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January 27, 2010 - by Eric Naing

State of the Union Day is finally here. As the president sets the agenda for the coming year, many issues from climate change legislation to “don’t ask, don’t tell” could be affected, but none moreso than healthcare:

  • Congressional Democrats are looking for marching orders in President Obama’s speech tonight and it looks like he will deliver. TPM reports that while “all options are on the table” regarding health care, House Democrats are moving toward passing the Senate bill as long as it can be changed later on through the reconciliation process. They’d better hurry, though. According to Sen. Bob Casey [D, PA], Congress only has a few weeks left to pass a health care bill. (Talking Points Memo)
  • If the plan to pass the Senate bill collapses, at least one liberal Democrat has potentially signaled his willingness to vote for a scaled down version of the health care bill. Independent and self-identified socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders [I, VT] recently said on MSNBC, “I think that if what we end up passing may not be as comprehensive as some would like, so what?” This news is surprising considering that Sanders at one point threatened to vote against the Senate bill for not being liberal enough. (The Hill)
  • On a related note, Paul Starr, an architect of the Clinton health care plan, takes the far left to task for their opposition to the current health care plans. Starr calls the House and Senate health care bills “a stunning historical achievement and the most important liberal reform since the 1960s” and “the most underappreciated social legislation in recent history.” (The American Prospect)
  • If Scott Brown’s victory last week in Massachusetts didn’t throw the health care negotiations into chaos, it looks like Sen. Ben Nelson [D, NE] would have anyway. The Wonk Room flags an interview Nelson gave to a pro-life website where he said he planned on withholding his vote once the Senate and House bills were merged unless Stupak-like language was added. Nelson had already agreed to a previous abortion compromise. (The Wonk Room)
  • Scott Brown syndrome has also struck the Senate’s efforts to pass a comprehensive climate change bill. Sen. Lindsey Graham [R, SC], a rare Republican in the Senate supporting such efforts, has abandoned the cap-and-trade system to limit carbon emissions. This news, says Grist’s David Roberts, “signals the death knell for a comprehensive cap-and-trade program, this year and probably for the duration of Obama’s term in office.” (Grist)
  • Many talented politicians have delivered the opposition’s response to the State of the Union and many have fallen on their face. Bob McDonnell, the recently elected Republican governor of Virginia, has the doomed task today. But this year he’s trying to inject some life into the usually flaccid speech by surrounding himself with 300 supporters. Even though Democrats are crying foul, the move might help McDonnell avoid a repeat of Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s widely-panned response speech last year. (The Richmond Times Dispatch)

Remember, you can watch the State of the Union tonight at 9 p.m. Eastern Time on all major broadcast and cable news networks. You can also watch it online at WhiteHouse.gov.

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