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Carrie Budoff Brown
There’s an Emanuel brother behind President Barack Obama's budget, but it’s not the one you think.
Ezekiel J. Emanuel, big brother to White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, is quickly emerging as a key player in Obama’s health-care overhaul, the biggest push to expand coverage in two decades.
Known as Zeke, Emanuel has labored behind the scenes on the issue for years, well-known to people who follow it closely. But he has significantly raised his political profile by signing on as a top adviser to White House budget chief Peter Orszag. And there he was Thursday, a fidgety presence at the back of the briefing room, nodding in approval as Orszag detailed the budget, and trading conversation with aides around him. “He has been detailed at Peter’s request to be the chief kibitzer on health care reform and health care issues at the OMB,” [Office of Management and Budget] said Robert Reischauer, president of The Urban Institute, who has worked health care.
“And then of course, besides his energy and knowledge base and smarts, Zeke has certain other attributes – genetic attributes – that make him a valuable member of the OMB,” Reischauer said. “His brother is the chief of the staff. Everybody is always trying to ascertain what the president is hearing and what the president is thinking, and I know Zeke has a lot of communication with his brother.”
Added Benjamin Sasse, former assistant U.S. health secretary in the Bush administration: "The health sector is the most lobbied space in Washington. Zeke's judgments about which industries should suffer what cuts and what new regulation are obviously going to matter quite a lot to his brother - and thus to the President."
But it’s hardly just his last name. Zeke Emanuel is a renowned oncologist and policy expert with degrees from Amherst, Harvard and Oxford who has written extensively about overhauling the nation’s health care system. He has been chair of the Department of Bioethics at the Clinical Center at the National Institutes of Health. He sat on the Clinton administration’s health care task force. And in June, he published a book advocating replacing the current health care structure with a voucher system.
Rahm Emanuel called his brother’s ideas a “game changer” during a June interview on the Charlie Rose Show, but declined to endorse it, citing the political realities of selling such a plan.
And now with brother Zeke in the budget office, and brother Ari emerging as a major Democratic fundraiser, it’s like the Emanuel brother act is finally complete.
But it took an unexpected development – the loss of Tom Daschle as health care czar and health secretary – to aid in the emergence of Zeke Emanuel by quickly realigning the balance of power on the health care debate. And in recent weeks, Orszag and his point man on health care, Emanuel, have filled a vacuum in leadership on the issue, according to people who follow health care closely.
Emanuel, for instance, is spending time this week one-on-one with key stakeholders on the issue, including Reischauer. Emanuel took the lead for the White House on a conference call Wednesday with health care insiders, explaining the president’s priorities.
Jeanne Lambrew, a close adviser to Daschle who was supposed to serve as deputy director of the White House Office of Health Reform, was on the call, but she didn’t speak. Lambrew is now working out the health and human services department rather than the White House, aides confirmed last week.
And on Monday, Zeke Emanuel sat at the head of the table at the health care breakout session at the White House fiscal summit – but he didn’t have a name tag. When the session ended, more than a few people rushed to his side, seeking introductions and reminding Emanuel of how they knew each other.
There was bound to be a power struggle between Daschle and the White House policy and budget experts over health care. This is why Daschle insisted on having a line into the White House as the health czar and the perch at health and human services. But with Daschle gone, and the search for an HHS secretary dragging into its fourth week, the budget experts have emerged as the key players – at least for the time being.
Zeke Emanuel referred questions to the White House press office. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs hinted at the shifting power balance Wednesday, saying not having an HHS secretary wouldn’t hamper the reform efforts.
Washington insiders now suspect the new secretary will take more of a communications role than a central policy one -- a dynamic that is the exact opposite of what Daschle imagined.
DEADLY DOCTORS ADVISERS WANT TO RATION CARE
The health bills coming out of Congress would put the decisions about your
Yet at least two of President Obama's top health advisers should never be
Start with Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, the brother of White House Chief of Staff
Emanuel bluntly admits that the cuts will not be pain-free. "Vague promises
Savings, he writes, will require changing how doctors think about their
Yes, that's what patients want their doctors to do. But Emanuel wants
Many doctors are horrified by this notion; they'll tell you that a doctor's
Emanuel, however, believes that "communitarianism" should guide decisions on
Translation: Don't give much care to a grandmother with Parkinson's or a
He explicitly defends discrimination against older patients: "Unlike
The bills being rushed through Congress will be paid for largely by a $500
Since Medicare was founded in 1965, seniors' lives have been transformed by
Dr. David Blumenthal, another key Obama adviser, agrees. He recommends
Blumenthal has long advocated government health-spending controls, though he
Obama appointed Blumenthal as national coordinator of health-information
In the April 9 New England Journal of Medicine, Blumenthal predicted that
Americans need to know what the president's health advisers have in mind for
No one has leveled with the public about these dangerous views. Nor have
Do we want a "reform" that empowers people like this to decide for us?
Sweet Jesus, as my sainted Irish grandmother would say, if that doesn't
We have to stop B.O., The Lyin' Prick from destroying our republic.
"If we're able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo. It will break
"We are fast approaching the stage of the ultimate inversion: the stage
Where an excess of power prevails...No man is safe in his opinions, his
I fight for my republic.
¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤
"Angel of Death"; 2004 © Kristoffer Frisk, all rigts reserved
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