Biden arrives today as Catholic hospital controversy erupts: Pennsylvania Congressmen involved.
Can you say “October Surprise”?
A mushrooming political battle over ObamaCare involving the White House, two incumbent Pennsylvania congressmen, three Catholic hospitals and a nun has just exploded in, of all places, Scranton, Pennsylvania. Charges from the Scranton medical community of intimidation by the Obama White House and its allies are filling the air.
All of this just as Vice President Joe Biden arrives in Scranton today to raise money for one of the participants.
There are two issues at the core of the controversy.
1. ObamaCare and the sale of three Scranton-area Catholic hospitals.
2. The re-election prospects of the two House members, Democrats Paul Kanjorski and Chris Carney, both of whom cast key votes to pass ObamaCare.
Here’s the list of players — major and minor — so
• The President of the United States.
• The Vice President of the United States.
• Three Scranton-area Catholic hospitals suddenly for sale.
• The CEO of the three Scranton-area Catholic hospitals for sale.
• ObamaCare, otherwise known as “health care reform” or the “Affordable Care Act.”
• A Catholic nun.
• Michigan Congressman Bart Stupak.
• A pen.
• Victoria Reggie Kennedy, widow of the late Senator Ted Kennedy.
• Time magazine.
• The Scranton Times
• The two Scranton-area House members Kanjorski and Carney, both losing in the polls.
• U.S. Senator Bob Casey, Jr., a native and resident of Scranton.
• Congressman Joe Sestak, the Democrats’ nominee for the Pennsylvania U.S. Senate seat.
Where to start? That would be….
March 22, 2010: President Obama signs the Affordable Care Act (aka “ObamaCare”) into law in front of live television cameras and a packed East Room of the White House. According to news accounts, the President uses 21 different pens to sign his name, the highly prized souvenirs of the historic moment given to Vice President Joe Biden, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Victoria Reggie Kennedy, the wife of the late Senator Ted Kennedy along with a very select handful of others.
The President, after being introduced by an exuberant Vice President Biden (who whispers “this is a big f…g deal” into the President’s ear and is picked up by a live microphone) says:
“I heard one of the Republican leaders say this was going to be Armageddon. Well, two months from now, six months from now, you can check it out. We’ll look around and we’ll see.”
Almost immediately — it didn’t take two months much less six — the White House is confronted with a rapidly accelerating set of unintended consequences spreading across the country. As listed by the Wall Street Journal, those unintended consequences included 2011 premium increases shooting up as high as 9%; “multibillion-dollar corporate writedowns by Verizon, AT&T, Caterpillar and others”; the disruption of insurance markets, a show-down with McDonald’s, the imposition of price controls on premiums, insurers withdrawing from Medicare Advantage.
In what appears to have become a pattern, the response from the Obama Administration has been repeatedly swift and harsh — compared by one critic as an episode straight out of the Sopranos, the famous HBO mobster series.
The corporate writedowns — done in compliance with federal law — resulted in angry phone calls from then-Obama White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and colleague Valerie Jarrett to corporate CEO’s and the heads of the Washington corporate offices of those involved. Congressman Henry Waxman threatened a congressional investigation into those companies whose obedience to the law put them at odds with the actual results of ObamaCare. Notification by insurers that rates were being forced up by ObamaCare resulted in a threatening letter from Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to insurers warning that such candor would not be tolerated — at risk of not being allowed to participate in a future government-run health care exchange for insurers.
Then, suddenly, on October 6 — five days ago — the fuse to what is becoming a huge political explosion was lit.
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