In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) gave a sharp response last night to a new Democratic National Committee attack ad against him, over his statement that Republicans can make health care into President Obama's "Waterloo," and that it would "break him." Demint said: "It's disappointing that President Obama has lowered the discourse of this important debate with false personal attacks," DeMint said in a statement." (Emphasis ours.)

So on that subject, let's look at DeMint's own contributions to the political discourse -- let's see what his idea of "raising" it has been over this past year.

• In January, DeMint said that the way to stop the stimulus was to "get people angry."

• "This bill is not a stimulus, ladies and gentlemen," he also said -- then ventured into some very interesting language. "It is a mugging. It is a fraud."

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The Arkansas Republican Party sure seems to have an interesting line-up of Senate candidates. Check out these statement from retired Army officer Curtis Reynolds.

"When I joined the military I took an oath to defend the Constitution against enemies foreign and domestic," Reynolds said. "I never thought it would be domestic, but in today's world I do believe we have enemies here. It's time for people to stand up. It's time for us to speak out."

He added: "We need someone to stand up to Barack Obama and his policies. We must protect our culture, our Christian identity."

When he got to the Q&A session, he said that he would be careful with his answers, "I don't want to do a Kim Hendren," and later clarified that he was not categorizing President Obama as a domestic enemy.

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A coalition of 19 major interest groups--including AARP, and AFL-CIO--is urging House leaders--not to cave to Blue Dogs. "We commend you for providing sliding-scale premium subsidies to families up to 400 percent of the federal poverty line," reads a letter the coalition sent to key Democrats.

This is particularly important in rural and other areas where most residents have modest incomes and need assistance for coverage to be affordable.With family health premiums now averaging close to $13,000 per year, premiums alone constitute a significant portion of income even for people at the upper end of this standard. That is why this provision in the House bill is so important.


You can read the entire letter here. It's addressed to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman, Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel, and Education and Labor Chairman George Miller.

Right now, one of the key sticking points in House negotiations between Blue Dogs and health care leaders is the question of financing--how to pay for the bill? Leaders had initially endorsed a surtax on high income earners to cover about half the bill's cost--but, under pressure from Blue Dogs, they're now walking that back. The original proposal had been to initiate the tax on families making over $350,000 a year, or individuals making over $280,000 a year. But now, they say, they might limit the tax to millionaires only.

But that creates a cost hole that needs to be filled. And Blue Dogs have suggested extracting it from working- and middle-class Americans. The bill, as proposed, would have provided subsidies for people living under 400 percent of the poverty line to buy health insurance--and Blue Dogs are suggesting that the line be lowered to 300 percent.

Right now, the average national premium for family coverage is $12,600--or $1,050 per month. Presumably, over time, reform legislation would lower that cost, but in the interim, it will continue to cost nearly that much. House legislation would help more middle-class people cover that cost--unless Blue Dogs get their way.

Those affected by the change would be people and families living between 300 and 400 percent of the poverty line, who don't already have employer-provided health insurance.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been pretty adamant: She would prefer to pass a health care bill by early August, and would be willing to hold the House in session past a scheduled recess to get there. But she's also unwilling to move unless the Senate does...something.

'[I]f we're done, and they're not done and they're gone, what is the point?" Pelosi said in a meeting with reporters yesterday. "It's interesting to me that people are saying, 'Don't leave until it's done.' I don't know how much more we can do if the Senate is not going to move."

The concern, as I suggested earlier today, is that the Senate may be on a completely different script. Nobody knows--or at least no Democrats know. And it would be politically risky for Pelosi to ask her vulnerable members to take a vote on a big issue if the Senate is doing something significantly different.

And on that score, she's also willing to wait. "I'm not afraid of August," Pelosi said at a press conference today. "It's a month."

Her mark seems to be the Senate Finance Committee: "I think that some of the negotiations that are going on now [with House Blue Dogs] will be facilitated by the Senate doing something, because it removes some questions as to what are they doing," she said. "What is it that they are doing?"

In other words, if the Senate Finance Committee comes forward with a bill, then you'll likely see the House push something through before recessing. "They could come out with something in the next 24 hours," Pelosi told the reporters. "I'd be a little more concerned if it were next Wednesday and they still hadn't shown anything, but they have another week."

But that's all assuming congressional leaders don't decide to work well into August--and it's still somewhat unclear how likely that is.

Roll Call is up with an interesting piece about increasing Democratic frustration with the glacial pace of Sen. Max Baucus' bipartisan health care negotiations in the Senate Finance Committee. Interestingly, though, it seems as if one of the chief sources of irritation is a disparity in access--namely, that senior Democrats are being frozen out, while senior Republicans are completely keyed in.

[T]he level of consultation with Democrats stands in contrast with how Republican negotiators are briefing their Members. Senators said Enzi, who is the ranking member on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, briefs leaders every day on the talks. And all three of the GOP negotiators have agreed to brief the entire GOP Conference before they sign on to any deal with Baucus.

But Democrats said Baucus is unlikely to run any deal by his caucus before he shakes hands on an agreement with Republicans.


Also troubling Democrats: the growing realization among some that Baucus may simply be trying to run out the clock.

After saying a health care vote before August was all but hopeless yesterday, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) just said it's possible--though not certain--that the Senate will 'go into overtime' to pass a bill. In other words, to delay recess.

Yesterday, President Obama was silent on the question of the August recess, but said that deadlines--even if not officially met--can be key to making progress. In other words, this could be a push to meet interim goals, or to actually get work done.

Durbin said he hopes the Senate Finance Committee finishes work soon, but Democrats are growing increasingly frustrated with the secrecy and lack of access they're getting from chief negotiator Max Baucus--especially compared to their Republican counterparts, who seem much more keyed in.

For the third day in a row, House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Henry Waxman has canceled a mark-up hearing on health care legislation to negotiate with Blue Dogs, calling into question once again whether the House can pass a bill before adjourning for August recess.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has suggested she'd keep the House in session past the scheduled adjournment date to pass a bill, though House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer has sounded hesitant on that score.

And now there's the question of whether House leaders in general will want to vote on a bill before recess, with the prospects for a vote in the Senate now nearly nil.

In its events and ad buys, the campaign Health Care for America Now has focused much of its energy on targeting fence-sitting Democrats and Republicans. But now it's going after members of Congress who will almost certainly oppose health care reform, no matter what.



"Republicans intent on killing reform for political gain need to be held accountable for their actions," said Richard Kirsch, Health Care for America Now's national campaign director. "Voting no on the House and H.E.L.P. bills is voting to let insurance companies continue to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions. People need to know their elected officials are choosing to keep them trapped at the mercy of private health insurance companies to score political points in DC as opposed to doing what's best for their constituents back home."

The ads will likely not be vote winners, but could make some of the targets--which include Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), but also Reps. David Camp (R-MI), Bill Cassidy (R-VA), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Dave Reichert (R-WA), Mark Souder (R-IN), Pat Tiberi (R-OH), and even House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA)--less willing to take risky public stances against coming legislation.

A new Quinnipiac poll finds Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) continuing to lag in his 2010 re-election bid.

The numbers: Republican former Rep. Rob Simmons 48%, Dodd 39%, compared to a 45%-39% Simmons lead from two months ago.

Against the other Republicans in the race, Dodd edges state Sen. Sam Caligiuri by 42%-40%, essentially the same as a 41%-39% Dodd lead two months ago. Dodd is tied 42%-42% with former U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Tom Foley, an improvement from a 43%-35% Foley lead two months ago. Dodd leads financial writer Peter Schiff by 43%-38%, with no prior Quinnipiac poll for comparison. The margin of error is ±2.5%.

From the pollster's analysis: "Sen. Dodd's numbers among Democrats are back to where they used to be with over 70 percent of Democrats approving of his job performance and backing his reelection bid. Perhaps Dodd's visibility in helping with President Barack Obama's agenda has brought some wavering Democrats home. But he still is struggling with Independents, who will be harder to win back than his own partisans."

Nancy Pelosi is talking a confident game. The House Speaker says she has the votes to pass health care. In fact, she says there's "no question" she has the votes to pass health care.

In a meeting with health care reporters yesterday, she said passing health care will be considerably easier than some of the other issues that, despite an impressive Democratic majority, she's had to muscle past with elbow grease.

"Health care is not the hardest vote I've had this year," she said. "Not by far."

That was the [war] supplemental. That was the worst. Energy was a heavy lift.... But we had never thought we'd have to do another supplemental. Not that we would have to vote for. But then the president brought home the IMF and Republicans all took a hike. Then we were stuck with it. Oh brother!


Blue Dogs dispute that interpretation, of course. But Pelosi's the one with a lot to lose here--and you wonder why she'd be going out on such a limb if she wasn't pretty confident. At the same time, though, it's not clear now when that vote will come. It's still feasible that the House could pass a bill before adjourning in August. But unless the Senate delays its own recess, or delays a vote on the confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor, or both, the chances of holding a vote in the upper chamber before September look all but vanished. And it's feasible that House leaders will want to delay its vote as well, in order not to put their members' necks out ahead of a politically fraught recess.

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