In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, weighs in more fully on a report that Democrats have agreed to jettison a key provision of the Employee Free Choice Act: "As we have said from day one, majority signup is the best way for workers to have the right to choose a voice at their workplace," Stern says. "The Employee Free Choice Act is going through the usual legislative process, and we expect a vote on a majority signup provision in the final bill or by amendment in both houses of Congress."

AFL-CIO spokesman Eddie Vale sought to downplay the news a bit, characterizing the compromise as a routine part of the legislative process. But the original Times report says that Democrats have "abandoned" the provision--commonly known as Card Check--altogether. Stern's statement suggests that a compromise on the provision itself might assuage him, calling for "a majority signup provision," but that dropping it completely won't fly.

The New York Times reports that several labor friendly Democrats, including Sens. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) have embraced an Employee Free Choice Act compromise to win the support of conservative Democrats. That compromise? Eliminating Card Check--the majority sign-up provision that would end the secret ballot process, and, labor leaders say, curb employer intimidation.

AFL-CIO spokesman Eddie Vale tells Ben Smith: "[T]his is the normal process of how a bill becomes a law."

We are very optimistic about passing the strongest labor law reform since the Wagner Act -- one that lets workers choose to join a union without intimidation or harassment, ensures that workers who join a union get a first contract, and has meaningful penalties for violations.

But Andy Stern seems less than pleased, tweeting, "we expect a vote in the bill or by amendment on majority sign-up in both houses of Congress."

I'm told a fuller statement is on its way, but clearly this compromise won't go down without several spoons full of sugar.

The House Ways and Means Committee voted landmark health care legislation out of committee this morning on a 23-18 vote. Three Democrats--Reps. Ron Kind (D-WI), Earl Pomeroy (D-ND) and John Tanner (D-TN)--joined Republicans in opposing the bill.

Ways and Means has jurisdiction over taxation, and approved a financing measure that would impose a surtax on wealthy Americans. That provision, though, may be a non-starter in the Senate.

The Education and Labor, and Energy and Commerce Committees are still at marking up the same bill. Energy and Commerce is expected to round out work on the bill next week, although due in part to the political make-up of the panel, that will be a harder climb.

A Thursday New York Post piece made a number of startling claims about Democratic health care reform proposals, which, the authors claim, will devastate the wealthy. Take a look at the associated chart, which was fronted on Drudge.

Notice a problem? Take the single gentleman on the top left, who earns $285,000. House Democrats would charge a surtax of one percent on every dollar he makes over $280,000. That means one percent of $5,000 or $50. But according to the Post he'll be on the line for one percent of his entire salary--an extra $2,850. Can you say "marginal taxation?" Apparently they can't at the post.

A Democratic aide sends over the following corrective:

One should note that a major source for the post article was the Tax Foundation, which releases an annual anti-tax "report" that the non-partisan Center for Budget and Policy Priorities blasts year in and year out for its numerous inaccuracies. Looks like they did no better on this project.

TPMDC's roundup of the biggest initiatives on Capitol Hill.

  • Health Care: Three House committees are now holding mark-up hearings on health care legislation. At the Energy and Commerce hearing, seven Blue Dogs gave identical opening statements--which I've placed below the fold--restating their desire for a health care bill that cuts costs, but eschews cost cutting measures. They're countered by House progressives, dozens of whom have silently committed to oppose any health care bill without a public option. And in the Senate, things still just don't seem to be coming together.

  • Nominations: Fire fighter Frank Ricci--better known as the thorn in Sonia Sotomayor's side--finally had his moment in the sun. But even Sen. Jeff Sessions is saying she won't be filibustered.

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If you have about a half hour to kill tonight or tomorrow or over the weekend, take a look at this video, produced by Senate Republicans:

Sens. Tom Coburn (R-OK) and John Barrasso (R-WY) are among the Senate's more conservative members. But they're also M.D.s! (You may remember Coburn from TPMMuckraker's reporting on the John Ensign scandal as the conspirator who has pre-emptively refused to testify citing patient-doctor confidentiality.)

Now he's back, with his colleague from Wyoming, using his professional degree to give questionable cover to his political aims. This isn't new to the Republican party. Recall that in 2005, then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) said he disagreed with physicians' diagnosis of a vegitative Terri Schiavo, based on videotaped footage he'd viewed in his office. Frist is a heart surgeon.

A couple more data points for you. The LA Times Johanna Neuman describes House health care legislation as "a bill that could end up costing taxpayers $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years." And the New York Daily News calls it as a "massive $1.5 trillion measure" that will "hit the rich hardest."

Even if the Associated Press was correct about the cost of the bill, that wouldn't reflect the cost to taxpayers, which will be much, much lower. A large percentage of the outlays are expected to be financed by savings wrung from within the health care system itself

If you haven't seen this ad already, you probably will soon.

Patients United Now is an offshoot of the well-funded conservative group Americans for Prosperity. The ad's been around since Patients United was created on May 27, but it hasn't gone national until today as the health care debate on Capitol Hill hits a fever pitch.

The ad, which previously ran in eight states, will be on the air for the next week.

As you can see it suggests that Congress wants to impose a Canadian style health care system on the United States. And though the Canadian health care system outperforms the American system on many levels, they also have a single payer system, and the reform bills making their way through Congress are not single payer proposals.

House Minority Leader John Boehner is clearly pleased with CBO Director Doug Elmendorf's testimony before the Senate Budget Committee.

As I noted earlier today, the fact is that the CBO hasn't analyzed many of the bill's cost saving measures, and that, other cost-saving provisions haven't yet been written or otherwise remain unrealized.

But Elmendorf said what he said, and it's no surprise that Boehner's latched on.

As I noted in the post below, the Associated Press is standing by the assertion that House health care legislation will cost $1.5 trillion, even though it now says, based on its own analysis, that the same bill will likely cost $1.65 trillion.

This is puzzling on its own, but as Greg Sargent notes, it's also pretty irresponsible.

[T]he AP doesn't address the core problem here: That it keeps portraying its price tag as a matter of fact, rather than as a matter of dispute.... Even if you agree that the bill is likely to cost [$1.5 trillion] in the end, it's still reckless of the AP to keep treating this number as established fact, when it simply isn't any such thing. More on this in a bit.

Right. Something that's been elided here--and I'm guilty of this to some extent--is that Tuesday's CBO analysis isn't conclusive analysis. It's a preliminary analysis based on, in the words of Doug Elmendorf, "the major provisions related to health insurance coverage [and] does not take into account other parts of the proposal that would raise taxes or reduce other spending (particularly in Medicare) in an effort to offset the federal costs of the coverage provisions."

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