Good morning from the West Wing...
The President still lacks the 216 House votes he needs to get a health-care bill, but he is getting closer. Wednesday, two key Democrats moved into the Obama column: Ohio's Dennis Kucinich, who had previously opposed the bill, and Dale E. Kildee of Michigan, who had been among a group seeking more restrictions on insurance-covered abortions. But analysts say the White House still appears to be about 10 votes short of that magic 216.
What happens next? Everyone is waiting for the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office to come out with its estimate of the bill's price tag. House Democratic leaders have said that when the estimate comes out - maybe today - lawmakers will be given 72 hours to review the legislation before voting. This suggests a final vote could take place on Sunday. If the House approves the President's bill, the Senate could then pass a reconciliation bill next week.
Mr. Obama is still scheduled to leave for Asia on Sunday. His departure was supposed to have been today, but was delayed to give him more time to work on health-care.
The President has one public event on his schedule today: he'll sign the HIRE Act in a Rose Garden ceremony. HIRE is a bill designed to spur job growth and strengthen the private sector by encouraging businesses to hire new workers and invest in their companies and communities.
9:30AM THE PRESIDENT receives the Presidential Daily Briefing
11:20AM THE PRESIDENT signs the HIRE Act
1:30PM THE PRESIDENT meets with senior advisors
Sunny and 70, that's the forecast. So Robert Gibbs will hold today's press briefing (at 12:30) in the Rose Garden. It's the first time a regular briefing has been held there in years. Not that there are any roses there this time of year. WWR will bring the frisbee.
Stand Up Joe
If this politics stuff doesn't work out, Vice-President Biden may have a career as a nightclub comic. He brought down the house - not that house - at last night's Radio-TV Correspondents Dinner at the Washington Convention Center. A sampling:
..."trying to negotiate a lasting make peace between the Palestinians and Israel is tough. But it's a hell of a break from health-care."
..."The Republicans are wrong when they say the stimulus hasn't created one job. Well, tell that to Scott Brown."
..."The health care bill's (too long)...just ask Sarah (Palin). That's a hell of a lot to write on the palm of your hand."
..."Liz Cheney has been on a tear. Now she's questioning whether Tom Brady's a real patriot."
But Biden, in case you haven't heard, had no gift of gab at a prior event - a St. Patrick's Day reception at the White House where the guest of honor was Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen. Paying tribute to the Prime Minister's Mother, Biden said "God rest her soul." Just one problem: Mr. Cowen's mother is very much alive. The Vice-President quickly realized his error, noting that it was Mr Cowen's father who had recently died. Biden then corrected himself, saying "God bless her soul" in reference to Mr Cowen's mother.
On This Day
1837: Grover Cleveland was born. He is the only President to serve two non-consecutive terms. He was the 22nd president from 1885 to 1889 and the 24th president from 1893 to 1897.
"National honor is a national property of the highest value." - James Monroe