Tom Hamburger & Sean Sullivan of the Washington Post: "Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is stepping down, according to an Obama administration official, ending about a five-year-long run in her job. President Obama intends to nominate Office of Management and Budget Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell as her replacement, the official said Thursday." The New York Times story, by Michael Shear, is here. ...
... Shear profiles Burwell here. ...
... Ben Jacobs of the Daily Beast: "Burwell's nomination signals a shift in the position of HHS Secretary in the Obama administration to more of a bureaucratic, managerial one. The current OMB head is a Robert Rubin protégée who is firmly ensconced in the economic policy establishment of the Democratic Party. After working in the Clinton administration, she worked in nonprofits, first for the Gates Foundation and then running the Walmart Foundation before being nominated to lead OMB in March 2013." ...
... Edward-Isaac Dovere & Carrie Brown of Politico: Senate Republicans are looking forward to attacking ObamaCare during Burrell's upcoming confirmation hearings. "The good news for the White House is that they'll be rid of a Cabinet secretary who was disappointing internally and externally, who managed to make the already extremely difficult job of revamping the nation's health care system much, much harder. The not-so-good news, White House aides know, is that the confirmation could open the administration to a new inquisition, records requests -- maybe even subpoenas. House Republicans, though they don't get a vote on confirmations, may try to get in on the action too." ...
... Jonathan Cohn: "Sebelius brought two main assets to her job. She had experience regulating insurers and, as a successful Democrat in Kansas, she knew how to work with Republicans. But what Obamacare needed more was a deft, aggressive manager. Case in point: By all accounts, Sebelius did not grasp the severity of tech problems at healthcare.gov until the day it went live and crashed.... The memories of Obamacare's difficult start will certainly linger. But to the millions of people around the country who now have access to affordable medical care, I'm not sure that really matters." ...
... Paul Krugman: "... Jonathan Gruber, one of the principal architects of health reform -- and normally a very mild-mannered guy — recently summed it up: The Medicaid-rejection states 'are willing to sacrifice billions of dollars of injections into their economy in order to punish poor people. It really is just almost awesome in its evilness.' Indeed. And while supposed Obamacare horror stories keep on turning out to be false, it's already quite easy to find examples of people who died because their states refused to expand Medicaid. According to one recent study, the death toll from Medicaid rejection is likely to run between 7,000 and 17,000 Americans each year.... There's an extraordinary ugliness of spirit abroad in today's America, which health reform has brought out into the open. And that revelation, not reform itself -- which is going pretty well -- is the real Obamacare nightmare."
Darius Tahir in the New Republic: "Even if transparency about physician billing may not cure the disease of rising health care costs, it can be part of the treatment."
Peter Baker of the New York Times: "President Obama on Thursday paid tribute to the Civil Rights Act a half century after its passage transformed American society and ultimately paved the way for the day when the United States might have an African-American man serve in the Oval Office":
... Jim Kuhnhenn of the AP: "On Friday, [President] Obama was to address Al Sharpton's National Action Network conference in New York where, the White House says, the president will take issue with Republican measures in some states that make it more difficult for Americans to vote."
** Elizabeth Dias of Time interviews Jimmy Carter.
Nelson Schwartz of the New York Times: "The Treasury Department said on Thursday that the federal budget deficit for the first half of the 2014 fiscal year totaled $413 billion, down $187 billion from where it stood at this point last year, as tax revenue surged and spending sank." CW: Somewhere Pete Peterson is sobbing uncontrollably. Erskine Bowles & Alan Simpson have torn out their hair. See illustration.
Catherine Rampell of the Washington Post: "Despite all the 'we already paid for it' rhetoric popular among seniors, seniors did not pre-pay for their entitlements. If anything, they paid for their parents' entitlements, which were more modest than the benefits today's retirees receive. So who's making up the difference between what seniors paid yesterday and what they receive today? Millennials..., as well as Gen-Xers and both groups' children. And absent a major influx of working-age immigrants, the burden per worker stands to grow enormously in the coming years." Rampell argues that these payments should be reduced because "Money for other worthy, traditionally liberal causes -- education, infrastructure, children, the deeply poor — is being gobbled up by increasingly expensive and unfunded promises to the old." ...
... CW: Rampell's analysis, while it may be accurate, misses the larger point: if the majority of Americans received adequate pay, their contributions to senior (and other) social safety net programs would be significantly larger. The problem isn't that seniors are, as that kindly old gentleman Alan Simpson put it, moochers sucking "a milk cow with 310 million tits." Rather, the problem is that average Americans don't earn enough to pay for their own retirement benefits. The aggreived Very Serious People are never very serious about what actually ails our economy.
Monica Potts of the American Prospect: "Added up over a year, the 23-cent pay-gap [between men & women's hourly wages] means women lose $11,000. They never make it up, and it just accumulates over their lives."
David Nir of Daily Kos: "Well, well, well. After a surprisingly quiet 15 months, Independent Sen. Angus King of Maine has decided to make a stink.... Now King is saying, much as he did throughout 2012 when he was running for the Senate, that he might caucus with the GOP come 2015.... Principled Angus King is not. But he also doesn't seem to understand how far to the left of the Republican Party he is.... King would be extremely out of place among the Republicans, and for that reason, he's probably full of bluster about this whole caucus switching nonsense."
Lucy McCalmont of Politico: Pretend Democrat "Sen. Joe Manchin on Thursday strongly defended the Koch brothers from attacks by fellow Democrats, saying the wealthy and politically active businessmen are taxpaying Americans who are creating jobs." CW: I keep getting Manchin mixed up with Texas genius Rick Perry.
Tim Alberta of the National Journal: "Several dozen frustrated House conservatives are scheming to infiltrate the GOP leadership next year -- possibly by forcing Speaker John Boehner to step aside immediately after November's midterm elections.... Boehner isn't the only target. The conservatives find fault with the entire leadership team.... [Majority Leader Eric] Cantor, next in line for speaker and once considered a shoo-in to succeed Boehner, has found himself in conservatives' crosshairs in recent weeks."
Ken Ritter of the AP: "Hillary Clinton ducked a thrown shoe, expressed surprise, cracked a couple of jokes that drew applause and continued her keynote speech on stage in front of a Las Vegas convention audience. Moments later, still in the stage spotlight, the former secretary of state reflected calmly on what she called 'an atmosphere and attitude in politics' that she said rewards inflexibility and extremism.... Meanwhile, a woman was taken into federal custody after admitting she threw the shoe. She didn't say why she did it."
... CW: Here's the part of Ritter's story that gets me: "Brian Spellacy, U.S. Secret Service supervisory special agent in Las Vegas..., and Mark Carpenter, spokesman for the recycling institute, said the woman wasn't a credentialed convention member and wasn't supposed to have been in the ballroom."As a former first lady, Hillary Clinton is entitled to Secret Service protection. So how the hell does the Secret Service allow a non-credential convention member into the room? The number of fuckups we've seen from the Secret Service really concerns me. ...
... Frank Rich on Clinton sex scandals. Rich claims, credibly, that they'll help Hillary. The serious sleeze is the Clinton fundraising machine.
When it comes to American women over all, what we've seen over the past five and a half years is less income and more poverty. That's the story Senate Democrats don't want to talk about. -- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell
What does McConnell think the [Paycheck Fairness A]ct was for, if not to improve the economic lives of women? -- Monica Potts
Apparently Republicans no longer feel any need whatsoever to make sense. -- Constant Weader
... Politics Is Evah So Distasteful. Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post is very upset that Democrats are "demagoguing" Republicans' blocking of the Paycheck Fairness Act. She's all for the act, she says & for equal pay & all, but she doesn't think Democrats should use it as a political tool. Right.
Tim Egan: The Heartland is dying. There are ways to fix it but little political will to do so.
Building on a Northwestern study (the overview linked here yesterday), Jamelle Bouie observes that the U.S. could become Mississippi. "The racial polarization of the 2012 election -- where the large majority of whites voted for Republicans, while the overwhelming majority of minorities voted for Democrats -- could continue for decades.... To accomplish anything -- to the meet the challenges of our present and future -- we'll need a measure of civic solidarity, a common belief that we're all Americans, with legitimate claims on the bounty of the country."
** Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) & Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) in a Washington Post op-ed: "The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence voted 11 to 3 last Thursday to declassify and make public the executive summary and the findings and conclusions of its report on the CIA's detention and interrogation program. Those documents have been sent to the president for declassification.... We have confidence that [the public] will conclude, as we have, that this program was a mistake that must never be repeated."
Adam Goldman & Julie Tate of the Washington Post: "The FBI's transformation from a crime-fighting agency to a counterterrorism organization in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks has been well documented. Less widely known has been the bureau's role in secret operations against al-Qaeda and its affiliates in Iraq and Afghanistan, among other locations around the world. With the war in Afghanistan ending, FBI officials have become more willing to discuss a little-known alliance between the bureau and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) that allowed agents to participate in hundreds of raids in Iraq and Afghanistan."
... Brett Grubb of the Sydney (Australia) Morning Herald: "The German software developer who introduced a security flaw into an encryption protocol used by millions of websites globally says he did not insert it deliberately as some have suggested. In what appears to be his first comments to the media since the bug was uncovered, Robin Seggelmann said how the bug made its way into live code could 'be explained pretty easily'." ...
... Nicole Perlroth & Quentin Hardy of the New York Times: "When the Heartbleed bug was disclosed on Monday, the attention focused on the fallout for major Internet companies.... But security experts said the potential for harm could extend much further, to the guts of the Internet and the many devices that connect to it. By Thursday, some of the companies that make those devices began revealing whether they had been affected." ...
... Contributor MAG recommends KrebsonSecurity to keep up-to-date with the Heartbleed bug. Krebs' latest post, as of 7 am ET today, "Heartbleed Bug: What can you do?"
Katharine Seelye of the New York Times: "... On Thursday night, after a yearlong buildup made even longer by a few minutes of amiable chitchat, in which he noted that both of his daughters are getting married this summer, [Scott] Brown, once a Republican senator from Massachusetts, formally declared his candidacy for his old job, just from a different state. 'Starting today, I am a candidate for the United States Senate for the state of New Hampshire,' he told a crowd of 200 people at a hotel ballroom [in Portsmouth, New Hampshire]."
Sean Sullivan of the Washington Post: "Brown will embark Friday on what his campaign has dubbed the 'Obamacare Isn't Working' tour a day after he officially launched his campaign with an address emphasizing his opposition to the law and Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen's support for it." ...
... CW: BUT What About This? Judge Jonathan Baird in the Concord Monitor (April 6): "The passage of legislation expanding Medicaid coverage to low-income citizens in New Hampshire is a historic accomplishment. Gov. Maggie Hassan signed the bill on March 27, and the program becomes available for most people on July 1. Medicaid expansion will cover 50,000 poor residents who previously had no health insurance coverage.... Since the New Hampshire Senate is controlled by Republicans, getting the majority in the Senate to support the Medicaid expansion was no easy task.... The Medicaid expansion will inject hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funds into New Hampshire's economy. It will allow low wage workers to spend money on other critical needs like housing, food and utilities. This should be a direct benefit for local businesses."
Washington Post: " The Obama administration said Friday that it would block Iran's nominee as ambassador to the United Nations from entering the United States, setting up a new confrontation with Tehran just as relations with the Islamic republic appeared to be improving."
Guardian: "Australia is confident that search teams have located the missing Malaysian plane's black box to 'within some kilometres', the prime minister, Tony Abbott, said on Friday. But the head of the Australian team co-ordinating efforts to find MH370 stressed that there had been 'no major breakthrough' in a statement released minutes later."