Monday: Health Care Reform; Financial Regulation; ‘No Child Left Behind’

BY jbreslow  March 15, 2010 at 9:33 AM EST

Supporters of a comprehensive health care reform bill are nearing the endgame, as the fate of the legislation may finally be decided this week.

President Barack Obama will kick off the final push Monday when he travels to Ohio to rally for the bill. Back in Washington, Democrats in the House are scrambling to secure the 216 votes needed to pass the legislation.

Speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., said Democrats in the House are still short of the votes needed to pass the Senate version of the bill, but insisted he was “very confident that we will get this done.”

Writes the Washington Post’s Dan Eggen:

“The rosy predictions of success, combined with the difficult realities of mustering votes, underscore the gamble that the White House and congressional Democrats are poised to make in an attempt to push Obama’s health-care plans across the finish line. The urgency of the effort illustrates growing agreement among Democratic leaders that passing the legislation is key to limiting damage to the party during this year’s perilous midterm elections.”

Also Sunday, the House Budget Committee released the version of the bill it will use to begin the reconciliation process, and on Monday will start amending the 2,309 page bill.

“And now that the party actually has a bill to defend, leadership will be able to twist the arms necessary to win back momentum the party seemed to be losing last week,” says the Hotline’s Reid Wilson.

Senate Democrats to Introduce Financial Regulatory Bill

Almost 18 months since the height of the financial panic, Senate Democrats will introduce a bill Monday to overhaul the nation’s financial regulatory system.

The bill, which for the moment lacks any Republican support, would give the Federal Reserve greater oversight of banks and financial institutions deemed “too big to fail,” establish a consumer protection division within the central bank and grant the government more power to unwind failing financial firms.

The Fed walks away as the big winner under the bill, according to the Wall Street Journal’s Damian Paletta:

“It would police previously unregulated sectors of the economy and would have a new division to write consumer-protection policy. The biggest losers appear to be large financial companies, who would face a muscular, centralized regulatory architecture for perhaps the first time in U.S. history.”

MIT’s Simon Johnson says the bill misses the point: “Unfortunately, on the major issue – too big to fail financial institutions that caused the 2008-09 crisis and that will likely trigger the next meltdown – there is nothing meaningful in the proposed legislation.”

Planet Money is keeping its eye on how the bill addresses derivatives reform and the question of resolution authority: “Yes, they sound boring. But they’re important if you care about your tax dollars bailing out failed banks and insurance companies. Derivatives took down AIG; resolution authority was a key problem when Lehman Brothers went bust and markets panicked.”

Obama to ‘Revamp the No Child Left Behind Act’

The Obama administration over the weekend released a plan to revamp the No Child Left Behind Act. Besides stripping the landmark 2002 education law of its name, the overhaul would expand the number of subjects used to measure student achievement beyond reading and math, and also do away with the pass-fail approach currently used to judge schools.

Al-Maliki Extends Lead in Iraq

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki extended his lead over rival Iyad Allawi as results from Iraq’s parliamentary elections continued to come in from each of the nation’s 18 provinces.

American Workers Killed in Juarez, Mexico

Gunmen with suspected ties to a Mexican drug cartel shot down a pregnant American consulate worker, her husband and a Mexican man in the violent border town of Ciudad Juarez. President Obama denounced the “brutal murders” that came amid a surge in violence in Mexico’s drug war.

Report: Official Set Up ‘Off-the-books Spy Operation’

The New York Times reports that a Defense Department official privately set up a network of private contractors to kill suspected militants. The “off-the-books spy operation” also extended into Pakistan, according to the Times.