In it, but not of it. TPM DC

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.

As a quick update on this post, House health care leaders will hold an event at 3 pm this afternoon spotlighting health care horror stories as told by the people who lived through them--but they will not unveil legislative language. That appears to be on hold for at least a few more hours as intra-party disagreements are resolved and language is finalized. Moderates and conservatives have been trying to pull the bill to the right--and we'll probably know by tomorrow just how successful they've been.

With House and Senate leaders up against an early, self-imposed August deadline to complete work on health care legislation, the administration may finally be willing to give both a kick in the pants. President Obama is set to meet with Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus and House Ways and Means Committee chairman Charlie Rangel at the White House at 4:30 this afternoon. Under discussion will surely be the question of financing. Rangel has articulated a preference for imposing a surtax on wealthy Americans to pay for about half of the House's reform proposal, while Baucus' committee hasn't settled on any revenue-generating schemes at all.

President Obama will host key labor leaders at the White House this afternoon to discuss a number of pressing issues, including the Employee Free Choice Act and health care.

The administration has put EFCA on the back burner, focusing instead on issues like economic recovery, health care, and climate change--much to the dismay of the very people the President will meet with today. But that doesn't mean there's no common ground. Labor has by and large been on board with Obama's health care push, and have by and large succeeded at taking a key financing scheme--a tax on employer-provided health care benefits--off the table, at a time when Democrats are trying desperately to cover the trillion-dollar up front cost of a reform bill.

On hand today will be the labor presidents of the National Labor Coordinating Committee, which was formed earlier this year by AFL-CIO, Change to Win, and the National Education Association. More on the meeting as details emerge.

We hear that House leaders may delay releasing their proposed health care reform bill yet another day. They were first set to unveil the draft at the end of last week, but postponed the event until today after a number of Democrats raised objections. Now it seems there's some chance may not happen either. We'll try to confirm that one way or another this afternoon.

Last month, I noted that House Minority Leader John Boehner had gone to battle against the Waxman-Markey bill with a bright blue board, designed without any logic other than to imply that cap-and-trade legislation is complicated.

That battle ultimately failed--the bill passed by a slim margin--but Republicans haven't given up on the weapon. Via Grist, I see that Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) is taking up Boehner's arms as the fight moves to the Senate.

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Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) pulled in an impressive haul this past quarter, but he's still at least a few million behind his primary opponent, Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA).

Specter had $6.7 million on hand at the end of the first quarter, after raising about $1.2 million--just about the same amount Sestak raised this quarter. But remember, that money was collected when Specter was a Republican. Since then he's become a Democrat, and has won the backing of almost the entire Democratic establishment. With that in mind, we eagerly await Specter's forthcoming financial disclosure.

This spring, TPMDC broke the news that Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) was raising money from supporters ahead of an intended Senate candidacy. Now, with the fiscal quarter over, we know how well that effort worked.

"Many have doubted that we would be able to raise sufficient money for our upcoming race against Arlen Specter," Sestak writes in a letter to supporters, "but we raised over $1 million last quarter ... thanks to you ... and now have over $4.2 million cash-on-hand, making us the number one Senate challenger in the nation!"

The letter, though, is also a fundraising appeal. "But we can't stop there; here's why we need to raise additional funds to continue this extraordinary momentum -- Arlen has decided to start running his 'GOP negative style campaign' against us!"

Sestak's referring to a recent dust-up, which touched off last week when Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) launched his first attack against his new rival.

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Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), who sits on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, is at odds with some of his liberal colleagues. Unlike Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Harkin thinks it may be hard to keep the 60 members of the Democratic caucus united against Republican filibusters--and that means the party may pass health care reform through the budget reconciliation process.

"I think Democrats being Democrats -- like Will Rogers once said, 'I'm a member of no organized political party: I'm a Democrat' -- I think that holds true today," Harkin told the Iowa Gazette.

Under those circumstances--and with Republicans largely united against all of President Obama's agenda items--how will Democrats possibly pass a major initiative like health care reform? In a budget reconciliation bill, it seems, which can't be filibustered. Harkin called that a "distinct possibility."

Democrats in both chambers are hoping to pass a health care bill through regular order by the beginning of August, and have it ready for the president to sign by October, ahead of the budget reconciliation bill--but time is running out.

House leaders have proposed financing about half the cost of a health care reform bill with a surtax on wealthy people--and something like that might fly in the lower chamber. But in the Senate? Here's Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, now trying to figure out how to pay for it's own reform legislation.



Translated, once again, from Grassley's famous twitterese, that reads: "Charles Rangel [chairman of the House Ways and Means committee, who first announced the tax proposal] the wealthy one percent make 27 percent of total income and pay 40 percent of collected income tax. You suggest a five percent health care surtax. How much will the beleaguered wealthy have to pay to satisfy you? Let's talk."

Grassley's committee was expected to propose taxing employer-provided health benefits benefits to finance a health care system overhaul, but that idea seems to have been put on ice, leaving the taxation averse panel without a funding mechanism for their incomplete bill. The House's bill will be unveiled today.

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