Civil Rights Leader Dorothy Height in Stable Condition

Published by Pamela Gentry on Saturday, March 27, 2010 at 10:26 pm.

By Pamela Gentry, Senior Political Analyst
March 27, 2010 – Rumors are unfounded that civil rights activist and the celebrated leader of the National Council of Negro Women has died.  Dorothy Height, often referred to as the “mother of civil rights,” remains in an ICU at Washington’s Howard University Hospital.


A spokesperson for the NCNW told me Saturday evening  she is hospitalized, but Height, who turned 98 years old on Wednesday, is reported to be resting and in stable condition.  Howard University Hospital spokesman Ron Harris told reporters she is “resting well.”

Rumors circulated on the internet on Saturday that Height had died. It created a flurry of online buzz and prompted a statement from Alexis Herman, a close friend and the former Secretary of Labor.  “We are grateful for the professional care of her doctors. We especially thank everyone for your thoughts, prayers and support during this challenging time.”

Height, who is chair and president emeritus of the National Council of Negro Women, has been considered a female trailblazer in the civil rights movement. She worked alongside the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), Rev. Ralph Abernathy and A. Phillip Randolph during the 1960s.

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Terrorist Acts Right Here at Home

Published by Pamela Gentry on Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 12:05 am.

By Pamela Gentry, Senior Political Analyst

March 24, 2010 – The United States is going to be hard pressed to criticize the terrorist acts of fear and intimidation around the world if threats of violence continue against members of Congress.  These folks claiming to be opposed to a law created by the same Democratic process they once hailed civil and just; but not anymore?

It’s alarming to hear members of Congress were briefed on Tuesday by the Capitol Hill Police and the FBI on a number of serious threats and a plan to insure the safety of our leaders and their families.

What is happening now has little to do with policy or politics; this is personal and teeters on domestic terrorism. 

These assaults on our elected officials in recent days aren’t about health care reform.  They have been racist, homophobic and nurtured by ignorance and intolerance.  I spoke with staffers who locked their office doors on Saturday because they feared for thier safety. 

Law enforcement is not disclosing the number of threats or the specifics on at least 10 they deemed serious.  While some have been reported by the media other threats appear to cross race, gender and geographical boundaries.  

A threat against a member of Congress is a federal offence but an even greater offence is the deafening silence from more Republicans condemning the behavior.  One staffer told me, “Republicans aren’t decrying these actions.”

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) issued a statement, “I know many Americans are angry over this health care bill and that Washington democrats just aren’t listening.”

“ But, as I’ve said, violence and threats are unacceptable. Call your congressman. Go out and register people to vote. Go volunteer on a political campaign. Make your voice heard, but let’s do it the right way,” Boehner wrote.

House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) told CNN Wednesday the right way to bring about calm would be with a bipartisan message to the people.  “I think the leadership of both houses — democrats and republicans, need to show unanimity on this issue, and let’s begin to work together to tamp this down.”

Clyburn organized civil rights protest in 1960’s, “I think if you do it in a bipartisan way, it will send a signal out there to those people that neither one of us will condone what they’re doing. “

I hope something will be done before someone is hurt or killed.     

Do you think these threats are related to the passage of health care reform?

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Watch Now: Health Care Bill Becomes Law

Published by Tanu Henry on Tuesday, March 23, 2010 at 11:54 am.

March 23, 2010 – Democrats turned the East Room of the White House into a pep rally this afternoon. Led by President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, the signing ceremony for the President Obama’s health care bill was attended by congressional leaders and Democratic members of the 111th Congress responsible for forging the comprehensive legislation. The room was filled to capacity and a camera could be seen in almost every attendee’s hand.

White House staff and media lined the walls three deep and more than 150 seats were filled with members of Congress, cabinet secretaries and special guests. The president acknowledged the widow of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), Vickie Kennedy, and his son Rep .Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) whose name on this bill fulfills the Kennedy legacy.

The late Senator’s son will be the Kennedy of record on this historic legislation, an issue his father spent a lifetime pursuing. Another well known Kennedy also came to the White House for the signing, the daughter of President John F. Kennedy, Caroline Kennedy.

While the merits of the law will be debated for years to come, it was an extraordinary day and one I will remember for years to come.

I will be able to say, “I was there when the health care bill was signed.” I wonder if this is how folks felt when they witnessed the signing of the Civil Rights Act, the creation of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.?

Today there is already a new acronym in Washington: “PHC,” which is short for “post health care.”

Watch and leave your comments below.

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GOP, Stop Whining

Published by Pamela Gentry on Tuesday, March 23, 2010 at 2:13 am.

By Pamela Gentry, Senior Political Analyst  

March 23, 2010— Democrats in Congress passed one of the largest pieces of comprehensive legislation since the 1960s without one Republican. Since the vote, GOP leadership has spent the last 24 hours whining, complaining and predicting the end of the world as we know it.

Too much drama.

But now their decision not to fully engage in the process of creating the health care legislation could come back to haunt the GOP.  During the debate, there were constant calls for starting over; but why start over when they could have started a year ago when all this began?

The bill will become law Tuesday when President Obama is scheduled to sign it at the White House. Republicans need to figure out a new strategy now.  It’s pretty clear the strategy of “no” is no longer a viable one.

During the next few months, folks will have time to figure out more about the 2,000-page bill and its impact on their lives.  But most Americans won’t see any changes in their current health care coverage. 

Republicans have also characterized the passage of the bill as the demise of the Democratic Party and an albatross around the neck of Congressional candidates who voted in favor of its passage. But Democrats believe the bill will be viewed as a political triumph giving them something to tout back home in November. 

That could be why some provisions are expected to be rolled out within six months.  Some of those include stopping insurance companies from denying coverage to children because of pre-existing conditions; lifetime dollar limits on policies; canceling a policy when someone gets sick; and allowing children to remain on their parents’ policy until age 26. 

Republicans are now focusing on how they can repeal the law.  It seems like it would have been easier to work with the Democrats on the front end to help create it, but they really only wanted to defeat it; and they lost.

Do you think Republicans and Democrats will be able to work together during the Obama administration?


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The “Yeas” Have It: “This is What Change Looks Like”

Published by Pamela Gentry on Sunday, March 21, 2010 at 11:28 pm.


By Pamela Gentry, Senior Political Analyst

March 21, 2010 – The nail-biting is over and Congress has passed a historic health care bill that will provide health care for more than 30 million Americans.

The floor of the House erupted with applause when the magic number of 216 was reached passing H.R. 3590.  The final tally 219-210 was swiftly followed with a vote on reconciliation H.R. 4872 in a voice vote.

Republicans made a last-ditch effort to kill the bill with an appeal to recommit the bill, which would have sent the bill back to committee; it failed in a voice vote as well as a roll call, 220 -211.  This was followed with a vote on reconciliation which also failed, 232 -199, clearing the way for the bill’s last hurdle – passage in the Senate.   

President Obama addressed the American people from the White House East Room flanked by Vice President Joe Biden calling the vote for comprehensive health care, “the right thing to do.”

“We proved that this government, a government of the people and by the people, still works for the people,” Obama said. As White House advisors looked on, the president thanked all those who worked on getting this bill passed. “I know this wasn’t an easy vote for a lot of people but it was the right vote.”

The president worked feverishly in recent weeks to help get this bill across the finish line.  He postponed and then cancelled a trip abroad to stay close to the negotiations.  “This isn’t radical reform, but it is major reform. This is what change looks like,” Obama added.

“The United States Congress finally declared that America’s workers and America’s families and small businesses deserve the security of knowing that here in this country neither illness nor accident should endanger the dreams they worked a lifetime to achieve,” Obama said.

House Majority Whip Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), who spent months “whipping” Democrats in line for a night like Sunday, told reporters after the president’s remarks, “This has been a labor of love, and I do mean that.”  Clyburn said, “I consider this to be the Civil Rights Act of the 20th century.”

How will you benefit from the passage of  health care reform?


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Good News for U.S. Territories!

Published by Pamela Gentry on Friday, March 19, 2010 at 12:22 am.

By Pamela Gentry, Senior Political Analyst

March 19, 2010 – Good news for U.S. territories; Del. Donna M. Christensen (D-Virgin Islands) announced Thursday  she and fellow territorial delegates were successful in including the territories in the health care reform bill released by the House leadership.

 “After numerous meetings over the past two weeks with members and senior staff and with the leadership in the House, Senate and with President Obama, the territories are in the bill,” Christensen said.

While Christensen is pleased with the current proposal she said the bill was not perfect but will play a “significant role in improving the health care of the American men, women and children living in the U.S. territories.”

“Not only will the U.S. Virgin Islands receive an enormous infusion of new Medicaid dollars, but we also have access to the health insurance exchange.”

 Christensen released a statement thanking, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.),  House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), and her colleagues in the Congressional Tri-Caucus, which includes Latino and Asia members of Congress. 

“This whole process confirms that when ordinary people come together around common ground, extraordinary things can happen, Christensen declared.

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Update of Territories and Health Care Reform

Published by Pamela Gentry on Thursday, March 18, 2010 at 1:37 pm.

By Pamela Gentry, Senior Political Analyst

March 18, 2010 – On Wednesday I was able to follow up on my blog about the impact the Senate version of the health care bill could have on the 4.5 million U.S. citizens in the territories. 

Sec. Kathleen Sebelius, Department of Health and Human Services

Sec. Kathleen Sebelius, Department of Health and Human Services


During a roundtable at the White House Wednesday with Secretary of Health and Humans Services Kathleen Sebelius I asked her about Del. Donna Christensen (D-Virgin Islands) concerns. (See my Blog March 17)


Sebelius told me, “I spoke with Del. Christensen two days ago – while I don’t have all the details I know the president’s proposal being finalized deals with her concerns in a very positive and significant way.”


Christensen told Sebelius she was very concerned how the territories would fair if the Senate version of the bill was passed with the current language.  “I know she had some very positive sessions with the White House and the speaker’s office and feels the president’s proposal will address” those concerns, Sebelius said.


I also asked the secretary why the territories are often faced with challenges like this when legislation is being created.  


“I don’t know why; but historically they just have been from when those programs [Medicare and Medicaid] were originally set up,” she said.  “Medicare and Medicaid were treated with different matching rates – why they were framed that way I don’t know,” the secretary said.


It looks like a vote on health care reform will take place on Sunday. Just what will make the final version of the bill is still in negotiations.  But Sebelius sounded confident the needs of the territories will be addressed.

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U.S. Territories Left out of Health Care Reform?

Published by Pamela Gentry on Wednesday, March 17, 2010 at 12:10 am.

By Pamela Gentry, Senior Political Analyst

March 17, 2010 – As Democratic leaders in Congress work on rounding up the votes to get a health care bill passed, one Black lawmaker is working to make sure 4.5 million Americans in U.S. territories aren’t left out.

Del. Donna Christensen (D-Virgin Islands) is leading efforts to make sure the territories aren’t excluded in critical measure of a reform bill during negotiations.  The president is aware of a list of concerns from advocates, but the priority to maintain a proposal without adding additional costs appears to be a sticking point.  

So why has cost become the factor for this relatively small population?

According to the Pureto Rico Daily Sun, officials there have accused Obama of reneging on his word to phase out the cap on Medicaid funding and the inclusion of the territories in the insurance exchange designed to help the uninsured buy coverage with federal subsidies. 

U.S. territories are home to 4.5 million U.S. citizens. Some of Christensen’s concerns are aliens living in the States and non-citizens would be eligible for federal subsidies under the exchange; something her constituents would be denied.

Citizens in the territories under the current version of the bill would also be left out of various consumer protections including:  provisions limiting an insurance company’s ability to deny coverage based on a pre-existing condition, lifetime limits on coverage, and dropped coverage after an individual becomes sick.

As Congress works toward resolution, delegates for the territories are pressing for provisions in the bill just like those for the States.  Christensen considers this a “moral obligation” and a request for “equality” for the men, women and children who live in the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Guam. 

Do you think the U.S. territories are being treated fairly?

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A Vote on Health Care This Week?

Published by Pamela Gentry on Monday, March 15, 2010 at 12:34 am.

By Pamela Gentry, Senior Political Analyst

March 15, 2010 – This could be the week a health care reform bill is passed by Congress or is faced with defeat.  But judging from White House staff making the rounds on Sunday talk shows – they’re predicating victory while their critics predicted failure.

So who’s right?

White House senior advisor to the president, David Axelrod, told CNN’s State of the Union, they will have the votes needed in Congress. “Obviously, this is a struggle. Look, the lobbyists for the insurance industry have landed on Capitol Hill like locusts, and they are going to be doing everything they can in the next week to try and muscle people.” 

It’s doubtful the Dems will get any support from the GOP.  House Minority leader Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) told CNN even though Democrats have agreed to include Republicans’ suggestions to have undercover agents investigate Medicare fraud, eliminated the public option, included medical malpractice reforms and tax credits for small businesses; it is still not enough. 

“We could come to an agreement on probably eight or 10 common sense steps that you’ve outlined to make our health care system better. But we can’t come to an agreement on eight or 10 things,” Boehner said. 

House Majority Whip Rep. James Clyburn, (D-S.C.) admitted on NBC’s Meet the Press that as of now the votes for passage in the House weren’t there but said, “I’m also very confident we’ll get this done.” 

Republicans see the failure of health care reform as a sure fire way to regain the majority in the House in November.  Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) called the health-care vote “a political kamikaze mission” for Democrats, saying it has morphed into a “larger issue of the role of government in American lives.”

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs appearing on Fox News Sunday said, “We’re happy to have the 2010 elections be about the achievement of health-care reform.  That’s a debate I think we’re obviously comfortable having.”

It’s predicted an up or down vote will come sometime this week.  On Saturday the president announced he would delay his trip planned to Indonesia and Australia so he can be on hand for the final days of negotiations.

Do you think Congress will pass a health care reform bill?

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President Obama is Fired Up!

Published by Pamela Gentry on Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 1:12 am.

By Pamela Gentry, Senior Poltical Analyst

March 9, 2010 – President Barack Obama brought back his winning style and formula from the campaign; he delivered the same reasons to reform health care but with a level of  intensity he hasn’t demonstrated since the 2008 campaign.  

The banter with the audience at Arcadia University in Pennsylvania sounded more like a pep rally than a policy speech.  “How many people would like a proposal that holds insurance companies more accountable? How many people would like to give Americans the same insurance choices that members of Congress get?  And how many would like a proposal that brings down costs for everyone? That’s our proposal.  And it is paid for, and it’s a proposal whose time has come,” the president said.

He took shots at the insurance companies, his Republican critics and the Washington political climate charging every decision being hampered by the priority of folks to be re-elected. Admitting health reform won’t be easy; the president said that can’t be a deterrent.  “It is hard.  That’s because health care is complicated.  Health care is a hard issue.  It’s easily misrepresented.  It’s easily misunderstood,” he insisted.

Another effective tool the president used during his campaign was mobilizing the youth, Black voters and women. He called on those wanting to see change to join in and help spread the word. “It’s time to make a decision.  The time for talk is over.  We need to see where people stand.  And we need all of you to help us win that vote.  So I need you to knock on doors.  Talk to your neighbors.  Pick up the phone.  When you hear an argument by the water cooler and somebody is saying this or that about it, say, no, no, no, no, hold on a second.  And we need you to make your voices heard all the way in Washington, D.C.”

This could be the rally cry the president needed but hadn’t exercised.  It also could be the first indication the he’s ready to take on the 2010 midterm election skeptic who fear health care reform could torpedo their chance for  re-election.  

But if re-election is a concern, it looks like Black vote will be showing up at the polls in November.  A recent poll by the nonpartisan Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies found Black voters were watching midterm elections closely and 74 – 80 percent surveyed said they were “very likely to vote” in the upcoming elections.

The poll sampled 500 Blacks in Missouri, Indiana, Arkansas and South Carolina, states which have Senates races in the fall.  David Bositis, a expert on Black voter turnout and researcher at the Joint Center said there is still a great deal of enthusiasm surrounding Obama’s presidency. “I think the Obama election and the fact that there is an African-American president is something of a game-changer,” he said.

Bositis is right, Black voters have invested in Obama’s success and if they are called to action, they will respond.  The president’s speech Monday could bring the folks at the grass roots level to the forefront of this policy issue that has suffered several stops-and-starts in recent months. 

Obama warned his detractors. “So let me remind everybody: Those of us in public office were not sent to Washington to do what’s easy.  We weren’t sent there because of the big fancy title.”  Adding, “We weren’t sent there just so everybody can say how wonderful we are.  We were sent there to do what was hard. We were sent there to take on the tough issues.  We were sent there to solve the big challenges.  And that’s why we’re there.” 

 Sounds like he’s fired up and ready to go!

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