In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Asked about health reform at his press conference moments ago, President Obama declined to draw a line in the sand on the issue of a public insurance option.

The non-negotiable criteria, he said, are that reform should drive down costs and cover the un- and underinsured. He declined, though, to put the public option in this category, saying that he feels strongly about certain provisions and will take those concerns up with members of Congress individually.

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We've received our review copy of "False Witness: The Michele Bachmann Story," the new comic book from our friends at the Dump Bachmann Web site, documenting the rise and extreme statements of our favorite House GOP backbencher, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN). It's now in print in Minnesota, and anybody can order it online. So how is it?

As both a comic book fan and a Bachmann fan, I quite enjoyed it, but my hope is that the first issue was really laying a foundation for more to come. This comic introduces us to Bachmann, but then doesn't so much focus on her as it does on the important information we need to truly understand her political prominence -- the nature of extreme right-wing culture that has bequeathed a politician such as her to our national dialogue.

Right from the cover, which has a wacky cartoonish feeling as if it were somehow pencilled by Sergio Aragones and inked by R. Crumb, you know we're dealing with a special politician:



(Click images to enlarge.)

And sure enough, the first page introduces us to Bachmann herself, and her call for revoluation against the Marxist tyranny of President Obama:

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On Sunday, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY)--a senior Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee--made his frustrations with the state of health reform negotiations public. "I don't think I could say with a straight face that this (co-op proposal) is at all close to a nationwide public option," he told the Associated Press. "Right now, this co-op idea doesn't come close to satisfying anyone who wants a public plan."

Schumer has been a key negotiator on the committee, seeking compromise between conservative and liberal Democrats on the inclusion of a public insurance option in the committee's forthcoming reform legislation. Last week, Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND)--also of the Finance Committee--said he thought the idea was dead in the water; that it couldn't win Republican support and that Democrats should throw in their lot with the idea of creating a co-op system instead. That, though, would alienate liberals, and might also fail to entice Republicans to support the entire package, and as a result, Schumer said, Democrats might have to go it alone on the public option.

Now Conrad is changing his tune--at least somewhat. He's still pushing the co-op model, but one with comparable levels of clout to a government-run public plan: "I believe to be effective there has to a national entity with state affiliates and those affiliates have to have the ability to regionalize," Conrad told reporters. "I think [Schumer's] concern there can be addressed."

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The new survey of Ohio from Public Policy Polling (D) shows the Democrats starting with an advantage in the 2010 Senate campaign, an open-seat race for the Senate seat of retiring GOP Sen. George Voinovich.

Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher, a Democrat, leads Republican former Congressman Rob Portman by a margin of 41%-32%. The other Democrat in the race, Sec. of State Jennifer Brunner, is also ahead of Portman by 40%-32%.

From the pollster's analysis: "All three candidates are doing about equally well within their own parties but since Ohio has more Democrats than Republicans and Brunner and Fisher both lead with independents, it allows them to start out with an overall solid lead."

The latest news regarding Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) has been that of a Senator trying to get back to doing the people's business -- and not wanting to answer any further questions about his recent admission of an extramarital affair:

• "I said what I was going to say last week," he told the Politico.

• "I have no more other comments to make," he told The Hill. "I have nothing further to add."

• Ensign will address the Senate GOP at their weekly lunch today. As Roll Call points out, it's become something of a regular ritual for the caucus to hear a scandal-plagued member having to explain himself -- previous examples include, David Vitter, Larry Craig and Ted Stevens.

• Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has announced that it will file an ethics complaint regarding Ensign's hiring practices, seeing as how his ex-mistress had been a campaign staffer, and her husband was a top Senate staffer -- and their employment ended after the affair was over.

After seeing it through a number of inter- and intraparty obstacles, House leaders will soon bring the Waxman-Markey climate change bill up for a vote--perhaps as early as Friday.

"There are some issues still under discussion, but we are confident we can resolve them by the time the bill goes to the floor on Friday," Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill told Bloomberg's Simon Lomax.

If it passes, the bill--which would create a cap and trade system to price and reduce carbon emissions--may have to wait quite a while before further action as lawmakers scramble to pass major health care legislation before taking a month-long recess in August.

Sanford's Office: He's Hiking Gov. Mark Sanford's (R-SC) office told reporters last night that he is hiking the Appalachian Trail. However, they apparently do not know exactly where is along the Trail, which stretches from Georgia to Maine -- but interestingly enough, does not pass through South Carolina. "He's an avid outdoorsman," said his spokesman. "Nobody's ever accused our governor of being conventional."

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will hold a news conference at 12:30 p.m. ET, in the Rose Garden. At 2:15 p.m. ET, he will meet one-on-one with President Michelle Bachelet of Chile, and they will have an expanded meeting at 2:45 p.m. ET. At 4:45 p.m. ET, Obama will meet with Sec. of Defense Robert Gates.

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Although her confirmation process has been stalled for months now, Dawn Johnsen seems confident that she's poised for a breakthrough. Maybe. Johnsen--who was nominated in April to head the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel--has been spotted around Washington in recent days, and is rumored to have moved in to town. And she's certainly not here to work for Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE).

For all intents and purposes--and thanks to the support of Republican Dick Lugar--Johnsen hasn't needed a ton of extra GOP support. For a while, Nelson himself was the key roadblock and he endured a lot of criticism as a result. But with his cloture vote looking more likely, now--and with Sens. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Robert Byrd (D-WV) in poor health--Johnsen's confirmation now rests on the support of Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe. And their reluctance is at least as puzzling as Nelson's.

Nelson, after all, is a pro-life Democrat from a conservative state, and, whether or not these concerns are sincere, Johnsen's detractors cite her history of pro-choice advocacy as their main grounds for opposition. But Collins and Snowe are pro-choice. And, moreover, they both have a consistent record of opposing the obstruction of executive branch nominees. Both Collins and Snowe voted to end every filibuster of Clinton and George W. Bush nominees. (Earlier this year, Collins supported a brief filibuster of Interior Department hopeful David Hayes, after Sen. Harry Reid ignored the objections of Sen. Bob Bennett (R-UT) who had placed a hold on his nomination--but Hayes was ultimately confirmed, with little controversy, by voice vote.)

For Snowe and Collins to slow walk Johnsen like this doesn't make much sense when you look at their records. But maybe Johnsen knows something we don't know.

Well, that didn't take two weeks at all, did it! Dave Weigel of The Washington Independent reports that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has just filed cloture on the nomination of Harold Koh to be legal adviser to the State Department.

Koh has raised howls on the right and Reid has been waiting until he's certain Koh could overcome a filibuster.

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