Monday, September 23, 2013

30 Days From Now

What will we see in 30 days from now, on October 23, my 72nd birthday? Here's what I'm hoping for:

  • The Government has a budget, at least until December 15. The CR was passed through the House late Monday evening (September 30) and was actually signed by the President a bit after the midnight deadline. The Obamacare defunding provision was stripped out in the Senate, and a clean CR was sent back to the House. Boehner could not convince his caucus to support the CR, so he asked for Pelosi's help, and got it. The CR passed easily with mostly Democratic votes. The Conservative wing of the GOP is in revolt, and there is talk of dethroning the Speaker.
  • On October 1 Obamacare "opened its doors" in the form of the Exchanges opening in all 50 states to take enrollment for the ACA. There were many glitches, particularly in red states, but nothing catastrophic. Signups were strong, particularly in blue states, assisted by Obama volunteers and paid "navigators". Premiums did jump up in a fair number of states for the under 35 age group, but signups in this category were strong across most states. Conservative media is focusing on the glitches; most are telling "Good News Stories". Pundits are beginning to sense that this will be a big winner for the Dems in the coming mid-terms, especially since it looks like enrollment rates will slowly pickup over time, as the "word" gets out.
  • A debt default was averted at the very last minute by the House GOP caving on their conditional debt ceiling increase bill (tied to a one year delay in Obamacare) and passing a 14 month unconditional increase. This was a big defeat for Speaker Boehner, whose Tea Party members (along with Boehner) were convinced Obama would cave and negotiate for the hike. Obama did not budge. Nor did House and Senate Dem leadership. The level of accusatory vitriol against the President by Conservatives was remarkable, focusing on his "dictatorial unreasonableness". But now the fire is shifting to Boehner, who "chickened out" and "refused to maintain the fight". The GOP ended this phase of the Budget Battle getting absolutely nothing, plus the dreaded Obamacare is in full forward and funded motion. Looking forward to December 15, when the Budget CR expires, Conservatives and Tea Partiers want to develop a committed shut down strategy; but moderate voices in the Senate are calling for a real budget agreement, including taxes.
  • The Syria CW disarmament plan is moving ahead. Russia and the US worked out their disagreement over what consequences would Syria suffer, if they did not fulfill their commitments. The US agreed to proceed without a military force provision under Chapter 7 of the UN Rules, which cleared the path for a unanimous (no abstentions) vote in the Security Council, approving the Resolution. Syria is preparing the way for UN CW inspectors to enter the country, beginning November 1. The disarmament plan is meeting its deadlines; the US and Russia are working together to start peace talks in Geneva, with the goal of a negotiated peace deal by June, 2014.
  • Obama met briefly with Hossan Rouhani at the UN in New York during the last week of September. A handshake of historic significance did, in fact, take place, and its image flew virally around the world. Rouhani presented a specific plan to Obama, in person, and outlined the same commitments in his speech to the UN General Assembly: Iran will cease enrichment beyond the 5% level and will shut down the Fordo enrichment plant immediately. UN inspectors will be granted full access to confirm Iran is meeting its commitments. Iran wants affirmation of its right to enrich, short of creating weapons grade material, and agrees to an ongoing process of inspections. In return it wants a rapid end to sanctions and bilateral meetings with the US. Obama has accepted this framework, arousing fierce opposition from neocons, with Israel remaining skeptical. Obama is sticking to his guns, and it looks like an important corner has been turned in US-Iranian relations.
Most likely, things will not move quite so quickly in our Iran discussions, but all of the above is 

In 30 days, President Obama will be standing on visibly firmer ground. The next checkpoint will be December 15, and there is some chance that a real budget agreement could be reached then. The Conservative wing is still gnashing its teeth and announcing ruin.But we are moving, as a country, in the right direction. And we are increasingly proud of our President.

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