down how to make it happen,' said Len Nichols, director of the health-policy program for the New America Foundation, a Washington think tank. In their letter, the health providers said they would reduce costs by, among other things, simplifying administrative costs, making hospitals more efficient, reducing hospitalizations, managing chronic illnesses more effectively and improving health-care information technology."

"It's unclear whether the proposed savings will prove decisive in pushing a health care overhaul through Congress. There's no detail on how the savings pledge would be enforced," write the Associated Press' Ricardo Alonson-Zaldivar and Philip Elliot.

"And, critically, the promised savings in private health care costs would accrue to society as a whole, not just the federal government. That's a crucial distinction because specific federal savings are needed to help pay for the cost of expanding coverage. Costs have emerged as the most serious obstacle to Obama's plan. The estimated federal costs range from $1.2 trillion to $1.5 trillion over 10 years, and so far Obama has only spelled out how to get about half of that."

The Wall Street Journal's Adamy continues, "On Monday, the Senate Finance Committee is expected to release several options for how to structure a public insurance plan, one of the most debated aspects of the overhaul. The options range from modeling it after Medicare to structuring it like state health-insurance plans currently provided to public employees. On Tuesday, members of that committee will hold talks on how to pay for the health-care plan. The current price tag is expected to be at least $1.2 trillion over 10 years. In its budget for fiscal 2010, the Obama administration put aside more than $600 billion over 10 years for a new health-care system and said it would raise funds to make that spending 'budget-neutral.' Lawmakers are weighing tough choices for how to finance the rest."

Adamy, in a separate article, profiles the president's health care czar, Nancy-Ann DeParle.

And the Washington Post's Dan Eggen takes a look at the chief opponent of Mr. Obama's health care reform ideas, multimillionaire and former hospital CEO Rick Scott:

(AP)
REPLACING SOUTER: "The person in the White House most knowledgeable about Supreme Court nominations sits in the vice president's office," writes the Washington Post's Michael A. Fletcher.

"With President Obama filling his first high court vacancy with the retirement of Justice David H. Souter, Vice President Biden finds himself regularly consulting with the president and fielding queries from the White House counsel and others for insights on the process. 'The president is basically taking advantage of my experiences by asking me nuanced questions about both individuals and timing,' Biden said in an interview Friday. 'We've gone through specific nominees, which we're burrowing in on.'

"A former head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Biden chaired half a dozen Supreme Court confirmation hearings and voted on every sitting justice with the exception of John Paul Stevens. His feel for the personalities, complexities and sensitivities of the process has been forged during some of the most explosive confirmation battles, including those of Justice Clarence Thomas and Judge Robert H. Bork, the conservative legal scholar who was rejected by the Senate.

"Although Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel is leading the search, which is being run through the White House counsel's office, Biden and the president have gone over lists of potential nominees, discussed the best ways to approach senators about a prospective pick, and talked about when it would be best to announce a choice."

The New York Times' Carl Hulse profiles the new Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama:

(CBS)
GOP'S FUTURE: "'I think partly it's a semantic problem,' [former Vice President Dick Cheney] told CBS News' Bob Schieffer on "Face The Nation" Sunday. 'I don't think the party ought to move dramatically to the left, for example, in order to try to redefine its base. We are what we are. We're Republicans. We have certain things we believe in. And maintaining our loyalty and commitment to those principles is vital to our success.'"

Cheney talked about how the GOP is trying to broaden its appeal: "Jeb Bush, I know, has been working on it ... Eric Cantor, Mitt Romney, trying to find ways to appeal to a broader range of people. I don't have any problem with that. I think that's a good thing to do. But the suggestion our Democratic friends always make is somehow, you know, if you Republicans were just more like Democrats, you'd win elections. Well, I don't buy that. I think we win elections when we have good solid conservative principles to run upon and base our policies on those principles."

And Schieffer quizzed Cheney about Rush Limbaugh's most recent provocative comments: "Rush Limbaugh said the other day that the party would probably be better off if Colin Powell left and just became a Democrat. Colin Powell said Republicans would be better off if they didn't have Rush Limbaugh out speaking for them. Where do you come down [on this]?"

"Well, if I had to choose in terms of being a Republican, I'd go with Rush Limbaugh, I think," said Cheney "I think my take on it was Colin had already left the party. I didn't know he was still a Republican."

"So you think that he's not a Republican?" asked Schieffer.

"I just noted he endorsed the Democratic candidate for president this time, Barack Obama," Cheney said. "I assumed that that is some indication of his loyalty and his interest."

"And you said you would take Rush Limbaugh over Colin Powell."

"I would, politically."

Meantime, the Los Angeles Times' Paul West profiles RNC chairman Michael Steele on his first 100 days in that role.

(AP)
"Michael S. Steele completed his first 100 days as Republican national chairman this weekend, but the party let the milestone pass without notice. Steele made history in January as the first African American to head the Republican National Committee. It's been largely downhill since, with Republicans in disarray and Steele under siege over a variety of problems, many self-inflicted. Now as the RNC prepares to hold a special meeting next week in Maryland, Steele's standing as a national leader may be on the line. He plans to deliver a major speech at the party gathering, which could relaunch his chairmanship and stop him from sliding into irrelevance and becoming little more than an object of ridicule for his opponents. 'There were some bumps out of the gate, obviously, which everyone acknowledged, including him,' said media consultant Curt Anderson, a close advisor."

JOE BIDEN'S VERSION OF THE "STRAIGHT TALK EXPRESS" CONTINUES: "The vice president had just finished delivering the commencement address at Syracuse University and stopped by to chat with students at Bellevue Elementary School. During the intense question and answer period, one child asked the vice president if he had ever petted a dog," writes the Christian Science Monitor's Jimmy Orr.

"'Yeah, but guess what? I've got a dog that lives with me,' Biden replied. 'The smartest, coolest dog in the world.' Normally, you'd leave it at that. You've praised your dog. Why denigrate another? Because in campaigns you have to differentiate yourself from your opponent.

(AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)
And campaigns are in Biden's blood. That's when he let it be known that Bo Obama was a dolt. 'The new dog I have is only five months old and his name is Champ,' Biden told the schoolkids. 'My dog is smarter than Bo, his dog,' he jabbed. 'I think so,' he taunted. Yeah, I do.' An astute politician, Biden apparently didn't want to be seen as a mudslinger so he conceded that 'Bo's a beautiful dog too.'"

ALSO TODAY: President Obama will honor the NCAA men's basketball champions, the University of North Carolina Tar Heels. FLASHBACK, 4/29/08, CBS News' Maria Gavrilovic: "Obama Takes Court Against Final Four Team"

ECONOMY / STIMULUS / BAILOUTS

NY Times' Joshua Brustein, "Obama Adviser Sees Unemployment Rising Until 2010"

NY Times' John Harwood, "The Jobless Rate, Slow to Improve, Tests Obama"

Wall Street Journal's Suzanne Sataline, "Cities Cry Foul on Stimulus Cash"

OBAMA ADMINISTRATION

NY Times' Thom Shanker, "Plan to Shift Military Spending Faces Skepticism"

NY Times' Stephen Labaton, "Administration Plans to Strengthen Antitrust Rules"

LA Times' Peter Nicholas and Jim Tankersley, "Buzzwords: Rephrasing Obama's lexicon"

FUTURE RACES

2009 VA Governor: NY Times' Adam Nagourney, "Governor Clintonism?"

2010 NM Governor: New Mexico Politics' Heath Haussamen, "Kilmner 'probably not' going to run for governor"

2010 FL Senate: Tallahassee Democrat's Bill Cotterell, "Crist to enter race for Senate"

2010 KY Senate: The Hill's Aaron Blake, "Bunning drama continues to haunt GOP"

2010 KY Senate: Associated Press' Roger Alford, "Support in E. Kentucky pleases Mongiardo"

2010 NY Senate: NY Daily News' Elizabeth Benjamin, "Chuck Schumer, David Paterson won't fight Kirsten Gillibrand challengers,"

2010 PA Senate: Washington Post's Chris Cillizza, "Good News for Pat Toomey, if Not Some Other Republicans"

ETC.

Politico's Patrick O'Connor, "Hill still a climb for female staffers"

  • Steve Chaggaris

    Steve Chaggaris is CBS News' senior political editor.