Washington Post -- House Democrats hit boiling point over perceived lack of White House support

The worst part of Robert Gibbs’ too-cute prediction of a possible GOP House takeover is how much crow his boss is eating to please the always-bleating and now terrified House Democratic caucus.

House members know that Gibbs wasn’t lying when he said a GOP takeover was possible, but admitting that makes it harder to squeeze influence shopping corporate donors and dispirits outside groups who get liberal voters to the polls. The Pittsburgh Pirates don’t admit before the All-Star break that they’re probably not going to the World Series.

Nancy Pelosi and her team have been rebuking, demeaning and generally abusing Gibbs, always being careful to make it a Gibbs problem, not an Obama problem.

House Democrats are using this moment to make Obama do their bidding – going to campaign and raise money for them in the districts where he can still help and generally adopting a stronger defensive line around the House majority.

The Obama strategy has for months been to accept the loss of a few dozen seats in the House as a consequence of pushing their overlarge agenda, but holding on to control and, more importantly, limiting Senate losses.

But having said so publicly, Gibbs gave Pelosi the perfect opportunity to push back. She met Wednesday with Obama and writer Paul Kane tells us that her Obama wish list was long.

House members are a permanent pain to presidents and Gibbs gave them the upper hand.

“[Interviews] with more than 10 lawmakers and senior aides, from liberal and conservative districts, made it clear that scores of House Democrats at the gathering shared Pascrell's and Pelosi's dissatisfaction. Most of those interviewed did not want to be quoted by name criticizing the president.

House members complain that the White House routinely shows them disrespect. Until recently, some said, administration aides would wait until the last minute to inform them when a Cabinet official would be traveling to their districts to give a speech or announce a government grant. Lawmakers love these events, which let them take advantage of local press coverage.”


Daniel Henninger -- Berwick: Bigger Than Kagan

Senate Republicans have begun a blockade of President Obama’s court nominees in protest of the recess appointment of Dr. Donald Berwick to be the new head of Medicare and Medicaid.

The move may work because some Senate Democrats, particularly Finance Committee boss Max Baucus, feel slighted by the decision to put in Berwick without even a hearing.

It’s now possible that the White House will have to offer up Berwick for some kind of Senate inquiry – maybe not the full monty, but perhaps a chance for lawmakers to ask him about who funds the foundation he created and leads and what he meant when he talked about the need for a health care system to reallocate wealth.

Henninger, who argues that this appointment is the “most significant domestic-policy personnel decision in a generation” offers up a litany of choice Berwick quotes. The guy may be a brilliant hospital administrator, but he definitely has some pretty serious problems with the American way -- "I cannot believe that the individual health care consumer can enforce through choice the proper configurations of a system as massive and complex as health care. That is for leaders to do."


Henninger’s point, though, is that even if Berwick sounds like a Huxley character when he talks about the need for standardization and the end of “autonomy,” it’s within the president’s power to appoint him to be the chief engineer of Obamacare.

But it’s not his right to disregard the public vetting process.

“Vilifying Dr. Berwick alone for his views is in a way beside the point. Within Mr. Obama's circle they all think like this. Defeat Dr. Berwick, and they will send up 50 more who would pursue the same goals.

If the American people want the world Dr. Berwick wishes to give them, that's their choice. But they must be given that choice with full, televised confirmation hearings.

Barack Obama, Donald Berwick and the rest may fancy themselves philosopher kings who know what we need without the need to inform or persuade us first. That's not how it works here.”


Charles Hurt – Bam turns to Bubba as presidency is going bust

As the U.S. Chamber of Commerce held a jobs summit in Washington – mostly talking about how there weren’t many to be found -- the group rebuffed a request for a rebuttal by Oprah’s friend Valerie Jarrett. So the White House held its own hastily arranged jobs summit with President Obama, 2008 endorser Warren Buffet, the CEO of government contractor Honeywell, the CEO of government-owned Bank of America and former President Bill Clinton.

Obama is desperate for something good to say about the economy – he heads to Holland, Michigan today to talk about stimulus-subsidized electric car batteries -- and is increasingly turning to Clinton to vouch for him on the possibility of economic turnaround.

The problem, though, is that with a pile of Obama-backed regulations and taxes ahead – not to mention lots of market uncertainty – companies are sitting on the cash they made during the brief quasi-recovery. When the government goes around taking stuff, people tend to get more protective.

Bill Clinton may be able to talk a snake out of its skin, but he can’t convince companies that this is a good time to invest. But because Obama is in dire shape with independents and among moderate Democrats who believe he has led their party off a cliff, he is increasingly dependent on the Big He for help.

Hurt reminds us that no politician ever wants to be in that position.

“If there are any doubts about how much trouble Clinton can cause, one need look no further than Florida. The White House's best hope for the Senate is independent Gov. Charlie Crist.

But Clinton's supporting Rep. Kendrick Meek, who backed wife Hillary over Obama in 2008.”


The Hill -- Senate Democrats blame BP and Britain for Lockerbie bomber’s release

The well is capped, but not capped, as the feds and BP continue to squabble over the safety of clamping down the new lid. At one point, BP even stopped drilling on the relief wells for safety fears.

It’s hard to get people to work together when each discussion is part of a criminal investigation being led by one of the parties.

But the effort to nail BP took an interesting turn Wednesday as the Senate delegations from New York and New Jersey suggested that the British government sought the release of Libyan Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi at the behest of the oil company, then locked in negotiations with the Quaddafi regime over a $900 million oil project.

The Senators admitted a circumstantial case, but did not stint in demonizing BP and, by extension, the British government for trading the release of a convicted terrorist for oil leases.

This is ticklish for President Obama in two ways.

First, PM David Cameron is headed to Washington for a White House visit next week. To have four members of Obama’s party pushing hard on such an unflattering story will make their reunion a little more awkward

Second, it’s believed that the Obama administration had at least a heads up, if not a sign off, on the release of al-Megrahi, whose terminal illness has seemingly abated in the desert climes of his homeland. If BP lobbied Gordon Brown’s government, did it also lobby Obama’s? Did the ample access provided by being the favorite Democratic energy company make the task easier?

So far, the Senators are only asking Hillary Clinton to investigate herself, but these things have a way of taking on lives of their own.

Writer Alexander Bolton explains:

“On Tuesday, the four Democratic senators sent a letter to Clinton demanding an investigation, writing, ‘Evidence in the Deepwater Horizon disaster seems to suggest that BP would put profit ahead of people — its attention to safety was negligible, and it routinely underestimated the amount of oil gushing into the Gulf. The question we now have to answer is, was this corporation willing to trade justice in the murder of 270 innocent people for oil profits?’

Lautenberg has also asked Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) to hold a hearing on the decision to free al-Megrahi.”


New York Times -- Ethics Inquiry Focuses on Fund-Raisers and House Vote

Whenever someone is worried about the “appearance of impropriety” there’s a pretty good chance that what they’re worried about is protecting the actual impropriety.

The House ethics investigation into a bipartisan group of members who held separate fundraisers with the financial sector during the debate on the financial regulatory package now pending.

The real complaint is that the members in question did more crassly what is standard operating procedure in Congress.

What’s the difference between Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer shaking down Wall Street weeks before a vote and some House member doing it the day before?

Reid has milked the pharmaceutical industry before, during and after the Obamacare debate and rewarded the industry with billions and billions in subsidies. Isn’t than improprietous in appearance and actuality?

Writers Eric Lipton and Eric Lichtblau acknowledge that 10 days seems a rather capricious standard for when bagging checks from affected industries is appropriate, but fail to raise the point that using legislation to wheedle contributions is the one of the ways that Congress maintains its 95% incumbency rate.

The sin in the case of these eight was not being discreet.

“‘This is really a redefinition of the law,’ said Kenneth Gross, a Washington ethics lawyer who is fielding some of the document requests from ethics investigators. ‘To pick eight members and say they voted on legislation and political contributions came in around this time is really going places that no regulatory authority has ever gone.’”