In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Earlier today, American Medical Association president J. James Rohack appeared on CNN and, to the great confusion of the network's anchors, waffled a bit on the question of a public option.

Last month, the AMA told the Senate Finance Committee, in no uncertain terms, it opposed the public option altogether. "The A.M.A. does not believe that creating a public health insurance option for non-disabled individuals under age 65 is the best way to expand health insurance coverage and lower costs. The introduction of a new public plan threatens to restrict patient choice by driving out private insurers, which currently provide coverage for nearly 70 percent of Americans." Within a week, though, the doctors' lobby was looking for some wiggle room.

In this segment, however, Rohack is not endorsing a public option. He's endorsing a system of managed competition that provides members of Congress and other federal employees a choice of heavily regulated private insurance plans. In the FEHBP, the government is not the insurance provider as it would be in the case of a public option--and that's a substantial difference.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) appears to be getting just a little too wacky for some of her Republican colleagues -- particularly on her new crusade to get people to refuse to completely fill out their census forms.

Bachmann has said she won't provide any more information than the number of people in her home, stating that this is all the Constitution requires and she won't let her personal information fall into the hands of ACORN. (Note: ACORN will not be collecting census data. Also, the law clearly says that the action Bachmann advocates is punishable by a fine of up to $5,000.)

Now three very conservative Congressman -- Reps. Patrick McHenry (R-NC), Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA), and John Mica (R-FL) -- have put out a statement: "Every elected representative in this country should feel a responsibility to encourage full participation in the census. To do otherwise is to advocate for a smaller share of federal funding for our constituents. Boycotting the constitutionally-mandated census is illogical, illegal and not in the best interest of our country."

"Furthermore, a boycott opens the door for partisans to statistically adjust census results," the statement warns.

Fun fact: Many observers think Minnesota could lose a seat in the House after the 2010 Census. And of Minnesota's eight current House members, which one do you think might be in the most danger of being turned out of office when the lines are redrawn?

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) had some kind words for the newest member of the U.S. Senate, Al Franken.

"I'll tell you what a lot of people are thinking," Inhofe told the Tulsa World, discussing the decreasing likelihood of successful Republican filibusters, "and that is it looks like things are going to be over and we are going to get the clown from Minnesota."

"I didn't mean to be disrespectful. I don't know the guy, but ... for a living he is a clown,'' Inhofe added. "That's what he does for a living."

Franken was, indeed, a funny-man for a living. So what's Inhofe's excuse?

And by the way, folks, the Republican Party celebrates as their greatest hero a former actor who starred in a movie in which his character became the adoptive father of a chimpanzee. There's nothing wrong or disqualifying about acting alongside a chimp, of course -- it sounds kind of fun, actually. But the complete double-standard, and the seemingly total unawareness of it, are pretty striking.

Now that he has won his seat in the United States Senate and will be sworn in next week, Sen.-elect Al Franken (D-MN) has officially been assigned office space on Capitol Hill -- with some very special significance to it.

A Senate staffer has sent TPM this photo of Franken's new office, complete with his name on the plaque outside the door:

It just so happens that Franken's new office in the Hart Senate Office Building, Suite 320, previously belonged to none other than former Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN), who Franken narrowly defeated in this long and drawn out race.

Presumably the office was being kept vacant on the off-chance that Coleman might have won his lawsuit against the election results, and then he would have been able to return to it. In the end, somebody else from Minnesota will be moving in.

Sen.-elect Al Franken (D-MN) just held a victory rally at the Minnesota state Capitol in St. Paul, celebrating his hard-fought and heavily-litigated victory that finally came true yesterday. In some of the most heartfelt terms possible, he thanked his staff, all of his supporters and volunteers, and especially his family -- and paid tribute to a departed friend, the late Sen. Paul Wellstone.

"Well, it was close," he began his remarks, to the laughter of the crowd, alluding to his final certified victory margin of 312 votes out of about 2.9 million. "But we won." And the crowd applauded.

"And when you win an election by this close a margin, you know that not one bit of effort went to waste," he later added. "And so I want to thank every single person who knocked on a door, marched in a parade, made a phone call, gave money, gave time, gave energy, gave of themselves to this effort. Thank all of you, thank you, thank you, thank you."

The longer his speech went on, Franken became more emotional, clearly touched in a very deep way at the amazing victory he has won, and all the effort that other people put into it on his behalf.

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Despite being the largest member of the Chamber of Commerce, Wal-Mart isn't normally seen as a major obstacle to broader health care reform efforts. But their announcement yesterday was nonetheless surprising: They support a mandate that would require employers to provide insurance to their employees.

You can see their letter, co-signed by SEIU president Andy Stern and Center for American Progress president John Podesta here.

I've put out some calls on this, and hope to have more soon, but a few things to keep in mind.

  1. Most of Wal-Mart's employees already have coverage of some kind--but that has a lot to do with Wal-Mart's ability to cherry pick employees who have outside coverage of some sort.

  2. Wal-Mart could be jockeying for marginal advantage over their larger competitors. See here and here for how that might work. Whatever you (or Wal-Mart) think about the merits of the policy, that's shrewd business. And Wal-Mart is nothing if not shrewd about its business. Keep in mind that the Chamber of Commerce is still strongly opposed to this measure.

  3. From the White House side of things, having Wal-Mart on board with health care reform could be a major boon to passing legislation. Keep in mind that Sen. Blanche Lincolnd (D-AR) is a Finance Committee member who opposes a public option

Those are some preliminary thoughts, but I'll be looking deeper into this development.

Here's a fun dose of schadenfreude.

Sen.-elect Al Franken's (D-MN) long-awaited victory in the 2008 Minnesota Senate race seems to have caused quite a lot of stress in the Murdoch-owned press. Remember, this is the same corporation that sued him for his Lies And The Lying Liars Who Tell Them book back in 2003, with the unintended consequence of giving him tons of free publicity to sell books -- and elevating him into being a hero of liberal activists, without which he might never have become a politician!

On Fox News yesterday evening, Glenn Beck was quite alarmed by the development:

"This is like having me in the Senate," Beck said. "You don't want me as a Senator! What is that? I mean, it shows how crazy our country has gone -- you don't want me as a Senator, you don't want Al Franken as a Senator."

Regardless of whether you agree with that comparison, you do have to admire Beck's honesty about himself.

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Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, has now sent out a DSCC fundraising e-mail celebrating the victory of Sen.-elect Al Franken (D-MN), and inviting recipients to congratulate him.

"Sen.-elect Franken's vote will be crucial as we work to pass President Obama's change agenda - a stronger economy, health care for more Americans, and energy policies that protect the planet," the e-mail says, with the emphasis in the original. "We'd also like to thank all of those dedicated supporters from Minnesota and across the nation who helped make it happen. Al Franken couldn't have won without your help, and his victory is your victory, too."

Technically, the e-mail is not a fundraising letter, as there is no appeal for money in the body of the text. There is a standard button at the bottom to contribute money to the DSCC -- and the Dems would obviously appreciate any donations that might come in to mark the occasion -- but they put that in all their e-mails.

The full e-mail is available after the jump.

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Americans United for Change has this new TV ad in the D.C. media market -- essentially aimed at the political and journalistic classes -- praising the energy bill that was passed in the House and now faces a tough fight in the Senate:

The ad gives a patriotic fervor to the bill, focusing on the development of clean-energy jobs in this country. "Last month, Congress met President Obama's challenge to create millions of clean energy jobs," the announcer says, "not in India or China, but right here, in America."

The groups MoveOn, Democracy for America, and Change Congress are out with a new ad in Louisiana targeting Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) for her opposition to a public option.

MoveOn hasn't shied away from criticizing Democrats who are trying to kill the public option. In the last couple weeks, the group has loudly criticized Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Kay Hagan (D-CA) for their positions on the public option, and their lukewarm attitude to health care reform more generally.