Friday, February 19, 2010

Healthcare Reform and Congress - WellPoint Rate Hike Helps Democrats Argue Health Reform - CNBC

Healthcare Reform and Congress - WellPoint Rate Hike Helps Democrats Argue Health Reform - CNBC

WellPoint Rate Hike Helps Democrats Argue Health Reform

Democrats looking to revive their healthcare reform plan are pointing to the controversial rate hikes of health insurer WellPoint to show the costs consumers face in the absence of new healthcare legislation.

The Obama administration and congressional Democrats are using the company's planned increases — up to 39 percent for some individuals — as part of their strategy to inject momentum into legislation that has stalled in Congress.

On Wednesday, a House Energy and Commerce panel will grill company leadership over the increases. Committee Democrats have called on Chief Executive Officer Angela Braly to testify, but it is unclear who will take the political hot seat. It comes one day before a highly anticipated White House meeting with Republicans over the pending healthcare legislation.

"HHS (Department of Health and Human Services) and the White House are now looking for a villain to have a reason to push through some sort of bill with the reconciliation procedure, and this is one way to vilify the industry," Sanford Bernstein analyst Ana Gupte said.

Fight Over Health-Care Premiums Heats Up - WSJ

A firestorm between the Obama administration and health insurers escalated Thursday, as the Department of Health and Human Services pointed to double-digit price increases or attempted increases in six states to make the case for overhauling the health-care system.
Over the past week, Democrats and WellPoint Inc., the country's largest insurer by members, have sparred over a 39% premium increase for individual plans by Wellpoint's Anthem Blue Cross unit in the individual market in California. At a news conference Thursday, Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius cited more "extreme premium increases," including requests that insurers made to state regulators to raise rates by 56% in Michigan, 24% in Connecticut, 23% in Maine and 20% in Oregon.

"Unfortunately, this is pretty widespread," said Ms. Sebelius.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Democrats Target Stimulus Critics Who Sought Funds - WSJ


7 PDF letters link: Read the letters 

Democrats, stung by criticism of their $787 billion economic-stimulus plan, are targeting Republicans who have attacked the program and then lobbied to get money for their districts.

More than a dozen Republican lawmakers supported stimulus-funding requests submitted to the Department of Labor, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Forest Service, in letters obtained by The Wall Street Journal through the Freedom of Information Act.

The stimulus package passed last February with no Republican votes in the House of Representatives. In the Senate, just three Republicans supported it: Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, who later switched to the Democratic Party.

Lawmakers routinely send letters in support of federal funding for projects in their constituencies; some Republican lawmakers have deliberately avoided sending requests for stimulus dollars because of their opposition to the bill.

Rep. Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican who called the stimulus a "wasteful spending spree" that "misses the mark on all counts," wrote to Labor Secretary Hilda Solis in October in support of a grant application from a group in his district which, he said, "intends to place 1,000 workers in green jobs." A spokeswoman for Mr. Ryan said the congressman felt it was his job to provide "the basic constituent service of lending his assistance for federal grant requests."

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Senate Republicans: Filibuster everything to win in November?

Senate Republicans are using the filibuster to limit and often derail Democrats' initiatives, paralyzing the Senate and making it nearly impossible to accomplish even the most routine matters.

Since Barack Obama became president nearly 13 months ago, Republicans have made it clear that 60 votes — the number needed to cut off debate in the 100-member Senate — are required to pass not only major Democratic programs, but also many routine proposals.

Energy Savers: Virginia Appliance Rebates

Energy Savers: Virginia Appliance Rebates
The State of Virginia will implement a mail-in rebate program to help residents replace old, inefficient appliances with new, efficient ENERGY STAR® qualified appliances. Advanced rebate reservation is required. The program is tentatively scheduled to begin in April 2010 and if funds are not depleted, will continue in 2011.

Eligible products might include

Clothes washers
Gas storage water heaters
Gas tankless water heaters
Gas furnaces
Air source heat pumps

Virginia encourages residents to recycle their old appliances.

Contact: Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy

Total Funding: $7,454,000

'Cash for Appliances' coming to a state near you

NEW YORK ( -- A government program that gives consumers rebates on purchases of energy-efficient household appliances is ramping up in states across the country.

The $300 million 'Cash for Appliances' program, first announced last year, is funded by the government's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and is similar to other federal programs like Cash for Caulkers and Cash for Clunkers.


Georgia, which also launched its program Friday, is offering consumers rebates of up to $199 on items such as air-source heat pumps, solar-powered water heaters and gas boilers.

California received the most funding, with $35.3 million. The state already has incentives in place of energy-efficient appliances, but will begin offering additional rebates under the federal program in April.

West Virginia received the second largest amount of funding. The state plans to start its $23.3 million program in April.

Oklahoma, which had the smallest budget at $1.9 million, will also start its program in April.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Governor flies to Washington to support S.C. bid for stimulus - Local / Metro -

Governor flies to Washington to support S.C. bid for stimulus - Local / Metro -

Gov. Mark Sanford flew to Washington on Thursday to tell the Obama administration that South Carolina wants $300 million in federal stimulus money.

Sanford, who spent much of last year fighting parts of the Obama administration's stimulus plan, now wants S.C. to have a piece of $4 billion in "Race to the Top" education money.

The money is awarded to states based on their plans to improve education and innovate. Forty states have applied so far.

The state Department of Education submitted a 1,251-page application last month, requesting nearly $300 million.

Each state created proposals to:

- Improve the quality of its teachers with an eye toward attracting and retaining teachers who get results in the classroom

- Build data systems that track students' progress throughout their school career

- Adopt tough standards and tests for all students that prepare them for college and careers

- Provide interventions and intensive help to turn around the lowest performing schools

Monday, February 1, 2010

Gates Sacks Stealth Jet Chief, Blasts - from DANGER ROOM

Gates Sacks Stealth Jet Chief, Blasts ‘Troubling Record’ of Crucial Plane

If the Pentagon doesn’t get its Joint Strike Fighter just right, the U.S. military is screwed. Which is why its a such serious, serious problem this stealthy, all-purpose jet has had such a “troubling performance record,” according to Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Things have gone so wrong that Gates just announced he’s sacking the head of the star-crossed, nearly $350 billion program and is withholding hundreds of millions of dollars in performance fees to JSF-maker Lockheed Martin. “When things go wrong, people will be held accountable,” Gates told reporters.
That is, if the JSF program works as planned. So far, that performance has “not been what it should” Gates said. Total costs have ballooned by more than 45% since the program’s inception. According to some reports, the stealth jet isn’t even that stealthy. Its engines run the risk of burning holes in the decks of the ships its supposed to lift off from. Final tests for the plane could be pushed back until as late as 2016, a two-year delay.

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Sarah Palin Uses PAC to Buy Her Own Book - ABC News

Sarah Palin Uses PAC to Buy Her Own Book
Political Action Committee Paid More than $60,000 for Copies of 'Going Rogue' in Late 2009

Sarah Palin has been using her political action committee to buy up thousands of copies of her book, "Going Rogue," in order to mail copies of the memoir to her donors, newly filed campaign records show.

The former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate had her political organization spend more than $63,000 on what her reports describe as "books for fundraising donor fulfillment." The payments went to Harper Collins, her publisher, and in some instances to HSP Direct, a Virginia-based direct mail fundraising firm that serves a number of well-known conservative politicians and pundits.

Sarah PAC spent another $8,000 on colorful bookmarks designed by a Nashville-based event branding firm. And her committee paid her publisher $20,000 for what appears to have been the cost of sending her personal photographer and another aide along on her book tour. Those expenses are listed by the PAC as travel repayment to Harper Collins.

All of the purchases took place in November and December of 2009, the records show.