In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Not much more to say beyond the headline. On hand to field questions will be Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House leaders, along with the chairmen of the relevant committees of jurisdiction: Charlie Rangel of Ways and Means; Henry Waxman of Energy and Commerce; and George Miller of Education and Labor.

Congressional Quarterly is reporting that two Republican congressmen, Eric Cantor of Virginia and Mike Pence of Indiana, could be looking to make a presidential run.

One of our favorite Cantor memories was when he missed one of President Obama's prime time press conferences on the economy. Where was the House minority whip? At a Britney Spears concert.

But Cantor's apparently fueling speculation by scheduling listening tours and raising money. He's added $637,000 to his PAC -- called Every Republican Is Crucial (or ERIC).

Just goes to show: In the new Republican Party, no one's too obscure or too weird to be considered presidential material.

Despite admitting to having an affair and having his parents pay off his mistress, Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) yesterday said he plans to stay in office -- and run for re-election in 2012.

Ensign told the Las Vegas Sun he's been getting emails and phone calls from supporters urging him to stay put. Those supporters, he said, include senators on both sides of Senate leadership.

"I fully plan on running for reelection," Ensign said. "I'm going to work to earn their respect back."

He quoted his supporters as saying, "Keep your head up. This thing will pass."

Under increasing pressure from the White House, and to meet their self-imposed deadlines, leaders in both the House and the Senate recommitted yesterday to meeting their goal of passing separate health care bills before the looming August recess.

At an event anticipating today's release of House reform legislation, Speaker Nancy Pelosi reaffirmed, "We will be on schedule to do as we have planned to vote for this legislation before we leave for the August recess."

Later in the day, after a long meeting with President Obama, Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid echoed the same sentiment. "We are going to do health care before we leave," Reid said.

Because of the peculiarities of the Senate, Reid will have a harder time matching word to deed than will Pelosi, despite the fact that the Senate isn't scheduled to adjourn until a week after the House does. For its part, the White House suggested yesterday for the first time that it would consider asking either or both houses of Congress to delay their recesses if they haven't prepared legislation for a conference committee by the time they're set to depart.

In a meeting that lasted slightly over an hour yesterday, President Obama upped the pressure on congressional leaders--but particularly on the Senate, and Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus (D-MT)--to move a health care bill forward so that both chambers can individually complete work on legislation before the August recess.

Obama met with Baucus and Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY)--chairman of the Ways and Means Committee--along with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer yesterday afternoon, two days after returning from a long trip abroad. Specific details are scarce, but this account, provided by a knowledgeable official, dovetails well with better known facts, including that the Senate--particularly the Finance Committee--is significantly behind schedule, and that the White House appears to be turning up the temperature on Congress more generally as August recess approaches.

Obama also met yesterday with Blue Dog Democrats, who have successfully delayed the introduction of House health care reform legislation. More details on that meeting if and when they become available.

TPMDC's round up of the biggest initiatives on Capitol Hill:

  • Health Care: House leaders delayed the release of their health care legislation for yet another day as they paper over differences with more conservative members of the Democratic party. Meanwhile, with President Obama back from abroad, the White House is wading in to the debate on the Hill like never before.


  • Nominations: Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the first day of her week-long confirmation hearing. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) said her nomination could send the court down a "dangerous path". And Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) lashed out at those who would dare criticize one of the New Haven firefighter's who's been recruited to testify against her. Read TPM's live blog of the hearings, where Andrew Pincus is cataloging and analyzing just about every key moment.

If you ask most people whether politicians should be in the business of providing Americans better services at lower costs they'd probably say yes. But Rep. John Kline (R-MN)--ranking member of the House Education and Labor Committee--seems to believe just the opposite.

"There are some things in this legislation that I find particularly troublesome," Kline told Minnesota Public Radio. Specifically, he was thinking of the public option. "[O]ur fear is that if you actually get in there looking at the legislation that it's set up in a way that employers would increasingly opt to letting their employees move over to the public, to the public option. And because it is cheaper, it's designed to save money, which the government-run program has some very clear advantages, and the claims that it's gotta pay for itself that through the first three years of this there would be government subsidies."

Ummmmm...yeah. Sounds terrible. You can listen to the whole thing here, but the key moment begins at about 3:35.



Early indications suggest that the public option will much more than pay for itself. But no matter. I assume that public opinion polling must show overwhelmingly that Americans want to pay more for health care so that insurance companies don't have to contend with a superior, cheaper competitor. Otherwise it's hard to understand Kline's statements anything other than a call to subsidize insurance companies--and no elected official would ever stand for that.

Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) isn't generally considered a friend of organized labor. But the U.S. Chamber of Commerce may be trying to fence her in anyhow.



Lincoln has opposed EFCA in the past, and has said she could not support it now without significant concessions, and the Chamber--pleased with her position--seems to be trying to make a "no" vote on robust worker protections legislation a fait accompli. That's not how her Arkansas opponents see things, though. When he saw the ad, Arkansas Rep. Davy Carter--a one-time potential Lincoln opponent--took to twitter.

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The health care debate on Capitol Hill is moving so fast, and in so many different direction, that sometimes it can be difficult--maybe impossible--to keep track of all the myriad moving parts. But to get a sense of where things stand more broadly, there are a handful of leading indicators to watch out for if you're trying to keep abreast of major developments.

First, and foremost are the deadlines. Democratic leaders--and President Obama--want both the House and the Senate to pass their separate bills before they break for August recess. The House breaks on August 3rd and the Senate on August 10. For the first time today, the White House said it might ask Congress to push those dates back a bit if the deadline isn't met.

But assuming for the moment that Obama doesn't hold Congress' feet to the fire, that leaves precious little time for both chambers to complete a great deal of work--or to become overwhelmed and leave town for a month with a big embarrassment, and major complications, hanging over their heads. If that happens--and many think it will--then meeting the other deadline may be impossible. Obama wants to sign a bill in October, and between nominations and appropriations bills and early work on major energy legislation, it's hard to imagine the Senate squeezing what will likely be a two week floor debate on health care reform into the month of September. Tack on to that the fact that vulnerable members become less and less willing to vote for controversial legislation as election season kicks into high gear, and you can see why party leaders and reformers are getting worried.

That means that the key committees--particularly those committees' Democrats--are working over time to resolve remaining differences and move legislation closer to a vote. And if they're going to get it done, they'll have to make huge strides this week.

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At today's White House press briefing, Robert Gibbs told reporters that President Obama would consider asking either or both houses of Congress to delay their recesses if they haven't held a vote on health care reform legislation before their scheduled adjournment dates.

In theory, the President could call Congress into special session, but it's hard to imagine that it'll come to that. This may be the first acknowledgment from the White House that things are further behind schedule than Obama would like. And with Obama set to meet with Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)--chairman of the Senate Finance Committee--and Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY)--chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee--this afternoon, it may be a sign that the administration is stepping up its involvement in the process as the deadline approaches.

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