History > 2009 > USA > Congress > Senate (I)
A Great Liberal Voice Goes Silent
Senate Passes Health Care Overhaul
on Party-Line Vote
December 25, 2009
The New York Times
By ROBERT PEAR
WASHINGTON — The Senate voted Thursday to reinvent the
nation’s health care system, passing a bill to guarantee access to health
insurance for tens of millions of Americans and to rein in health costs.
The 60-to-39 party-line vote, starting at 7:05 a.m. on the 25th straight day of
debate on the legislation, brings Democrats closer to a goal they have pursued
for decades and brings President Obama a step closer to success in his signature
domestic initiative. When the roll was called, with Vice President Joseph R.
Biden Jr. presiding, it was the first time the Senate had gathered for a vote on
Christmas Eve since 1895.
If the bill becomes law, it would be a milestone in social policy, comparable to
the creation of Social Security in 1935 and Medicare in 1965. But unlike those
programs, the initiative lacks bipartisan support. Only one Republican supported
a broadly similar bill that the House approved last month 220 to 215, and no
Republicans backed the Senate version.
After the vote, lawmakers and Mr. Obama wasted no time leaving for their holiday
break, well aware that their return to Washington would mean plunging into
negotiations to reconcile the measures passed by the two chambers.
If a deal can be struck, as seems likely, the resulting law would vastly expand
the role and responsibilities of the federal government. It would, as lawmakers
said repeatedly in the debate, touch the lives of nearly all Americans.
The bill would require most Americans to have health insurance, would add 15
million people to the Medicaid rolls and would subsidize private coverage for
low- and middle-income people, at a cost to the government of $871 billion over
10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
The budget office estimates that the bill would provide coverage to 31 million
uninsured people, but still leave 23 million uninsured in 2019. One-third of
those remaining uninsured would be illegal immigrants.
Mr. Obama hailed the Senate action. “We are now incredibly close to making
health insurance reform a reality,” he said, before leaving the White House to
celebrate Christmas in Hawaii.
The president, who endorsed the Senate and House bills, said he would be deeply
involved in trying to help the two chambers work out their differences. But it
is unclear how specific he will be — if, for example, he will push for one type
of tax over another or try to concoct a compromise on insurance coverage for
Senator Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, a moderate Republican who has spent years
working with Democrats on health care and other issues, said she was “extremely
disappointed” with the bill’s evolution in recent weeks. After Senate Democrats
locked up 60 votes within their caucus, she said, “there was zero opportunity to
amend the bill or modify it, and Democrats had no incentive to reach across the
Like many Republicans, Ms. Snowe was troubled by new taxes and fees in the bill,
which she said could have “a dampening effect on job creation and job
preservation.” The bill would increase the Medicare payroll tax on high-income
people and levy a new excise tax on high-premium insurance policies, as one way
to control costs.
When the roll was called Thursday morning, the mood was solemn as senators
called out “aye” or “no.” Senator Robert C. Byrd, the 92-year-old Democrat from
West Virginia, deviated slightly from the protocol.
“This is for my friend Ted Kennedy,” Mr. Byrd said. “Aye!”
Senator Kennedy of Massachusetts, a longtime champion of universal health care,
died of brain cancer in August at age 77.
Senator Jim Bunning, Republican of Kentucky, did not vote.
The fight on Capitol Hill prefigures a larger political battle that is likely to
play out in the elections of 2010 and 2012, as Democrats try to persuade a
skeptical public of the bill’s merits, while Republicans warn that it will drive
up costs for those who already have insurance.
“Our members are leaving happy and upbeat,” said the Senate Republican leader,
Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. “The public is on our side. This fight is not
After struggling for years to expand health insurance in modest, incremental
ways, Democrats decided this year that they could not let another opportunity
slip away. As usual, lawmakers were deluged with appeals from lobbyists for
health care interests who have stymied similar ambitious efforts in the past.
But this year was different.
Lawmakers listened to countless stories of hardship told by constituents who had
been denied insurance, lost coverage when they got sick or seen their premiums
soar. Hostility to the insurance industry was a theme throughout the Senate
Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio, said insurance companies were often
“just one step ahead of the sheriff.” Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of
California, said the industry “lacks a moral compass.” And Senator Sheldon
Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, said the business model of the industry
“deserves a stake through its cold and greedy heart.”
The bill would establish strict federal standards for an industry that, since
its inception, has been regulated mainly by the states. Under it, insurers could
not deny coverage because of a person’s medical condition; could not charge
higher premiums because of a person’s sex or health status; and could not
rescind coverage when a person became sick or disabled. The government would, in
effect, limit insurers’ profits by requiring them to spend at least 80 to 85
cents of every premium dollar on health care.
The specificity of federal standards is illustrated by one section of the bill,
which requires insurers to issue a benefits summary that “does not exceed four
pages in length and does not include print smaller than 12-point font.”
Another force propelling health legislation through the Senate was the
Democrats’ view that it was a moral imperative and an economic necessity.
“The health insurance policies of America, what we have right now is a moral
disgrace,” said Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa. “We are called upon to
right a great injustice, a great wrong that has been put upon the American
Costs of the bill would, according to the Congressional Budget Office, be more
than offset by new taxes and fees and by savings in Medicare. The bill would
squeeze nearly a half-trillion dollars from Medicare over the next 10 years,
mainly by reducing the growth of payments to hospitals, nursing homes, Medicare
Advantage plans and other providers.
Republicans asserted that the cuts would hurt Medicare beneficiaries. But AARP,
the lobby for older Americans, and the American Medical Association ran an
advertisement urging senators to pass the bill, under which Medicare would cover
more of the cost for prescription drugs and preventive health services.
Karen M. Ignagni, president of America’s Health Insurance Plans, a trade group,
said the bill appeared to be unstoppable. But she added: “We are not sure it
will be workable. It could disrupt existing coverage for families, seniors and
small businesses, particularly between now and when the legislation is fully
implemented in 2014.”
Senate Passes Health
Care Overhaul on Party-Line Vote, NYT, 25.12.2009,
December 17, 2009
The New York Times
As many as 150,000 children are sent to adult jails in this country every
year — often in connection with nonviolent offenses or arrests that do not lead
to conviction. That places them at risk of being raped or battered and increases
the chance they will end up as career criminals.
To fix this problem, Congress needs to properly reauthorize the Juvenile Justice
Delinquency and Prevention Act of 1974, under which states agreed to humanize
juvenile justice policies in exchange for more federal aid. This act was largely
bypassed in the 1990s when unfounded fears of an adolescent crime wave reached
When it reauthorizes the law — it is already three years late — Congress should
make it illegal for states to place children in adult prisons, perhaps with the
exception of truly heinous criminals.
The House has yet to introduce a new bill; in the Senate, an updated version has
yet to be voted out of the Judiciary Committee. The Senate bill is less than
ideal, but it does encourage the states to de-emphasize the practice of
detaining children in adult jails before trial and requires them to better
protect young people who end up there. Several states have begun to reform their
systems: housing young people in juvenile facilities — where they are better
protected and can get mental health treatment — even if they have been convicted
in adult courts. The current version of the law threatens states with loss of
federal aid if they make that decision. The Senate bill would do away with that
The bill also would require states to phase out policies under which children
are detained in either juvenile or adult facilities for offenses like violating
curfew or smoking. These children should be dealt with through community-based
counseling or family intervention programs, which are better for the child and
In addition, the bill increases financing for mentoring, drug treatment, mental
health care and other programs that have been shown to keep children out of
custody in the first place. And it would require states to closely monitor — and
address — racial inequities in their system. Studies show that black and
Hispanic children get harsher treatment at all levels of the juvenile justice
system than white children.
The Senate bill is not perfect. But it represents a welcome step away from the
cruel and self-defeating policies that subject children to irreparable harm at
the hands of the state and puts them on a path that too often leads to a
lifetime spent behind bars.
Children, NYT, 17.12.2009,
Senate Grinds to A Halt on Healthcare
December 16, 2009
Filed at 2:53 p.m. ET
The New York Times
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The slow-moving U.S. Senate debate on
healthcare reform ground to a complete halt on Wednesday, with Republicans
forcing the reading of a 767-page amendment as Democrats scrambled to finish
work this year.
Republican Senator Tom Coburn invoked his right to require an amendment by
independent Senator Bernie Sanders be read aloud by a Senate clerk -- a task
expected to take well into the night.
Republicans so far are united in opposition to a sweeping healthcare overhaul
that is President Barack Obama's top domestic priority, and have vowed to use
every tool possible to slow the debate.
The move did not dramatically disrupt the snail's pace of the Senate, which has
largely been in healthcare limbo awaiting cost estimates on provisions in a
manager's amendment to be offered in a few days by Senate Democratic leader
The proposed overhaul of the $2.5 trillion healthcare industry has been bogged
down in the Senate amid disputes among Democrats over costs, plans for the
government-run insurance program and how it would affect abortion.
Reid's amendment will make final adjustments designed to win the 60 Senate votes
needed to overcome Republican procedural hurdles. The Democrats have no margin
of error -- they control exactly 60 seats.
The Senate bill would extend coverage to 30 million uninsured Americans, provide
subsidies to help them pay for the coverage and halt practices like refusing
insurance to people with pre-existing medical conditions.
Coburn had threatened earlier in the debate to force the public reading of the
entire 2,074-page healthcare bill but relented before the Thanksgiving holiday.
This time he followed through after Democrats rejected his request that all
remaining amendments be filed for at least 72 hours and given a cost estimate by
budget analysts before they are considered.
He also asked Democrats to accept his amendment requiring certification that all
senators had read the bill and understood it before they voted on it.
'IMPOSSIBLE TO SAY THEY UNDERSTAND'
"I think it is impossible to certify that any senator fully understood. They may
read but not fully understand for a variety of reasons," Democratic Senator Max
Baucus said in rejecting the request.
Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell has said he may use other procedural
means to slow the bill as Democrats try to reach a final vote before the
Reid must file his manager's amendment and three procedural motions to end
debate within the next few days, setting off a series of votes that will lead to
a vote on final passage.
Obama has pushed the Senate to finish the healthcare bill this year to keep the
issue from slipping into next year's congressional election campaigns.
The Senate bill would then be reconciled in early January with a version
approved by the House of Representatives on November 7, and each chamber would
have to pass it again.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters on Wednesday she was still confident
the Congress could pass the final measure before Obama's State of the Union
address in late January.
But the Democratic House leader voiced exasperation with the Senate. "We should
have had a bill months ago," Pelosi said.
Union leaders including the executive body of the AFL-CIO, the largest U.S.
labor federation, met on Wednesday to discuss how to respond to Reid's decision
to accommodate moderates by eliminating proposals for a government-run insurance
option and an expansion of the Medicare health program for the elderly.
Those moves have angered liberals. Unions also have been unhappy with the
Senate's proposal to tax high-cost health insurance plans -- like those many
unions have -- to help pay for the overhaul.
"This afternoon, the executive board of the AFL-CIO is meeting to discuss the
most recent developments in the health care negotiations, what our position is
and what our next steps will be," AFL-CIO spokesman Eddie Vale said.
(Additional reporting by Thomas Ferraro and David Morgan;
editing by Paul Simao)
Senate Grinds to A
Halt on Healthcare, NYT, 16.12.2009,
Senate Sends $1.1 Trillion Spending Bill to Obama
December 13, 2009
Filed at 3:14 p.m. ET
The New York Times
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Senate on Sunday passed a $1.1 trillion
spending bill with increased budgets for vast areas of the federal government
including health, education, law enforcement and veterans' programs.
The 1,000-page-plus package, one of the last essential chores of Congress this
year, passed 57-35 and now goes to President Barack Obama for his signature.
The weekend action underlined the legislative crush faced by Congress as it
tries to wind up the year. After the vote, the Senate immediately returned to
debate on health care legislation that has consumed its time and energy for
weeks. Senate Democrats hope to reach a consensus in the coming days on Obama's
chief domestic priority.
The spending bill combines six of the 12 annual appropriation bills for the 2010
budget year that began on Oct. 1. Obama has signed into law five others.
The final one, a $626 billion defense bill, is expected to attract proposals to
raise the $12.1 trillion debt ceiling and stimulate the jobs market.
The spending bill passed Sunday includes $447 billion for departments' operating
budgets and about $650 billion in mandatory payments for federal benefit
programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. Those programs under immediate control
of Congress would see increases of about 10 percent.
The FBI gets $7.9 billion, a $680 million increase over 2009; the Veterans
Health Administration budget goes from $41 billion to $45.1 billion; the
National Institutes of Health receives $31 billion, a $692 million increase.
Democrats said the spending was critical to meet the needs of a
recession-battered economy. Republicans decried what they said was out-of
control spending and pointed to an estimated $3.9 billion in the bill for more
than 5,000 local projects sought by individual lawmakers from both parties.
The Citizens Against Government Waste said those projects included construction
of a county farmer's market in Kentucky, renovation of a historic theater in New
York and restoration of a mill in Rhode Island.
The legislation also contains numerous items not directly related to spending.
It provides help for auto dealers facing closure, ends a ban on funding by the
District of Columbia government for abortions, lets Amtrak passengers carry
unloaded handguns in their checked baggage and permits detainees held at
Guantanamo Bay to be transferred to the United States to stand trial, but not to
The bill also approves a 2 percent pay increase for federal workers.
With the Senate concentrating on health care, attention on the upcoming jobs
plan shifts to the House.
The defense bill that will be the basis for the package normally enjoys wide
bipartisan support, but Republicans, and some fiscally conservative Democrats,
are unhappy with the prospect of another jolt of deficit-swelling spending.
Congress must soon raise the debt ceiling, now at $12.1 trillion, so the
Treasury can continue to borrow, and Democratic leaders are eyeing a new figure
close to $14 trillion, pushing the issue past next November's election.
But a bipartisan group in the Senate says a higher ceiling should be tied to
creation of a task force on deficit reduction, and House Democratic moderates
say their votes could depend on winning a ''pay-as-you-go'' law requiring that
new tax cuts or spending programs don't add to the deficit.
Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., on CNN's ''State of the Union,'' favored a deficit task
force. He said he didn't ''see how this process where everybody kind of lards on
is going to actually ever come to an end unless we finally have the discipline
to do a straight up-or-down vote across the board on revenues and spending
Proposals to put people back to work include tax breaks for new company hires,
small business tax breaks, public works spending and federal aid to states.
Congress is also likely to extend measures, included in the $787 billion
stimulus act last February, that provide jobless payments and health insurance
subsidies for the unemployed.
On the Net:
Information on the bill, H.R. 3288, can be found at
Senate Sends $1.1
Trillion Spending Bill to Obama, NYT, 14.12.2009,
Senate Poses Obstacles to Obama Pledge on Climate
December 12, 2009
The New York Times
By JOHN M. BRODER
WASHINGTON — President Obama jets off to Copenhagen later this
week to try to place an American stamp on a global climate change agreement. He
will be trailed by a cloud of diplomats and bureaucrats all proclaiming the
progress his administration has made on global warming in its 11 months in
What he will not be carrying is the assent of Congress to whatever he commits
the United States to do. That’s a problem for a leader who represents the
world’s second biggest greenhouse gas polluter, behind China.
While the House passed a bill in June that embodies Mr. Obama’s pledge to reduce
those emissions to about 17 percent below 2005 levels over the next decade, the
Senate has barely begun to debate the issue.
The Senate is split on global warming policy into numerous factions divided by
ideology, geography and economic interest. And that’s just the Democratic
caucus. Republicans are nearly united in opposition to the kind of legislation
that would be needed to match Mr. Obama’s ambitions.
Without Senate action — and, down the road, Senate concurrence in any climate
treaty he negotiates — Mr. Obama’s promises are merely that, almost certainly
not enough to persuade other nations to commit to greenhouse gas reductions.
Can Mr. Obama surmount those problems in his latest effort to save the world? Or
will he fly away from Copenhagen as empty-handed as he did in September, when he
went there in a losing effort to promote Chicago as the site for the 2016
“This is definitely a Goldilocks problem,” said Jason Grumet, president of the
Bipartisan Policy Center and an energy adviser to the Obama campaign last year.
“The trick is finding something just right in balancing the importance of
demonstrating international leadership while not undermining the legislative
dynamic here at home.”
Mr. Obama enters the Copenhagen negotiations without anything close to consensus
in his own party for his cap-and-trade plan to reduce emissions. The issue pits
coastal liberals against the so-called Brown Dogs of the Rust Belt and the Great
Plains whose states depend heavily on coal for power and manufacturing for jobs.
At least a dozen of these Democrats have made it clear they will not accept any
legislation — or any treaty — that threatens their industries or jobs. Another
Senate coalition emerged last week behind a proposal to tax fossil fuels and
return most of the revenues to consumers to compensate for higher energy prices.
But that plan, though it has drawn some Republican support, is also unlikely to
meet the 60-vote threshold required to call a vote.
It is not at all clear today that Mr. Obama and his allies in the Senate can
overcome these obstacles next year, or ever. And without the Senate, the entire
international project is in jeopardy because without the participation of the
United States — which emits 20 percent of all greenhouse gases — any
international regime is bound to fall short.
See: Kyoto Protocol. That was the ill-fated 1997 climate accord that the Senate
refused to consider because it made no binding demands on developing nations to
limit their emissions. The Copenhagen conference is supposed to come up with a
framework to replace it, and one of the big fights standing in the way is the
level of emissions reductions that developing nations are willing to accept.
“It’s a nine-dimensional political challenge,” Mr. Grumet said. “There is
absolutely no way to satisfy all desires.”
Mr. Obama is trying to both prod the Senate into action and go around it with a
series of administrative actions that will begin unilaterally to address the
problem of greenhouse gas emissions and demonstrate to other nations the
president’s will to tackle the issue.
His administration struck a deal with automakers to increase fuel efficiency by
30 percent and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a similar amount by 2016. Some
$80 billion in stimulus spending has been earmarked for clean energy projects,
energy efficiency and research on capturing carbon emissions. The government
will require that all major pollution sources report their greenhouse gas
emissions starting in January. And earlier this month the Environmental
Protection Agency finalized its finding that carbon dioxide and other
climate-altering gases pose a threat to human health and welfare, paving the way
for sweeping, economy-wide regulation of global warming pollutants.
E.P.A. regulation is the trump card that the administration is holding if
Congress continues to dither. But Mr. Obama has repeatedly said that he much
prefers a messy Congressional compromise. Trying to remake much of the economy
by regulatory fiat is certain to become entangled in years of litigation.
Yet Mr. Obama cannot simply tell the other leaders at Copenhagen that he must
await assent from Congress before he can commit the United States on global
warming. He is asking the leaders of Western Europe and Australia to commit
troops to support his buildup in Afghanistan and he can hardly stiff them on
climate change, a global threat many of them consider as menacing as terrorism.
In other words, his trip this week may have as much to do with Kandahar as
Copenhagen. But that does not necessarily help his cause at home.
Senator James Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma, is the leader of Congressional
skeptics on the science of climate change and the global efforts to address it.
He said that Mr. Obama is handcuffed by Senate fractiousness on the issue and
new doubts among some about the basic science underpinning the talks. (The
overwhelming majority of atmospheric scientists believe the planet is warming
and humans are responsible.)
“I suspect President Obama is making the trip to Copenhagen in order to ‘save’
the climate conference,” Mr. Inhofe said. “Yet no amount of lofty rhetoric or
promises of future commitments can save it. This is due in large part to the
fact cap-and-trade legislation in the Senate is dying on the vine, and, as
important, are recent revelations of leading climate scientists who appear to
have manufactured the climate ‘consensus’ casting doubt over the entire global
All of which leaves Mr. Obama in a bind.
More than a year ago, Mr. Obama said of climate change: “Delay is no longer an
option. Denial is no longer an acceptable response.”
But when Mr. Obama and other world leaders met last month, they were forced to
abandon the goal of reaching a binding accord at Copenhagen because the American
political system is not ready to agree to a treaty that would force the United
States, over time, to accept profound changes in its energy, transport and
So the leaders said they planned to leave Copenhagen with an interim political
deal and work toward a binding treaty next year.
Delay, it turns out, was the only option.
Obstacles to Obama Pledge on Climate, NYT, 12.12.2009,
Senators Show Doubts on Afghanistan
November 30, 2009
The New York Times
By SCOTT SHANE AND BRIAN KNOWLTION
WASHINGTON — With President Obama scheduled on Tuesday to
explain his new Afghan strategy — calling for up to 35,000 additional American
troops to battle insurgents, stabilize the government and help train Afghan
security forces — senators of both parties laid out on Sunday a range of
reservations. They cited the questionable reliability of the Afghan government
and security forces, the steep costs of a larger involvement, and the
advisability of any exit strategy.
“We’ve got to prevail over the Taliban and al-Qaeda,” said Senator Jon Kyl of
Arizona, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, on “Fox News Sunday.” “Obviously,
that means supporting the president.” But he said that any “exit strategy”
risked providing guidance and succor to hostile forces willing to outwait
Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana, a Democrat who sits on the armed services
committee, said on Fox that talk of an exit could, rather, make clear to
Afghanistan and Pakistan that “we’re here for the duration, as long as you’re
doing your part.”
The ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, Richard Lugar of
Indiana, painted a decidedly bleak picture. He questioned the reliability of the
Afghan government and security forces. Linking new troop deployments to reaching
certain benchmarks, he said, would mean “we’re off to a very jagged situation.”
And patience with the war is limited, he said. “The American people will not
sustain a war in Afghanistan for 5 years or 10 years, in my judgment,” Mr.
Lugar, a former chairman of the committee, told CNN’s “State of the Union.”
In addition, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has completed a detailed
look back at a crucial failure early in the battle against Al Qaeda: the escape
of Osama bin Laden from American forces in the Afghan mountains of Tora Bora in
“Removing the Al Qaeda leader from the battlefield eight years ago would not
have eliminated the worldwide extremist threat,” the committee’s report
concludes. “But the decisions that opened the door for his escape to Pakistan
allowed bin Laden to emerge as a potent symbolic figure who continues to attract
a steady flow of money and inspire fanatics worldwide.”
The report, based in part on a little-noticed 2007 history of the Tora Bora
episode by the military’s Special Operations Command, asserts that the
consequences of not sending American troops in 2001 to block Mr. bin Laden’s
escape into Pakistan are still being felt, blaming the lapse for “laying the
foundation for today’s protracted Afghan insurgency and inflaming the internal
strife now endangering Pakistan.”
In London on Sunday, Prime Minister Gordon Brown called on Pakistan to step up
the hunt for al-Qaeda leaders, Reuters reported. “Al-Qaeda has a base in
Pakistan, that base is still there and they are able to recruit from abroad,” he
told Sky news. “The Pakistan authorities must convince us that they are taking
all the action that is necessary.”
Senators Show Doubts
on Afghanistan, NYT, 30.11.2009,
Senate Votes to Open Health Care Debate
November 22, 2009
The New York Times
By DAVID M. HERSZENHORN and ROBERT PEAR
WASHINGTON — The Senate voted on Saturday to begin full debate
on major health care legislation, propelling President Obama’s top domestic
initiative over a crucial, preliminary hurdle in a formidable display of
muscle-flexing by the Democratic majority.
“Tonight we have the opportunity, the historic opportunity to reform health care
once and for all,” said Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana, and a chief
architect of the legislation. “History is knocking on the door. Let’s open it.
Let’s begin the debate.”
The 60-to-39 vote, along party lines, clears the way for weeks of rowdy floor
proceedings that will begin after Thanksgiving and last through much of
The Senate bill seeks to extend health benefits to roughly 31 million Americans
who are now uninsured, at a cost of $848 billion over 10 years.
The House earlier this month approved its health care bill by 220 to 215, with
just one Republican voting in favor. That measure is broadly similar to the
Senate legislation, but there are some major differences that would have to be
resolved before a bill could reach Mr. Obama, and that would almost surely push
the process into next year.
As the Democrats succeeded Saturday in uniting their caucus by winning over the
last two holdouts, big disagreements remained, making final approval of the bill
far from certain.
Two reluctant Democratic senators, Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana and Blanche
Lincoln of Arkansas, warned that their support for a motion to open debate did
not guarantee that they would ultimately vote for the bill. Their remarks echoed
previous comments by several other senators, including Ben Nelson, Democrat of
Nebraska, and Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut.
Those comments made clear that more horse-trading lies ahead and that major
changes might be required if the bill is to be approved. And it suggested that
the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, who relied only on members
aligned with his party to bring the bill to the floor, may yet have to sway one
or more Republicans to his side to get the bill adopted.
The Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said his party’s
opposition would persist. “The battle has just begun,” he said.
In a rare ceremonial gesture reserved for major votes, senators cast their yeas
and nays from their desks in the chamber, each one rising to voice his or her
position. Senator George V. Voinovich, Republican of Ohio, was not present and
did not vote.
After the vote, Mr. Reid said he understood that Ms. Landrieu was already
working with two other Democratic senators, Thomas R. Carper of Delaware and
Charles E. Schumer of New York, to see if they could devise a public insurance
plan with broad appeal.
The White House issued a statement praising the vote. “The President is
gratified that the Senate has acted to begin consideration of health insurance
reform legislation,” his press secretary, Robert Gibbs, said, adding that
President Obama “looks forward to a thorough and productive debate.”
Mrs. Lincoln, who faces a tough re-election campaign next year and has in recent
weeks been the target of millions of dollars in television advertising by both
sides in the health care fight, said pointedly that she would not vote for the
measure if it retained a government-run health insurance plan, known as the
public option, to compete with private insurers. “Although I don’t agree with
everything in this bill, I believe it is more important that we begin debate on
how to improve the health care system for all Americans,” said Mrs. Lincoln, who
was the last uncommitted Democrat, and whose speech, at about 2:30 p.m.
Saturday, lifted a cloud of suspense that had hovered around the Capitol.
She added: “But let me be perfectly clear. I am opposed to a new
government-administered health care plan as a part of comprehensive health
insurance reform, and I will not vote in favor of the proposal that has been
introduced by leader Reid as it is written.” But Senator Lieberman, who voted to
take up the health care bill, said he was still staunchly opposed to a
government-run plan. It is “a terrible idea,” he said.
Ms. Landrieu, whose support came after she won a provision that could be worth
more than $100 million in additional federal aid for her financially troubled
state, said, “I have decided there are enough significant reforms and safeguards
in this bill to move forward, but much more work needs to be done.”
A parade of Democrats and Republicans spent Saturday laying out their arguments
for and against the bill in floor speeches.
Mr. Reid, in a rousing closing speech given at his customary volume, which is
barely audible, likened the health care bill to some of the most profound issues
confronted by the Senate across history.
“Imagine if instead of debating either of the historic G.I. Bills — legislation
that has given so many brave Americans the chance to brave college — if this
body had stood silent,” Mr. Reid said. “Imagine if instead of debating the bills
that created Social Security or Medicare, the Senate’s voices had been stilled.
Imagine if instead of debating whether to abolish slavery, instead of debating
whether giving women and minorities a right to vote, those who disagreed were
muted, discussion was killed.”
With the Democrats nominally controlling 60 votes — the precise number needed to
overcome the Republican attempt to stop the bill — the vote on Saturday evening
was the biggest test yet of the Democrats’ resolve and of Mr. Reid’s ability to
unite his fragile caucus. Mr. Reid faces a tough re-election fight next year.
The bill would expand health benefits by broadly expanding Medicaid, the
federal-state insurance program for low-income people, and by providing
subsidies to help moderate-income people buy either private insurance or
coverage under a new government-run plan, the public option. And it would impose
a requirement that nearly all Americans obtain insurance or pay monetary
penalties for failing to do so.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, the cost of the legislation would
be more than offset by new taxes and fees and reductions in government spending,
so that the bill would reduce future federal budget deficits by $130 billion
Mr. Reid accused Republicans who opposed the legislation of “living in a
different world.” He and several other Democrats also used their speeches to
assail perceived abuses by private insurers. “The health insurance industry has
an insatiable appetite for more profit,” Mr. Reid said.
Senate Republicans countered with an impassioned denunciation of the measure as
an ill-conceived budget-busting expansion of government and a threat to the
health and economic security of all Americans, especially the elderly.
The Republicans sought to portray the vote on Saturday — on whether to end
debate on a motion to bring up the health bill — as tantamount to a vote on the
bill itself, and to shake the confidence of Democrats who had wavered in recent
In his closing argument, just ahead of the vote, Mr. McConnell implored at least
a single Democrat to vote no. “If we don’t stop this bill tonight,” he said,
“the only debate we’ll be having is about higher premiums, not savings for the
American people, higher taxes instead of lower costs, and cuts to Medicare
rather than improving seniors’ care.”
“The American people are looking at the Senate tonight; they’re hoping we say no
to this bill,” Mr. McConnell added moments later, holding up a single index
finger. “All it would take,” he said, “is just one member of the other side of
the aisle, just one, to give us an opportunity not to end the debate but to
change the debate in the direction the American people would like us to go.”
Mr. McConnell warned of the political consequences for senators who voted to
move ahead. “Senators who support this bill have a lot of explaining to do,” he
said. “Americans know that a vote to proceed on this bill, to get on this bill,
is a vote for higher premiums, higher taxes and massive cuts to Medicare.”
Republicans also said that the vote was a proxy for a larger dispute over
abortion, because they said the bill did not sufficiently restrict the use of
federal money for insurance covering abortions. Senator Mike Johanns, Republican
of Nebraska, described the vote as “the key vote on abortion in the health care
Saturday night’s vote was required because Senate rules and precedent have long
granted a right of virtually unlimited debate, or filibuster, to the minority
that can be curtailed only by a supermajority vote of 60 senators to move ahead.
Currently, there are 58 Democrats in the Senate and two independents who
routinely align with them. If the Democrats had lost the vote, they could have
tried again, presumably after changing the bill to try to attract more votes.
Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont assailed the Republicans as
obstructionists on Saturday morning. “I will vote today to end the filibuster so
the Senate can begin the historic debate to improve and reform our nation’s
health insurance system,” he said. “Let’s not duck the debate, let the debate
begin. Let’s not hide from the votes.”
While Democrats generally agree on the broad goals of the legislation, to cover
the uninsured and to slow the growth in health care spending, there are
potentially serious disagreements over any number of provisions that could sink
Ms. Landrieu, in her speech, methodically cataloged provisions of the bill that
she liked and those that she said needed improvement.
Under the bill, she said, owners of small businesses would no longer face
“volatile costs” for health insurance. In addition, she said, the bill would
“encourage employers to move away from high-cost benefit plans” and shift some
compensation to wages.
But more needed to be done to improve the bill, she argued, particularly to help
small businesses and the self-employed. And she issued a stern warning about the
public option, one of the most contentious features of the sweeping health care
Carl Hulse contributed reporting.
Senate Votes to Open
Health Care Debate, NYT, 22.11.2009,
Thrust and Parry on the Senate Floor, NYT, 22.11.2009,
Parry on the Senate Floor
November 21, 2009
The New York Times
By DAVID M. HERSZENHORN
Unless the Sunday morning news programs are buzzing about how the Senate
health care bill was unexpectedly blocked on a procedural vote Saturday night,
lawmakers have all headed home for Thanksgiving, and to rest up for what is
likely to be a legislative floor fight of galactic proportions through much of
But even if they haven’t headed home, senators will be readying every
parliamentary weapon for use in the debate by the full Senate, whenever that
Some of the clashes will be for show, intended to appeal to various
constituencies watching on C-Span. But much of the parliamentary arsenal will be
employed with a purpose — stripping out the proposed government-run insurance
plan, for instance, adding tougher language on medical malpractice lawsuits, or
tightening restrictions on insurance coverage for abortions.
There are tactics designed to force votes on pet issues, and other tactics to
avoid votes when lawmakers do not want to go on record with a position.
Simple as it might sound, the most fearsome tactic available to any senator is
the ability to burn time, to drag out the debate in ways that can grind
legislative business to a halt and leave the Senate caught in an interminable
“This is one of those cases where it’s far easier to be obstructionist than it
is to get something done,” said Martin Paone, a former chief of Senate floor
operations for the Democrats.
But whether it’s stalling maneuvers or rhetorical bomb-throwing, engaging on the
parliamentary battlefield can carry a price. At each step, senators must
calculate the probability of success: the benefits of making a point versus the
risks of aggravating colleagues.
There is also the larger political and public perception question of how the
tactics will be viewed by voters. Will senators be seen as taking a principled
stand, or as obstructing the legislative process?
So, aficionados of legislative war-games, grab this playbook and settle in.
Thrust and Parry on the
Senate Floor, NYT, 22.11.2009,
Senate Plan Would Expand Regulation of Risky Lending
November 11, 2009
The New York Times
By STEPHEN LABATON
WASHINGTON — The chairman of the Senate banking committee proposed on Tuesday
to drastically overhaul the regulatory system by consolidating bank agencies,
creating a consumer financial protection agency and imposing new restraints on
exotic financial instruments and credit rating agencies.
The 1,136-page plan by Senator Christopher J. Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat,
differs in major respects from both the White House and House plans. Even before
it was made public, it had encountered sharp resistance from Republicans and
powerful business interests in Washington. With only a few weeks left in the
legislative session, it is all but certain that Congress will not deliver on
President Obama’s request to repair the financial regulatory system by the end
of the year unless major compromises are quickly struck.
Still, the long-awaited Senate plan is significant as a starting point for the
lawmakers, which are increasingly talking about trying to complete legislation
during the first three months of 2010. While the measure will inevitably be
revised during weeks of behind-the-scenes negotiations, it lays down the first
marker by Mr. Dodd and other senior Democrats on the banking committee.
Mr. Dodd has said he hopes to move the bill through the banking committee in the
next few weeks. In recent days he has been rewriting major portions to gain
support from more Democrats on the committee.
In the House, Representative Barney Frank has guided the Financial Services
Committee through a series of legislative drafting sessions that could lead to
passage of a comprehensive bill by the full House as early as next month. His
committee has already approved a host of major regulatory changes and is
expected to complete work soon on a contentious chapter that would give the
government greater authority to seize large and troubled financial companies.
But in the Senate, where 60 votes are required to move controversial legislation
through the chamber, Mr. Dodd has considerable work ahead of him.
Senior administration officials said the Dodd plan was a good starting point
that, while different from the White House plan in major ways, embraced its core
principles and addressed many of the problems that had been identified as causes
of the financial crisis.
Mr. Dodd and his staff had held regular meetings with Senator Richard C. Shelby
of Alabama, the ranking Republican on the banking committee, but those talks
recently broke down. Mr. Shelby is said to be opposed to major provisions of Mr.
Dodd’s bill, most notably the creation of an agency to protect consumers from
abusive and deceptive mortgages and credit cards. Mr. Dodd has yet to produce a
Republican who supports his plan. Moreover, several provisions will probably be
opposed by moderate and conservative Democrats with ties to various industry
groups that have raised objections to the measure.
The Dodd proposal would create an agency to monitor and address systemic risks
posed by large financial companies. It would give the agency the authority to
write tougher capital standards and to break up any companies if they posed a
threat to the financial stability of the nation.
The proposal would merge the current federal supervisory oversight of the
banking system from four agencies into one new agency. It would create a
separate division within that agency to regulate smaller banks. The biggest
losers under such a plan would be the Federal Reserve and the Federal Deposit
Insurance Corporation, two of the bank agencies that would go out of the
business of handling day-to-day supervision of thousands of institutions.
Both the White House and the House plan do not go that far in consolidating
agencies. Rather, they would merge the four bank agencies into three by
combining the Office of the Comptroller, which regulates federally chartered
banks, with the Office of Thrift Supervision, which supervises savings and
loans. They would not change the authority of the Federal Reserve and the
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to regulate banks.
One big winner under Mr. Dodd’s plan is the Securities and Exchange Commission,
which would not only get greater authority but more resources. Adopting a
proposal by Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, the plan would
permit the commission to retain the fees it charges Wall Street and by being
self-financed, not only have a larger budget, but also remove the political
constraints of being financed each year by Congressional appropriations.
Democratic and Republican leaders of the commission have sought such authority
for decades but Congress, which prefers to use the power of the purse as a tool
to supervise the agency, has never agreed.
Mr. Dodd’s plan would impose tighter restrictions on the largely unregulated
derivatives market. It would require many derivatives to be traded through
clearinghouses where they could be monitored.
The measure would require that hedge funds with more than $100 million in assets
be registered with the S.E.C. and disclose financial information so that they
could be monitored by regulators.
In the area of corporate governance, the measure would give shareholders the
right to hold nonbinding votes on the pay of senior executives. It would give
shareholders more of a say in nominating directors. And it would impose new
requirements on the compensation committees of boards.
The legislation would also place new restrictions on financial companies that
repackage mortgages into securities and sell them in the secondary market. It
would require such companies to hold at least 10 percent of the mortgages so
that they would have a financial incentive to assure the quality of the
Senate Plan Would Expand
Regulation of Risky Lending, NYT, 11.11.2009,
Senate Approves More Jobless Benefits
November 5, 2009
The New York Times
By JACKIE CALMES
WASHINGTON — The Senate voted unanimously Wednesday to offer up to 20 more
weeks of unemployment benefits to those who have been out of work a long time,
after weeks of delay in which hundreds of thousands of Americans exhausted their
The measure will increase to 99 weeks, or nearly two years, the maximum length
of time that a jobless worker can get benefits in some states.
As early as Thursday, the House is expected to approve the Senate version, which
differs from the measure it passed six weeks ago, so the legislation can be
signed into law by President Obama.
The Democrats feel an urgency to act now because the monthly labor report that
comes out Friday is expected to show that the nation’s unemployment rate in
October continued to be at or above 10 percent. Also, more than 600,000 workers
had run out of benefits at the end of October, according to the National
Employment Law Project, a liberal advocacy group.
The Senate added two unrelated provisions to extend and liberalize tax breaks
that were in this year’s $787 billion economic stimulus package.
One would continue for five months a popular $8,000 credit for many first-time
home buyers, which was to expire Nov. 30, and create a $6,500 credit for some
homeowners who want to buy a new residence. The other would allow businesses to
deduct losses from their income in five profitable years instead of two; the
stimulus law had limited the break to small businesses.
The Senate’s 98-to-0 vote disguised the partisan divisiveness of past weeks.
After Democrats settled their internal differences a month ago, Republicans
objected to acting until Democrats allowed votes on amendments opposing illegal
immigration, the liberal organization Acorn and the financial rescue program.
The Democrats refused, saying that Republicans were trying to score political
By this week, pressure to act was building from states with double-digit
unemployment rates. One Republican senator, George V. Voinovich of Ohio,
suggested impatience with his colleagues’ demands.
“This is serious business, and we ought to get on with it,” Mr. Voinovich said
in an interview. “We’ve got to keep these families together so they don’t fall
through the cracks. I mean, this is what keeps them going so they get through
On Wednesday, the Senate voted to end the filibuster, 97 to 1. The holdout was
Senator Jim DeMint, a Republican from South Carolina, which has the nation’s
fifth-highest unemployment rate, 11.6 percent. Hours later, he joined supporters
on the vote to pass the bill.
A spokesman for Mr. DeMint, Wesley Denton, said, “He’s disappointed it is being
paid for by increasing burdens on small businesses that create jobs instead of
using unspent stimulus funds.”
The tax provision that would offset the $2.4 billion cost of the extra benefits
so they do not add to the budget deficit is a longstanding one. The bill would
extend a 33-year-old surcharge on the tax that employers pay to finance
unemployment compensation. First imposed in 1976 as a temporary levy, the
surcharge has been $14 a worker since 1983.
The Senate bill would extend benefits by 14 weeks nationwide for those whose
relief has run out, and up to 20 weeks in states — 26 currently — where the
unemployment rate is over 8.5 percent.
The House-passed bill would limit the extended benefits to those states with the
highest joblessness but Senate Democrats in other states pushed for a nationwide
extension. The effort for the nationwide extension was led by Senator Jeanne
Shaheen of New Hampshire, where the unemployment rate is 7.2 percent.
The nation’s unemployment compensation system is a patchwork of state programs;
federal benefits are available when state aid runs out, typically after 26
weeks. Reflecting the severity of the recession, the number of workers who have
been out of a job longer than that comprise about a third of the total
unemployed — the highest share since data collection began in 1948, according to
the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal policy group.
Senate Approves More
Jobless Benefits, NYT, 5.11.2009,
A Senate Naysayer, Spoiling for Health Care Fight
October 30, 2009
The New York Times
By MARK LEIBOVICH
WASHINGTON — Senator Tom Coburn’s office is the rare Capitol Hill work space
without a “me wall” — the display of photographs of a lawmaker standing beside
presidents, foreign leaders and other dignitaries, all illustrating How Big a
Deal he is.
Instead, hanging above Mr. Coburn’s desk is a large framed print of the word
“no.” It was a tribute from a liberal voter in New York thanking Mr. Coburn, a
conservative Republican from Oklahoma, for his efforts at thwarting expensive
Known as Dr. No, Mr. Coburn, a family practice physician, views legislative
battle less in terms of Republicans versus Democrats than as a matter of yes
versus no. He sees himself as a one-man treatment center helping Congress beat
its bipartisan addiction to misguided spending.
“I’ve always considered myself an opposition within the opposition,” said Mr.
Coburn, whose willingness to block, delay or neuter bills through an array of
procedural measures has made him an effective nuisance during his five years in
As the health care overhaul heads to the Senate floor, Mr. Coburn is preparing
for what he considers a career pinnacle of havoc. Enacting the proposal, he
says, would be catastrophic, and so if precedent holds, he will try to hinder it
with every annoying tool in his arsenal: filing amendments (he has done that 508
times since joining the Senate, second only to John McCain’s 542 in that
period), undertaking filibusters and objecting strenuously.
“When it comes to obstructing bills, he is part of a very tiny pantheon in the
history of the Senate,” said Ross Baker, a Senate historian at Rutgers
To Mr. Coburn, charges of obstructionism are a mark of honor he will wear as
proudly as ever in the coming weeks.
“My mission is to frame this health care debate in terms of the fiscal ruin of
this country,” said the 61-year-old Mr. Coburn, who recently railed on the
Senate floor that the federal debt was “waterboarding” his five grandchildren.
“I have instructed my staff to clear my schedule for every minute that bill is
on the floor.”
After inflicting migraines in Washington, Mr. Coburn goes home on weekends to
Muskogee, where he treats patients on Mondays. He says he does his best thinking
aboard his John Deere mower, which can run 20 miles an hour and slash through
pretty much anything on his seven-acre meadow. Mr. Coburn dons earplugs, stares
straight ahead and cuts a determined swath, just as he does in the Senate.
His at-times hyperbolic rhetoric, fervent social conservatism and seeming
indifference to whether or not people like him have made him something of a
lightning rod. “If we wiped out the entire Congress and sent common people who
have no political experience, we would get far better results than we have
today,” he said in a remark typical of how he views the institution.
And in a remark typical of how some members of the institution view Mr. Coburn,
Jim Manley, a spokesman for the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada,
said: “Senator Coburn relishes it when people call him Dr. No, but he is more
appropriately called Dr. I Know Best. He has routinely blocked and delayed bills
that have wide bipartisan support, often based on specious arguments.”
Despite this mutual animosity, Mr. Coburn has also forged a series of notable
friendships over the years, albeit often of the tough-love variety. One of his
best friends in his Senate class (2004) was the young lawmaker from Illinois,
Barack Obama, to whom he still speaks regularly and writes supportive notes,
even while publicly ripping his performance as president.
He is also a friend and roommate (for now) of Senator John Ensign, Republican of
Nevada, who engaged in an extramarital affair with a campaign aide last year.
Mr. Coburn, who acted as an intermediary in efforts to reach a financial
settlement with the woman’s family, has been publicly critical of Mr. Ensign’s
conduct and character.
“When someone is sick, do you not try to help them get well?” he said of Mr.
Ensign. “Or do you say, ‘Oh, you’re sick, goodbye’? When someone hurts you, do
you hurt them back, or do you love them? My goal with John is to try to love him
and to help him do what’s right.”
It is not clear that Mr. Ensign returns the love or welcomes the help. Asked for
comment, his spokeswoman relayed a statement that said Mr. Coburn “has been a
good friend who has always given me wise advice that I have not always been
smart enough to follow.” Two friends of Mr. Ensign said he was making plans to
Mr. Coburn hosts a twice-a-week Webcast, “The Senate Doctors Show,” with Senator
John Barrasso, Republican of Wyoming, an orthopedic surgeon who once practiced
at the same Casper, Wyo., hospital where Mr. Coburn was born (and — fun fact —
where Dick Cheney’s mother used to volunteer). In the Webcast, the two senators
answer questions from around the country on health policy issues. Mr. Barrasso
said he and Mr. Coburn would play a similar role on the floor during the debate,
“a kind of truth squad” speaking from firsthand knowledge of the health care
“You need people in the Senate who are going to take the lead on things,” said
Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, the Republican whip. “Take the lead on things” could
be seen as a polite senatorial way of saying Mr. Coburn’s “lead” may sometimes
run counter to the wishes of the Senate.
Mr. Coburn has complained to other senators about the “timidity” of the
Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, and his deputies. As a member of
the House, Mr. Coburn similarly gained a reputation as an acute pain in the
tailbone to the Republican leadership.
“The first thing you can say about Tom Coburn is that he marches to his own
drummer,” said Dick Armey, a Republican who was majority leader in the House
when Mr. Coburn served there in the 1990s. “That’s always been O.K. in my book,
but sometimes it can be a problem in the House.”
Mr. Coburn was elected to the Senate with a reputation for outspoken social
conservatism. He had denounced the “homosexual agenda” and said he favored the
death penalty “for abortionists and other people who take life.”
These issues remain deeply meaningful to him personally, but “none of these
things are important right now,” he said, compared with the “fiscal ruin” he
sees the country facing.
“If you look historically, every great republic has died over fiscal issues,” he
said. “That is the biggest moral issue of our time.”
Mr. Coburn spends as little time as possible in Washington, a place he seems to
genuinely dislike. An ordained Southern Baptist deacon, he attends church every
Sunday back in Muskogee and teaches a Bible study class. He tries to stop
armadillos from tearing up his lawn. He pulls fat water moccasins from his pool.
“I kill them,” he said with relish, “by slicing their heads off with the sharp
edge of a shovel.”
A Senate Naysayer,
Spoiling for Health Care Fight, NYT, 30.10.2009,
U.S. Considers Reining In ‘Too Big to Fail’ Institutions
October 26, 2009
The New York Times
By STEPHEN LABATON
WASHINGTON — Congress and the Obama administration are about to take up one
of the most fundamental issues stemming from the near collapse of the financial
system last year — how to deal with institutions that are so big that the
government has no choice but to rescue them when they get in trouble.
A senior administration official said on Sunday that after extensive
consultations with Treasury Department officials, Representative Barney Frank,
the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, would introduce
legislation as early as this week. The measure would make it easier for the
government to seize control of troubled financial institutions, throw out
management, wipe out the shareholders and change the terms of existing loans
held by the institution.
The official said the Treasury secretary, Timothy F. Geithner, was planning to
endorse the changes in testimony before the House Financial Services Committee
The White House plan as outlined so far would already make it much more costly
to be a large financial company whose failure would put the financial system and
the economy at risk. It would force such institutions to hold more money in
reserve and make it harder for them to borrow too heavily against their assets.
Setting up the equivalent of living wills for corporations, that plan would
require that they come up with their own procedure to be disentangled in the
event of a crisis, a plan that administration officials say ought to be made
public in advance.
“These changes will impose market discipline on the largest and most
interconnected companies,” said Michael S. Barr, assistant Treasury secretary
for financial institutions. One of the biggest changes the plan would make, he
said, is that instead of being controlled by creditors, the process is
controlled by the government.
Some regulators and economists in recent weeks have suggested that the
administration’s plan does not go far enough. They say that the government
should consider breaking up the biggest banks and investment firms long before
they fail, or at least impose strict limits on their trading activities — steps
that the administration continues to reject.
Mr. Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts, said his committee would now take up more
aggressive legislation on the topic, even as lawmakers and regulators continue
working on other problems highlighted by the financial crisis, including
overseeing executive pay, protecting consumers and regulating the trading of
Illustrative of the mood of fear and anger over the huge taxpayer bailouts was
Mr. Frank’s recent observation that critics of the administration’s health care
proposal had misdirected their concerns — Congress would not be adopting death
panels for infirm people but for troubled companies.
The administration and its Congressional allies are trying, in essence, to graft
the process used to resolve the troubles of smaller commercial banks onto both
large banking conglomerates and nonbanking financial institutions whose troubles
could threaten to undermine the markets.
That resolution process gives the government far more sweeping authority over
the institution and imposes major burdens on lenders to the companies that they
would not ordinarily face when companies go into bankruptcy instead of facing a
takeover by the government.
Deep-seated voter anger over the bailouts of companies like the American
International Group, Citigroup and Bank of America has fed the fears of
lawmakers that any other changes in the regulatory system must include the
imposition of more onerous conditions on those financial institutions whose
troubles could pose problems for the markets.
Some economists believe the mammoth size of some institutions is a threat to the
financial system at large. Because these companies know the government could not
allow them to fail, the argument goes, they are more inclined to take big risks.
Also, under the current regulatory structure, the government has limited power
to step in quickly to resolve problems at nonbank financial institutions that
operate like the failed investment banks Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns, and
like the giant insurer A.I.G.
As Wall Street has returned to business as usual, industry power has become even
more concentrated among relatively few firms, thus intensifying the debate over
how to minimize the risks to the system.
Some experts, including Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England, and Paul
A. Volcker, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve, have proposed drastic
steps to force the nation’s largest financial institutions to shed their riskier
In a speech last week, Mr. King said policy makers should consider breaking up
the largest banks and, in effect, restore the Depression-era barriers between
investment and commercial banks.
“There are those who claim that such proposals are impractical. It is hard to
see why,” Mr. King said. “What does seem impractical, however, are the current
arrangements. Anyone who proposed giving government guarantees to retail
depositors and other creditors, and then suggested that such funding could be
used to finance highly risky and speculative activities, would be thought rather
unworldly. But that is where we now are.”
The prevailing view in Washington, however, is more restrained. Daniel K.
Tarullo, an appointee of President Obama’s, last week dismissed the idea of
breaking up big banks as “more a provocative idea than a proposal.”
At a meeting Friday at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, the Federal Reserve
chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, said in response to a question by a former Bank of
England deputy governor that he would prefer “a more subtle approach without
losing the economic benefit of multifunction, international firms.”
Republican and Democratic lawmakers generally agree that the “too big to fail”
policy of taxpayer bailouts for the giants of finance needs to be curtailed. But
the fine print — how to reduce the policy and moral hazards it has encouraged —
has provoked fears on Wall Street.
Even before Mr. Frank unveils his latest proposals, industry executives and
lawyers say its approach could make it unnecessarily more expensive for them to
do business during less turbulent times.
“Of course you want to set up a system where an institution dreads the day it
happens because management gets whacked, shareholders get whacked and the board
gets whacked,” said Edward L. Yingling, president of the American Bankers
Association. “But you don’t want to create a system that raises great
uncertainty and changes what institutions, risk management executives and
lawyers are used to.”
T. Timothy Ryan, the president of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets
Association, said the market crisis exposed that “there was a failure in the
statutory framework for the resolution of large, interconnected firms and
everyone knows that.” But he added that many institutions on Wall Street were
concerned that the administration’s plan would remove many of the bankruptcy
protections given to lenders of large institutions.
U.S. Considers Reining
In ‘Too Big to Fail’ Institutions, NYT, 26.10.2009,
Senate Approves Broadened Hate-Crime Measure
October 23, 2009
The New York Times
By DAVID STOUT
WASHINGTON — The Senate voted Thursday to extend new federal protections to
people who are victims of violent crime because of their sex or sexual
orientation, bringing the measure close to reality after years of fierce debate.
The 68-to-29 vote sends the legislation to President Obama, who has said he
The measure, attached to an essential military-spending bill, broadens the
definition of federal hate crimes to include those committed because of a
victim’s gender or gender identity, or sexual orientation. It gives victims the
same federal safeguards already afforded to people who are victims of violent
crimes because of their race, color, religion or national origin.
“Hate crimes instill fear in those who have no connection to the victim other
than a shared characteristic such as race or sexual orientation,” Senator
Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont and chairman of the Senate Judiciary
Committee, said afterward. “For nearly 150 years, we have responded as a nation
to deter and to punish violent denials of civil rights by enacting federal laws
to protect the civil rights of all of our citizens.”
Mr. Leahy sponsored the hate-crimes amendment to the military bill and called
its passage a worthy tribute to the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy of
Massachusetts, who first introduced hate-crimes legislation in the Senate more
than a decade ago.
Opponents argued to no avail that the new measure was unnecessary in view of
existing laws and might interfere with local law enforcement agencies. Senator
Jim DeMint, Republican of South Carolina, said he agreed that hate crimes were
terrible. “That’s why they are already illegal,” Mr. DeMint said, asserting that
the new law was a dangerous, even “Orwellian” step toward “thought crime.”
Ten Republicans voted for the hate-crimes measure. The only Democrat to oppose
it was Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, who said he could not vote for the
current bill “because it does nothing to bring our open-ended and
disproportionate military commitment in Afghanistan to an end and/or to ensure
that our troops are safely and expeditiously redeployed from Iraq.” The Senate
action came two weeks after the House approved the measure, 281 to 146, and
would give the federal government the authority to prosecute violent, antigay
crimes when local authorities failed to.
The measure would also allocate $5 million a year to the Justice Department to
assist local communities in investigating hate crimes, and it would allow the
agency to assist in investigations and prosecutions if local agencies requested
Federal protections for people who are victims of violent crime because of their
sexual orientation have been sought for more than a decade, at least since the
1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, a gay Wyoming college student.
Broadened Hate-Crime Measure, NYT, 23.10.2009,
Congress Is Split on Effort to Tax Costly Health Plans
October 13, 2009
The New York Times
By DAVID M. HERSZENHORN and ROBERT PEAR
WASHINGTON — A proposed tax on high-cost, or “Cadillac,” health insurance
plans has touched off a fierce clash between the Senate and the House as they
wrestle over how to pay for legislation that would provide health benefits to
millions of uninsured Americans.
Supporters, including many senators, say that the tax is essential to tamping
down medical spending and that over 10 years it would generate more than $200
billion, nearly a fourth of what is needed to pay for the legislation.
Critics, including House members and labor unions, say the tax would quickly
spiral out of control and hit middle-class workers, people more closely
associated with minivans than Cadillacs.
The tax, a provision of the bill to be voted on Tuesday by the Senate Finance
Committee, is one of the few remaining proposals under consideration by Congress
that budget experts say could lead directly to a reduction in health care
spending over the long term, by prompting employers and employees to buy cheaper
insurance. Whether it remains in the bill is emerging as a test of the
commitment by President Obama and his party to slowing the steep rise of medical
It is also a prime example of the major differences still to be bridged by
Democrats as health care legislation advances to floor debate in both houses.
Under the Finance Committee bill, the tax would be imposed beginning in 2013 on
employer- sponsored health plans with total premiums exceeding $8,000 for
individuals and $21,000 for families, regardless of whether the coverage was
paid for by the employer, the individual or both. The tax would be paid by
insurers, who would be expected to pass along the cost to customers.
Critics say that would mean an increase in premiums or in out-of-pocket expenses
for employees, raising medical costs for individuals and families.
Supporters say the more likely prospect is that employers would bargain-hunt or
take other steps to avoid the tax, putting pressure on insurers to offer cheaper
coverage and slowing the rise in medical costs for everyone.
In a preliminary estimate, the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation
calculated that absent any such employer efforts, 14 percent of family health
policies and 19 percent of individual policies would be hit by the tax in 2013.
By 2019, according to the estimate, 37 percent of family policies and 41 percent
of individual policies would be affected. Those numbers rise over time in these
calculations because although the initial tax threshold would increase with the
economy’s overall inflation, premiums would be expected to rise even faster.
Many Democratic senators, led by the Finance Committee chairman, Max Baucus of
Montana, like the idea of the tax, and Mr. Obama embraced it in his speech to
Congress on Sept. 9.
“This reform will charge insurance companies a fee for their most expensive
policies, which will encourage them to provide greater value for the money,” the
president said then. “This modest change could help hold down the cost of health
care for all of us in the long run.”
Congress has also heard from many economists, Republicans and Democrats alike,
who support the tax.
But House Democrats, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Representative Charles B.
Rangel of New York, the chamber’s chief tax-writer, oppose the idea, as do labor
unions and businesses. Ms. Pelosi last week floated the idea of taxing insurers’
“windfall profits” as a possible alternative, to supplement the House’s main
revenue raiser, an income tax surcharge on the nation’s highest earners.
At least 173 House Democrats, two-thirds of the party caucus, have signed a
letter to Ms. Pelosi voicing opposition to the insurance tax .
“The tax, supposedly aimed at Cadillac health plans, would affect millions of
middle-class people,” said Representative Joe Courtney, Democrat of Connecticut.
“The American people soundly rejected the idea when it was proposed by
Republicans in elections last year.”
Under current law, employer-paid premiums for health insurance are not taxable.
Experts say this provides a big government subsidy for such coverage, and an
incentive for businesses to provide better benefits in lieu of higher wages.
In an unusual alliance reflecting the shared interest of some unions and
businesses on the issue, the A.F.L.-C.I.O. and the United States Chamber of
Commerce are mobilizing opposition to the tax.
James P. Gelfand, senior manager of health policy at the Chamber of Commerce,
said that if the tax is imposed, “employers will have to reduce wages or
benefits or increase cost-sharing.” And, he said, “employees will blame
employers, not the government.”
Leaders of organized labor, which in recent years has often negotiated for
benefits in place of raises, descended on Capitol Hill last week to lobby
against the tax, which could hit many health plans covering unionized workers.
Larry Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America, said at least
half his members would be in health plans subject to the tax in 2013.
John P. Yrchik, executive director of the Connecticut Education Association, has
lobbied Mr. Courtney and other members of the state’s Congressional delegation,
noting that the tax would affect teachers in 30 percent of Connecticut towns. In
some towns, Mr. Yrchik said, health insurance premiums for teachers’ family
policies already exceed $25,000.
Aides to Mr. Baucus, the Finance Committee chairman, said the tax had numerous
benefits, and predicted that employers and employees would shop for health plans
to avoid it, forcing insurers to rein in costs.
They also cited projections by the Joint Committee on Taxation that about $142
billion of the 10-year total of $201 billion to be raised by the proposal would
come from increased income and payroll taxes — evidence, they said, that workers
would receive increased wages if employers spent less on health benefits.
But the same expectation that employers would adjust their health plans to avoid
the tax was cited by some critics as a potential harm for workers.
“Employers and insurers will reduce their benefits to avoid paying the proposed
tax,” said Representative Pete Stark, the California Democrat who heads the Ways
and Means Subcommittee on Health. “As a result, middle-class families will be
forced to pay more for health care.”
Some experts said that the tax was a complicated, backdoor way to tax
employer-provided health benefits, and a number of them maintained that simply
ending the tax exemption for such benefits would be a better approach.
Others said the tax would have an uneven impact, falling harder on businesses
that, for instance, have older employees or are situated in high-cost regions.
Robert H. Dobson, an actuary at Milliman, an employee benefits consulting firm,
said, “The high cost of so-called Cadillac plans has as much to do with the
characteristics of the covered population as it does with the richness of the
Congress Is Split on
Effort to Tax Costly Health Plans, NYT, 13.10.2009,
Week in Review
In Kennedy, the Last Roar of the New Deal Liberal
August 30, 2009
The New York Times
By SAM TANENHAUS
“AN important chapter in our history has come to an end,” Barack Obama said
in his first public remarks on the death of Senator Edward M. Kennedy. “Our
country has lost a great leader, who picked up the torch of his fallen brothers
and became the greatest United States senator of our time.”
What Mr. Obama didn’t say — and perhaps didn’t need to — was that the closed
chapter was the vision of liberalism begun by the New Deal of Franklin D.
Roosevelt, extended during the Great Society of Lyndon B. Johnson and now
struggling back toward relevance. It holds that the forces of government should
be marshaled to improve conditions for the greatest possible number of
Americans, with particular emphasis on the excluded and disadvantaged. It is not
government’s only obligation, in this view, but it is the paramount one.
No major political figure of the past half-century was so deeply invested in
this idea as Mr. Kennedy was. It underlay the staggering number of bills he
created or sponsored in his long Senate career, whether in medical care or
education, on behalf of immigrants or labor unions. And it underlay Mr.
Kennedy’s crusade for universal health care — “a right, not a privilege,” as he
declared at the Democratic National Convention last August.
The belief in government as the guardian of opportunity and advancement is not a
complicated one, but it is fraught with ambiguities — including the risks
incurred when government grows too large and also too expensive. Indeed, the
peak years of Mr. Kennedy’s Senate career, the 1980s and ’90s, coincided with
the ascendancy of a countervision, captured in Ronald Reagan’s assertion:
“Government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem.”
In that period, many Democrats began to rethink the legacy of the New Deal and
the Great Society. Many distanced themselves from “the L word.” And Mr. Kennedy
appeared out of step. As the authors of “Last Lion: The Fall and Rise of Ted
Kennedy,” observe, “Even in his own party, his liberalism had seemed, at times,
outmoded as the ‘third way’ of the Clintons gained ascendance in the Washington
of the 1990s.”
So too in 2008 the party’s top presidential contenders dependably referred to
themselves as “progressives.”
Still, Mr. Kennedy was unwavering. It is hard to imagine any contemporary
Democrat taking the podium as Mr. Kennedy did last summer in Denver to reprise
the celebrated oration he had made at the 1980 convention in New York. But Mr.
Kennedy did — without apology. The passage of time, and the reordered political
landscape, had not obscured his causes or dimmed his rhetoric.
His roots in old-fashioned liberalism went deep. Like his brothers, he was
reared in the towering shadow of President Roosevelt, who was first elected
president in 1932, the year Edward Kennedy was born.
But the older Kennedy brothers drifted away from New Deal politics. John F.
Kennedy stood at the center of a new post-ideological pragmatism. In 1962, the
year Edward Kennedy was first elected to the Senate, President Kennedy asserted
that while “most of us are conditioned for many years to have a political
viewpoint — Republican or Democrat, liberal, conservative or moderate,” in
reality the most pressing government concerns were “technical problems,
administrative problems” that “do not lend themselves to the great sort of
passionate movements which have stirred this country so often in the past.”
Robert F. Kennedy, in contrast, was drawn to passionate movements, but his
devotions could shift with the political winds. An anti-Communist in the 1950s —
when he worked briefly on the staff of Senator Joseph R. McCarthy — Robert later
embraced the “New Politics” of the late 1960s, with its strong flavor of
anti-establishment protest. In the 1968 election he seemed to be simultaneously
courting militant leftists and aggrieved white ethnics stirred by the populist
demagoguery of the segregationist George Wallace.
It was Edward, the youngest brother, whose “true compass” — to borrow the title
of his forthcoming memoir — pointed unerringly toward New Deal liberalism. He
became its champion for the remainder of his life.
This earned him a reputation for being the populist Kennedy, gifted with the
common touch. Certainly he enjoyed politics at the retail level — plunging into
the crowd, shaking hands.
But Mr. Kennedy’s accomplishments in the political arts were mixed. He excelled
at stumping for others, as he did in his brothers’ presidential campaigns. And
he performed impressively for Mr. Obama in 2008. Just before the deluge of
primaries in early February, when the contest between Mr. Obama and Hillary
Rodham Clinton was tight, Mr. Kennedy drew large crowds in California and New
Mexico, where shouts of “Viva Kennedy” greeted his visits to the barrios.
But on other occasions Mr. Kennedy faltered. His intemperate denunciation of
Judge Robert H. Bork in 1987 helped poison the atmosphere of Supreme Court
appointments up to the present day.
His one signal talent was for legislation, the painstaking, glacial business of
shaping bills and laws. He learned at the feet of Senate giants like Richard
Russell, who had also been a mentor to another superb legislator, Lyndon
The friction between Mr. Kennedy’s uncertain feel for politics and his
instinctive command of governance led to his gravest miscalculation, his
ill-executed attempt to unseat his party’s incumbent president, Jimmy Carter, in
the 1980 primaries.
“No real difference of politics separated Kennedy from Carter,” Theodore H.
White noted when he revisited the episode in 1982.
Mr. White, curious to grasp the motives behind this quixotic mission, pressed
Mr. Kennedy about it. At first Mr. Kennedy haltingly mentioned Mr. Carter’s
failed leadership and squandered opportunities. But when prodded further, he
delivered “a stunning discussion of just how laws are passed, of how Carter’s
amateur lobbyists had messed up program after program by odd legislative
couplings of unsorted programs,” Mr. White wrote. “Then, details cascading from
him more and more rapidly, he concluded in an outburst of frustration” that Mr.
Carter was incompetent. “Even on issues we agree on, he doesn’t know how to do
it,” Mr. Kennedy told Mr. White, who likened his attitude to “the contempt of a
master machinist for a plumber’s assistant.”
The paradox was that by challenging Mr. Carter, Mr. Kennedy weakened him in the
general election, and thus assisted in the victory of Mr. Reagan, who promptly
ushered in the conservative counterrevolution, founded on distrust of
government, that Mr. Kennedy spent the next three decades battling, losing as
often as he won.
The literary critic Lionel Trilling once wondered why so many liberal
intellectuals he knew seemed unnerved by any mention of death. Might it be, he
speculated, because death was, “in practical outcome, a negation of the future
and of the hope it holds out for a society of reason and virtue?”
Mr. Trilling had in mind the “progressives” of the 1930s and ’40s, who were lit
with utopian dreams and intoxicated, in many instances, by the Soviet
Mr. Kennedy’s liberalism had its basis in something different — New Deal
meliorism, with its hopeful spirit of reform.
And he brought to it in its later stages a quality of chastened knowledge, the
hardiness of the survivor. Mr. Kennedy was, of course, uniquely versed in the
concrete facts of death. All three of his brothers died young, two slain by
assassins’ bullets. And for 40 years he bore the guilt of the death he caused in
Chappaquiddick in 1969.
Becoming “the greatest senator of our time” could not atone for this. Nor could
it redress Mr. Kennedy’s many other trespasses — the boozing and womanizing and
the suffering it brought.
But if the art of governance did not redeem Mr. Kennedy, it irradiated him, and
the liberalism he personified. At a time when government itself had fallen into
disrepute Mr. Kennedy applied himself diligently to its exacting discipline, and
wrested whatever small victories he could from the machinery he had learned to
operate so well. Whether or not his compass was finally true, he endured as the
battered, leaky vessel through which the legislative arts recovered some of
their lost glory.
In Kennedy, the Last
Roar of the New Deal Liberal, NYT, 30.8.2009,
‘Soul’ of Party Is Memorialized by Nation
August 30, 2009
The New York Times
By DAN BARRY
ARLINGTON, Va. — The nation said final farewell on Saturday to Edward M.
Kennedy, who used his privileged life to give consistent, passionate voice to
the underprivileged for nearly a half-century as a United States senator from
Massachusetts. He was the only one of four fabled Kennedy brothers to reach late
adulthood, and he was remembered for making the most of it.
Along the rain-dappled roadways of Boston in the late morning, and then in the
sweltering humidity of Washington in early evening, people waited for the
fleeting moment of a passing hearse so that they could pay respects to the man
known simply as Ted. At the United States Capitol, where Mr. Kennedy had served
for so long, his wife, Victoria Reggie Kennedy, stepped out of a limousine to
receive hugs, bow her head during prayers, and to hear the singing of “America
The gray rainy day began with a funeral Mass at a working-class Roman Catholic
church in Boston where the senator had sometimes sought comfort, without
entourage or advance notice. Where he once reflected amid the hush of empty oak
pews, there now sat hundreds gathered in his honor, including President Obama;
three of the four living former presidents; dozens of foreign dignitaries and
members of Congress; and, of course, people so familiar to Americans simply
because they are Kennedys.
And it was during that portion of the Mass, when prayers of hope are shared,
that his grandchildren, nieces and nephews stepped up to the microphone to
express once more Ted Kennedy’s political and human desires:
That human beings be measured not by what they cannot do but by what they can
do. That quality health care becomes a fundamental right and not a privilege.
That the old politics of race and gender die away. That newcomers be accepted,
no matter their color or place of birth. That the nation stand united against
violence, hate and war. And, in echo of his famous words, that the work begins
anew, the hope arises anew, and the dream lives on.
“We pray to the Lord,” each petitioner concluded.
And each time the mourners answered as one, “Lord, hear our prayer.”
After Holy Communion, Mr. Obama delivered the eulogy for the man whose
endorsement in the 2008 campaign was like the passing of a sword from Camelot,
helping enormously in giving this country its first African-American president.
“Today we say goodbye to the youngest child of Rose and Joseph Kennedy,” Mr.
Obama said. “The world will long remember their son Edward as the heir to a
weighty legacy, a champion for those who had none, the soul of the Democratic
Party, and the lion of the United States Senate — a man whose name graces nearly
1,000 laws, and who penned more than 300 laws himself.”
He was the thoughtful representative of the people, Mr. Obama said, keeping in
touch, for example, with the Massachusetts families who lost loved ones on Sept.
11. Across the country, he said, people would say, “You wouldn’t believe who
called me today” — and it would be Ted Kennedy.
Mr. Kennedy was also a family man, lover of the arts, prankster, charmer,
sailor. And that is the image the president left with the congregation: “Of a
man on a boat, white mane tousled, smiling broadly as he sails into the wind,
ready for whatever storms may come, carrying on toward some new and wondrous
place just beyond the horizon.”
“May God bless Ted Kennedy,” the president said. “And may he rest in eternal
After the more than two-hour funeral, the senator was carried from his native
Massachusetts for the other bookend of his life, Washington, D.C. and to
Arlington National Cemetery, where Edward Moore Kennedy, the last of the Kennedy
brothers and the only one not to die violently, was buried toward the bottom of
a lush green hill.
The body of his oldest brother, Joseph, a World War II Navy pilot killed on a
mission in 1942, was never recovered; he was 29. The body of his second-oldest
brother, John, the president assassinated in 1963, lies a few dozen yards away;
he was 46. Robert, the senator and presidential aspirant who was assassinated in
1968, lies even closer; he was 42.
And now, Teddy, who wept and eulogized and often lived in the shadows of these
brothers, would join them after a 15-month struggle with brain cancer. He was
Saturday’s farewell, scripted in large part by Senator Kennedy himself,
concluded three days of tributes and well-orchestrated ceremonies. These
included a public viewing of the coffin at the John F. Kennedy Presidential
Library and Museum in Boston and a private memorial service Friday night that
ended with determined choruses of “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.”
Then, under the uncooperative skies brought by morning, a motorcade that
included the black hearse carrying the senator’s coffin traveled through
rain-wet Boston, past people cheering and applauding, up Tremont Street to
Mission Hill, a diverse, working-class neighborhood with a commanding view of
the city. Church bells rang out in mournful welcome.
The hearse stopped in front of the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, a
twin-spire 19th-century church that stands within walking distance of several
hospitals. Known locally as a healing church, it has received over many decades
the petitions and prayers of the sick and worried.
Among these petitioners was Mr. Kennedy. In 2003, while his daughter, Kara, was
successfully battling lung cancer, he came to pray and reflect here, often
beside the Rev. Edward McDonough, an old priest known as a healer who died in
2008. Then, last summer, aware that he had an aggressive form of cancer, the
senator returned with Mrs. Kennedy, quietly, privately.
With rain drumming against hundreds of black umbrellas that together looked like
a mournful stream of bunting, this public and private man returned to the church
once more. With the precision of ritual, eight representatives of the five
branches of military service removed his flag-covered coffin from the back of
the hearse and into this soft day.
Watching from under an umbrella, not far away, was his widow, in a black suit
offset by a string of pearls. They married in 1992, after which she helped to
transform him from a man, scarred by loss and personal failings — not the least
his role in the death of Mary Jo Kopechne, just 29, in a car accident in 1969 —
into an elder statesman.
Family and friends, including his former wife, Joan, celebrities and politicians
crammed into the oak pews inside the church, some shoving their umbrellas under
their seats, some fanning themselves in a sanctuary infused with the hint of
incense. Three former presidents, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush,
were among the mourners; George H. W. Bush was ill and could not attend.
The coffin was met in the center aisle by Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, the
archbishop of Boston, and other priests for a moment where the martial met the
spiritual. The flag was taken off, folded, tucked.
The coffin was rolled up the center aisle, past 12 confessionals, past 12 marble
pillars, past people with names of international resonance. It came to a stop at
the altar, under the church’s cupola, whose artwork includes a painting of Mr.
Kennedy’s friend, the healing priest, Father McDonough.
There the coffin remained, through the readings from the Old and New Testaments;
through the ethereal music, including Sarabande from Bach’s Cello Suite No. 6,
played by the cellist Yo-Yo Ma, and Cesar Franck’s “Panis Angelicus,” sung by
the tenor Placido Domingo.
After President Obama delivered his eulogy, Cardinal O’Malley commended Mr.
Kennedy to his maker. Ten pallbearers, all of the next Kennedy generation,
slowly wheeled the coffin down the aisle, as the huge, 3,200-pipe organ above
played and the congregation serenaded this lion of the Senate with “America the
At the portal, the honor guard unfolded the American flag, their white gloves
looking like fluttering doves that were gently draping the flag over the coffin.
Then it was back down those wet gray steps, one by one, gently, and back into
the Boston rain.
The eight-member honor guard guided the coffin across the slate-and-brick patio,
while soldiers and police officers came to attention. As the coffin was eased
back into the hearse’s bed, under the gaze of a widow’s aching eyes, it received
a crisp salute.
As the motorcade began its journey to Hanscom Air Force Base in Bedford, the
people of Massachusetts lined the streets and highways, some huddled under
umbrellas. In this way, Massachusetts said farewell to its favored son.
Borne by a presidential plane to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, Mr.
Kennedy’s coffin was taken by motorcade to Capitol Hill, where hundreds of
members and staff members of Congress — many holding tiny American flags —
gathered on the steps. When the motorcade appeared in the distance, applause and
cheers rose up, then grew louder as the hearse came to a stop, the senator’s
flag-covered coffin visible through a back window.
Mrs. Kennedy stepped out of a limousine to receive hugs, bow her head during
more prayers, and to hear “America the Beautiful” sung once more. At 6:43,
motorcycles engines began to grumble, and the motorcade began the final leg of
its destination, down Constitution Avenue, past the Lincoln Memorial and on to
the solemnness that awaited at Arlington National Cemetery.
With dusk settling on the green swells and white tablets of Arlington, and
insects clicking in the trees, the joint casket team carried the coffin up the
thick grass to a grave dug early Saturday morning, 80 inches long and 32 inches
wide. Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, read
a letter that Mr. Kennedy wrote to Pope Benedict XVI, one in which he shared the
news of his illness, admitted his failings and testified to his strong faith.
Soon, seven riflemen were firing three volleys. Soon, the shadow of a bugler was
playing “Taps,” as heat lightning stunned the night sky. Arlington was dark; a
long day had ended. But come Sunday morning, cemetery officials say, the green
of the grass will be smooth again, the hole filled, the sod laid. Only then it
will feature a white wooden cross made by the cemetery’s carpenter, and a white
marble marker that bears the name of another Kennedy, this one as distinct and
as human and as accomplished as the others, a man in his own right.
EDWARD MOORE KENNEDY, it will say. 1932-2009
Reporting was contributed by Edmund L. Andrews, Bernie Becker, Abby Goodnough,
Ariel Sabar and Katie Zezima.
‘Soul’ of Party Is
Memorialized by Nation, NYT, 30.8.2009,
Senate Has Changed in Kennedy’s Time
August 28, 2009
The New York Times
By SHERYL GAY STOLBERG
WASHINGTON — In the spring of 2003, the United States Senate was heading for
a meltdown. Democrats were blocking confirmation of federal judges. Republicans
were set to retaliate with a “nuclear option”: a new rule stripping senators of
their right to filibuster judicial nominations.
Senator Edward M. Kennedy, fearing for the future of the institution, turned to
a historian for help. He invited Robert A. Caro, author of the epic Lyndon B.
Johnson biography, “Master of the Senate,” to speak to lawmakers about Senate
traditions, and the founding fathers’ vision of it as a place for extended
To Mr. Caro, Mr. Kennedy’s own knowledge of Senate history and reverence for its
ideals was yet another reminder of why his host deserved a place in the pantheon
of Senate greats, alongside men like Webster and Calhoun and Clay. But it was
also a reminder of how much the Senate had changed during Mr. Kennedy’s 46 years
“Ted Kennedy was a senator out of another, very different, Senate era: an era in
which senators who believed in great causes stood at their desks, year after
year and decade after decade, fighting for those causes, and educating the
country about them,” Mr. Caro said.
It is a tradition, he said, “that seems all but lost today.”
From physical changes to the chamber — in 1986 the lighting was brightened for
television and the slouchy overstuffed couches were cleared away — to the
arrival of women, to the disappearance of the conservative Southern Democrats
who used their clout to strangle civil rights legislation, the Senate of today
is far different from the one Mr. Kennedy joined in November 1962.
Like the nation itself, it has become coarser, more partisan and, many scholars
and politicians argue, more dysfunctional. As both parties have moved to their
ideological extremes, the center is all but gone.
“When Kennedy came, both political parties in the Senate were internally
divided,” said Don Ritchie, the associate Senate historian. “There were as many
Eisenhower Republicans as Goldwater Republicans. There were more liberal
Democrats but a sizable number of conservative Democrats. There was never a
party line vote on anything. There were ideological coalitions rather than
One measure of that partisanship is the rise of the filibuster, once a rarity
that was reserved for the great legislative debates of the day. Today, rare is
the bill that does not face a filibuster threat. In 1963, Mr. Kennedy’s first
full year in the Senate, the leaders filed just one “cloture motion,” Senate
parlance for the procedure that can end a filibuster by cutting off debate. Last
year, 50 cloture motions were filed.
The Senate was then, and is now, a clubby place governed by its own peculiar
rules and conventions. But with the possible exception of Senator Robert C.
Byrd, the West Virginia Democrat and longest-serving senator (at 91, having
served for 50 years, he is frail and in failing health) today’s senators are
rarely acclaimed for eloquent discourse.
Mr. Byrd’s March 2003 speech opposing the war in Iraq, for instance, made him an
octogenarian Internet sensation; until he became ill, he was known to give
Senate speeches on matters as simple as the beauty of spring. But in the era of
the 24-hour news cycle, the world’s greatest deliberative body is finding it
harder to be, well, deliberative.
Consider the communications style of two other longtime senators, Arlen Specter,
the Pennsylvania Democrat, and Charles E. Grassley, the Iowa Republican. Each
has served 28 years in the Senate. Not long ago, they got into a spat over
health care — through their Twitter feeds.
On Wednesday, when news of Mr. Kennedy’s death was announced, the Senate
majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, declared that “the Kennedy family and the
Senate family have together lost our patriarch.” Yet some members lament that
with fund-raising pressures growing increasingly intense and members rushing
home every weekend, the Senate’s family days are behind it. Friendships, an
essential ingredient to passing legislation, are harder to forge today, both
within parties and across party lines.
Ted Stevens, the Alaska Republican and good friend of Mr. Kennedy who was
defeated for re-election last year, recalls that when he joined the Senate in
1969, the Democratic leader, Mike Mansfield urged freshmen to form bipartisan
dinner groups “to get to know one another on a personal basis.” He remembers
carpooling to work with Senator Edmund S. Muskie, Democrat of Maine.
“There were a bunch of us who lived over the District line. We all had kids, we
all had one car, we’d pair up and drive to the Senate,” Mr. Stevens said. “It
was a sharing Senate at the time, without regard to politics. It was a family.
It’s not a family anymore.”
It is tempting to wax nostalgic about the good old days, but some things about
the Senate have inarguably changed for the better. Today’s Senate is more
diverse, with women especially represented in greater numbers. There were only
two women in the Senate when Mr. Kennedy joined, while today there are 17. The
women of the Senate share monthly off-the-record dinners (no aides allowed),
organized by Senator Barbara Mikulski, Democrat of Maryland and the
longest-serving female senator.
The Senate staff is much larger and more professional today, with deep policy
expertise. Mr. Kennedy’s staff was widely considered the best and the brightest,
with high-powered alumni, among them a Supreme Court justice, Stephen G. Breyer.
But Adam Clymer, a Kennedy biographer and former New York Times reporter, says
there is a downside to specialization: today’s senators rely more on their aides
than on one another.
“Kennedy told me he didn’t know from farm legislation,” Mr. Clymer said. “But he
knew George McGovern and liked him, thought he was a serious fellow. So he asked
McGovern how he ought to vote on farm legislation.”
Television, which arrived in 1986 when the Senate approved a C-Span camera in
the chamber, was a boon for civic engagement. But it quickened the pace and
coarsened the atmosphere, as Senate aides began monitoring TV screens for
untoward remarks about their bosses. And with cameras inside the Senate chamber,
the low lighting, “a calming influence,” in the view of Alan Simpson, the former
Republican senator from Wyoming, had to go. Suddenly, some senators seemed more
interested in engaging the cameras than one another.
“When they got those bright lights in, guys began to dye their hair,” Mr.
Simpson said. “There was more of a peacock syndrome.”
Perhaps, 47 years from now, Americans will be wondering aloud whether there will
ever be another Al Franken or Mark Udall or Kirsten Gillibrand. But as Mr.
Kennedy is being lionized in death, it is difficult to envision the modern
Senate’s producing another lawmaker who could amass his longevity and his
record, or who could use the Senate, as he did, as a forum to educate the
nation, decade in and decade out.
“There is no Kennedy of the future,” said Norm Ornstein, a scholar at the
American Enterprise Institute who studies the Senate. “You’ve got some smart
diligent hardworking impressive senators. Is any of them like Kennedy? It’s like
looking at a Major League Baseball game and seeing some really good players and
knowing there’s no Ted Williams in that group.”
Senate Has Changed in
Kennedy’s Time, NYT, 28.8.2009,
Senator Edward Kennedy
August 27, 2009
The New York Times
Three decades ago, Senator Edward Moore Kennedy ruined his last hope to be
elected to the White House when a television interviewer asked him why he wanted
to be president. He could not articulate an answer, offering instead a rambling,
empty response that persuaded his party that he may not really have wanted or
been suited for the job that his brother John had held and to which his brother
Robert had aspired.
Yet as so often happened in an extraordinary life that careened from success to
misfortune and scandal and back to success again, this bumbling moment worked to
Mr. Kennedy’s advantage and, as it turned out, to the even greater advantage of
the nation as a whole. Having failed in his insurgent challenge to President
Jimmy Carter, Mr. Kennedy was finally free to focus with passion and political
craft on his more natural calling as one of the master legislators and great
reformers in the modern Senate.
The record Mr. Kennedy leaves after 46 years can only be envied by his peers as
they join the nation in mourning his passing after a 15-month fight against
brain cancer — a record firmly anchored in Mr. Kennedy’s insistence that
politics be grasped and administered through the prism of human needs.
Together with a hard-won mastery of parliamentary intricacies, and a willingness
to reach across party lines to win crucial votes, Mr. Kennedy’s unwavering
taproot liberalism left a robust legacy: signature laws and reforms on civil
rights, the judiciary, refugees, social welfare, foreign policy (he was one of
23 senators to vote against authorizing the Iraq invasion), voting rights, job
training, public education and the minimum wage.
Last year, in his bittersweet adieu before the Democratic convention, the
senator stirred his party to act on what he called “the cause of my life” —
quality health care as a fundamental right of American citizenship.
The fate of Senator Kennedy’s cause remains in the hands of a conflicted
Congress and President Obama, the Democratic candidate whom Mr. Kennedy dared to
champion when other party leaders hesitated. And while his leadership will be
missed in the intricate legislative warfare ahead, it would be a fitting tribute
if his death could resolve for the better an issue too long in doubt.
Mr. Kennedy’s life was burdened with personal tragedy, including the
assassinations of two brothers, and personal embarrassment, mostly
self-inflicted. He was pronounced finished 40 years ago after Mary Jo Kopechne
drowned in a car the senator drove off a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island off
Martha’s Vineyard. But Massachusetts voters stuck with him, and in the last 15
years Mr. Kennedy seemed to get a much firmer grip on his personal life, not
least in an effort to set a better example as the patriarch of the Kennedy clan.
“I recognize my own shortcomings,” he conceded in 1991, knowing that they will
not be erased from the pages of history. But neither will his spirit, his
devotion to helping Americans in need and his belief that politics, not always a
savory calling, can make a real difference.
His mantra, forged in tragedy, and expressed most eloquently to the Democratic
National Convention when he abandoned his presidential quest in 1980, was simple
and ennobling: “The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and
the dream shall never die.” In his final speeches, he explicitly handed on this
mantra to President Obama.
Senator Edward Kennedy,
Allies and Adversaries React to Kennedy’s Death
August 27, 2009
The New York Times
By JAMES BARRON
Faythe Collins remembered meeting Senator Edward M. Kennedy as a child and
later, as a worried mother whose children had been detained in Brazil, calling
his office and leaving a message.
“I expected a secretary to maybe call me back,” she said.
But the voice on the phone was that of the senator himself.
Ms. Collins, who went to the John F. Kennedy Museum in Hyannis, Mass., on
Wednesday to sign one of three condolence books put out hours after the
senator’s death, recalled his telling her that “he couldn’t pull any strings” to
hasten her children’s return, but suggesting options that she could try on her
own and calling back several times to check on how things were going.
“The information he gave me helped me get my kids back to this country,” said
Ms. Collins, 45, who grew up in Hyannis and still lives not far from the Kennedy
compound in Hyannis Port. “It’s so rare that politicians take the time to help
As word of Mr. Kennedy’s death spread Wednesday, memories of him were shared by
people from across the globe and all walks of life, from the truck driver from
Waltham, Mass., who declared that the senator had “fought for the average people
instead of special interests,” to the president of the United States, who called
him a “singular figure in American history.”
But while his allies spoke of Mr. Kennedy’s idealism and his steadfast
commitment to democratic ideals and the ideals of the Democratic Party, his
conservative adversaries on cable television and talk radio complained that
Democrats would try to capitalize on his death by rallying support for a health
care overhaul that the senator had hoped would be his final legislative triumph.
Rush Limbaugh countered the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, who
called Mr. Kennedy a “lion of the Senate,” by saying, “We were his prey.”
Some remembered him as the Kennedy who was elected to the Senate when one of his
brothers was president and another attorney general, and who lived through their
assassinations, his own failings at Chappaquiddick and a presidential bid that
went nowhere in 1980, but who remained a senator in the course of 10
presidencies and had a hand in shaping laws that touched on education, civil
rights, Medicare, Social Security and much more.
“I’m a Republican, but I respected him for what he tried to do,” said Dudley
Thomas, a retired computer manager who lives near the Kennedy compound. “He was
always fighting for what he thought was right.”
Others stood on a corner near the compound where well-wishers had placed flowers
and keepsakes and explained that their reminiscences had nothing to do with
After spending two hours on the road getting there, Danielle Nunes of Billerica,
Mass., said: “We came because I remember when I was a girl and my parents had a
boat, we passed Ted and I said, ‘Hi, Ted!’ My mother said, ‘It’s Mr. Kennedy,’
and he said: ‘Don’t worry about it. Call me Ted.’ ”
Some of the most passionate tributes came from his colleagues in the Senate,
where he served for 46 years.
First among them was Mr. Obama, who was the junior senator from Illinois when he
decided to run for president, and whose candidacy Mr. Kennedy championed with an
endorsement that provided a boost against Hillary Rodham Clinton as the height
of the Democratic primary season last year.
Mr. Obama said Wednesday that he was “heartbroken” at Mr. Kennedy’s death and
had “profited as president” from his counsel.
“His ideas and ideals,” the president said, “are stamped on scores of laws and
reflected in millions of lives — in seniors who know new dignity, in families
that know new opportunity, in children who know education’s promise and in all
those who can pursue their dream in an America that is more equal and more just,
The White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, said Mr. Obama had expressed his
condolences in a telephone call to Mr. Kennedy’s wife, Victoria. There had been
speculation that Mr. Obama would visit Mr. Kennedy during the president’s
vacation on Martha’s Vineyard this week, but aides said that the senator’s
condition had been too serious and that a presidential visit would have been too
Some other Senate colleagues echoed Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, who
called Mr. Kennedy an “irrepressible, larger-than-life presence.” Senator John
McCain of Arizona, who as the Republican nominee lost to Mr. Obama in the
presidential election last year, said that Mr. Kennedy “had become irreplaceable
in the institution he loved” and that there would be an “emptiness” in the
Senate without him.
There were tributes from foreign leaders and from the United Nations secretary
general, Ban Ki-moon, who said Mr. Kennedy’s had been “a voice for those who
would otherwise go unheard.”
Natan Sharansky, the Israeli politician and former Soviet political prisoner,
called him “one of the towering figures in human rights.” When Mr. Sharansky was
released from a Soviet prison in 1986, he said, it was Mr. Kennedy who called
his wife, in Israel, to let her know.
Mr. Sharansky recalled a time when American officials visiting Moscow had
worried about upsetting the Soviet government and endangering democracy
activists there by going to see them. But in the spring of 1974, Mr. Kennedy
ended official talks there and headed to the home of Alexander Lerner, a
“He was the first to dare to do it, and that was the precedent that allowed
other American officials to visit refuseniks,” Mr. Sharansky said. “Before that,
it was like an iron curtain. Nobody did it.”
Former President Jimmy Carter, whom Mr. Kennedy challenged in the Democratic
primaries in 1980 and denounced as a “clone of Ronald Reagan,” said Mr. Kennedy
had been “pre-eminent” on Capitol Hill.
“He has been staunch and honest and open, and very able to express his view to
the American people,” Mr. Carter told the BBC from Ramallah, in the West Bank.
“I think Ted Kennedy, although he came from a very affluent family, a very
prominent family, successful in politics, I think his first commitment was
always to the people who were most in need.”
Nancy Reagan, whose husband defeated Mr. Carter in 1980 and once called Mr.
Kennedy “the champion of big-government spending and an all-pervasive federal
presence in our lives and wallet,” said Ronald Reagan and Mr. Kennedy had had
“great respect for one another.”
“Given our political differences,” Mrs. Reagan said, “people are sometimes
surprised by how close Ronnie and I have been to the Kennedy family. But Ronnie
and Ted could always find common ground.” Noting that she considered him “an
ally and a dear friend,” she added that she and Mr. Kennedy had found “our
common ground in stem cell research.”
Democratic leaders said they would commemorate Mr. Kennedy by pushing health
care legislation through Congress. Senator Robert C. Byrd, for one, suggested in
a statement that the bill be named for him.
Mr. Limbaugh said he predicted months ago that Democrats would do just that, and
Sean Hannity, a radio talk show host who also has a program on the Fox News
Channel, called it “unseemly.” Mr. Hannity said Mr. Kennedy’s death “is not
added reason to push for passage.”
But in an age of often bitter political divisions, some maintained that Mr.
Kennedy had been a singular force for bipartisanship.
“Don’t you find it remarkable that one of the most partisan, liberal men in the
last century serving in the Senate had so many of his — so many of his foes
embrace him because they know he made them bigger?” said Vice President Joseph
R. Biden Jr., fighting back tears as he talked in a previously scheduled
appearance at the Energy Department. “He made them more graceful by the way in
which he conducted himself.”
Reporting was contributed by Ethan Bronner from Jerusalem; Ariana Green from
Hyannis, Mass.; Brian Stelter from New York; and Jeff Zeleny from Oak Bluffs,
Allies and Adversaries
React to Kennedy’s Death, NYT, 27.8.2009,
After a Grim Diagnosis, Determined to Make a ‘Good Ending’
August 27, 2009
The New York Times
By MARK LEIBOVICH
WASHINGTON — The once-indefatigable Ted Kennedy was in a wheelchair at the
end, struggling to speak and sapped of his energy. But from the time his brain
cancer was diagnosed 15 months ago, he spoke of having a “good ending for
myself,” in whatever time he had left, and by every account, he did.
As recently as a few days ago, Mr. Kennedy was still digging into big bowls of
mocha chip and butter crunch ice creams, all smushed together (as he liked it).
He and his wife, Vicki, had been watching every James Bond movie and episode of
“24” on DVD.
He began each morning with a sacred rite of reading his newspapers, drinking
coffee and scratching the bellies of his beloved Portuguese water dogs, Sunny
and Splash, on the front porch of his Cape Cod house overlooking Nantucket
If he was feeling up to it, he would end his evenings with family dinner parties
around the same mahogany table where he used to eat lobster with his brothers.
He took phone calls from President Obama, house calls from his priest and — just
a few weeks ago — crooned after-dinner duets of “You Are My Sunshine” (with his
son Patrick) and “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” (with Vicki).
“There were a lot of joyous moments at the end,” said Dr. Lawrence C. Horowitz,
Mr. Kennedy’s former Senate chief of staff, who oversaw his medical care. “There
was a lot of frankness, a lot of hugging, a lot of emotion.”
Obviously, Dr. Horowitz added, there were difficult times. By this spring,
according to friends, it was clear that the tumor had not been contained; new
treatments proved ineffective and Mr. Kennedy’s comfort became the priority.
But interviews with close friends and family members yield a portrait of a man
who in his final months was at peace with the end of his life and grateful for
the chance to savor the salty air and the company of loved ones.
Befitting the epic life he led, Mr. Kennedy was the protagonist of a storybook
finale from the time of his diagnosis in May 2008. It was infused with a
beat-the-clock element: his illness coincided with the debate over health care
(“the cause of my life”) and the election of a young president he championed.
Mr. Kennedy raced to complete his legislative work and his memoirs (“I’ve got to
get this right for history,” he kept saying), leaned heavily on his faith,
enjoyed (or endured) a procession of tributes and testimonials and just recently
petitioned Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts to push for a speedy succession
so his Senate seat would not be vacant long.
The knowledge that his death was approaching infused Mr. Kennedy’s interactions
with special intensity, his friends say.
“He was the only one of the Kennedy boys who had a semi-knowledge that his end
was near,” said Mike Barnicle, the former Boston Globe columnist and an old
friend who lives nearby on Cape Cod and visited the senator this summer. “There
was no gunman in the shadows, just an M.R.I. It was a bad diagnosis, but it
allowed for the gift of reflection and some good times.”
Even as Mr. Kennedy’s physical condition worsened over the summer, he still got
out of bed every day until Tuesday, when he died in the evening, said Senator
Christopher J. Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut and one of Mr. Kennedy’s closest
friends in the Senate.
“I’m still here,” Mr. Kennedy would call colleagues out of the blue to say, as
if to refute suggestions to the contrary. “Every day is a gift,” was his mantra
to begin conversations, said Peter Meade, a friend who met Mr. Kennedy as a
14-year-old volunteer on Mr. Kennedy’s first Senate campaign.
Some patients given a fatal diagnosis succumb to bitterness and self-pity;
others try to cram in everything they have always wanted to do (sky-diving, a
trip to China). Mr. Kennedy wanted to project vigor and a determination to keep
on going. He chose what he called “prudently aggressive” treatments.
“He always admired people who took risks, like Teddy and Kara did,” Mr. Dodd
said, referring to two of Mr. Kennedy’s children, who both beat cancer with bold
treatments. And he vowed to work as hard as he could to lead a legislative
overhaul of the nation’s health care system.
“He was the irrepressible Ted Kennedy,” said Senator John Kerry, the
Massachusetts Democrat, who visited with his longtime colleague last week. “He
was determined to get things done, but he also understood he had limitations.”
Mr. Kennedy deputized Dr. Horowitz, who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, to
research all treatment options before deciding on an intensive regimen of
surgery, chemotherapy and radiation — hardly a clear-cut choice with an almost
inevitably lethal disease and a patient of Mr. Kennedy’s age. Some physicians
assembled at Massachusetts General Hospital considered his tumor inoperable —
and measured his likely survival time between six weeks and a few months.
Before he traveled by private plane from Cape Cod to Duke University Medical
Center for his surgery in June 2008, Mr. Kennedy made sure to put his affairs in
order — his will, his medical directives and even his legislative instructions,
family members say.
On the way to the airport, he called two Democratic colleagues: Mr. Dodd,
telling him to take over a mental health bill he had been working on, and
Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, instructing her to take over a higher
education bill he had been shepherding.
“Barbara,” he boomed over the phone, “as if he was at a Red Sox-Orioles baseball
game,” Ms. Mikulski said in an interview. Just days after the surgery, Mr.
Kennedy began following up with Ms. Mikulski. “He was Coach Ted,” she said.
Mr. Kennedy took no comfort, friends say, in hearing how missed he was in
Washington, or how in his absence he had been become something of a “spiritual
leader” on issues with which he is identified, like health care. He kept in
close touch with his staff and colleagues, and he was engaged in a running
conversation with Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, on the
delicate subject of whether Mr. Kennedy would be available to vote.
Mr. Reid assured him that he would not ever ask him to come to Washington unless
his vote was essential. (His disease and treatments made Mr. Kennedy vulnerable
to infections, so wading into crowded areas was risky.) When a crucial Medicare
provision came up last summer, Mr. Reid asked Mr. Kennedy if he could make it
Mr. Kennedy’s family and staff debated the issue until the senator ended it.
“I’ll be there,” he said, according to a member of his staff who was involved in
the decision. He received a standing ovation when he returned to the Senate
floor, and the bill passed easily.
Vicki Kennedy fiercely guarded her husband’s privacy, but Mr. Kennedy’s illness
had an undeniably public component. His setbacks and hospital visits often drew
news media attention. After his emotional speech at last summer’s Democratic
Convention in Denver, it was disclosed that he had been suffering from kidney
stones and had barely been able to get out of his hospital bed a few hours
He had to memorize the text of his speech because he struggled to see the
teleprompter (his surgery had left him with impaired vision). The seizure Mr.
Kennedy had at an Inaugural luncheon at the Capitol led his son Patrick to joke
that his father was trying to overshadow Mr. Obama on his big day.
Mr. Kerry remembers Mr. Kennedy telling him on the Senate floor in March that he
was having trouble preparing for an event he had been extremely excited for —
throwing out the first pitch on opening day at Fenway Park.
While Mr. Kennedy typically told people he felt well and vigorous, by spring it
was becoming clear that his disease was advancing to where he could not spend
his remaining months as he had hoped, helping push a health care plan through
He left Washington in May, after nearly a half-century in the capital, and
decamped to Cape Cod, where he would contribute what he could to the health care
debate via phone and C-Span. He would sail as much as possible, with as little
pain and discomfort as his caretakers could manage.
He also told friends that he wanted to take stock of his life and enjoy the gift
of his remaining days with the people he loved most.
“I’ve had a wonderful life,” he said repeatedly, friends recalled.
Mr. Dodd, in an interview, said: “At no point was he ever maudlin, ever ‘woe is
me.’ I’m confident he had his moments — he wouldn’t be Irish if he didn’t — but
in my presence, he always sounded more worried about me than he was about
Starting in late July, Vicki Kennedy organized near-nightly dinner parties and
singalongs at the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port. The senator was surrounded
in the dining room by his crystal sailing trophies and a semiregular cast of
family members that included his three children, two stepchildren and four
grandchildren. Jean Kennedy Smith, Mr. Kennedy’s sister, had rented a home down
the street this summer and became a regular, too. Instead of singing, she would
sometimes recite poetry.
Even as Mr. Kennedy became frustrated about his limitations, friends say his
spirit never flagged. “This is someone who had a fierce determination to live,
but who was not afraid to die,” said Representative Bill Delahunt, a Democrat
and a Kennedy friend whose district includes Cape Cod. “And he was not afraid to
have a lot of laughs until he got there.”
In recent years, friends say, Mr. Kennedy had come to lean heavily on his Roman
Catholic faith. In eulogizing his mother, Rose Kennedy, in 1995, he spoke of the
comfort of religious beliefs. “She sustained us in the saddest times by her
faith in God, which was the greatest gift she gave us,” Mr. Kennedy said, his
He attended Mass every day in the year after his mother’s death and continued to
attend regularly, often a few times a week.
The Rev. Mark Hession, the priest at the Kennedys’ parish on the Cape, made
regular visits to the Kennedy home this summer and held a private family Mass in
the living room every Sunday. Even in his final days, Mr. Kennedy led the family
in prayer after the death of his sister Eunice on Aug. 11. He died comfortably
and in no apparent pain, friends and staff members said.
His children had expected him to hold on longer — Mr. Kennedy’s son Patrick and
daughter Kara could not get back to Hyannis Port in time from California and
But the senator’s condition took a turn Tuesday night and a priest — the Rev.
Patrick Tarrant of Our Lady of Victory Church in Centerville, Mass. — was called
to his bedside. Mr. Kennedy spent his last hours in prayer, Father Tarrant told
a Boston television station, WCVB-TV.
Mr. Kennedy had told friends recently that he was looking forward to a “reunion”
with his seven departed siblings, particularly his brothers, whose lives had
been cut short.
“When he gets there, he can say ‘I did it, I carried the torch,’ ” Mr. Delahunt
said. “ ‘I carried it all the way.’ ”
After a Grim Diagnosis,
Determined to Make a ‘Good Ending’, NYT, 27.8.2009,
Loss of Health Care Champion Creates Uncertainty
August 27, 2009
The New York Times
By CARL HULSE and KATHARINE Q. SEELYE
WASHINGTON — The death of Senator Edward M. Kennedy has quickly become a
rallying point for Democratic advocates of a broad health care overhaul, a
signature Kennedy issue that became mired in partisanship while he fought his
illness away from the Capitol.
“The passion of his life was health care reform,” said Representative David R.
Obey, the liberal Wisconsin Democrat who is chairman of the Appropriations
Committee. “Above all else, he would want us to redouble our efforts to achieve
Yet Democrats have serious internal differences on how to approach health care,
and Republicans and Democrats remain deeply divided on the policy proposals — a
gulf some say Mr. Kennedy was uniquely equipped to bridge.
It seemed unlikely that Republicans would suddenly soften their firm opposition
in the aftermath of Mr. Kennedy’s death or that Democrats would relent on their
push for substantial change, especially for a government-run insurance plan,
which Mr. Kennedy endorsed.
But Democrats and others said the senator’s death should provide at least a
temporary respite from the angry denunciations that flowed this summer, putting
Democrats on the defensive as they met with voters back home. One advocacy group
opposed to the Democratic proposals, Conservatives for Patients’ Rights,
announced that it was suspending its advertising out of respect for the senator
and his family.
Some lawmakers used the moment to appeal for a new tone in the discussion of the
volatile issue. “Let us stop the shouting and name calling and have a civilized
debate on health care reform which I hope, when legislation has been signed into
law, will bear his name for his commitment to insuring the health of every
American,” Senator Robert C. Byrd, Democrat of West Virginia, said in a
statement on Mr. Kennedy’s death.
Some, however, expressed little hope for a permanent cease-fire. “We’ll pause
out of respect for our fallen comrade, but nothing seems to have any effect on
the partisanship,” said Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, who recently
switched parties and became a Democrat.
Whether the loss of health reform’s longtime champion will substantially alter
the dynamic or the outcome of the Congressional fight will be determined only
when Congress returns in September. Mr. Kennedy’s colleagues said they hoped his
example would provide new inspiration.
“Maybe Teddy’s passing will remind people once again that we are there to get a
job done as he would do,” said Senator Christopher J. Dodd, the Connecticut
Democrat and close friend of Mr. Kennedy who filled in for him as chairman of
the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
Republicans said they did not ultimately expect much change in the health
“Democrats will rally, but they still have to come up with a bill that works,”
said one senior Republican official who did not want to be identified when
talking about the delicate subject of how Mr. Kennedy’s death would play out in
the policy fight. Another top Republican said the fight was already somewhat
suspended with President Obama on vacation and would most likely “pick up right
where we left off in a week or two.”
Republicans also noted that Mr. Kennedy, though an ideological liberal, was a
legislative pragmatist who worked with Republicans to strike compromises on
difficult subjects like health care, education and immigration. They said they
saw little such reaching across the aisle in his absence.
Several Republicans also said they believed Congress would be closer to a health
deal than it is now if Mr. Kennedy had regularly been on hand in the Senate,
working face-to-face with his colleagues and using his prestige and credibility
to advance the issue.
In a recent interview, Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah, said Mr.
Kennedy was “the only Democrat who could really move all the Democrats’ special
interests into coming along” with a bipartisan approach. Mr. Hatch said that in
his absence, Mr. Kennedy’s staff members had written a “one-sided, partisan
bill,” approved by the health committee on July 15. But Democrats say Mr.
Kennedy had been deeply involved in putting together the legislation, had been
consulted regularly on even the fine points and had been elated when the health
committee approved its measure.
“He felt confident that we were on track even though there is a lot of ranting
and raving going on right now,” Mr. Dodd said.
Howard Dean, the former presidential contender and national Democratic chairman,
said it was “conjecture” to imagine how the course of health legislation might
have changed had Mr. Kennedy lived. But, he said, “his death absolutely will
stiffen the spine of the Democrats to get something this year for this
extraordinary giant in Senate history.”
Other Democrats and health care advocates said they also viewed enacting health
care legislation as the best tribute they could pay to the senator who had
pursued accessible health coverage for every American for decades.
“Ted Kennedy’s dream of quality health care for all Americans will be made real
this year because of his leadership and his inspiration,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi
In the most concrete effect of Mr. Kennedy’s death on Capitol Hill, the
Democratic majority in the Senate will be reduced to 59 for at least the coming
weeks, since Massachusetts law requires a special election to fill the seat and
one might not be held until early next year. But Senate Democrats had for weeks
accepted the fact that Mr. Kennedy would not be able to return to the floor even
for a critical filibuster-breaking vote.
With only 59 seats, the Democrats are one short of the number they need to
overcome procedural tactics that prevent a vote; if they face a filibuster, the
leadership would have to hold its own members together and attract at least one
Republican supporter beyond that. The math may lead Democrats to look more
closely at considering health care under a procedural shortcut that could avert
filibusters but also leave them with a health plan far reduced in scope.
The White House declined to comment Wednesday about what impact — if any — Mr.
Kennedy’s death would have on the health care debate. Mr. Obama did not mention
the health care debate in a written statement about Mr. Kennedy’s death or in
brief televised remarks delivered from Martha’s Vineyard on Wednesday morning.
He did, however, recall the bipartisan manner in which Mr. Kennedy often
approached legislative fights.
“He could passionately battle others, and do so peerlessly, on the Senate floor
for the causes that he held dear, and yet still maintain warm friendships across
party lines,” Mr. Obama said.
Carl Hulse reported from Washington, and Katharine Q. Seelye from New York.
Jeff Zeleny contributed reporting from Oak Bluffs, Mass., and Robert Pear from
Loss of Health Care
Champion Creates Uncertainty, NYT, 27.8.2009,
A Great Liberal
Voice Goes Silent
August 27, 2009
The New York Times
To the Editor:
Re “Edward Kennedy, Senate
Stalwart, Dies” (The New York Times on the Web, Aug. 26):
It is impossible to read of the death of Senator Edward M. Kennedy without
profound sadness and a sense that we have lost one of the rare breed that truly
cares for his fellow beings and works to make the world a better place.
The eulogies that will follow will highlight his great accomplishments — and
will be poignant and bittersweet because so few in politics are fighting these
good and necessary fights.
The greatest tribute that we as a nation, through our elected officials, could
give would be to pass the health care reform proposed by President Obama in
honor of the strongest supporter of health care for all. Let us make it the
Edward Kennedy Health Reform Program.
To squabble now, to obfuscate and engage in demagogy, is a sad way to remember a
great man’s cause.
Elaine Hirschl Ellis
New York, Aug. 26, 2009
To the Editor:
At the dawning of a new day, we received the news that Edward M. Kennedy, the
“lion of the Senate,” in his 47th year of service from the state of
Massachusetts, had died.
He was a visionary, standing up against the onrush of seemingly lost causes.
Yes, he was devoutly liberal. He defined the word as the essence of our
spiritual being and not as a differentiation between political philosophies. He
envisioned liberty and freedom as a right rather than a privilege.
Tirelessly, doggedly and with purpose, he fought from the heart. And now his
work has ended. It’s time now for someone else to inflame our passions and drive
us forward. James D. Cook
Streamwood, Ill., Aug. 26, 2009
To the Editor:
What made Edward M. Kennedy so special was that he represented what America
should be. He showed that you can attain riches and privilege but know that you
have an obligation to make sure that those who don’t possess your luck have a
better life. Elliot Kotler
Ossining, N.Y., Aug. 26, 2009
To the Editor:
May all of our senators and members of Congress take such strong, brave and
consistent stands as Senator Edward M. Kennedy did on behalf of the poor and the
disenfranchised, and on behalf of the rest of us as well.
He worked so hard for so long to make universal health care a reality. There
could be no more fitting tribute to Senator Kennedy than providing universal
health care for all in the United States. Anna Paganelli
Santa Cruz, Calif., Aug. 26, 2009
To the Editor:
I cannot think of another politician who so redeemed his image over the years.
Edward M. Kennedy became the kind of statesman that politicians on both sides of
the aisle should aspire to be. Janice Hough
Palo Alto, Calif., Aug. 26, 2009
To the Editor:
Your thoughtful article about the death of Senator Edward M. Kennedy caused me
to reflect on three issues.
First, to us in Ireland, he was a great and steadfast friend who helped us work
our way through one of the darker periods in our history.
Second, as a United States senator, he was perhaps the greatest legislator in
your great nation’s history.
Third, and very important, he was instrumental in blocking Robert Bork’s
confirmation to the Supreme Court of the United States. Remember his speech
about “Robert Bork’s America”? Had Mr. Bork been confirmed, there would now be
an unbreakable right-wing phalanx on the court. What price then liberty in
May a great man rest in peace.
Collon, Ireland, Aug. 26, 2009
To the Editor:
Edward M. Kennedy was great in the estimation of most liberals, but he was also
respected by many of his opponents. He was incredibly capable and deeply caring,
showing all-too-human weaknesses but never abandoning his convictions.
Few in this nation and world have courage and principles strong enough to
campaign against injustice no matter the odds or opposition. We are all flawed
yet humbled and inspired by Mr. Kennedy’s model of unwavering confidence and
Amherst, Mass., Aug. 26, 2009
To the Editor:
Senator Edward M. Kennedy was a champion of social justice. He was a voice for
the voiceless, and a powerful force on behalf of the vulnerable.
I remember when I was a young girl, and my country of origin, Bangladesh (then
East Pakistan), was experiencing genocide committed by the Pakistani (then West
Pakistan) army. The American government remained silent because it was an ally
of Pakistan. But Senator Kennedy stood up and helped mobilize international
support for the Bangladeshis’ liberation war in 1971.
Now that I am here in Massachusetts for a short period (from Australia), I feel
deeply privileged that I am in his state, and have been able to pay tribute to a
great man. Nahid Afrose Kabir
Cambridge, Mass., Aug. 26, 2009
To the Editor:
Senator Edward M. Kennedy could have coasted on his name, but he chose instead
to devote himself to the hard work of legislation in the fields of health care,
labor and education, as well as to principled opposition to unnecessary military
We need more public servants like Senator Kennedy on both sides of the aisle. He
was devoted to the common good, and not to the good of corporate donors and
Middlebury, Vt., Aug. 26, 2009
A Great Liberal Voice
Goes Silent, NYT, 27.8.2009,
Edward Kennedy, Senate Stalwart, Dies
August 27, 2009
The New York Times
By JOHN M. BRODER
Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, a son of one of the most storied
families in American politics, a man who knew triumph and tragedy in near-equal
measure and who will be remembered as one of the most effective lawmakers in the
history of the Senate, died late Tuesday night. He was 77.
The death of Mr. Kennedy, who had been battling brain cancer, was announced
Wednesday morning in a statement by the Kennedy family, which was already
mourning the death of the Senator’s sister Eunice Kennedy Shriver two weeks
“Edward M. Kennedy – the husband, father, grandfather, brother and uncle we
loved so deeply – died late Tuesday night at home in Hyannis Port,” the
statement said. “We’ve lost the irreplaceable center of our family and joyous
light in our lives, but the inspiration of his faith, optimism, and perseverance
will live on in our hearts forever.”
Mr. Kennedy had been in precarious health since he suffered a seizure in May
2008. His doctors determined the cause had been a malignant glioma, a brain
tumor that often carries a grim prognosis.
As he underwent cancer treatment, Mr. Kennedy was little seen in Washington,
appearing most recently at the White House in April as Mr. Obama signed a
national service bill that bears the Kennedy name. Last week Mr. Kennedy urged
Massachusetts lawmakers to change state law and let Gov. Deval Patrick appoint a
temporary replacement upon his death, to assure that the state’s representation
in Congress would not be interrupted by a special election.
While Mr. Kennedy had been physically absent from the capital in recent months,
his presence had been deeply felt as Congress weighed the most sweeping
revisions to America’s health care system in decades, an effort Mr. Kennedy
called “the cause of my life.”
On July 15, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee, which
Mr. Kennedy headed, passed health care legislation, and the battle over the
proposed overhaul is now consuming Capitol Hill.
Mr. Kennedy was the last surviving brother of a generation of Kennedys that
dominated American politics in the 1960s and that came to embody glamour,
political idealism and untimely death. The Kennedy mystique — some call it the
Kennedy myth — has held the imagination of the world for decades and came to
rest on the sometimes too-narrow shoulders of the brother known as Teddy.
Mr. Kennedy, who served 46 years as the most well-known Democrat in the Senate,
longer than all but two other senators, was the only one of those brothers to
die after reaching old age. President John F. Kennedy and Senator Robert F.
Kennedy were felled by assassins’ bullets in their 40s. The eldest brother,
Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., died in 1944 at the age of 29 while on a risky World War
II bombing mission.
Mr. Kennedy spent much of last year in treatment and recuperation, broken by
occasional public appearances and a dramatic return to the Capitol last summer
to cast a decisive vote on a Medicare bill.
He electrified the opening night of the Democratic National Convention in Denver
in August with an unscheduled appearance and a speech that had delegates on
their feet. Many were in tears.
His gait was halting, but his voice was strong. “My fellow Democrats, my fellow
Americans, it is so wonderful to be here, and nothing is going to keep me away
from this special gathering tonight,” Mr. Kennedy said. “I have come here
tonight to stand with you to change America, to restore its future, to rise to
our best ideals and to elect Barack Obama president of the United States.”
Senator Kennedy was at or near the center of much of American history in the
latter part of the 20th century and the early years of the 21st. For much of his
adult life, he veered from victory to catastrophe, winning every Senate election
he entered but failing in his only try for the presidency; living through the
sudden deaths of his brothers and three of his nephews; being responsible for
the drowning death on Chappaquiddick Island of a young woman, Mary Jo Kopechne,
a former aide to his brother Robert. One of the nephews, John F. Kennedy Jr.,
who the family hoped would one day seek political office and keep the Kennedy
tradition alive, died in a plane crash in 1999 at age 38.
Mr. Kennedy himself was almost killed, in 1964, in a plane crash, which left him
with permanent back and neck problems.
He was a Rabelaisian figure in the Senate and in life, instantly recognizable by
his shock of white hair, his florid, oversize face, his booming Boston brogue,
his powerful but pained stride. He was a celebrity, sometimes a self-parody, a
hearty friend, an implacable foe, a man of large faith and large flaws, a
melancholy character who persevered, drank deeply and sang loudly. He was a
Senator Robert C. Byrd, Democrat of West Virginia, one of the institution’s most
devoted students, said of his longtime colleague, “Ted Kennedy would have been a
leader, an outstanding senator, at any period in the nation’s history.”
Mr. Byrd is one of only two senators to have served longer in the chamber than
Mr. Kennedy; the other was Strom Thurmond of South Carolina. In May 2008, on
learning of Mr. Kennedy’s diagnosis of a lethal brain tumor, Mr. Byrd wept
openly on the floor of the Senate.
Born to one of the wealthiest American families, Mr. Kennedy spoke for the
downtrodden in his public life while living the heedless private life of a
playboy and a rake for many of his years. Dismissed early in his career as a
lightweight and an unworthy successor to his revered brothers, he grew in
stature over time by sheer longevity and by hewing to liberal principles while
often crossing the partisan aisle to enact legislation. A man of unbridled
appetites at times, he nevertheless brought a discipline to his public work that
resulted in an impressive catalog of legislative achievement across a broad
landscape of social policy.
Mr. Kennedy left his mark on legislation concerning civil rights, health care,
education, voting rights and labor. He was chairman of the Senate Committee on
Health, Education, Labor and Pensions at his death. But he was more than a
legislator. He was a living legend whose presence insured a crowd and whose
hovering figure haunted many a president.
Although he was a leading spokesman for liberal issues and a favorite target of
conservative fund-raising appeals, the hallmark of his legislative success was
his ability to find Republican allies to get bills passed. Perhaps the last
notable example was his work with President George W. Bush to pass the No Child
Left Behind education law pushed by Mr. Bush in 2001. He also co-sponsored
immigration legislation with Senator John McCain, the 2008 Republican
presidential nominee. One of his greatest friends and collaborators in the
Senate was Orrin Hatch, the Utah Republican.
Mr. Kennedy had less impact on foreign policy than on domestic concerns, but
when he spoke his voice was influential. He led the Congressional effort to
impose sanctions on South Africa over apartheid, pushed for peace in Northern
Ireland, won a ban on arms sales to the dictatorship in Chile and denounced the
Vietnam War. In 2002, he voted against authorizing the Iraq war; later, he
called that opposition “the best vote I’ve made in my 44 years in the United
At a pivotal moment in the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries, Mr. Kennedy
endorsed Senator Obama for president, saying Mr. Obama offered America a chance
for racial reconciliation and an opportunity to turn the page on the polarizing
politics of the past several decades.
“He will be a president who refuses to be trapped in the patterns of the past,”
Mr. Kennedy told an Obama rally in Washington on Jan. 28, 2008. “He is a leader
who sees the world clearly, without being cynical. He is a fighter who cares
passionately about the causes he believes in without demonizing those who hold a
Mr. Kennedy struggled for much of his life with his weight, with alcohol and
with persistent tales of womanizing. In an Easter break episode in 1991 in Palm
Beach, Fla., he went out drinking with his son Patrick and a nephew, William
Kennedy Smith, on the night that Mr. Smith was accused of raping a woman. Mr.
Smith was prosecuted in a lurid trial that fall but was acquitted.
Mr. Kennedy’s personal life stabilized in 1992 with his marriage to Victoria
Anne Reggie, a Washington lawyer. His first marriage, to Joan Bennett Kennedy,
ended in divorce in 1982 after 24 years.
Senator Kennedy served as a surrogate father to his brothers’ children and
worked to keep the Kennedy flame alive through the Kennedy Library in Boston,
the Kennedy Center in Washington and the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard
University, where he helped establish the Institute of Politics.
In December, Harvard granted Mr. Kennedy a special honorary degree. He referred
to Mr. Obama’s election as “not just a culmination, but a new beginning.”
He then spoke of his own life, and perhaps his legacy.
“We know the future will outlast all of us, but I believe that all of us will
live on in the future we make,” he said. “I have lived a blessed time.”
Kennedy family courtiers and many other Democrats believed he would eventually
win the White House and redeem the promise of his older brothers. In 1980, he
took on the president of his own party, Jimmy Carter, but fell short because of
Chappaquiddick, a divided party and his own weaknesses as a candidate, including
an inability to articulate why he sought the office.
But as that race ended in August at the Democratic National Convention in New
York, Mr. Kennedy delivered his most memorable words, wrapping his dedication to
party principles in the gauzy cloak of Camelot.
“For me, a few hours ago, this campaign came to an end,” Mr. Kennedy said in the
coda to a speech before a rapt audience at Madison Square Garden and on
television. “For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on,
the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.”
A Family Steeped in Politics
Born Feb. 22, 1932, in Brookline, Mass., just outside Boston, Edward Moore
Kennedy grew up in a family of shrewd politicians. Both his father, Joseph P.
Kennedy, and his mother, the former Rose Fitzgerald, came from prominent
Irish-Catholic families with long involvement in the hurly-burly of Democratic
politics in Boston and Massachusetts. His father, who made a fortune in real
estate, movies and banking, served in President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s
administration, as the first chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission
and then as ambassador to Britain.
There were nine Kennedy children, four boys and five girls, with Edward the
youngest. They grew up talking politics, power and influence because those were
the things that preoccupied the mind of Joseph Kennedy. As Rose Kennedy, who
took responsibility for the children’s Roman Catholic upbringing, once put it:
“My babies were rocked to political lullabies.”
When Edward was born, President Herbert Hoover sent Rose a bouquet of flowers
and a note of congratulations. The note came with 5 cents postage due; the
framed envelope is a family heirloom.
It was understood among the children that Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., the oldest boy,
would someday run for Congress and, his father hoped, the White House. When
Joseph Jr. was killed in World War II, it fell to the next oldest son, John F.,
to run. As John said at one point in 1959 while serving in the Senate: “Just as
I went into politics because Joe died, if anything happened to me tomorrow,
Bobby would run for my seat in the Senate. And if Bobby died, our young brother,
Ted, would take over for him.”
Although surrounded by the trappings of wealth — stately houses, servants and
expensive cars — young Teddy did not enjoy a settled childhood. He bounced among
the family homes in Boston, New York, London and Palm Beach, and by the time
Edward was ready to enter college, he had attended 10 preparatory schools in the
United States and England, finally finishing at Milton Academy, near Boston. He
said that the constant moving had forced him to become more genial with
strangers; indeed, he grew to be more of a natural politician than either John
After graduating from Milton in 1950, where he showed a penchant for debating
and sports but was otherwise an undistinguished student, Mr. Kennedy enrolled in
Harvard, as had his father and brothers. It was at Harvard, in his freshman
year, that he ran into the first of several personal troubles that were to dog
him for the rest of his life: He persuaded another student to take his Spanish
examination, got caught and was forced to leave the university.
Suddenly draft-eligible during the Korean War, Mr. Kennedy enlisted in the Army
and served two years, securing, with his father’s help, a cushy post at NATO
headquarters in Paris. In 1953, he was discharged with the rank of private first
Re-enrolling in Harvard, he became a more serious student, majoring in
government, excelling in public speaking and playing first-string end on the
football team. He graduated in 1956 with a Bachelor of Arts degree, then
enrolled in the University of Virginia School of Law, where Robert had studied.
There, he won the moot court competition and took a degree in 1959. Later that
year, he was admitted to the Massachusetts bar.
Mr. Kennedy’s first foray into politics came in 1958, while still a law student,
when he managed John’s Senate re-election campaign. There was never any real
doubt that Massachusetts voters would return John Kennedy to Washington, but it
was a useful internship for his youngest brother.
That same year, Mr. Kennedy married Virginia Joan Bennett, a debutante from
Bronxville, a New York suburb where the Kennedys had once lived. In 1960, when
John Kennedy ran for president, Edward was assigned a relatively minor role,
rustling up votes in Western states that usually voted Republican. He was so
enthusiastic about his task that he rode a bronco at a Montana rodeo and
daringly took a ski jump at a winter sports tournament in Wisconsin to impress a
crowd. The episodes were evidence of a reckless streak that repeatedly
threatened his life and career.
John Kennedy’s election to the White House left vacant a Senate seat that the
family considered its property. Robert Kennedy was next in line, but chose the
post of attorney general instead (an act of nepotism that has since been
outlawed). Edward was only 28, two years shy of the minimum age for Senate
So the Kennedys installed Benjamin A. Smith 2d, a family friend, as a
seat-warmer until 1962, when a special election would be held and Edward would
have turned 30. Edward used the time to travel the world and work as an
assistant district attorney in Boston, waiving the $5,000 salary and serving
instead for $1 a year.
As James Sterling Young, the director of a Kennedy Oral History Project at the
University of Virginia, put it: “Most people grow up and go into politics. The
Kennedys go into politics and then they grow up.”
Less than a month after turning 30 in 1962, Mr. Kennedy declared his candidacy
for the remaining two years of his brother’s Senate term. He entered the race
with a tailwind of family money and political prominence. Nevertheless, Edward
J. McCormack Jr., the state’s attorney general and a nephew of John W.
McCormack, then speaker of the United States House of Representatives, also
decided to go after the seat.
It was a bitter fight, with a public rehash of the Harvard cheating episode and
with Mr. McCormack charging in a televised “Teddy-Eddie” debate that Mr. Kennedy
lacked maturity of judgment because he had “never worked for a living” and had
never held elective office. “If your name was simply Edward Moore instead of
Edward Moore Kennedy,” Mr. McCormack added, “your candidacy would be a joke.”
But the Kennedys had ushered in an era of celebrity politics, which trumped
qualifications in this case. Mr. Kennedy won the primary by a two-to-one ratio,
then went on to easy victory in November against the Republican candidate,
George Cabot Lodge, a member of an old-line Boston family that had clashed
politically with the Kennedys through the years.
When Mr. Kennedy entered the Senate in 1962, he was aware that he might be seen
as an upstart, with one brother in the White House and another in the cabinet.
He sought guidance on the very first day from one of the Senate’s most respected
elders, Richard Russell of Georgia. “You go further if you go slow,” Senator
Mr. Kennedy took things slowly, especially that first year. He did his homework,
was seen more than he was heard and was deferential to veteran legislators.
On Friday, Nov. 22, 1963, he was presiding over the Senate when a wire service
ticker in the lobby brought the news of John Kennedy’s shooting in Dallas.
Violence had claimed the second of Joseph Kennedy’s sons.
Edward was sent to Hyannis Port to break the news to his father, who had been
disabled by a stroke. He returned to Washington for the televised funeral and
burial, the first many Americans had seen of him. He and Robert had planned to
read excerpts from John’s speeches at the Arlington burial service. At the last
moment they chose not to.
A friend described him as “shattered — calm but shattered.”
A Deadly Plane Crash
Robert moved into the breach and was immediately discussed as a presidential
prospect. Edward became a more prominent family spokesman.
The next year, he was up for re-election. A heavy favorite from the start, he
was on his way to the state convention that was to renominate him when his light
plane crashed in a storm near Westfield, Mass. The pilot and a Kennedy aide were
killed, and Mr. Kennedy’s back and several ribs were broken. Senator Birch Bayh
of Indiana pulled Mr. Kennedy from the plane.
The senator was hospitalized for the next six months, suspended immobile between
a frame that resembled a waffle iron. His wife, Joan, carried on his campaign,
mainly by advising voters that he was steadily recovering. He won easily over a
little-known Republican, Howard Whitmore Jr.
During his convalescence, Mr. Kennedy devoted himself to his legislative work.
He was briefed by a parade of Harvard professors and began to develop his
positions on immigration, health care and civil rights.
“I never thought the time was lost,” he said later. “I had a lot of hours to
think about what was important and what was not and about what I wanted to do
with my life.”
He returned to the Senate in 1965, joining his brother Robert, who had won a
seat from New York. Edward promptly entered a major fight, his first. President
Lyndon B. Johnson’s Voting Rights Act was up for consideration, and Mr. Kennedy
tried to strengthen it with an amendment that would have outlawed poll taxes. He
lost by only four votes, serving lasting notice on his colleagues that he was a
rapidly maturing legislator who could prepare a good case and argue it
Mr. Kennedy was slow to oppose the war in Vietnam, but in 1968, shortly after
Robert decided to seek the presidency on an antiwar platform, Edward called the
war a “monstrous outrage.”
Robert Kennedy was shot on June 5, 1968, as he celebrated his victory in the
California primary, becoming the third of Joseph Kennedy’s sons to die a violent
death. Edward was in San Francisco at a victory celebration. He commandeered an
Air Force plane and flew to Los Angeles.
Frank Mankiewicz, Robert’s press secretary, saw Edward “leaning over the sink
with the most awful expression on his face.”
“Much more than agony, more than anguish — I don’t know if there’s a word for
it,” Mr. Mankiewicz said, recalling the encounter in “Edward M. Kennedy: A
Biography,” by Adam Clymer (William Morrow, 1999).
Robert’s death draped Edward in the Kennedy mantle long before he was ready for
it and forced him to confront his own mortality. But he summoned himself to
deliver an eloquent eulogy at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York.
“My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in
life, to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried
to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it,”
Mr. Kennedy said, his voice faltering. “Those of us who loved him and who take
him to his rest today pray that what he was to us and what he wished for others
will someday come to pass for all the world.”
A New Role as Patriarch
After the funeral, Edward Kennedy withdrew from public life and spent several
months brooding, much of it while sailing off the New England coast.
Near the end of the summer of 1968, he emerged from seclusion, the sole survivor
of Joseph Kennedy’s boys, ready to take over as family patriarch and substitute
father to John’s and Robert’s 13 children, seemingly eager to get on with what
he called his “public responsibilities.”
“There is no safety in hiding,” he declared in a speech at Holy Cross College in
Worcester, Mass., in August. “Like my brothers before me, I pick up a fallen
standard. Sustained by the memory of our priceless years together, I shall try
to carry forward that special commitment to justice, excellence and courage that
distinguished their lives.”
There was some talk of his running for president at that point. But he
ultimately endorsed Hubert H. Humphrey in his losing campaign to Richard M.
Mr. Kennedy focused more on bringing the war in Vietnam to an end and on
building his Senate career. Although only 36, he challenged Senator Russell B.
Long of Louisiana, one of the shrewdest, most powerful legislators on Capitol
Hill, for the post of deputy majority leader. Fellow liberals sided with him,
and he edged Mr. Long by five votes to become the youngest assistant majority
leader, or whip, in Senate history.
He plunged into the new job with Kennedy enthusiasm. But fate, and the Kennedy
recklessness, intervened on July 18, 1969. Mr. Kennedy had been at a party with
several women who had been aides to Robert. The party, a liquor-soaked barbecue,
was held at a rented cottage on Chappaquiddick Island, off Martha’s Vineyard. He
left around midnight with Mary Jo Kopechne, 28, took a turn away from the ferry
landing and drove the car off a narrow bridge on an isolated beach road. The car
sank in eight feet of water, but he managed to escape. Miss Kopechne, a former
campaign worker for Robert, drowned.
Mr. Kennedy did not report the accident to the authorities for almost 10 hours,
explaining later that he had been so banged about by the crash that he had
suffered a concussion, and that he had become so exhausted while trying to
rescue Miss Kopechne that he had gone immediately to bed. A week later, he
pleaded guilty to a charge of leaving the scene of an accident and was given a
two-month suspended sentence.
But that was far from the end of the incident. Questions lingered in the minds
of the Massachusetts authorities and of the general public. Why was the car on
an isolated road? Had he been drinking? (Mr. Kennedy testified at an inquest
that he had had two drinks.) What sort of relationship did Mr. Kennedy and Miss
Kopechne have? Could she have been saved if he had sought help immediately? Why
did the senator tell his political advisers about the accident before reporting
it to the police?
The controversy became so intense that Mr. Kennedy went on television to ask
Massachusetts voters whether he should resign from office. He conceded that his
actions after the crash had been “indefensible.” But he steadfastly denied any
His constituents sent word that he should remain in the Senate. And little more
than a year later, he easily won re-election to a second full term, again
defeating a little-known Republican, Josiah A. Spaulding, by a three-to-two
ratio. But his heart did not seem to be in his work any longer. He was sometimes
absent from Senate sessions and neglected his whip duties. Senator Byrd, of West
Virginia, took the job away from him by putting together a coalition of Southern
and border-state Democrats to vote him out.
That loss shook Mr. Kennedy out of his lethargy. He rededicated himself to his
role as a legislator. “It hurts like hell to lose,” he said, “but now I can get
around the country more. And it frees me to spend more time on issues I’m
interested in.” Many years later, he became friends with Mr. Byrd and told him
the defeat had been the best thing that could have happened in his Senate
Turmoil at Home
In the next decade, Mr. Kennedy expanded on his national reputation, first
pushing to end the war in Vietnam, then concentrating on his favorite
legislative issues, especially civil rights, health, taxes, criminal laws and
deregulation of the airline and trucking industries. He traveled the country,
making speeches that kept him in the public eye.
But when he was mentioned as a possible candidate for president in 1972, he
demurred; and when the Democratic nominee, George S. McGovern, offered him the
vice-presidential nomination, Mr. Kennedy again said no, not wanting to face the
inevitable Chappaquiddick questions.
In 1973, his son Edward M. Kennedy Jr., then 12, developed a bone cancer that
cost him a leg. The next year, Mr. Kennedy took himself out of the 1976 race.
Instead, Mr. Kennedy easily won a third full term in the Senate, and Jimmy
Carter, a former one-term governor of Georgia, moved into the White House.
In early 1978, Mr. Kennedy’s wife, Joan, moved out of their sprawling
contemporary house overlooking the Potomac River near McLean, Va., a Washington
suburb. She took up residence in an apartment of her own in Boston, saying she
wanted to “explore options other than being a housewife and mother.” But she
also acknowledged a problem with alcohol, and conceded that she was increasingly
uncomfortable with the pressure-cooker life that went with membership in the
Kennedy clan. She began studying music and enrolled in a program for alcoholics.
The separation posed not only personal but also political problems for the
senator. After Mrs. Kennedy left for Boston, there were rumors that linked the
senator with other women. He maintained that he still loved his wife and
indicated that the main reason for the separation was Mrs. Kennedy’s desire to
work out her alcohol problem. She subsequently campaigned for him in the 1980
race, but there was never any real reconciliation, and they eventually entered
Although Mr. Kennedy supported Mr. Carter in 1976, by late 1978 he was
disenchanted. Polls indicated that the senator was becoming popular while the
president was losing support. In December, at a midterm Democratic convention in
Memphis, Mr. Kennedy could hold back no longer. He gave a thundering speech
that, in retrospect, was the opening shot in the 1980 campaign.
“Sometimes a party must sail against the wind,” he declared, referring to Mr.
Carter’s economic belt-tightening and political caution. “We cannot heed the
call of those who say it is time to furl the sail. The party that tore itself
apart over Vietnam in the 1960s cannot afford to tear itself apart today over
budget cuts in basic social programs.”
Mr. Kennedy did not then declare his candidacy. But draft-Kennedy groups began
to form in early 1979, and some Democrats up for re-election in 1980 began to
cast about for coattails that were longer than Mr. Carter’s.
After consulting advisers and family members over the summer of 1979, Mr.
Kennedy began speaking openly of challenging the president, and on Nov. 7, 1979,
he announced officially that he would run. “Our leaders have resigned themselves
to defeat,” he said.
The campaign was a disaster, badly organized and appearing to lack a political
or policy premise. His speeches were clumsy, and his delivery was frequently
stumbling and bombastic. And in the background, Chappaquiddick always loomed. He
won the New York and California primaries, but the victories were too little and
came too late to unseat Mr. Carter. At the party’s nominating convention in New
York, however, he stole the show with his “dream shall never die” speech.
With the approach of the 1984 election, there was the inevitable speculation
that Mr. Kennedy, who had easily won re-election to the Senate in 1982, would
again seek the presidency. He prepared and planned a campaign. But in the end he
chose not to run, saying he wanted to spare his family a repeat of the ordeal
they went through in 1980. Skeptics said he also knew he could not fight the
undertow of Chappaquiddick.
A Full-On Senate Focus
Freed at last of the expectation that he should and would seek the White House,
Mr. Kennedy devoted himself fully to his day job in the Senate. He led the fight
for the 18-year-old vote, the abolition of the draft, deregulation of the
airline and trucking industries, and the post-Watergate campaign finance
legislation. He was deeply involved in renewals of the Voting Rights Act and the
Fair Housing law of 1968. He helped establish the Occupational Safety and Health
Administration. He built federal support for community health care centers,
increased cancer research financing and helped create the Meals on Wheels
program. He was a major proponent of a health and nutrition program for pregnant
women and infants.
When Republicans took over the Senate in 1981, Mr. Kennedy requested the ranking
minority position on the Labor and Public Welfare Committee, asserting that the
issues before the labor and welfare panel would be more important during the
In the years after his failed White House bid, Mr. Kennedy also established
himself as someone who made “lawmaker” mean more than a word used in headlines
to describe any member of Congress. Though his personal life was a mess until
his remarriage in the early 1990s, he never failed to show up prepared for a
committee hearing or a floor debate.
His most notable focus was civil rights, “still the unfinished business of
America,” he often said. In 1982, he led a successful fight to defeat the Reagan
administration’s effort to weaken the Voting Rights Act.
In one of those bipartisan alliances that were hallmarks of his legislative
successes, Mr. Kennedy worked with Senator Bob Dole, Republican of Kansas, to
secure passage of the voting rights measure, and Mr. Dole got most of the
Perhaps his greatest success on civil rights came in 1990 with passage of the
Americans with Disabilities Act, which required employers and public facilities
to make “reasonable accommodation” for the disabled. When the law was finally
passed, Mr. Kennedy and others told how their views on the bill had been shaped
by having relatives with disabilities. Mr. Kennedy cited his mentally disabled
sister, Rosemary, and his son who had lost a leg to cancer.
Mr. Kennedy was one of Bill and Hillary Clinton’s strongest allies in their
failed 1994 effort to enact national health insurance, a measure the senator had
been pushing, in one form or another, since 1969.
But he kept pushing incremental reforms, and in 1997, teaming with Senator
Hatch, Mr. Kennedy helped enact a landmark health care program for children in
low-income families, a program now known as the State Children’s Health
Insurance Program, or S-Chip.
He led efforts to increase aid for higher education and win passage of Mr.
Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act. He pushed for increases in the federal minimum
wage. He helped win enactment of the Medicare prescription drug benefit, one of
the largest expansions of government health aid ever.
He was a forceful and successful opponent of the confirmation of Robert H. Bork
to the Supreme Court. In a speech delivered within minutes of President Reagan’s
nomination of Mr. Bork in 1987, Mr. Kennedy made an attack that even friendly
commentators called demagogic. Mr. Bork’s “extremist view of the Constitution,”
he said, meant that “Robert Bork’s America is a land in which women would be
forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters,
rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, and
schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be
censored at the whim of government, and the doors of the federal courts would be
shut on the fingers of millions of Americans.”
Some of Mr. Kennedy’s success as a legislator can be traced to the quality and
loyalty of his staff, considered by his colleagues and outsiders alike to be the
best on Capitol Hill.
“He has one of the most distinguished alumni associations of any U.S. senator,”
said Ross K. Baker, a political scientist at Rutgers University who has worked
in Congress. “To have served in even a minor capacity in the Kennedy office or
on one of his committees is a major entry in anyone’s résumé.”
Those who have worked for Mr. Kennedy include Stephen G. Breyer, appointed to
the Supreme Court by President Clinton; Gregory B. Craig, now the White House
counsel; and Kenneth R. Feinberg, the Obama administration’s top official for
Mr. Kennedy “deserves recognition not just as the leading senator of his time,
but as one of the greats in its history, wise in the workings of this singular
institution, especially its demand to be more than partisan to accomplish much,”
Mr. Clymer wrote in his biography.
“The deaths and tragedies around him would have led others to withdraw. He never
quits, but sails against the wind.”
Mr. Kennedy is survived by his wife, known as Vicki; two sons, Edward M. Kennedy
Jr. of Branford, Conn., and United States Representative Patrick J. Kennedy of
Rhode Island; a daughter, Kara Kennedy Allen, of Bethesda, Md.; two
stepchildren, Curran Raclin and Caroline Raclin, and four grandchildren. His
former wife, Joan Kennedy, lives in Boston.
Mr. Kennedy is also survived by a sister, Jean Kennedy Smith, of New York. On
Aug. 11, his sister Eunice Kennedy Shriver of Potomac, Md., died at age 88.
Another sister, Patricia Lawford Kennedy, died in 2006. His sister Rosemary died
in 2005, and his sister Kathleen died in a plane crash in 1948.
Their little brother Teddy was the youngest, the little bear whom everyone
cuddled, whom no one took seriously and from whom little was expected. He
reluctantly and at times awkwardly carried the Kennedy standard, with all it
implied and all it required. And yet, some scholars contend, he may have proved
himself the most worthy.
“He was a quintessential Kennedy, in the sense that he had all the warts as well
as all the charisma and a lot of the strengths,” said Norman J. Ornstein, a
political scientist at the American Enterprise Institute. “If his father, Joe,
had surveyed, from an early age up to the time of his death, all of his
children, his sons in particular, and asked to rank them on talents,
effectiveness, likelihood to have an impact on the world, Ted would have been a
very poor fourth. Joe, John, Bobby ... Ted.
“He was the survivor,” Mr. Ornstein continued. “He was not a shining star that
burned brightly and faded away. He had a long, steady glow. When you survey the
impact of the Kennedys on American life and politics and policy, he will end up
by far being the most significant.”
Edward Kennedy, Senate
Stalwart, Dies, NYT, 27.8.2009,
A Torch Extinguished: Ted Kennedy Dead at 77
August 27, 2009
Filed at 1:41 a.m. ET
The New York Times
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
HYANNIS PORT, Mass. (AP) -- The greatest heights eluded Ted Kennedy over a
lifetime of achievement and pain. No presidency. No universal health care, chief
among his causes.
Instead, Kennedy built his Washington monument stone by stone, his imprint
distinct on the Senate's most important works over nearly half a century. He
toiled across the Potomac River from the graveyard of his fallen brothers.
The last of the Kennedys who fascinated the nation with their ambition, style,
idealism, tragedies -- and sometimes sheer recklessness -- Edward Moore Kennedy
died late Tuesday night at 77. A black shroud and vase of white roses sat
Wednesday on his Senate desk, which John Kennedy had used before him.
So dropped the final curtain on ''Camelot,'' the already distant era of the
The Massachusetts senator's extended political family of fellow Democrats and
rival Republicans, steeled for his death since his brain-tumor diagnosis a year
ago yet still jarred by it, joined in mourning. Kennedy was the Senate's
dominant liberal and one of its legendary dealmakers.
Just last year he jumped into a fractious Democratic presidential nomination
fight to side with Barack Obama, giving the Illinois senator a boost that had
the air of a family anointment.
''For his family, he was a guardian,'' Obama said Wednesday. ''For America, he
was a defender of a dream.''
The president, vacationing in Martha's Vineyard, was awakened after 2 a.m. and
told of Kennedy's death. He spoke soon after with the senator's widow, Victoria,
and ordered flags flown at half-staff on all federal buildings.
Kennedy will be buried Saturday at Arlington National Cemetery after a funeral
Mass in Boston, where Obama is to deliver a eulogy.
Kennedy will lie in repose at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and
Museum in Boston before that.
Also buried at Arlington, the military cemetery overlooking the capital city,
are John and Robert Kennedy; John Kennedy's wife, Jacqueline; their baby son,
Patrick, who died after two days, and their stillborn child.
To Americans and much of the world, Kennedy was best known as the last surviving
son of the nation's most glamorous political family. Of nine children born to
Joseph and Rose Kennedy, Jean Kennedy Smith is the only one alive.
To senators of both parties, he was one of their own.
''Even when you expect it, even when you know it's coming, in this case it hurts
a great deal,'' said Democrat Patrick Leahy of Vermont.
Politicians also calculated the consequences for Obama's push for expanded
health coverage. For several months, at least, Kennedy's death will deprive the
Democrats of a vote that could prove crucial for his signature cause of health
His illness had sidelined him from an intense debate that would have found him
at the core any other time. Conservative Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, his
improbable Republican partner on children's health insurance, volunteerism,
student aid and more, said the Senate probably would have had a health care deal
by now if Kennedy had been healthy enough to work with him.
''Iconic, larger than life,'' Hatch said of his friend. ''We were like fighting
He was the last of the famous Kennedy brothers: John the assassinated president,
Robert the assassinated senator and presidential candidate, Joseph the aviator
killed in action in World War II when Ted was 12.
He lost his sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, less than two weeks ago, saw the
bright promise of nephew John F. Kennedy Jr. end in a plane crash in 1999 and
struggled with excesses of his own until he became a settled elder statesman.
Like Obama, Kennedy was a master orator. But the words that live for the ages
seem to be those he uttered in tragedy or defeat.
Older Americans remember his eulogy of Robert Kennedy, when he asked history not
to idealize his brother but remember him ''simply as a good and decent man who
saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and
tried to stop it.''
Remembered, too, is his speech conceding the 1980 Democratic presidential
nomination to the incumbent Jimmy Carter. ''For all those whose cares have been
our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the
dream shall never die,'' he said.
By then, his hopes of reaching the White House had been damaged by his behavior
a decade earlier in the scandal known as Chappaquiddick.
On the night of July 18, 1969, Kennedy drove his car off a bridge and into a
pond on Chappaquiddick Island, on Martha's Vineyard, and swam to safety while
companion Mary Jo Kopechne drowned in the car. He pleaded guilty to leaving the
scene of an accident; a judge said his actions probably contributed to the young
woman's death. He received a suspended sentence and probation.
Kennedy's legislative legacy includes health insurance for children of the
working poor, the landmark 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, family leave
and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. He was also key to
passage of the No Child Left Behind Education law and a Medicare drug benefit
for the elderly, both championed by Republican President George W. Bush.
In the Senate, Republicans respected and often befriended him. But his essential
liberalism marked him as a lightning rod, too. He proved a handy fundraising
foil motivating Republicans to open their wallets to fight anything he stood
In 1980, Kennedy's task of dislodging a president of his own party was
compounded by his fumbling answer to a question posed by CBS' Roger Mudd: Why do
you want to be president?
''Well, I'm, uh, were I to, to make the, the announcement, to run, the reasons
that I would run is because I have a great belief in this country,'' he began.
It's a question that all savvy politicians ever since make sure won't catch them
In his later years, Kennedy cut a barrel-chested profile, with a swath of white
hair, a booming voice and a thick, widely imitated Boston accent. He coupled
fist-pumping floor speeches with charm and formidable negotiating skills.
''I think that once he realized he was never going to be president -- that that
was not the legacy he had to follow -- he really worked at becoming the best
senator he possibly could,'' Leahy said. ''And he did.''
He was first elected to the Senate in 1962, taking the seat that his brother
John had occupied before winning the White House, and he served longer than all
but two senators in history.
Kennedy was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor in May 2008 and underwent
surgery and a grueling regimen of radiation and chemotherapy.
He made a surprise return to the Capitol last summer to cast a decisive vote for
the Democrats on Medicare. He made sure he was there again in January to see his
former Senate colleague sworn in as president but suffered a seizure at a
celebratory luncheon afterward.
His survivors include a daughter, Kara Kennedy Allen; two sons, Edward Jr. and
Patrick, a congressman from Rhode Island, and two stepchildren, Caroline and
Edward Jr. lost a leg to bone cancer in 1973 at age 12. Kara had a cancerous
tumor removed from her lung in 2003. In 1988, Patrick had a non-cancerous tumor
pressing on his spine removed. He also has struggled with depression and
addiction and recently spent time at an addiction treatment center.
Woodward reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Laurie Kellman in
Washington, Philip Elliott in Oak Bluffs, Mass., and Bob Salsberg contributed to
On the Net:
Kennedy's office: http://kennedy.senate.gov
A Torch Extinguished:
Ted Kennedy Dead at 77, NYT, 27.8.2009,
Obama Wins Crucial Senate Vote on F-22
July 22, 2009
The New York Times
By CHRISTOPHER DREW
WASHINGTON — With some of his political capital on the line, President Obama
won a crucial victory on Tuesday when the Senate voted to strip out $1.75
billion in financing for seven more F-22 jet fighters from a military
The president had repeatedly threatened to veto the $679.8 billion bill if it
included any money for the planes. The 58-to-40 vote clearly gives the Obama
administration more leeway to overhaul military spending.
The F-22, the world’s most advanced fighter, has been a flashpoint in a battle
over the administration’s push to shift more of the Pentagon’s resources away
from conventional warfare projects, like the F-22, to provide more money for
Senate aides said that some Democrats who otherwise might have voted for more
planes sided with the president out of concern that a loss could have hurt him
in the fight for health care reform.
“The president really needed to win this vote,” Senator Carl Levin, a Democrat
from Michigan who led the fight to cut financing for the plane, said after the
Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor for the F-22, has estimated that work on
the plane provides 25,000 jobs and indirectly supports about 70,000 others. But
Robert M. Gates, the defense secretary, has said that the Pentagon needs to
accelerate a new plane, the F-35, and that doing so would offset the job losses.
About 1,000 suppliers in 44 states provide the jobs, which will gradually be
phased out as some of the 187 F-22s that have been ordered are completed.
About two-thirds of the jobs are in California, Texas, Georgia, Washington and
Connecticut. Several large unions who supported Mr. Obama in his campaign for
the presidency, back building more planes.
All four senators from California and Washington are Democrats, and they all
voted in favor of preserving the money for more planes.
The senators from Connecticut — Senator Christopher J. Dodd, a Democrat, and
Senator Joseph Lieberman, a former Democrat who is now an independent — also
voted to keep the money in the budget, as did the four Republican senators from
Georgia and Texas.
Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, the Democratic presidential nominee in
2004, had long supported the plane, partly because of jobs in Massachusetts, but
he voted on Tuesday to strip out the money. Senator Edward M. Kennedy of
Massachusetts, another senior Democrat who also had supported the plane, is
battling brain cancer and did not vote Tuesday.
Immediately after the vote, Mr. Obama praised the Senate’s decision, saying that
any money spent on the fighter was an “inexcusable waste” — and that by
following his lead the Senate had demonstrated a commitment to changing
Washington’s ingrained habits.
He also received crucial support from his Republican rival in last year’s
presidential election, Senator John McCain of Arizona, who co-sponsored an
amendment with Mr. Levin to remove the $1.75 billion from the bill.
Mr. McCain told reporters after the vote that the result was “definitely
attributable” to the strong push by the president and Mr. Gates.
Mr. McCain added that the vote “really means there’s a chance of us changing the
way we do business in Washington,” particularly in terms of Pentagon
Mr. Levin said that Mr. Gates and the White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel,
made phone calls to influential senators to rally support.
“This was a very significant decision that the Senate made after a very, very
tough battle,” Mr. Levin said.
Despite Mr. Obama’s veto threat, the Armed Services Committee had set the stage
for Tuesday’s decision by voting 13 to 11 in late June to shift the $1.75
billion from other parts of the Pentagon’s budget for 2010 to add the seven
planes to the 187 that have been built or ordered.
The House has also voted to keep the plane alive by authorizing $369 million to
buy advanced parts for 12 more F-22s. Ultimately, a conference committee will
decide the next step.
And even though Tuesday’s vote represented a test of strength for the White
House, the issue could potentially resurface in the Senate. Senator Daniel
Inouye, a Democrat from Hawaii and the chairman of the Senate Appropriations
Committee, was among the Democrats who voted on Tuesday to preserve the money
for the planes, and his panel will be putting together a separate military
appropriations bill soon.
Senator Saxby Chambliss, a Republican from Georgia who led the fight to save the
plane, said after the vote that he was disappointed. But he added that he hoped
a law banning exports of the plane might be changed to allow it to be sold to
allies like Japan. Lockheed assembles the planes in Marietta, Ga.
Still, military analysts said supporters had made much more progress in saving
the F-22 than most experts had expected when Mr. Gates announced plans in April
to cancel it and other major weapons systems.
Critics have long portrayed the F-22 as a cold war relic. The plane was designed
in the late 1980s and can perform tactical operations at higher altitudes than
other fighters. It can cruise at supersonic speeds without using telltale
afterburners, and it has a stealthy skin that scatters radar detection signals.
Proponents see it as a form of insurance against possible wars with countries
But the F-22 has never been used in war, and the Pentagon’s focus has shifted to
simpler weapons needed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Air Force leaders recently agreed that they could make do with the F-22s already
built or ordered, instead of the 381 that the service had sought.
Mr. Gates has said a new fighter, the F-35, is better designed to attack ground
targets. The plane will be used by the Navy, the Marine Corps and the Air Force,
and the Pentagon plans to buy more than 2,400 of them.
Obama Wins Crucial
Senate Vote on F-22, NYT, 22.7.2009,
Obama Implores Senate to Pass Climate Bill
June 27, 2009
Filed at 6:47 a.m. ET
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
The New York Times
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Hours after the House passed landmark
legislation meant to curb greenhouse gas emissions and create an
energy-efficient economy, President Barack Obama on Saturday urged senators to
show courage and follow suit.
The sharply debated bill's fate is unclear in the Senate, and Obama used his
weekly radio and Internet address to ratchet up pressure on the 100-seat
''My call to every senator, as well as to every American, is this,'' he said.
''We cannot be afraid of the future. And we must not be prisoners of the past.
Don't believe the misinformation out there that suggests there is somehow a
contradiction between investing in clean energy and economic growth.''
Obama said the bill would create jobs, make renewable energy profitable and
decrease America's dependence on foreign oil.
''It will spur the development of low-carbon sources of energy -- everything
from wind, solar and geothermal power to safer nuclear energy and cleaner
coal,'' he said.
House Democratic leaders said the bill helped accomplish one of Obama's campaign
promises and would make the U.S. a leader in international efforts to address
climate change when negotiations take place in Copenhagen later this year.
''We passed transformational legislation, which will take us into the future,''
said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., after the 219-212 vote.
''For some it was a very difficult vote because the entrenched agents of the
status quo were out there full force, jamming the lines in their districts and
here, and they withstood that,'' Pelosi said.
The vote marked the first time either house of Congress has passed legislation
to curb global warming gases. The legislation, totaling about 1,200 pages, would
require the U.S. to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions by
17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020 and by 83 percent by mid-century.
Success will be tougher in the Senate. Majority Leader Harry Reid says he wants
to take up the legislation by the fall. Sixty 60 votes will be needed to
overcome any Republican filibuster.
The ''razor-thin vote in the House spells doom in the Senate,'' said Sen. James
Inhofe, R-Okla., the top Republican on the Senate's environment panel.
Reid, D-Nev., was more optimistic.
''The bill is not perfect, but it is a good product for the Senate,'' Reid said.
''Working with the president and his team, I am hopeful that the Senate will be
able to debate and pass bipartisan and comprehensive clean energy and climate
legislation this fall.''
Supporters and opponents agreed that the legislation would lead to higher energy
costs. But they disagreed on the impact on consumers.
Democrats pointed to two reports -- one from the nonpartisan Congressional
Budget Office and the other from the Environmental Protection Agency -- that
suggested average increases would be limited after tax credits and rebates were
taken into account. The CBO estimated the bill would cost an average household
$175 a year, the EPA $80 to $110 a year. But Republicans and industry groups say
the real figure would much higher.
The White House and congressional Democrats argued the bill would create
millions of green jobs as the nation shifts to greater reliance on renewable
energy sources such as wind and solar and development of more fuel-efficient
vehicles -- and away from use of fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal.
It will ''make our nation the world leader on clean energy jobs and
technology,'' said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., who negotiated deals with dozens
of lawmakers in recent weeks to broaden the bill's support.
Republicans saw it differently.
This ''amounts to the largest tax increase in American history under the guise
of climate change,'' declared Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind.
In the Republicans' weekly radio and Internet address, House GOP leader John
Boehner of Ohio said, ''By imposing a tax on every American who drives a car or
flips on a light switch, this plan will drive up the prices for food, gasoline
But Obama said the measure would cost the average American about the price of a
postage stamp per day.
''It is paid for by the polluters who currently emit dangerous carbon
emissions,'' the president said. ''It provides assistance to businesses and
families as they make the gradual transition to clean energy technologies.''
In California alone, Obama said, 3,000 people will be employed to build a new
solar plant that will create 1,000 permanent jobs.
Associated Press writers Dina Cappiello and H. Josef Hebert contributed to this
On the Net: www.whitehouse.gov
Obama Implores Senate
to Pass Climate Bill, NYT, 28.6.2009,
Many in Congress
Hold Stakes in Health Industry
June 14, 2009
The New York Times
By JACKIE CALMES
WASHINGTON — As President Obama and Congress intensify the push to overhaul
health care in the coming week, the political and economic force of that
industry is well represented in the financial holdings of many lawmakers and
others with a say on the legislation, according to new disclosure forms.
The personal financial reports, due late last week from members of Congress,
show that many lawmakers hold investments in insurance, pharmaceutical and
prescription-benefit companies and in hospital interests, all of which would be
affected by the administration’s overhaul of health care.
The lawmakers’ stakes are impossible to quantify because the reports ask for
ranges of value for each asset, and because many officials’ holdings are in
stock index and mutual funds. The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada,
for example, has interests in a stock index fund for the health care sector of
more than $50,000 and up to $100,000.
Representative Dave Camp of Michigan, the senior Republican on the Ways and
Means Committee, one of three panels in the House with jurisdiction over health
care, reported at least tens of thousands of dollars in health-related
interests, including the medical technology giant Medtronic, the drug maker
Wyeth and the insurance company Aetna.
In Congress, as members and aides of the three House committees continue to meet
privately, the Senate health committee will begin publicly drafting and voting
on its bill as soon as Tuesday. Later in the week, the Democratic chairman and
senior Republican of the Senate Finance Committee, Max Baucus of Montana and
Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, are expected to unveil a bipartisan plan.
Neither Mr. Baucus, from a ranching family, nor Mr. Grassley, a farmer, have
major health-related holdings, their reports show.
Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, chairman of the health committee,
has much of his wealth in blind trusts.
Senator Christopher J. Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut, leads the health committee
in consultation with Mr. Kennedy. Mr. Dodd’s wife, Jackie Clegg Dodd, is a
member of the board and a shareholder in several health-related companies,
including Cardiome Pharma, Javelin Pharmaceuticals and Brookdale Senior Living.
Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, a Republican on the health committee, is an
obstetrician with income from his clinic in Muskogee. The wife of Representative
Wally Herger of California, the senior Republican on the health subcommittee of
the Ways and Means panel, works for Catholic Healthcare West, while the wife of
Representative Joe L. Barton of Texas, the top Republican on the House Energy
and Commerce Committee, works for JPS Health Network.
Mr. Obama’s chief adviser on health care, Nancy-Ann DeParle, also filed
disclosure forms with the White House. Ms. DeParle, who served in the Clinton
administration, went on to lucrative positions on the boards of health companies
and as director of a private-equity firm with health investments, earning more
than $2 million from 2008 to this year, according to forms signed on May 13.
The companies included Medco Health Solutions, a pharmacy benefits manager;
Boston Scientific, a device maker; Cerner, a provider of medical information
technology; and DaVita, an operator of dialysis services.
A handwritten note on the forms, dated June 4, says that “all conflicting assets
have been divested.” Ms. DeParle is the wife of a reporter for The New York
Times, Jason DeParle.
Janie Lorber, Ashley Southall and Jack Styczynski contributed reporting.
Many in Congress Hold
Stakes in Health Industry, NYT, 13.6.2009,
Abuse Photos Part of Agreement on Military Spending
June 12, 2009
The New York Times
By CARL HULSE and DAVID M. HERSZENHORN
WASHINGTON — Congressional negotiators reached tentative agreement on
Thursday on a $105.9 billion spending measure that would provide money for
military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan through September but would drop a
ban on the release of photographs showing abuse of foreign prisoners held by
United States forces.
The deal was concluded after Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, went
to the Capitol to assure Senate Democrats that President Obama would use all
administrative and legal means to prevent the photos’ release. At the same time,
a federal court issued a ruling effectively ensuring that the photos would not
be released for months, if ever.
Mr. Obama followed up with a letter, promising to work with Congress if
legislation was necessary to keep the photos from being publicized but urging
lawmakers not to let the dispute interfere with freeing up the money for the
“Given the singular importance of providing funding for our troops, it is
essential that Congress pass the supplemental appropriations bill,” Mr. Obama
wrote in the letter, which was read publicly at the negotiating session by
Senator Daniel K. Inouye, Democrat of Hawaii and the Appropriations Committee
The photo restriction, approved by the Senate, was viewed by some Democratic
House members as an end run around federal freedom of information laws. It was
dropped to appease Democrats already uneasy about approving nearly $80 billion
for combat and more money for aid to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Democrats said they could not secure enough votes to pass the bill if the photo
ban were included. But Republicans threatened to try to block the measure if the
ban were cut out, saying the photos could incite terrorists and endanger
“What good are we to our soldiers if we can’t protect them in a time like this?”
asked Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina. “Every photo is a
bullet for our enemy.”
He and his allies, including Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of
Connecticut, said Mr. Obama should take executive action to block the release of
the photos by ordering them classified.
The administration’s cause was bolstered when a federal appeals court in New
York announced last Thursday that it had granted a request by the Obama
administration and recalled its April 27 order to release the photographs,
permitting the administration to take the case to the Supreme Court.
In effect, the decision by a three-judge panel of the United States Court of
Appeals for the Second Circuit means it will be months before there is any
chance that the Defense Department could be ordered to release the photographs.
Amrit Singh, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, which is seeking
the release of the photographs as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit,
said she was disappointed by the court’s ruling. “It will only serve to delay
further the release of these photographs, which are critical for informing the
ongoing public debate about the treatment of prisoners,” she said.
Ms. Singh said the photos portrayed abuse in Afghanistan and Iraq in places
other than Abu Ghraib prison, the Iraq jail made infamous in 2004 by photographs
of abuse there, and would therefore show that abuse was “not aberrational but
The photo issue is just one of several that are likely to generate opposition to
the bill, which would also set aside $7.7 billion to prepare for a flu pandemic,
provide $1 billion to encourage consumers to trade in older cars for more
fuel-efficient models and allow detainees at the Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, center to
be brought to the United States for trial.
The measure also clears the way for a $100 billion line of credit for the
International Monetary Fund, which was the initial source of trouble for the
spending bill. Republicans strongly supported the spending legislation when it
was considered this year, but have threatened to withhold their support over the
foreign aid, saying some of the money could go to unfriendly governments.
With Republicans abandoning the measure, Democrats need as many votes as they
can win over and the ban on releasing the photos emerged as a major obstacle. In
the meeting of House and Senate negotiators late Thursday afternoon, efforts to
reinstate the ban were beaten back.
Some lawmakers also questioned including $1 billion to encourage owners of older
cars to trade them in for more fuel-efficient models. That program, known as
Cash for Clunkers, is nominally aimed at helping the environment and reducing
carbon emissions, but many lawmakers who pushed for it were primarily interested
in lifting vehicle sales to prop up the struggling auto industry.
The provision had not originally been included by either the House or Senate.
And critics, mainly Republicans but also some Democrats, charged that it was a
brazen giveaway of tax dollars to bankrupt auto companies that had already
received billions in federal bailout assistance. But an effort to eliminate the
money was defeated.
The bill also includes $8 million to pay for a new commission to examine the
causes of the financial and economic crisis.
Scott Shane contributed reporting.
Abuse Photos Part of
Agreement on Military Spending, NYT, 12.6.2009,
Senate Votes to Impose U.S. Regulation on Tobacco
June 12, 2009
The New York Times
By DUFF WILSON
WASHINGTON — The Senate voted overwhelmingly Thursday to impose federal
regulation on cigarettes and other forms of tobacco, passing a landmark bill to
empower the Food and Drug Administration to control products that eventually
kill half their regular users.
The legislation, with only minor differences from a version the House passed in
April by a nearly 3-to-1 ratio. A White House spokesman, Reid H. Cherlin, said
on Thursday that President Obama, who was a co-sponsor of the bill when he was
in the Senate, would sign the legislation when it reached his desk.
An estimated one in five people in this country smoke, and more than 400,000 of
them die each year from smoking-related disease. But for decades, even after the
surgeon general’s 1964 report declaring cigarettes a health hazard,
Congressional efforts to regulate tobacco had met stiff opposition from
lawmakers from tobacco-growing states and their political allies.
And when the F.D.A. tried on its own to start regulating nicotine as a drug, the
Supreme Court struck down that effort in 2000, saying the agency could not take
such a step without Congressional authority. Cigarettes remained less regulated
than cosmetics or pet food.
But with broad bipartisan support in both the Senate and House, and a campaign
pledge by Barack Obama to sign such legislation if he became president, the
anti-tobacco forces came into alignment.
“This long-overdue grant of authority to F.D.A. to regulate tobacco products
means that the agency can finally take the actions needed to protect our people
from the most deadly of all consumer products,” Edward M. Kennedy, the
Massachusetts Democrat who was chief sponsor of the legislation in the Senate,
said in a statement from home, where he is receiving treatment for a brain
The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, as it is called, would
empower the F.D.A. to set standards for cigarettes, regulating chemicals in
cigarette smoke and outlawing most tobacco flavorings. It could also study
whether to also ban menthol. Flavorings are considered a lure to first-time
smokers, especially the young. Menthol is used by three-quarters of black
smokers, who also have a disproportionate share of lung cancer.
The law would also further restrict marketing and advertising of tobacco
products. Colorful advertising and store displays will be replaced by
black-and-white-only text as part of restrictions aimed at reducing the appeal
to youth to try smoking. Cigarette makers will be required to stop using terms
like “light” and “low tar” by next year and to place large and graphic health
warnings on their packages by 2012.
But while the F.D.A. could mandate a reduced level of nicotine, an addictive
chemical, the law expressly says the agency cannot ban it. Public health
advocates say outlawing nicotine would force addicts would turn to a black
market or other sources.
Still, health advocates predict that F.D.A. product standards could eventually
reduce some of the 60 carcinogens and 4,000 toxins in cigarette smoke, or make
them taste so bad they deter users.
“This is a bill not for a one-year or two-year splash, but for a long-term
impact,” said Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids,
a Washington advocacy group that took a lead in coordinating support for the
legislation. The Altria Group, the parent company of Philip Morris, whose
Marlboro brand helps make it the nation’s leading tobacco seller, endorsed the
F.D.A. legislation and negotiated some of its crucial provisions with Congress.
The Congressional Budget Office had estimated that the F.D.A. legislation would
reduce youth smoking by 11 percent and adult smoking by 2 percent over the next
decade beyond the declines that had already resulted from public education,
higher taxes and smoke-free indoor space laws.
At least partly because of such other efforts, cigarette smoking has declined
measurably over the last decade: in 2005, about 21 percent of adults in the
United States were smokers, compared with about 25 percent in 1995.
Reynolds America and Lorillard, the second- and third-largest companies, opposed
the legislation and criticized it as being intended to protect Philip Morris’s
market dominance by restricting advertising and new products.
But Brendan McCormick, a spokesman for Philip Morris’s parent, Altria, argued
that previous marketing restrictions, like the television advertising ban
imposed in 1971, had not frozen companies’ market shares. He said his company
supported “federal regulation and the benefits it will bring to tobacco
consumers and the greater predictability and stability we think it will bring to
the tobacco industry.”
There are only minor differences between the Senate bill and the one the House
passed in April — the main one involving the size of the graphic warnings on
cigarette packs, which would be bigger under the Senate version.
Henry A. Waxman, the California Democratic who was chief sponsor of the House
bill, said in an interview that he hoped the House could simply pass the Senate
version of the bill next week to send quickly to the President.
“I would prefer we do that,” Mr. Waxman said, adding that it was still possible
to call a conference committee instead to negotiate the minor differences. But
that process, he said, could delay action and risk another Senate filibuster of
the type that was broken Monday in a crucial vote of 61 Senators, two more than
needed to proceed to final action. That filibuster had been mounted by Richard
M. Burr, Republican of North Carolina, the nation’s leading tobacco-growing
state. Only one Democrat — Kay Hagan, also of North Carolina — had voted to
uphold the filibuster.
On Tuesday, the Senate voted 60 to 36 against a substitute bill by Mr. Burr and
Ms. Hagan to promote smokeless and other “reduced risk” products rather than
strictly regulate all new tobacco products.
Under the law, new products could be approved only if makers could demonstrate
health benefits to society as a whole — meaning the products would not induce
too many nonsmokers or would-be quitters to try them, rather than abstaining.
Another crucial procedural vote Wednesday passed 67-30, cutting off amendments.
And the final action Thursday came on a 79 to 17 vote, with Ms. Hagan of North
Carolina the only Democrat voting against it.The voting reflected a political
shift from years past, when tobacco state senators could count on support from
other Southern conservatives.
John Cornyn of Texas, who is chairman of the Senate Republican campaign
committee, co-sponsored the tobacco bill and voted against the filibuster. “This
is a rarity these days in Washington,” Mr. Cornyn said in debate Tuesday. “It is
actually a bipartisan bill.”
Michael B. Enzi of Wyoming, the ranking Republican on the Senate health
committee, also supported the tobacco legislation. “Smoking killed my dad and my
mom and my mother-in-law, and second-hand smoking conclusively affected me,” he
said during the Senate debate. “So this isn’t political. This is about the
health of all Americans.”
Although tobacco companies have also lost a series of recent rulings in court,
tobacco industry financial analysts say federal regulation, higher taxes and
court verdicts are all manageable because the companies, with a market of
addicted customers, can raise prices to remain profitable.
A Goldman Sachs analyst, Judy Hong, wrote in a report to investors last week,
“Some of the new remedies may be unpleasant but not financially disabling to the
Under the law, tobacco regulation would be introduced in stages. First, the
F.D.A. would hire a director and staff and find space for a new Tobacco Center,
to be financed by industry fees. The projected budget is $85 million the first
year, $450 million by the third year and more than $700 million in 10 years. A
scientific advisory committee would be set up by next year.
New marketing restrictions next year would include a ban on all outdoor
advertising of tobacco within 1,000 feet of schools and playgrounds.
The Association of National Advertisers, a trade organization, says the
legislation’s “massive crushing and unprecedently broad advertising
restrictions” violate First Amendment protections for commercial speech. A court
challenge is probable.
While cigarette consumption has declined in most Western countries, it is
growing in Asia and Eastern Europe. An estimated 1.3 billion people now smoke
worldwide, according to the World Lung Foundation.
“The unfortunate thing,” Nancy Brown, president of the American Heart
Association, said in an interview, “is the bad American habit is now being
exported to other countries.”
Senate Votes to Impose
U.S. Regulation on Tobacco, NYT, 12.6.2009,
Senators Set to Visit White House to Discuss Health Care
June 2, 2009
The New York Times
By SHERYL GAY STOLBERG and ROBERT PEAR
WASHINGTON — President Obama will meet with influential Senate Democrats on
Tuesday to discuss overhauling health care, as the White House releases a report
asserting that revamping the system would increase the income of a typical
family of four by $2,600 in 2020, and by $10,000 in 2030.
The Democrats on two Senate committees that are drafting health legislation have
been invited to the White House to meet with Mr. Obama, hours before he leaves
for the Middle East and Europe. As part of a push to secure Congressional
passage of a bill this year, the administration will also make the case on
Tuesday that reforming health care is critical to fixing the economy.
“If we don’t do this we’re going to be facing a real mess 30 years from now,”
Christina Romer, the chairwoman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers,
told reporters Monday on a conference call to discuss her new report, “The
Economic Case for Health Care Reform.”
Also, six health care organizations followed up Monday on a commitment they made
last month to Mr. Obama to trim $2 trillion in health care costs over 10 years.
The groups, representing doctors, hospitals, drug companies and a labor union,
proposed eliminating unnecessary medical tests and procedures, slashing red tape
and better managing chronic diseases.
They said the potential savings could be $1 trillion to $1.7 trillion over 10
Health care spending in the United States accounts for 18 percent of the gross
domestic product, according to the White House report, and is expected to rise
sharply, to as much as 28 percent in 2030 and 34 percent in 2040. The
administration says it can slow the growth of health spending even as it expands
coverage to the more than 45 million people who are now uninsured.
Republicans are doubtful. Referring to the health care groups’ proposals,
Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the senior Republican on the Finance
Committee, said Monday, “I’m skeptical that these proposals will add up to
anywhere near $2 trillion.”
The House Republican leader, Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, called the
White House report “nothing more than smoke and mirrors,” and said the
administration had not offered a credible plan to expand coverage “without
raising taxes or rationing care.”
The White House report — 51 pages, with charts, graphs and algebraic formulas —
estimated that slowing the growth rate of health care spending by 1.5 percent a
year would increase economic output by more than 2 percent in 2020 and nearly 8
percent in 2030. The report also states that revamping the health care system
would “prevent disastrous increases in the federal budget deficit.”
The 1.5 percent figure was cited as a goal by the six organizations that
proposed cost savings to the president. Each submitted recommendations, though
it was not clear how much each was willing to sacrifice.
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, representing drug
companies, advocated greater use of certain prescription drugs, like medicines
for high blood pressure — a move it said could save lives and money by keeping
people healthier and reducing hospital admissions.
Doctors, represented by the American Medical Association, promised to try to
curb the overuse of imaging services, like magnetic resonance imaging of the
knee and the shoulder, and to reduce surgeries that might not be necessary, like
Caesarean section deliveries and angioplasties in patients with stable coronary
The Service Employees International Union said Medicaid and Medicare could save
money by encouraging the use of home care services, instead of nursing homes.
The union recommended that the federal government temporarily increase Medicaid
payments to the states for home- and community-based services.
America’s Health Insurance Plans, representing insurers, vowed to establish
standard claim forms and Web sites that allowed doctors to communicate more
easily with insurers.
Congress may try to put some proposals into legislation, to help offset the
costs of providing coverage for millions of the uninsured. This week, the
chairmen of the two relevant Senate committees are finishing legislation to be
considered by their panels this month.
Senators Set to Visit
White House to Discuss Health Care Overhaul, NYT, 2.6.2009,
Sotomayor to Make Her Capitol Hill Debut
June 2, 2009
Filed at 4:38 a.m. ET
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
The New York Times
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Appeals court judge Sonia Sotomayor is getting her first
chance to make an impression on senators who will vote on her nomination to the
Supreme Court, with a marathon set of Capitol Hill meet-and-greets that kicks
off what could be a long debate.
Sotomayor's schedule Tuesday is packed with roughly half-hour meetings -- known
as ''courtesy calls'' -- that are as important for the courtly tone they set for
the debate as they are for offering a few moments of candid conversation with
Republican senators have already begun to question remarks Sotomayor has made in
the past about how her life experiences influence her judicial decisions. In
turn, Democrats have defended her as a fair and unbiased judge, and all sides
say they are eager to talk to her privately and question her in the public
hearings to come.
Sotomayor is set to meet with 10 senators during her first day on Capitol Hill,
retreating to Vice President Joe Biden's office in between sessions to huddle
with the White House team, heavy with confirmation battle veterans, that's
guiding her nomination. Prominent on Sotomayor's list of visits are Senate
Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.,
and their seconds-in-command, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Sen. Jon Kyl,
She'll also begin her rounds with the Judiciary Committee members who will hold
the high-profile hearings on her confirmation, starting with Sen. Patrick J.
Leahy, D-Vt., the chairman, and Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the panel's
senior Republican, as well as Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Orrin G.
Rounding out her schedule are visits with her homestate Democratic senators.
Sotomayor will lunch with Sen. Chuck Schumer, her unofficial chaperone during
the confirmation process, and visit Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.
The White House is working daily to promote the narrative about Sotomayor that
President Barack Obama began the day he named her: a seasoned federal judge who
overcame hardship as a youngster and would deliver justice that reflects respect
for the law but an understanding of real life.
Republicans, however, want to push Sotomayor about whether she would put her own
views above the law and rule as an ''activist.''
Senate aides in both parties are preparing for Sotomayor's voluminous response
to a 10-page questionnaire the Judiciary panel sent her last week -- an
extensive survey of her life, public statements, rulings and political
activities -- which will add copious detail to a so-far broad debate over her
fitness and qualifications for the Supreme Court.
Barring a huge surprise, she is expected to be confirmed. Democrats control 59
seats in the Senate, where a majority vote is needed for confirmation, and
another seven Republicans previously voted to confirm Sotomayor for a lower
Sotomayor, 54, would replace retiring Justice David Souter, becoming the first
Hispanic and the third woman to sit on the court.
Obama wants the Senate to confirm Sotomayor before its August vacation. The
White House formally started the clock on Monday, sending her nomination to the
Associated Press writer Ben Feller contributed to this report.
Sotomayor to Make Her
Capitol Hill Debut, NYT, 2.6.2009,
Questions for General McChrystal
June 1, 2009
The New York Times
The Senate owes the American people more than a pro forma confirmation of Lt.
Gen. Stanley McChrystal, President Obama’s choice to be the next United States
military commander in Afghanistan.
General McChrystal, who goes before the Armed Services Committee on Tuesday,
built an impressive reputation as commander of the Pentagon’s Joint Special
Operations teams in Afghanistan and Iraq from 2003 to 2008. Highly trained and
motivated task forces under his command captured Saddam Hussein and called in
the air strikes that killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of Al Qaeda in
Mesopotamia. Successes like these could help turn the tide in Afghanistan.
But there are other, more disturbing aspects of that record that the Senate also
must consider. Special Operations task forces operated in secret, outside the
normal military chain of command and with minimal legal accountability,
especially during the years Donald Rumsfeld ran the Pentagon. General
McChrystal’s command substantially overlaps this troubled period.
In 2004, for example, a Special Operations unit converted one of Saddam
Hussein’s former torture centers near Baghdad into its own secret interrogation
cell, where detainees were subjected to a range of physical and psychological
This was not an isolated incident. In 2006, The Times reported on field outposts
set up by Special Operations units in Baghdad, Falluja, Balad, Ramadi and Kirkuk
where detainees were stripped naked and subjected to simulated drowning.
At least 34 Special Operations soldiers were eventually disciplined by the
Pentagon for these abusive interrogations. Many more cases had to be dropped
because the specific interrogator could not be conclusively identified or
because crucial computer records were lost.
While there is no suggestion that General McChrystal was personally involved in
any misconduct, he has a clear responsibility to illuminate what went wrong,
what if anything was done to stop these horrors, and what he intends to do to
ensure that they are not repeated under his command in Afghanistan.
The overall performance of the Special Operations Command under General
McChrystal’s leadership — both acts of heroism and acts of abuse — is an
essential part of measuring General McChrystal’s fitness for his new assignment.
He needs to be rigorously questioned.
Questions for General
McChrystal, NYT, 1.6.2009,
In Battle to Cut Billions, a Spotlight on One Man
May 31, 2009
The New York Times
By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK and DAVID M. HERSZENHORN
WASHINGTON — Near the end of a two-hour hearing on a special war-spending
bill this month, Senator Daniel K. Inouye, in his slow and rumbling voice,
finally said the words that defense lobbyists across Washington had been hoping
to hear: there was “good reason to be optimistic.”
Mr. Inouye, Democrat of Hawaii, was answering a fellow senator’s question about
the future of Boeing’s mammoth C-17 cargo plane. But from Mr. Inouye, the
taciturn new chairman of the Appropriations Committee, the comment was also the
latest reminder that, as the Obama administration lifts its ax over hundreds of
billions of dollars in military contracts that the Pentagon says it no longer
needs, he is the industry’s last line of defense.
Mr. Inouye is best positioned to fulfill or frustrate the administration’s hopes
of reining in runaway procurement costs. That makes him the object of intense
courtship from industry executives, senators and even a certain Hawaiian in the
“In the Senate, the buck stops with Chairman Inouye,” said David Morrison, a
lobbyist for Boeing and a former aide to Mr. Inouye, the company with the most
at stake in the proposed cuts.
Critics, though, say Mr. Inouye — a self-described “king of pork” responsible
for nearly a billion dollars in earmarks each year — is also the most potent
remaining champion of the parochialism that for decades has made major military
projects hard to kill.
“There is no question a lot of this stuff is going to get put back by Congress,”
said Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma. “And the question is, why? Do
we need more C-17s, or are we trying to keep people employed on a weapons system
that we already have enough of?” Now, Mr. Coburn said, “We’ll see what the
Mr. Inouye is the last of a vanishing breed of powerful old-school
appropriators. His predecessor as appropriations chairman, Senator Robert C.
Byrd, 91, Democrat of West Virginia, is enfeebled by age. Another former
chairman, Ted Stevens, the Alaska Republican whom Mr. Inouye called “brother,”
lost re-election last year amid ethics charges.
And in the House, Representative John P. Murtha of Pennsylvania, the top
Democrat on the defense appropriations subcommittee, is under a cloud because of
federal investigations into lobbyists, contractors and other lawmakers with ties
to his office.
“Inouye is the last of the old bulls,” said Steve Ellis of the nonpartisan
Taxpayers for Common Sense, which tracks Congressional spending. “The others
have been gored.”
In an interview, Mr. Inouye said he seeks only the country’s security and its
soldiers’ safety as he reviews the budget presented by Defense Secretary Robert
M. Gates. “If we agree with the secretary, we go along,” Mr. Inouye said. “And
if we don’t, we act accordingly.”
But he also hinted of conflict ahead when he takes up the main defense budget.
“You’ll see some interesting activity when the big bill comes up,” he chuckled.
Elected to Congress in 1959, two years before President Obama was born, Mr.
Inouye is known as a war hero and civil rights icon. While other
Japanese-Americans were in internment camps, he lost his arm leading an Army
unit of Japanese-Americans in World War II.
Honoring that legacy is one of many pet causes to which he has doled out federal
money, including in one case to a group he helps oversee. In 2000 he inserted
into the annual defense bill $20 million for a project dedicated to the
sacrifices of soldiers like himself at the Japanese American National Museum in
Los Angeles, where he was longtime chairman of the board of governors.
He capitalized on his official power to help finance the project in other ways
as well. He helped draw donations from military contractors with big interests
before his committee. Boeing recently pledged $100,000 a year for five years, a
museum spokesman said. (Mr. Inouye, 84, whose first wife died three years ago,
also married the museum’s then-president, Irene Hirano, 60, last year.)
Mr. Inouye has other close ties to lobbyists. His son, Daniel K. Inouye Jr.,
once the leader of a punk rock band, is a lobbyist for several entertainment and
communications companies that lobby the senator intensely because he sits on the
commerce committee. (Mr. Inouye’s son says he lobbies only the House.)
Mr. Inouye has rescued military contractors before, most notably when the
Clinton administration tried to cut procurement. When the Pentagon balked at
buying early C-17s — the plane it again wants to stop buying — Boeing hired a
lobbyist close to Mr. Inouye: Henry Giugni, a former Honolulu police officer who
had become Mr. Inouye’s closest aide and then, with his help, the Senate’s
A month later, Mr. Inouye, then chairman of the military spending panel, wrote
to the defense secretary urging the acquisition of more C-17s, and production
continued for 15 more years. Now, the pressure from all sides is far more
intense. The president has repeatedly called the senator, aides say, to talk
about priorities like passing the war-spending bill quickly — meaning without
adding any big equipment programs.
“He calls me Dan,’ ” Mr. Inouye said. “I call him Mr. President.’ ”
Scores of defense industry lobbyists, meanwhile, are reminding Mr. Inouye of his
past support for threatened programs, including the missile defense system,
partly based in Hawaii, or the Army’s “future combat systems,” a pet project of
his friend and fellow Japanese-American from Hawaii, Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, now
the veterans affairs secretary.
As Mr. Inouye prepared for the Senate defense budget and a House-Senate
conference on the war-spending bill, some of those lobbyists had a chance to
speak to him at a fund-raiser this month for his political action committee at
the home of the Democratic lobbyist Tony Podesta, whose firm’s clients include
Boeing, Lockheed Martin and United Technologies. (All three are among Mr.
Inouye’s biggest sources of campaign money.)
Dozens of senators are also beseeching Mr. Inouye to save defense jobs in their
states, including 19 who have signed a letter asking him to save Boeing’s C-17.
Many lobbyists took Mr. Inouye’s cryptic “reason to be optimistic” comment as a
signal that he intended to include the eight C-17s from the House’s version of
the war-spending bill when it goes to conference and may add the other eight
sought by Boeing in the main defense bill. Supporters of Lockheed Martin’s F-22,
a plane the Pentagon has tried for years to stop buying, took heart from Mr.
Inouye’s omission of $147 million requested to shut down the production line,
leaving it open while the company seeks new sales either to the United States or
its allies, as Taxpayers for Common Sense reported.
Mr. Inouye has kept mum about what he may seek to insert in the 2010 military
spending bill. But he acknowledged feeling the pressure. “People, whenever a lot
of them see me, say, ‘Congratulations, you have got a great job, chairman of the
biggest committee,’ ” he said. “I don’t have the time to explain to them that I
spend less time sleeping.”
In Battle to Cut
Billions, a Spotlight on One Man, NYT, 31.5.2009,
Push to Confirm First Hispanic to Supreme Court
May 27, 2009
Filed at 8:38 a.m. ET
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
The New York Times
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee said
Wednesday he can't imagine a filibuster against Supreme Court nominee Sonia
Sotomayor, even though GOP lawmakers want to closely scrutinize her legal
''The nominee has serious problems,'' Sen. Jeff Sessions said in a nationally
broadcast interview. ''But I would think that we would all have a good hearing,
take our time, and do it right. And then the senators cast their vote up or down
based on whether or not they think this is the kind of judge that should be on
''I don't sense a filibuster in the works,'' the Alabama Republican said, amid
President Barack Obama's call for the Senate to install his history-making
choice of the 54-year-old Sotomayor to succeed Justice David Souter on the high
court. She would be the Hispanic justice to serve there.
The GOP faces an uphill battle in defeating the New York-born daughter of Puerto
Rican parents, but Republicans are promising a thorough and perhaps lengthy
hearing process that scrutinizes her record and judicial philosophy.
Democrats hold 59 votes in the Senate, more than enough to confirm Sotomayor but
not quite enough to stop a vote-blocking filibuster if Republicans should
attempt one. Still, seven Republican senators currently serving backed
Sotomayor's 1998 nomination to the appeals court covering New York, Vermont and
Connecticut, and she was first nominated to be a federal judge by Republican
President George H.W. Bush.
Sessions had said Tuesday it was ''possible'' he could back Sotomayor's
nomination, although he was one of several Republicans who opposed her when she
came before the Senate as a nominee for the U.S. Court of Appeals in 1998. ''We
ought to look at her record fresh,'' he said.
One possibly complicating issue surfaced Wednesday morning as Sessions appeared
in a joint interview with Sen. Chuck Schumer on a nationally broadcast news
Sessions and Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, disagreed about the
significance of a remark Sotomayor was videotaped making at a law seminar, where
at one point she commented that federal appellate courts ''make policy.''
Sessions called that statement ''troubling'' and said she needs to explain it to
the committee. Schumer said the statement had been taken out of context, and
that Sotomayor had quickly added that she was not advocating such an activist
Republicans ''oppose her at their peril,'' Schumer had said earlier.
Sotomayor's personal story and her academic and legal credentials earn her
respect from all quarters, but conservatives see plenty to criticize in her
rulings and past statements. They describe her as a judicial activist who would
put her feelings above the Constitution.
Sotomayor has said that personal experiences ''affect the facts that judges
choose to see.''
''I simply do not know exactly what the difference will be in my judging,'' she
said in a speech in 2001. ''But I accept there will be some based on my gender
and my Latina heritage.''
Any Republican effort to block Sotomayor's confirmation could be risky for a
party still reeling from last year's elections and struggling to gain back lost
ground with Hispanics, the fastest-growing part of the population and one that
is increasingly active politically.
Sessions acknowledged as much Wednesday, saying the GOP needs to ''broaden its
But at the same time he said he feels lawmakers have ''an absolute
constitutional duty'' to ensure that any nominee elevated to the high court not
be someone who would bring along a personal agenda.
Sotomayor's personal story and her academic and legal credentials earn her
respect from all quarters, but conservatives see plenty to criticize in her
rulings and past statements. They describe her as a judicial activist who would
put her feelings above the Constitution.
Sotomayor has said that personal experiences ''affect the facts that judges
choose to see.''
''I simply do not know exactly what the difference will be in my judging,'' she
said in a speech in 2001. ''But I accept there will be some based on my gender
and my Latina heritage.''
Obama, eager to begin putting his imprint on the court, is asking that the
Senate confirm Sotomayor before Congress' August break. The court begins its new
term in October.
The White House and its allies, including Hispanic groups with broad reach into
communities throughout the country, are readying a major push to persuade more
GOP senators to back her confirmation.
''We want people to realize that this is kind of like voting for president,''
said Estuardo Rodriguez, a spokesman for Hispanics for a Fair Judiciary, which
is leading a coalition of organizations that plans to push for the judge's
speedy confirmation. ''You can actually call your senator and say: 'I want this.
I want you to vote for Sonia Sotomayor.'''
The top Senate Republican, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said, ''We will
thoroughly examine her record to ensure she understands that the role of a
jurist in our democracy is to apply the law evenhandedly, despite their own
feelings or personal or political preferences.''
Sotomayor would join Ruth Bader Ginsburg as the second woman on the court and
just the third in its history. She would replace liberal Justice David Souter,
thereby maintaining the court's ideological divide. A number of important cases
have been divided by 5-4 majorities, with conservative- and liberal-leaning
justices split 4-4 and Justice Anthony Kennedy providing the decisive vote.
Born in the South Bronx, Sotomayor lost her father at a young age and watched
her mother work two jobs to provide for her and her brother. Her path has soared
ever since: Princeton University and Yale Law School, then positions as a
commercial litigator, federal district judge and appellate judge.
''What you've shown in your life is that it doesn't matter where you come from,
what you look like or what challenges life throws your way,'' Obama said as
Sotomayor stood at his side at a packed White House event to announce her
nomination Tuesday. ''No dream is beyond reach in the United States of
Said the nominee, ''I am an ordinary person who has been blessed with
extraordinary opportunities and experiences.''
Janet Murguia, president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza, called
Sotomayor's nomination ''a monumental day for Latinos. Finally, we see ourselves
represented on the highest court in the land.''
She said Obama's choice recognized ''that excellence and diversity are not
Sessions and Schumer appeared on NBC's ''Today'' show and Sessions also was
interviewed on CNN.
Associated Press writer Ben Feller contributed to this report.
Push to Confirm First
Hispanic to Supreme Court, NYT, 27.5.2009,
Funds to Close Guantánamo Denied
May 21, 2009
The New York Times
By DAVID M. HERSZENHORN
WASHINGTON — The Senate voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to cut from a war
spending bill the $80 million requested by President Obama to close the
detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and to bar the transfer of detainees
to the United States and its territories.
The vote, which complicates Mr. Obama’s efforts to shutter the prison by his
deadline of Jan. 22, 2010, was 90 to 6. Republicans voted unanimously in favor
of cutting the money.
“The American people don’t want these men walking the streets of America’s
neighborhoods,” said Senator John Thune, Republican of South Dakota. “The
American people don’t want these detainees held at a military base or federal
prison in their back yard, either.”
The six Democrats who voted against the measure include some of their party’s
most prominent voices on military affairs and criminal justice issues. Among
them were Senators Carl Levin of Michigan, the chairman of the Armed Services
Committee; Jack Reed of Rhode Island, a West Point graduate and former Army
Ranger, and Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee.
Senators Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the majority whip; Tom Harkin of Iowa
and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island were the others voting against the
The vote was on an amendment to a $91.3 billion military spending bill that will
finance the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as some other national security
programs, including preparations for pandemic flu, through Sept. 30.
The abrupt decision by Senate Democratic leaders to strip out the money for
closing the Guantánamo detention center amounted to a strong rebuke of the Obama
White House, which lawmakers in both parties have criticized for not providing a
more detailed plan for what will be done with the 240 detainees currently held
in the prison.
Senate Democrats had initially hoped to preserve the financing for closing the
prison. House Democrats, however, had already stripped the money from their
version of the military spending bill, saying they could not authorize funds
without first reviewing Mr. Obama’s plans for the prisoners.
Mr. Obama is scheduled to outline some of those plans in a speech on Thursday in
Robert S. Mueller 3d, the director of the F.B.I., told a House panel on
Wednesday that he is concerned that Guantánamo detainees could foment terrorism
if they are sent to the United States. On Tuesday, a federal judge ruled that
the United States could continue to hold some detainees at the base indefinitely
Even so, Mr. Obama has faced growing demands in recent days, from both parties
but particularly from Republicans, to spell out in detail how he plans to close
the Guantánamo detention center and to provide assurances that detainees would
not end up on American soil, not even in maximum security prisons.
The move by Senate Democrats to bar, for now, any transfer of detainees to the
United States, raised the possibility that Mr. Obama’s order to close the camp
by Jan. 22, 2010, may have to be changed or delayed.
“Guantánamo makes us less safe,” the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of
Nevada, said on Tuesday at a news conference where he laid out the party’s
rationale for its decision. “However, this is neither the time nor the bill to
deal with this. Democrats under no circumstances will move forward without a
comprehensive, responsible plan from the president. We will never allow
terrorists to be released into the United States.”
Senate Democrats said they still backed Mr. Obama’s decision to close the
prison. But lawmakers have not exactly been eager to accept detainees in their
home states. When the tiny town of Hardin, Mont., offered to put the terrorism
suspects in its empty jail, Montana’s senators, both Democrats, and its
representative, a Republican, quickly voiced opposition.
Administration officials have indicated that if the Guantánamo camp closes as
scheduled more than 100 prisoners may need to be moved to the United States,
including 50 to 100 who have been described as too dangerous to release.
Of the 240 detainees, 30 have been cleared for release. Some are likely to be
transferred to foreign countries, though other governments have been reluctant
to take them. Britain and France have each accepted one former detainee. And
while as many as 80 of the detainees will be prosecuted, it remains unclear what
will happen to those who are convicted and sentenced to prison.
At the White House on Tuesday, the press secretary, Robert Gibbs, said the
administration expected that Congress would eventually release the money to
close the camp, and he suggested that the concerns of lawmakers would start to
be addressed on Thursday, when Mr. Obama will present a “hefty part” of his
At the Pentagon, a spokesman, Geoff Morrell, said Tuesday that he believed that
the administration remained on track to meet the deadline for closing the
prison. “I see nothing to indicate that that date is at all in jeopardy,” Mr.
As the administration has struggled with the issue, it has come under assault
from the right and the left.
Conservatives have sought to portray the president as weak on national security.
Liberals, including some human rights advocates, have criticized several of Mr.
Obama’s decisions, including his plan to revive the military commissions created
by the Bush administration to prosecute terrorism suspects held at Guantánamo.
Lawmakers, mindful of polls showing wide public opposition to bringing detainees
to the United States, have expressed concerns about the safety of their
constituents, and some have said that any location housing detainees, even the
most secure prisons, would become a potential target for a terrorist attack.
On Tuesday Republicans, including the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell of
Kentucky, who has been warning for weeks about the dangers of closing the
prison, applauded the Democrats’ decision.
At a news conference, Mr. McConnell said he hoped it was a prelude to keeping
the camp open and dangerous terrorism suspects offshore, where he said they
belong. He noted that no prisoner had escaped from Guantánamo since the Sept. 11
“Guantánamo is the perfect place for these terrorists,” Mr. McConnell said.
“However, if the president ends up sticking with this decision to close it next
January, obviously they need a place to be. It ought not to be the United States
Senate Democrats on Tuesday conceded that their decision to shift course in part
reflected the success of Republicans in putting them on the defensive.
But the Democrats said they had also acted to avert a partisan feud that would
delay the military-spending measure, which is needed to finance the wars in Iraq
and Afghanistan and other national security programs through Sept. 30. The House
last week overwhelmingly approved the $96.7 billion spending measure after
stripping the money for closing Guantánamo and inserting language barring Mr.
Obama from transferring any detainees to the United States without first
presenting a detailed plan to Congress, and giving lawmakers a chance to review
Later in the week, the White House announced that it would revive the military
commissions to prosecute some of the terrorism suspects held at Guantánamo.
The Obama administration said it would expand the legal rights of suspects,
including a limit on the use of hearsay evidence and a ban on evidence gained
from cruel treatment.
Still, discomfort has only grown in Congress. Senate Democrats had initially
included the $80 million for closing the prison in their version of the
war-spending measure, but with tight restrictions requiring Mr. Obama to submit
a plan before the money could be used.
Jim Manley, a spokesman for Mr. Reid, said the majority leader had not intended
to suggest that detainees could never be transferred to American prisons, but
only to say that the Senate would not provide money for closing Guantánamo until
a task force created by Mr. Obama presented a report on detainee policy in July.
Mr. Reid in his comments, however, was unequivocal in insisting that the
terrorism suspects never reach American shores.
“You can’t put them in prison unless you release them,” he said. “We will never
allow terrorists to be released in the United States.”
Mr. Reid said he and other Senate Democrats had shifted course after seeing the
version of the spending bill approved by the House last week, a rare gesture of
deference by the upper chamber of Congress to the lower one.
“In looking at the position of the House, that was more logical,” Mr. Reid said.
“We have clearly said all along that we wanted a plan. We don’t have a plan. And
based on that, this is not the bill to deal with this.”
Sheryl Gay Stolberg and David Stout contributed reporting.
Funds to Close
Guantánamo Denied, NYT, 21.5.2009,
Vice’s Secret Vices
April 29, 2009
The New York Times
By MAUREEN DOWD
In a closed-door session on Tuesday, Dick Cheney testified before the Senate
Intelligence Committee, which is investigating the “enhanced” interrogation
techniques of “high value” detainees.
This columnist gained exclusive “access” to the classified testimony of the
“deeply missed” former vice president.
The chairwoman of the committee, Dianne Feinstein, began by telling Cheney that
she was “shocked personally” by what she had learned about the brutality of the
way prisoners were treated.
“Those insects weren’t even poisonous,” Cheney growled. “Facial slaps? Abdominal
slaps? Throwing a naked man into a wall? Kid stuff. Those methods worked. They
kept us safe for seven years. Safer than with that delicate Hawaiian orchid in
the White House. America is coming across as weak and indecisive. Just when
Rummy and I had stomped out that ‘Blame America First’ flower-child culture,
Obama has dragged it back, apologizing profusely all over the world for the
country he’s running, canoodling with greasy dictators, kissing up to those
weasels in Europe, which is only free today because of our military. Friends and
foes alike will be quick to take advantage if they think they’re dealing with a
Senator John McCain, looking disgusted, began yelling at Cheney, telling him
that waterboarding someone 183 times in a month was against the law. “The
Japanese who did that in World War II were tried and hanged,” he sneered.
“Shut your piehole,” Cheney replied flatly. “Everyone’s sick of you being an
apologist for torture. Why don’t you go join that pantywaist Specter on the
other side where you belong?”
Senator Russ Feingold got into the fray, asking Cheney sarcastically: “Can you
tell us exactly which terrorist plots were foiled by torture?”
Cheney offered his mirthless smile. “Certainly,” he replied. “Shortly after
9/11, we disrupted a plot to assassinate a senator, penetrating two terrorist
cells and uncovering a Serbian scheme. Our interrogator used a chokehold,
threatened to withhold a detainee’s heart medicine, and broke a few laws, but it
was well worth it.”
Feingold interrupted with thinly veiled contempt: “You’re telling us now that
the Serbs are linked to Al Qaeda?”
Cheney nodded. “Of course. Then, the following year, we were able to get a lead
on an international terrorist named Syed Ali and stop a nuclear bomb from being
detonated in Los Angeles. Sure, an enemy combatant was shot in the chest. Yes, a
hacksaw came into play. There was some wall slamming, throat grabbing and when
Ali wouldn’t talk because he was doing ‘Allah’s work,’ our agent had to feign
the shooting death of Ali’s first-born son. But in the end we averted World War
III with three Middle East countries and kept America safe from a suitcase bomb.
“In 2004, we thwarted the spread of a deadly weaponized virus strain. The
following year, after some unsuccessful attempts at sensory disorientation with
detainees, we got a torture specialist who had a way with a taser and his trusty
syringe. Strict measures, like breaking fingers one by one and using an
electrical cord from a lamp to shock a suspect, were necessary. We were under
attack by a terrorist named Habib Marwan who controlled a bunch of Middle East
terrorist cells. They were planning to meltdown nuclear power plants across the
country, shoot down Air Force One and set off a nuclear missile. On top of that,
we were dealing with a mole in our counterterrorism unit.
“In 2006, after an incident with the man who made history by becoming the first
black president ...”
Senator Feinstein interrupted: “Excuse me, Mr. Cheney, are you talking about
“I said the first black president,” Cheney snapped, before continuing: “Our
interrogator needed to do some things outside protocol. There was an exploding
vest, a foot digging into a wound, an injection of pain-inducing
hyoscine-pentothal, a threat to cut out the eyes of a suspect being interrogated
unless he confessed where the Sentox nerve gas cannisters were. But the Geneva
Conventions are a small thing to give up when you consider that we broke up a
nefarious plot that reached to the highest levels — the Oval Office.”
Senator Olympia Snowe looked confused: “But you were in the Oval Office in 2006,
Something dawned on Evan Bayh and he smiled grimly. “Didn’t it turn out in the
end, Dick,” he asked, “that some of these so-called terrorist plots were really
domestic villains with black ops teams scheming to control the oil supply and
get rich? Sort of like what you did with Iraq and Halliburton?”
Cheney glared at him, saying “We’re the patriots.” Bayh walked over and
whispered something to the chairwoman.
“Mr. Cheney,” Feinstein said, sounding shocked, “your testimony is delusional,
not to mention derivative.”
Cheney looked apoplectic, not to mention apocalyptic. “How dare you,” he cried,
“demean our country’s finest counterterrorism agent, Jack Bauer?”
Vice’s Secret Vices,
Brown Speaks to Congress on Economy
March 5, 2009
The New York Times
By BRIAN KNOWLTON
WASHINGTON — Prime Minister Gordon Brown urged American leaders on Wednesday
to “seize the moment,” in tandem with their European allies, to work through the
global economic crisis and prepare for a future that brings “the biggest
expansion of middle-class incomes and jobs the world has ever seen.”
Speaking from one of the most prominent stages accorded any visiting foreign
dignitary — a joint meeting of Congress — Mr. Brown called for a clear rejection
of protectionist tendencies as the world struggles toward recovery.
The address came a day after President Obama assured Mr. Brown that the “special
relationship” between the two countries was as strong as ever — despite what
some observers have described as coolness in the handling of the prime
minister’s visit. The White House spokesman, Robert Gibbs, said again Wednesday
that “the relationship remains strong and special.”
In any case, the senators and congressmen, joined by American military leaders
and other dignitaries, gave the prime minister a warm welcome, interrupting his
45-minute speech at least a dozen times with standing ovations. One of those
came after he announced that Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, who is
suffering from brain cancer, had been granted an honorary knighthood.
The chamber was nearly full as Mr. Brown spoke; the Capitol interns who are
sometimes summoned to fill empty seats on such occasions were relatively few in
Mr. Brown praised his host country as one of remarkable strength, optimism and
resilience. “America is not just the indispensable nation,” he said, “you are
the irrepressible nation.”
Those strengths, he added, needed to be marshaled fully now in what Mr. Brown
said would have to be concerted world action to stimulate national economies,
bolster banks and improve their oversight, and help developing countries survive
Echoing a point that Mr. Obama has begun to make, Mr. Brown argued that a big
part of the solution to the crisis lay in having confidence that it can be
“While today people are anxious and feel insecure, over the next two decades our
world economy will double in size,” Mr. Brown said. “Twice as many opportunities
for business, twice as much prosperity, and the biggest expansion of middle
class incomes and jobs the world has ever seen.”
He argued that the United States, under a president who enjoys great popularity
at home and sometimes even greater popularity abroad, would find a rare
receptiveness to its efforts to move forward.
“Let me say that you now have the most pro-American European leadership in
living memory,” Mr. Brown said.
“There is no old Europe, no new Europe, there is only your friend Europe. So
once again I say we should seize the moment — because never before have I seen a
world so willing to come together. Never before has that been more needed. And
never before have the benefits of cooperation been so far-reaching.”
He also vowed to continue close cooperation in the fight against terrorism, in
efforts to induce Iran to suspend its nuclear program, and in moves to curtail
global warming. And he paid tribute to the soldiers of both countries who had
fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Mr. Brown, who was chancellor of the Exchequer, or finance minister, in the
Labour Party government of Tony Blair, has been calling for a “global new deal”
with every country working to end the downturn.
The prime minister has been laying the groundwork for a meeting on April 2 in
London of the leaders of the Group of 20 major economies. He has been calling
for greater accountability and transparency, and stricter oversight, for banking
and financial institutions around the world.
Mr. Obama has supported many of the same goals, at least in principle.
But Julianne Smith, director of the Europe program at the Center for Strategic
and International Studies in Washington, said that Mr. Brown might not get all
“I don’t think he’s going to be able to go back home and say ‘Obama and I see
completely eye-to-eye on some big global regulation scheme,’ ” she said.
Part of that is a general American skepticism toward such internationalist
approaches, Ms. Smith said. “Europeans, even the Brits, have a higher level of
comfort with global machinery and bureaucratic machinery than Americans do,” she
Commentators on both sides of the ocean have catalogued a number of signs that
the reception accorded to Mr. Brown in Washington was not quite as warm as the
ones British prime ministers enjoyed during the Bush years: No invitation to
Camp David, no full-scale news conference, no state dinner — and while there was
a meeting between the men’s wives, none was held between the two couples. Mr.
Brown, whose own approval ratings in Britain are suffering, had hoped to profit
from his visit to the popular American president.
Mr. Obama brushed such concerns aside on Tuesday, saying that the two countries
were united by a bond “that will not break.”
And Mr. Brown said the same on Wednesday: “Partnerships of purpose are
indestructible,” he said. “There is no power on Earth that can drive us apart.”
Brown Speaks to Congress
on Economy, NYT, 5.3.2009,
Obama's gamble: Big plans have big risks
24 February 2009
By Richard Wolf
WASHINGTON — Until Tuesday, President Obama was already dealing with the
worst economy since the Depression: failing industries, teetering banks, a stock
market sliced in half and millions of people losing their homes.
Now he's added overhauling the nation's health care system to his to-do list
— a challenge that has vexed presidents from Harry Truman to Bill Clinton. Not
to mention weaning America off Middle East oil, fixing its schools, bolstering
Social Security and declaring war on deficits and debt.
"The only way this century will be another American century is if we confront at
last the price of our dependence on oil and the high cost of health care, the
schools that aren't preparing our children and the mountain of debt they stand
to inherit," Obama said in his first address to Congress Tuesday. "That is our
It's a high-risk strategy, doing everything at once. Obama is doing it for
two reasons: The economy is in free fall, and the voters gave him a sizeable
mandate in November.
"We've never seen an administration get out of the starting blocks as rapidly or
try to clear as many hurdles in the first 50 yards," says Robert Reischauer,
president of the Urban Institute and former director of the Congressional Budget
Office. "But moving at a more moderate pace I don't think decreases the risk
appreciably, because then you're going to be driven by events, reacting to
crises. He is trying to be proactive."
That won praise even from Republicans on Tuesday. "The president deserves much
credit for his willingness to tackle health care reform, the budget deficit,
Social Security and the recession all at once," said Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich.,
while warning against tax increases.
The challenge for Obama is all the greater because he's presiding over an
incomplete government. Nearly all departments and agencies are without key
political appointees who will design and implement policy, because they've yet
to be nominated or confirmed.
Three Cabinet-level departments still lack leaders, including the Department of
Health and Human Services following the withdrawal of former Senate Democratic
leader Tom Daschle over personal tax problems. The White House has slowed the
nomination process and stepped up its vetting of candidates to avoid additional
public relations calamities.
On the other hand, Obama is helped by his willingness to name many veterans of
the Clinton administration to his top echelon of advisers. And if he needs
advice on the pitfalls of overhauling health care, Hillary Rodham Clinton is
down the street at the State Department.
Her advice could come in handy on what not to do. Her health care effort failed
in 1994 due largely to the Clinton administration's decision to craft its own
plan, rather than work with Congress. It took most of 1993 to do that, delaying
the legislative process well beyond President Clinton's honeymoon period.
The last three presidents who represented a party that reclaimed the White House
used their first budgets to make major changes, something Obama hopes to do in
the budget outline he unveils Thursday. Republican Ronald Reagan cut spending
and taxes. Democrat Bill Clinton pushed through a major deficit-reduction deal
that helped lead to budget surpluses. Republican George W. Bush focused almost
single-mindedly on his massive tax cuts.
"History suggests that particularly when the White House changes parties … the
president has a window to make bigger changes than he may be able to get later
in his term," says Robert Greenstein, founder of the liberal Center on Budget
and Policy Priorities.
With the country in economic crisis, Obama is betting that Americans are more
prepared to fix the nation's problems than they have been: 46 million people
uninsured and soaring costs for others, dependency on fossil fuels from foreign
lands, a debt approaching $11 trillion due to unsustainable government benefits.
The risk is obvious: failing.
"Clinton paid a price for not succeeding on health care," says Steve Elmendorf,
who was chief of staff to former House Democratic leader Richard Gephardt. "So
if you go out and announce, 'I'm going to do X on health care' and you don't
succeed, you pay a price."
Obama's gamble: Big
plans have big risks, UT, 24.2.2009,
Stimulus Plan Receives Final Approval in Congress
February 14, 2009
The New York Times
By DAVID M. HERSZENHORN
WASHINGTON — Congress on Friday approved a $787 billion economic stimulus
measure, meeting the crushing mid-February deadline that Democrats had set for
adopting the centerpiece of President Obama’s early agenda but without quelling
partisan divisions in Washington. Not a single House Republican voted for the
The House vote was 246 to 183, with just 7 Democrats joining all 176 Republicans
in opposition. In the Senate, the vote, 60 to 38, was similarly partisan. Only 3
centrist Republicans joined 55 Democrats and 2 independents in favor.
The Senate finally adopted the bill at 10:47 p.m. after what appeared to be the
longest Congressional vote in history. The peculiar 5-hour 17-minute process was
required because Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio, had to return to
Washington from his home state after attending a funeral home visitation for his
mother, who died Feb. 2.
Under a procedural deal between the parties, the bill needed 60 votes to pass.
The vote began at 5:30 p.m., but from 7:07 p.m., when Senator Evan Bayh,
Democrat of Indiana, cast his “aye,” the tally hung at 59 to 38, until Mr. Brown
Mr. Obama is expected to sign the bill on Monday.
Among the senators voting against it was Judd Gregg, Republican of New
Hampshire, who withdrew this week as the president’s nominee for commerce
Despite the bill’s promise of increased unemployment benefits and new health
care subsidies, as well as more than $100 billion in aid for states, House
Republicans did not break rank. Even those from states hit hardest by the
recession opposed the bill, in a rebuke of the new president.
During the debate, the Republican leader, Representative John A. Boehner of
Ohio, angrily dropped the 1,073-page bill text to the floor with a thump, as he
accused Democrats of failing to read the legislation.
“The president made clear when we started this process that this was about
jobs,” Mr. Boehner said after the vote. “Jobs. Jobs. Jobs. And what it’s turned
into is nothing more than spending, spending and more spending.”
The $787 billion plan — a combination of fast-acting tax cuts and longer-term
government spending on public works projects, education, health care, energy and
technology — was smaller than Democrats first proposed. But, according to an
analysis by the Congressional Budget Office, more than 74 percent of the money
will be spent within the next 18 months, a relatively rapid pace that could
determine whether the plan succeeds.
The House voted in the afternoon, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi and fellow Democrats
cheered on the floor. Ms. Pelosi handed out chocolate bars to her committee
chairmen, a gift to her from Steven A. Ballmer, the chairman of Microsoft. The
label showed a picture of the Capitol and read, “A stimulus package we can all
sink our teeth into.”
At a news conference, Ms. Pelosi and her top lieutenants praised Mr. Obama for
completing the legislation so quickly.
“The president requested swift, bold action,” Ms. Pelosi said. “The American
people are feeling a great deal of pain. They have uncertainty about their jobs,
about health care, about the ability to pay for the education of their children,
and sad to say in our great country, even to put food on the table. And today we
have passed legislation that does take that swift, bold action on their behalf.”
Just four weeks into Mr. Obama’s presidency, the Democrats boasted that they had
already approved three major bills: a measure to curb pay-discrimination against
women in the workplace, a broad expansion of the state children’s health
insurance program and the stimulus.
“We have yet to pass the 30th day of this administration,” said the House
majority leader, Steny H. Hoyer, Democrat of Maryland. “And we have passed
Stimulus Plan Receives
Final Approval in Congress, NYT, 14.1.2009,
Congress, White House Near Final Deal on Stimulus
February 11, 2009
Filed at 12:25 p.m. ET
The New York Times
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. lawmakers and the White House were moving toward
a final deal on Wednesday for what could be a stimulus plan of under $800
billion that Democrats say is crucial to rescuing the struggling U.S. economy.
"We're close. I expect to have it done by 3 p.m. (2000 GMT)," said Senator Max
Baucus, one of the negotiators on the package of tax cuts and government
spending designed to pull the U.S. economy out of its deep recession.
Senator Arlen Specter, a moderate Republican whose support is key to passage,
said $789 billion "sounds pretty close" to the overall price tag, while
Democratic Senator Ben Nelson added, "The target was actually lower than that."
House and Senate negotiators were expected to emerge from closed-door meetings
later on Wednesday and gather in a public session to sign off on a compromise
bill that would then be sent to the full House and Senate for final passage.
Once that happens, possibly by week's end, President Barack Obama would promptly
sign the legislation into law.
"I've heard white smoke is imminent but I haven't seen it yet," said Senate
Republican leader Mitch McConnell.
McConnell has been an outspoken critic of the bill, saying it contains too much
government spending that would not stimulate the economy.
But Democrats who control both houses of Congress have mostly rebuffed
Republicans, saying the combination of tax cuts and spending to rebuild roads,
bridges and other projects in the bill would create or save up to 4 million
Democrats are working with three moderate Republican senators so that the bill
could speed through the Senate.
Alone, the stimulus package is unlikely to fix the U.S. economy because it does
not address financial sector problems. As long as banks face losses and struggle
to raise money, lending and growth will suffer.
The Obama administration hopes to address this through a bank rescue program
unveiled by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on Tuesday. Wall Street plunged
as traders expressed disappointment there were not more details.
Nelson said he thought some money for education had been increased in the
stimulus compromise, adding that lawmakers were scaling back money for tax
incentives to encourage auto and home buying.
Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, said lawmakers intended to keep in a
one-year fix to a quirk in the tax law that threatens to ensnare the middle
class in a tax intended for the richest. Other specifics were not yet available.
One House Democratic aide said the sides were finding it easier to agree on tax
cuts than on the more complicated list of spending priorities contained in the
The House has passed a bill costing about $820 billion, while the Senate's
version will cost $838 billion.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says her chamber's legislation would create more
jobs, fulfilling Obama's pledge to create or save up to 4 million jobs through
construction and investment projects and tax cuts to put money in consumers'
But Senate Majority leader Harry Reid, hamstrung by more difficult Senate
procedures, cut out some spending that Republicans objected to in order to get
the required 60 votes.
Apart from three senators, all Republican lawmakers have opposed the bills as
written so far. Democrats had scant hopes of attracting many more of their votes
for a bill Obama says needs to be enacted quickly to avert a "catastrophe."
Various business groups support the Democratic-written legislation. The U.S.
Chamber of Commerce, for example, supports "many of the pro-growth tax
initiatives in the bill, as well as the spending-side provisions to provide
stimulus, create jobs and get Americans back to work."
(Editing by Alan Elsner)
Congress, White House
Near Final Deal on Stimulus, NYT, 11.2.2009,
Congress Is Divided Over Competing Stimulus Bills
February 8, 2009
The New York Times
By DAVID M. HERSZENHORN
WASHINGTON — The Senate agreement on a roughly $827 billion
economic stimulus bill sets up tough negotiations with the House, primarily over
tens of billions of dollars in aid to states and local governments, tax
provisions, and education, health and renewable energy programs.
Congress is racing to try to finalize the legislation this week.
The price tag for the Senate plan is now only slightly more than the $820
billion cost of the measure adopted by the House. Both plans are intended to
blunt the recession with a combination of tax cuts and government spending on
public works and other programs to create more than three million jobs.
But the competing bills now reflect substantially different approaches. The
House puts greater emphasis on helping states and localities avoid wide-scale
cuts in services and layoffs of public employees. The Senate cut $40 billion of
that aid from its bill, which is expected to be approved Tuesday.
The Senate plan, reached in an agreement late Friday between Democrats and three
moderate Republicans, focuses somewhat more heavily on tax cuts, provides far
less generous health care subsidies for the unemployed and lowers a proposed
increase in food stamps.
To help allay Republican concerns about the cost, the Senate proposal even
scales back President Obama’s signature middle-class tax cut. The Senate plan
also creates new tax incentives to encourage Americans to buy homes and cars
within the next year.
Republican opponents continued to rail against the stimulus plan on the Senate
floor on Saturday, though it appeared they would not have the votes to stop it.
The negotiations in Congress will test whether Democrats, who say they won a
mandate in November to pursue their goals, are willing to give up some favored
long-term policy initiatives to win over more Republican votes.
The talks will also test whether any but the most moderate Republicans will be
willing to support the Obama administration, or whether they will simply recoil
in an opposition stance.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was in Williamsburg, Va., on a retreat with her fellow
House Democrats on Friday, called the emerging Senate cuts to the stimulus
program “very damaging” and said she was “very much opposed to them.” But after
the Senate reached a deal, Ms. Pelosi expressed resolve to complete the
legislation in the days ahead.
Mr. Obama, who has made the economic recovery effort the centerpiece of his
agenda, is expected to take a stronger hand in the negotiations and will embark
on an aggressive public lobbying campaign.
He will hold a meeting in Indiana on Monday, followed by a formal White House
news conference, the first of his term, in prime time on Monday night. He will
pitch the plan again on Tuesday in Florida and on Wednesday in Virginia.
In his weekly radio and Internet address on Saturday, the president praised the
Senate deal and urged quick passage of a final bill.
“The time for action is now,” Mr. Obama said. “If we don’t move swiftly to put
this plan in motion, our economic crisis could become a national catastrophe.”
Also on Monday, Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner is expected to announce
the broad outlines of a rescue plan for the financial industry. The
administration hopes that the announcement will quiet some critics in Congress
who say not enough is being done for the housing sector.
After Senate Democrats reached their deal with moderate Republicans on Friday,
Republicans who are more conservative refused to put the legislative process on
a fast track.
Senator David Vitter, Republican of Louisiana, insisted that the deal required
careful deliberation and said he would spend the weekend reviewing it, even
though it was all but certain that he would not support the measure.
As a result, the Senate met for a rare Saturday session, and Republicans
delivered some of their harshest criticism of Mr. Obama since he took office,
suggesting that he was pressing Congress to act irresponsibly by warning of
“In discussing with the American people his approach to the stimulus of our
economy, he has first really used some dangerous words,” said Senator Jon Kyl of
Arizona, the No. 2 Republican. Mr. Kyl added, “It seems to me that the president
is rather casually throwing out some careless language.”
The majority leader, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, said Congress would move
quickly to get the bill into conference, in hopes of sending the bill to the
White House by the week’s end.
As it stands, three Republicans are expected to join the 58 Democrats in favor
of the bill, and the negotiations may tilt slightly in the Senate’s favor as
officials try to keep that coalition in place.
Both the House and the Senate must vote again to approve the final legislation,
leaving a chance of unexpected pitfalls.
The main fight is likely to be over the Senate’s proposal to cut $40 billion
from proposed aid to states. Such aid does not necessarily lift the economy, but
it prevents states from carrying out cuts that could make the recession worse,
and the money can be deployed quickly, a challenge in any stimulus.
The $40 billion was the largest cut in a paring back of the Senate proposal that
helped seal a deal between Democrats and the moderate Republicans, thanks to the
efforts of a bipartisan group led by Senators Susan Collins, Republican of
Maine, and Ben Nelson, Democrat of Nebraska.
Another big difference is the Senate’s inclusion of nearly $70 billion to
protect thousands of middle-class Americans from paying the alternative minimum
tax in 2009, sparing them from a system originally intended to prevent the
wealthy from claiming too many tax deductions.
House Democratic leaders have indicated a willingness to retain that provision
even though it could require them to give up tens of billions of dollars in
favored spending programs and force them to make wrenching choices.
Adjusting the alternative minimum tax is also unlikely to give much extra lift
to the economy, because Congress has adopted similar fixes for years and would
probably have done so again regardless of the stimulus.
Other trims the Senate settled on eliminated $19.5 billion in construction aid
for schools and colleges and sliced proposed new aid for the Head Start early
childhood program by $1 billion.
In some cases, the cuts to the Senate bill brought it closer to the House
proposal. For instance, the senators reduced financing to expand broadband data
networks in rural and underserved areas to $7 billion from $9 billion. The House
has proposed $6 billion.
Some of the Senate’s changes clearly reflected the personal priorities of
lawmakers, especially the moderate Republicans who were instrumental in reaching
The Senate deal, for example, reduced proposed aid to NASA and the National
Science Foundation by $200 million each.
But it added $6.5 billion for medical research at the National Institutes of
Health, favored by Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, one of the three
Republicans supporting the plan
Even with Democrats controlling both chambers, the negotiations are likely to be
difficult. House Democrats have shown little inclination to cater to Republican
wishes, especially given the unwillingness of Republicans to vote for the bill.
So far, Mr. Obama and his aides have strongly resisted any change to his
proposal for a middle-class tax cut, which was one of his main campaign
It would provide a tax credit of up to $500 for individuals and up to $1,000 for
couples, with the credit phasing out for individuals earning more than $75,000 a
year and couples more than $150,000.
The Senate bill would lower that income cap to $70,000 for individuals and
$140,000 for couples, saving the government $2 billion but potentially reducing
the effectiveness of a tax break that is intended to lift consumer spending.
It is unclear how Congress will deal with two provisions aimed directly at
general consumers, including an $11 billion tax break in the Senate bill to spur
car sales by allowing buyers to deduct any sales tax and one year of loan
The chambers must reconcile competing homebuyer tax credits.
To stabilize real estate prices, the House would give first-time homebuyers a
tax credit of 10 percent of a home’s cost, up to $7,500, with income caps
reducing the credit for individuals earning at least $75,000 and couples earning
The Senate plan includes a more generous credit of 10 percent, up to $15,000,
that would be available to all homebuyers, with no income limits.
A formal conference to resolve the differences between the two bills is expected
to begin by midweek.
In the Senate debate, critics of the plan said their main objective was to
support proposals that would quickly create jobs or spur consumer spending.
But there were Republicans who vehemently opposed some spending programs in the
bill, saying the federal government was overstepping its bounds and should not
be getting involved in taking up local responsibilities like school
Many of the education programs in the bill are top priorities of the powerful
chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Representative David R. Obey,
Democrat of Wisconsin.
In debate on the Senate floor, many Republicans, including the party’s defeated
presidential nominee, Senator John McCain of Arizona, offered amendments to
reduce spending and broaden the tax cuts in the plan. The Democrats easily
swatted those down.
Critics of the stimulus plan say Democrats have packed it not with the most
effective short-term proposals to lift the economy, but with favored, liberal
spending programs that will drastically increase the national debt and cause
long-term fiscal harm.
“A bill that was meant to be timely, targeted and temporary has instead become a
Trojan horse for pet projects and expanded government,” the Republican leader,
Senator Mitch McConnell, said in a floor speech on Friday.
Although Mr. Obama made substantial efforts to reach across party lines, not one
of the House Republicans voted for the stimulus measure. They complained that
House Democrats shut them out of the process.
In the Senate, too, talks proved excruciatingly difficult. In the end, the only
Republicans whose support the Democrats won were Mr. Specter, Ms. Collins and
Senator Olympia J. Snowe of Maine.
Congress Is Divided
Over Competing Stimulus Bills, NYT, 8.2.2009,
Senators Reach Accord on Stimulus Plan as Jobs Vanish
February 7, 2009
The New York Times
By CARL HULSE and DAVID M. HERSZENHORN
WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats reached an agreement with Republican moderates
on Friday to pare a huge economic recovery measure, clearing the way for
approval of a package that President Obama said was urgently needed in light of
mounting job losses.
The deal, announced on the Senate floor, was a result of two days of tense
negotiations and political theater. Mr. Obama dispatched his chief of staff to
Capitol Hill to help conclude the talks and reassure senators in his own party,
and he called three key Republicans to applaud them for their patriotism.
Earlier, when it looked as if a vote might take place Friday night, officials
said, a government plane was dispatched to Florida to bring back Senator Edward
M. Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat who has brain cancer.
The fine print was not immediately available, and the numbers were shifting. But
in essence, the Democratic leadership and two centrist Republicans announced
they had struck a deal on about $110 billion in cuts to the roughly $900 billion
legislation — a deal expected to provide at least the 60 votes needed to send
the bill out of the Senate and into negotiations with the House, which has
passed its own version.
The pact, which is expected to be approved in the next few days, was concluded
just hours after the Labor Department announced that 598,000 jobs were lost in
January. The contraction in jobs is already steeper than in any other recession
since at least the early 1980s. And economists warn that several more shoes are
about to drop, a message that added urgency to the Senate deliberations.
As the negotiations were under way, lawmakers said it was time to stop quibbling
about the exact parameters of the legislation — which mixes safety-net spending,
tax cuts and a huge infusion of dollars into federal programs — and to begin
work toward a final agreement that could be sent to Mr. Obama next week.
“Our country can’t wait another day for another approach,” said Senator Ben
Nelson, a Nebraska Democrat who is a leader of the bipartisan coalition that
worked out the agreement.
The details were negotiated at an afternoon meeting in the office of the Senate
majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, involving Mr. Reid, other top Democrats
and two Republicans, Susan Collins of Maine and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.
After they came to terms, the senators brought in the White House chief of
staff, Rahm Emanuel, for assurance that the deal was acceptable to the
administration. Mr. Emanuel signaled it was.
“With today’s unemployment numbers reaching more than 3.6 million workers,” Mr.
Emanuel said after the session, “delay and failure were not an option.”
Mr. Obama called Ms. Collins and Mr. Specter, as well as Senator Olympia J.
Snowe of Maine, another Republican expected to support the deal, to acknowledge
they were acting against pressure from their party and, one official said, to
thank them for their patriotism in helping advance the bill at a critical time.
Earlier in the day, Mr. Obama urged Congress to act expeditiously. “It is
inexcusable and irresponsible for any of us to get bogged down in distraction,
delay or politics as usual while millions of Americans are being put out of
work,” said Mr. Obama, who has recently shown less patience for Republican
resistance to the bill.
Most Senate Republicans remained opposed to the measure, criticizing it as a
case study in excessive spending that would do little to lift the economy. Some
conservatives indicated Friday night that they would push for time to study the
new legislation before any final vote.
“We want to stimulate the economy, not mortgage the future of our children and
grandchildren by the kind of fiscally profligate spending embodied in this
legislation,” said Senator John McCain of Arizona, the defeated Republican
presidential nominee, who has emerged as a chief opponent of the proposal.
Republicans were clearly irritated at the outcome and faulted those involved in
working out the bargain. “When you say this was the best we could do, I disagree
with you,” Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said on the floor. “This not
remotely close to what we could have done if we had sat down in a true
bipartisan fashion and found a better way.”
The Senate’s proposed cuts took aim at an array of popular spending programs
that critics said should not be part of a fiscal recovery bill, even if they
represent laudable policy goals, because they would not deliver a quick enough
jolt to the economy.
Even Mr. Obama’s signature tax cut for middle-class Americans was scaled back as
part of the deal. Under the new plan, tax credits of up to $500 for individuals
and $1,000 for couples would begin to phase out at lower income levels than
first proposed, saving the government $2 billion.
The biggest cut, roughly $40 billion in aid to states, was likely to spur a
fierce fight in negotiations with the House over the final bill. Many states,
hit hard by the recession, face wrenching cuts in services and layoffs of public
employees as they struggle to comply with laws requiring them to balance their
When debate began this week, the price tag on the Senate version of the stimulus
bill was roughly $884 billion, but it grew to more than $900 billion as senators
added provisions including tax breaks totaling $30 billion for purchases of
homes and cars.
Lawmakers said that by poring over the 736-page bill they had excised about $110
billion, bringing the total cost to about $780 billion — $40 billion less than
the stimulus bill approved by the House last week. Because of consumer tax
breaks and spending for health research that had been added in the Senate, the
new total for the measure could be about $820 billion. But even the senators
behind the compromise were uncertain of the number.
In addition to the large cut in state aid, the Senate agreement would cut nearly
$20 billion proposed for school construction; $8 billion to refurbish federal
buildings and make them more energy efficient; $1 billion for the early
childhood program Head Start; and $2 billion from a plan to expand broadband
data networks in rural and underserved areas.
The administration had initially hoped that it could win the support of as many
as 80 senators, but that goal disappeared after House Republicans voted
unanimously against the measure. As questions were raised about the total
spending, getting even three or four Republican senators to sign on became
Ms. Collins said she believed the changes had significantly improved the
measure. Mr. Specter said that while he still had reservations, he had come to
accept Mr. Obama’s push to enact the economic plan by mid-February. “I believe
we do have to act,” Mr. Specter said, “and under the circumstances this is the
best we can do.”
But several other Republicans who had taken part in the talks said they could
not support the compromise.
“Unfortunately, there was too much in the Democratic counterproposal that was
not stimulative,” said Senator George V. Voinovich of Ohio, “and that did not
provide the jump-start our economy so desperately needs.”
The Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said most Republicans
remained unconvinced that the package would reinvigorate the economy.
“You have to balance the likelihood of success versus the crushing debt that
we’re levying on the backs of our children, our grandchildren and, yes, their
children,” Mr. McConnell said.
Mr. Reid urged Republicans to get behind the plan. “This is a critical day for
this new Congress and our country,” he said. “Faced with this grave and growing
economic crisis, Republicans must decide today whether they will join the
president and Congressional Democrats on that road to recovery.”
Senators Reach Accord on
Stimulus Plan as Jobs Vanish, NYT, 7.2.2009,
Paterson Picks Gillibrand for Senate
January 24, 2009
The New York Times
By DANNY HAKIM and NICHOLAS CONFESSOREALBANY — Gov. David A. Paterson has
selected Representative Kirsten Gillibrand, a 42-year-old congresswoman from
upstate who is known for bold political moves and centrist policy positions, to
fill the United States Senate seat vacated by Hillary Rodham Clinton, according
to a person who spoke to the governor early Friday.
The governor will announce his selection at noon in Albany. An aide to Ms.
Gillibrand confirmed that she had accepted the appointment.
Ms. Gillibrand is largely unknown to New Yorkers statewide, but is considered an
up-and-coming and forceful lawmaker in her district and has gained considerable
attention from Democratic leaders in Washington.
Mr. Paterson made his final decision shortly before 2 a.m. Friday after a
marathon series of phone calls and deliberations with his top aides, according
to the person who spoke to him. He began making phone calls to other contenders
about 9 p.m., and had notified most of the other contenders by midnight. By
then, the only two candidates who had not heard from Mr. Paterson were Ms.
Gillibrand and Randi Weingarten, the president of the United Federation of
One of Mr. Paterson’s preferences had been to select a woman to replace Mrs.
The governor continued to deliberate and discuss the matter with his advisers —
despite earlier reports that he had settled on Ms. Gillibrand — until he made
his decision, according to the person who talked to him. He then called Ms.
Gillibrand, who had earlier in the evening been told to come to Albany to await
an announcement, to let her know she was his pick.
If Mr. Paterson was hoping to quiet the tumult over the selection process by
picking Ms. Gillibrand, there were indications that he may not get his wish. Ms.
Gillibrand, who has been endorsed by the National Rifle Association, is
controversial among some of the party’s more liberal leaders downstate.
Representative Carolyn McCarthy, a Long Island Democrat and ardent gun control
activist, said Thursday that if Ms. Gillibrand got the job, she was prepared to
run against her in a primary in 2010. Ms. McCarthy was elected to Congress after
her husband was killed in a gunman’s rampage on the Long Island Rail Road in
Ms. Gillibrand’s selection was a careful political calculation by the governor,
who will run for his second term as governor in 2010, when Ms. Gillibrand will
also be on the ballot. The choice reflects Mr. Paterson’s thinking that his
selection should be someone who can help him attract key demographics — in Ms.
Gillibrand’s case upstate New Yorkers and women.
Ms. Gillibrand, who lives near Hudson, N.Y., just outside of Albany, with her
husband, Jonathan Gillibrand, a financial consultant, and their sons, Theodore,
who is 5, and Henry, who is 6 months old. (Ms. Gillibrand received a standing
ovation on the floor of the House from her colleagues for working right up to
the day she gave birth to Henry.)
Ms. Gillibrand, who had never held public office, won her seat in 2006 against
great odds, defeating a four-term Republican incumbent in a race that turned
intense and nasty in its final days.
She proved to be a formidable candidate, raising millions of dollars and
assembling a campaign organization that aggressively exploited the personal and
political baggage of her opponent, Representative John E. Sweeney, who
frequently found himself on the defensive.
Just before the election, for example, the Sweeney camp accused Ms. Gillibrand
of being behind a published report that the police had been called to the
congressman’s home during a domestic disturbance. Mr. Sweeney even ran a
television spot in which his wife, Gayle Sweeney, spoke of how his rival was
attempting to “slander my marriage, husband and family.”
Mr. Sweeney eventually admitted that the police had been called to his home. In
the end, Ms. Gillibrand won with 53 percent of the vote.
The news of Ms. Gillibrand’s appointment followed a day of anonymous and often
bitter sniping over Caroline Kennedy’s mystifying departure from the Senate
Because the governor has often contradicted his own comments about the Senate
pick in the course of a single day, no one in the capital appeared ready to say
for certain who the new senator would be. Ms. Gillibrand’s was the name most
frequently mentioned, though other candidates, including Ms. Weingarten and
Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo, were not ruled out.
The governor’s announcement on Friday is unlikely to immediately undo the public
relations damage over the collapse of Ms. Kennedy’s candidacy or put to rest
criticism that the governor had lost control of the selection process.
There was incredulity in Democratic circles on Thursday afternoon after the
governor’s camp engaged in a ferocious public back-and-forth with Ms. Kennedy’s
side, reaching out to numerous news organizations to disparage her
qualifications; one person close to the governor said that her candidacy had
been derailed by problems involving taxes and a household employee, but declined
to provide details.
That account was at odds with Ms. Kennedy’s own description of her reasons for
withdrawing. While not denying that issues had arisen, aides to Ms. Kennedy
played down their significance, saying they had been aired out in discussions
between the Paterson and Kennedy camps over the last two weeks and were not
considered by either side to be disqualifying.
Ms. Kennedy’s only tax issue on the public record appeared to be a $615 city tax
lien that she settled in 1994, a minuscule amount for a multimillionaire.
The person close to the governor also said emphatically that Mr. Paterson “never
had any intention of picking Kennedy” because he had come to consider her
unready for the job.
But several people who had spoken to the governor said he had decided on Ms.
Kennedy weeks ago. A Democratic operative with ties to Mr. Paterson said the
governor told Ms. Kennedy last week that she was the choice but that he would
use the next few days to do “a little misdirection to keep the suspense up.”
Later Thursday, the two sides appeared to agree to a cease-fire.
At 5 p.m., Mr. Paterson’s office said “the governor considers Caroline a friend
and knows she will continue to serve New York well inside or outside of
No “information gathered during this selection process created a necessity for
any candidate to withdraw,” the statement said, adding that “speculation to the
contrary is both inaccurate and inappropriate.”
Shortly thereafter, a spokesman for Ms. Kennedy issued a statement saying:
“Caroline Kennedy withdrew her name for consideration from the United States
Senate for personal reasons. Any statements to the contrary are false.”
Certainly, the bid for the Senate seat was a bracing process for Ms. Kennedy.
Before she began her candidacy last month, she was a quiet celebrity daughter of
a storied and tragic family, fondly remembered by many Americans as a young girl
in the White House who liked to ride horses.
On Thursday, an aide to Ms. Kennedy, offering the fullest explanation so far of
her exit, said a personal problem had emerged on Wednesday. She called the
governor around 3 or 4 p.m., the aide said, to tell him that she would be
withdrawing from consideration for the appointment. According to the aide, Mr.
Paterson told Ms. Kennedy to take a day to think about it.
At no point, the aide said, did the governor tell Ms. Kennedy she was out of the
running. “He was saying she was a contender, she was involved, and things were
going the way they were going,” the aide said. “He did not tell her either way
that it was yes or no, but that she was still being considered.”
At that point, the aide said, Ms. Kennedy began consulting with friends and
family. Around the same time, news outlets, including The New York Post and The
New York Times, began reporting that she had withdrawn.
The Paterson administration initially refused to respond to the reports. Then,
about 7 p.m. Wednesday, a spokesman for Mr. Paterson said in a brief interview
that the governor had dismissed the idea that Ms. Kennedy was withdrawing as
“just the rumor of the day.”
But at the time, according to Ms. Kennedy’s aide, the governor and Ms. Kennedy
had already spoken about the possibility of her withdrawing.
Ms. Kennedy’s own political advisers appeared at times to be unable to reach her
on Wednesday night. At one point late in the evening, Ms. Kennedy was drafting a
statement reaffirming her interest in the seat. But she ultimately concluded
that she would go ahead with her plan to withdraw, and released a statement by
e-mail at 12:03 a.m. Thursday, saying, “I informed Governor Paterson today that
for personal reasons I am withdrawing my name from consideration for the United
Rumors about who will get the Senate appointment spread through the capital
Thursday, and several people who are longtime allies of the governor warned that
he was unpredictable.
While some Democratic lawmakers and officials said during the day that they
believed Ms. Gillibrand was the front-runner, others pondered whether the
attention on her was being fanned by Mr. Paterson’s own advisers to distract the
press as he laid the groundwork to pick someone else.
Ms. Gillibrand did her best to stay out of the line of fire, skipping a meeting
of the House Armed Services Committee and declining, through a spokeswoman, to
issue any statements throughout the day.
Gillibrand for Senate, NYT, 24.1.2009,
Some Ask if Bailout Is Unconstitutional
January 16, 2009
The New York Times
By JOHN SCHWARTZ
While much of the debate over the $700 billion federal bailout plan has
focused on whether the money is being spent wisely or well, concerns are growing
among many conservatives about its constitutionality.
Some conservatives have argued that the law creating the program, the Emergency
Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, which Congress passed hastily in October,
violates constitutional principles that limit the amount of power that lawmakers
can delegate to the executive branch.
They also maintain that the enormous bailout plan has illegally grown beyond its
original focus on the financial services industry to include a bailout of the
auto industry and more.
Robert A. Levy, the chairman of the Cato Institute, a libertarian organization
in Washington, said in an interview that the bailout program, which goes by the
acronym TARP for Troubled Assets Relief Program, goes beyond the realm of
delegation the courts should allow. Mr. Levy said that earlier cases had found
such delegation was appropriate if Congress laid down “an intelligible
principle” that provided clear guidance to an agency or a regulator. But that,
he said, is precisely what is missing in the bailout.
“There’s no intelligible principle that I could discern,” Mr. Levy said.
Now the FreedomWorks Foundation, which was founded in 1984 and declares itself
to be “leading the fight for lower taxes, less government and more freedom,”
says it plans to file a lawsuit against the program.
The group’s chairman is Dick Armey, the former Republican House majority leader.
A memorandum the group distributed to Congress on Thursday laid out its argument
that “when Congress delegates so much authority to the executive branch with so
few rules to guide its discretion, Congress unconstitutionally transfers its
lawmaking power to the executive.”
The bailout’s sheer size, the memorandum states, takes it beyond the realm of
other Congressional delegations of authority that have been found
constitutional. “As far as we can tell, Congress has never delegated so much
power to an executive agency with so little to constrain the agency’s
discretion,” the memorandum concluded, calling the result “a classic violation
of the nondelegation principle.”
The group has not said when it might file suit or whom the plaintiffs might be.
“We’re still sort of dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s on that,”
FreedomWorks’ vice president for research, Wayne T. Brough, said.
The possible legal challenge was first reported by Bloomberg News.
Prof. Laurence H. Tribe, an expert on constitutional law at Harvard, said in an
interview that such a challenge was unlikely to succeed because the doctrine of
Congressional delegation, which flourished in the 1930s, was significantly
weakened during the New Deal and never recovered.
The bailout, Professor Tribe said, “certainly tests the outer limits of
Congressional delegation authority,” and “if the delegation doctrine were
genuinely alive and well, TARP might be among its potential victims.”
But, he said, recent cases in which the Supreme Court approved broad delegations
of authority made it clear that it was unlikely to intervene on constitutional
grounds. As an example Professor Tribe cited the authority conveyed to the
federal Environmental Protection Agency under the Clean Air Act.
Eric A. Posner, a professor of law at the University of Chicago law school,
“Not even this court,” with its bank of steadily conservative justices, is
likely to revive the kinds of legal arguments of the 1930s, Professor Posner
“I would be extremely surprised,” he said, to see such an enormous legal shift,
especially over a bill that focused on spending as opposed to broader issues.
Dr. Brough of FreedomWorks acknowledged that more than 70 years of jurisprudence
and the structure of the government from the New Deal onward might pose a
difficult barrier for his group to surmount. However, he said: “In our minds,
this is probably the biggest intervention in the economy going back to then.
It’s worth revisiting.”
He said that although the $700 billion was likely to have been spent before any
challenge could make its way through the courts, the economy showed no signs of
turning around, and there were more economic interventions on the way.
When that happens, Dr. Brough said, “it’s important that you can point to
something and say, ‘Hey, guys, what you did last time was wrong.’ ”
Jim Manley, the chief spokesman for the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of
Nevada, said he was unimpressed by the foundation’s argument.
“Taking economic advice from Dick Armey is akin to taking shooting lessons from
Dick Cheney,” Mr. Manley said. “Neither are particularly helpful.”
Some Ask if Bailout Is
Unconstitutional, NYT, 16.1.2009,
Senate Releases Second Portion of Bailout Fund
January 16, 2009
The New York Times
By DAVID M. HERSZENHORN
WASHINGTON — President-elect Barack Obama’s economic agenda advanced rapidly
in Congress on Thursday as the Senate voted to release the second half of the
financial industry bailout fund and House Democrats unveiled an $825 billion
fiscal recovery plan aimed at putting millions of unemployed Americans back to
The Senate action, by a vote of 52 to 42, spares Mr. Obama a messy legislative
fight just as he takes office and gives him a $350 billion war chest to further
stabilize the financial sector. The vote came amid renewed distress in the
banking industry, including further deterioration of Citigroup and a pitch for
more government aid by the Bank of America.
Mr. Obama had personally lobbied reluctant senators to release the money. His
top economic adviser, Lawrence H. Summers, made three visits to the Capitol and
sent two letters to reassure lawmakers that the program would be better managed.
In the most recent letter, delivered shortly before the vote, Mr. Summers
promised to use $50 billion to $100 billion for “a sweeping effort to address
the foreclosure crisis.” He promised tough oversight and clear tracking of how
the money is used, and new restrictions on executive pay at firms that receive
The vote was an early test for Mr. Obama, in which 6 Republicans joined 46
Democrats to release the money and keep the new administration’s agenda on
After personal entreaties from Mr. Obama, all but one of the seven Democratic
freshmen senators voted to release the money, including Senators Mark Udall of
Colorado and Tom Udall of New Mexico, who as House members twice voted against
the original bailout bill.
In a statement, the president-elect applauded the outcome.
“I know this wasn’t an easy vote because of the frustration so many of us share
about how the first half of this plan was implemented,” Mr. Obama said. “Now my
pledge is to change the way this plan is implemented and keep faith with the
Rahm Emanuel, the incoming White House chief of staff who huddled with
Republicans on Wednesday to make the case for the money, saw the outcome as the
first major win for the new administration.
“Obviously we would have preferred something else,” Mr. Emanuel said. “But this
was the first play of the game, and we threw an 80-yard pass.”
The House may still vote on the bailout money, but the point is moot because the
law requires action by both chambers to block the funds. Instead, House
Democrats said they could focus on their aggressive timetable for the $825
billion stimulus measure.
That package, developed in partnership with Mr. Obama, includes huge increases
in spending on education, aid to states for Medicaid costs, temporary increases
in jobless benefits and a vast array of public works projects to create jobs.
The stimulus plan is the centerpiece of Mr. Obama’s early agenda and seeks to
make good on some of his signature campaign promises, including an income tax
cut for most Americans earning less than $200,000 a year.
Under the plan, individuals would receive up to $500 and families up to $1,000.
The money would be delivered through paychecks as a reduction in Social Security
withholdings, and is intended to bolster consumer spending by giving a small
lift to household pocketbooks.
Some of the other major components of the plan include $87 billion for a
temporary increase in aid to states for Medicaid costs; $79 billion in aid to
local school districts and public colleges to prevent cutbacks; $90 billion in
infrastructure spending, and $54 billion to encourage energy production from
The Senate is developing its own version of the stimulus bill, and intense
haggling is expected over the next few weeks. The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi of
California, has said the bill must pass by mid-February or she will cancel the
Presidents’ Day recess.
The House version, introduced by the Appropriations Committee chairman,
Representative David R. Obey, Democrat of Wisconsin, contains the broad
parameters expected in the final product: roughly $550 billion in spending and
$275 billion in tax cuts over two years. The House is expected to vote on the
bill the week of Jan 26.
Mr. Obey, at a news conference, said that without the recovery plan, Americans
would face a dire recession and unemployment of 12 percent. He said that even
such a huge stimulus might not be enough to stabilize the economy.
“You have to look at this bill as not a salvation for the economy by any means,”
he said, sitting at his desk in the Capitol with a window behind him overlooking
the Washington Monument. “It is simply the largest effort by any legislative
body on the planet to try to take government action to prevent economic
catastrophe, and even that may be insufficient.”
Mr. Obama is expected to travel to hard-hit Ohio on Friday to trumpet aspects of
the plan, particularly the renewable energy provisions and the aid for
struggling Americans, including a further extension of jobless benefits, new
health insurance subsidies for the unemployed and an increase in food stamps.
Although Mr. Obama promised to collaborate with Republicans and consider all
ideas, the draft proposal put forward emphasized mostly Democratic principles of
helping middle-class workers with tax relief and helping the unemployed pay
health care costs.
Republican leaders quickly criticized the plan.
“This is the first time Republicans and the American people have seen any
specifics on the proposal Congressional Democrats intend to pass, and what we’re
seeing is disappointing,” the Republican leader, Representative John A. Boehner
of Ohio, said in a statement. “The plan released this morning by Congressional
Democrats was developed with no Republican input and appears to be grounded in
the flawed notion that we can simply borrow and spend our way back to
Mr. Boehner and other Republicans are planning to push for deeper and more
permanent tax cuts that they say will do a better job of encouraging economic
Among lawmakers in both parties, there has been substantial outrage on Capitol
Hill over the Bush administration’s management of the bailout program. Some
senators said the new worries over Citigroup and Bank of America had influenced
Many Republicans said they were angered that the administration had used the
rescue money to help General Motors and Chrysler, and they demanded assurances
from the Obama administration that it would not similarly aid individual
In urging senators to release the money, the majority leader, Senator Harry Reid
of Nevada, gave an impassioned speech, focused on Mr. Obama. “We must give our
new president every tool to try to fix this economy,” Mr. Reid said.
The Republican leader, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who voted against
releasing the money, said he appreciated Mr. Obama’s assurances that the bailout
program would be used to stabilize the financial system. But Mr. McConnell said,
“the incoming administration also indicated it would use the money in ways I
Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, who supported the original bailout,
voted against releasing the money.
Mr. Obama, in a meeting with the editorial board of The Washington Post, said
that he would convene a “fiscal responsibility summit” in February to focus on
solving long-term problems with the economy, including the rising costs of
Social Security and Medicare.
At his news conference, Mr. Obey said that the bill would create a board to
oversee how the stimulus money was being spent and that money allocated under
the recovery bill would be tracked on a new Web site.
Carl Hulse contributed reporting.
Senate Releases Second
Portion of Bailout Fund, NYT, 16.1.2009,
Despite Anger, Release of $350 Billion More for Bailout Gains
January 13, 2009
The New York Times
By DAVID M. HERSZENHORN and EDMUND L. ANDREWS
WASHINGTON — Republican and Democratic Senate leaders signaled on Monday that
they would support the release of the second half of the Treasury’s $700 billion
financial system bailout fund, despite anger among many rank-and-file lawmakers
over the Bush administration’s management of the program.
As Congress prepared to act, regulators directed thousands of banks to provide
more information about how they have used the money received through the bailout
program, responding to concern that financial institutions were hoarding the
cash rather than lending it to businesses and consumers.
President-elect Barack Obama said on Monday that like Democrats and Republicans
on Capitol Hill, his administration would demand substantially greater oversight
of the program.
President Bush on Monday formally requested the $350 billion from Congress at
the urging of Mr. Obama.
Under the bailout law, Congress can block the money but only if the House and
Senate act to do so. The Senate is expected to vote on the request as early as
Aides said that Mr. Obama would attend the weekly lunch of Democratic senators
at the Capitol on Tuesday, where he was expected to encourage his former
colleagues to approve the bailout money as well as discuss details of his
proposed $800 billion recovery package.
Mr. Obama made calls to a number of senators in both parties Monday, including
Kent Conrad of North Dakota, the Democratic chairman of the Budget Committee.
After a meeting with the president of Mexico on Monday, Mr. Obama said the
additional $350 billion would be critical to his efforts to stabilize the
“It is clear that the financial system, although improved from where it was in
September, is still fragile, and I felt that it would be irresponsible for me
with the first $350 billion already spent, to enter into the administration
without any potential ammunition should there be some sort of emergency or
weakening of the financial system,” Mr. Obama said.
“I think many of us have been disappointed with the absence of clarity, the lack
of transparency, the failure to track how the money’s been spent and the failure
to take bold action with respect to areas like housing, consumer credit, so that
we can maintain credit,” he said.
In conjunction with Mr. Bush’s announcement, Lawrence H. Summers, Mr. Obama’s
designee to be director of the National Economic Council, sent a letter to
Congressional leaders, pressing them to approve the funds and promising to
overhaul the bailout program, including more oversight and a sweeping new effort
to prevent home foreclosures.
Mr. Summers said the Obama administration would also impose tough conditions on
companies receiving aid, including limits on executive pay and shareholder
dividends. “We will ensure that resources are directed to increasing lending and
preventing new financial crises and not to enriching shareholders or
executives,” he wrote.
Separately, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation also moved on Monday to
reassure critics who had complained that banks were not using the bailout money
as intended to increase the flow of credit.
The F.D.I.C. directed the 5,100 banks that it regulates to document how they
have used government money that they have received.
The agency did not spell out or even imply how much of the money that banks
receive should go toward new lending, as opposed to building capital reserves or
making acquisitions. But in requiring the banks to provide information, the
F.D.I.C. went further than any of the other federal regulators to put pressure
The Senate’s approval of the $350 billion would be a big relief for the Obama
administration, which is hoping to avoid a messy legislative battle just as the
new president takes office. That outcome seemed increasingly likely as some
influential senators said they would urge their colleagues to approve the money.
“It’s extremely important that we make these dollars available to the new
administration so there is as much flexibility as possible to stabilize the
financial system,” Senator Judd Gregg, Republican of New Hampshire, said.
Critics, including an oversight panel, have accused the Bush administration of
badly mismanaging the program, in part by not adequately tracking how private
banks have used bailout funds.
But some lawmakers said the bailout, formally called the Troubled Asset Relief
Program or TARP, had accomplished its main goal by preventing a further
deterioration of the credit and stock markets.
“Without the first TARP, we may have a Dow at 4,000 right now and the economy in
an absolutely free fall,” Mr. Conrad said.
But the request for the bailout money is still certain to generate impassioned
Mr. Conrad, in an interview, said that the letter from Mr. Summers and the phone
call from Mr. Obama had addressed all of his concerns and convinced him that the
new administration should be trusted with the $350 billion. But he said other
lawmakers could be harder to convince.
“I think it is going to take communications from the president-elect and
repeated outreach to my colleagues because people feel so burned by the previous
administration’s handling of the authority given to them,” Mr. Conrad said.
The Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said he was reluctant
to provide the additional money.
“The American people have a lot of questions about how additional funds would be
used,” Mr. McConnell said. “I would be hard pressed to support additional
funding for the TARP without sufficient assurances this money will not be
wasted, misspent or simply used for more industry-specific bailouts.”
Some lawmakers, including the House Republican leader, John A. Boehner of Ohio,
have said they will oppose disbursing the $350 billion.
Other critics, including Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts, have expressed
a willingness to release the money provided conditions are attached to it. Mr.
Frank has drafted a bill that would impose those controls and would also require
at least $40 billion of the new money be used for home foreclosure prevention
efforts. And in a sign that Mr. Obama’s assurances just might not be enough,
House Democratic leaders said they would push to approve Mr. Frank’s bill this
Even if the Senate approves the bailout money, the House will have to vote as
well. And some Democratic aides said it was difficult to envision approval of
the money without Mr. Frank’s bill also being adopted.
The Treasury Department, under threat of a subpoena, agreed on Monday to turn
over to Senator Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan, copies of the 10 contracts it
had signed with major Wall Street firms under the $700 billion federal bailout
The documents were requested in late October by Mr. Levin, who heads the
Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.
The companies are American International Group, Bank of America, Bank of New
York Mellon, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Merrill Lynch, Morgan
Stanley, State Street Corporation and Wells Fargo.
The subcommittee has no plans to make the contracts public, an aide to Mr. Levin
Despite Anger, Release of $350
Billion More for Bailout Gains Favor, NYT, 13.1.2009,