In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Despite recent disagreements with conservative members of their caucus, House Democrats will unveil their health care reform bill on Monday, and Ways and Means Committee chairman Charlie Rangel (D-NY) says they will propose a more than $500 billion tax on Americans making more than $350,000 a year to help finance it.

Between the tax revenue, cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, and other savings--including, perhaps, from a public plan--Democrats should have enough money to cover the cost of the bill, which will likely cost about a trillion dollars. Early indications suggested that the Senate might propose a different tax--on employer-provided health benefits--to cover the remaining costs of reform. But more and more that idea looks dead in the water.

Late update: More detail from Jeff Young of The Hill: "There would be different surtax rates, ranging from 1 percent to 3 percent, for workers with annual earnings of $350,000, $500,000 and $1 million, Rangel said."

So is Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) running for the Senate in 2010, or not?

Kirk began telling people in the last few days that he was running. Then it was reported this afternoon by Chris Cillizza that Kirk was suddenly telling people that he wasn't running.

Not so, Kirk told Roll Call. He is still talking the race over with his potential primary rival, state Republican chairman Andy McKenna.

The issue here appears to be that Kirk might have had trouble winning support from other Republicans in the state's Congressional delegation -- because he broke ranks to support the Democrats' energy bill.

Jon Cohn over at The New Republic is reporting that, in early estimates, the Congressional Budget Office is finding that a robust public option, along the lines of the one recommended in the House health care bill, could save about $150 billion over 10 years--a notable chunk of the approximately $1 trillion Congress will need to finance an overhaul package.

Keep in mind, though, that the public option creates savings by driving down prices, and it can't do that nearly as effectively if it's prevented from setting below-market pay rates. But that's exactly what conservative Democrats are trying to do. At the same time, those Democrats are demanding that health care legislation do a better job of lowering health care costs. And that's just one of the contradictions inherent to the position of those attempting to scale back reform efforts.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) says he'd likely oppose health care reform legislation if it didn't include a public option--and that he'd have company. "I think a number of Democrats, and I among them, would have great difficulty voting for a bill without a public option," Brown told me today. "I don't want to say absolutely wouldn't. But I would have great difficulty voting for a bill without a public option."

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has similarly suggested that he'd oppose legislation without a public option.

Brown co-wrote the public plan provision in the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee bill with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)--a temporary member of that panel, who has nonetheless become a vocal proponent of the idea. In his capacity as a surrogate, Whitehouse has insisted that health care legislation include a government insurance option, though he hasn't come as close as his colleagues have to drawing a line in the sand.

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Sen. Roland Burris (D-IL) has made it official, announcing that he will not be running for a full term in 2010. In explaining the reasons why, Burris said that the strain of raising money would be too great, and the people of his state should come first.

"Political races have become far too expensive in this country," said Burris. "And in making this decision, I was called to choose between spending my time raising funds or spending my time raising issues for my state. I believe that the business of the people of the state of Illinois should always come first."

Burris reportedly raised only $20,000 last quarter. It should also be noted that polls have consistently shown that he would lose the Democratic primary, and that if nominated he would lose the general election, thanks to the controversies surrounding his appointment to the Senate by the later-impeached Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Here are the line-ups for the Sunday talk shows this weekend:

• ABC, This Week: Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ).

• CBS, Face The Nation: Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Ranking Member Jeff Sessions (R-AL).

• CNN, State Of The Union: Sec. of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius; Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI); Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH); Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN); and Sen Kent Conrad (D-ND).

• Fox News Sunday: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX); House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA).

• NBC, Meet The Press: Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

So who exactly did call in that noise complaint against a fundraiser two weeks ago for Democratic House candidate Francine Busby (CA-50) -- the one that, through a bizarre series of events, culminated in a full-scale raid by the San Diego Sheriff's Department? One of the host's neighbors, it turns out, is very eager to clear her own name and say it wasn't her.

I just spoke with with Jeannie Goodsell, a retiree who lives immediately adjacent to the residence (though the lots are very large -- the houses are over 100 yards apart). The caller is believed by attendees to have been the same person who yelled obscenities and anti-gay slurs at the event -- and Goodsell doesn't want any confusion that this didn't happen from her house.

She said there was no noise at all. "We were home. We didn't even know that the party or whatever it was, the fundraiser, happened behind us," Goodsell told me. "We heard the helicopters that night, but every once in a while helicopters do fly over these orchards, so we didn't think anything about it." She only found out what happened from reporters who came by her home to ask her about it.

"What started bothering us is, it showed up in print that people directly west behind them started harassing them and yelling things about gays," said Goodsell. "We're liberal Democrats -- we have a Buddha on our table."

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Deserved or not, the biggest political thorn in Sonia Sotomayor's side has been one Frank Ricci of New Haven, CT. Ricci is a firefighter who sued the city claiming reverse discrimination in 2003 after officials there discarded the results of a firefighter's promotion test after the test was revealed to have a disparate impact on blacks and Hispanics.

But flash back, if you will, to January 25, 1995, when, according to the Hartford Courant Ricci was singing the opposite tune: "A decorated firefighter has filed a lawsuit against the city, saying he was not hired because he is dyslexic."

The lawsuit, filed recently in federal court, could shed light on the selection process used by the city, which has been beset with criticism over politics and nepotism.

Frank Ricci charges in the lawsuit that the city violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities.

Ricci, a Wallingford native who now lives in Maryland, was one of 795 candidates who were interviewed for 40 openings. Ricci told interviewers that he has a learning disability, the lawsuit says.

Fire commissioners have said that although Ricci was qualified, many others also were qualified because they passed the Civil Service examination.


Two years later, that case was resolved. "In a confidential settlement, struck two years later, Mr. Ricci withdrew his lawsuit in exchange for a job with the fire department and $11,143 in attorney's fees."

If you were Frank Ricci, you might say something like, "Frank Ricci got a job and somebody who wasn't dyslexic didn't." Remember, this is the same Frank Ricci who took his reverse discrimination suit all the way to the Supreme Court, where lower court rulings against him--including one by Sotomayor's Second Circuit--were overturned.

Ricci will testify against Sotomayor before the Senate Judiciary Committee next week--this despite the fact that his views on jurisprudence seem to begin and end with the proposition that legal protections against discrimination are great when they work in his favor, and unconscionable when they don't.

The Club For Growth appears to be becoming a little reluctant about getting involved in the Florida Senate Republican primary, the Tampa Bay Tribune reports, in the wake of moderate Gov. Charlie Crist's $4.3 million haul for the last quarter, compared to his more conservative opponent Marco Rubio's mere $340,000.

"We have to look at his race versus all the others we're interested in, and there are going to be a lot of competitive races," said Club executive director David Keating. He further explained: "We look for the most bang for the contribution buck - a race we think can be competitive."

Keating said that more important than Crist's fundraising figures is the amount that Rubio himself can bring in, and whether he can raise enough to get his message out -- which Keating estimated to be in the $4-5 million range.

So all Rubio needs to do is raise a few million on top of his $340,000, and he should be set.

Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO), the likely Republican nominee in this swing state's top-tier 2010 Senate race, made a very interesting statement about health care reform: Suggesting that government should never have gotten involved in health care through Medicare and Medicaid back in the 1960s -- and possibly blaming those programs for the problems we have today.



"Well, you could certainly argue that government should have never have gotten in the health care business, and that might have been the best argument of all, to figure out how people could have had more access to a competitive marketplace," Blunt said during a radio interview. "Government did get into the health care business in a big way in 1965 with Medicare, and later with Medicaid, and government already distorts the marketplace."

"A government competitor would drive all the other competitors away," he explained. "What we should be doing is creating more competition. One of the reasons the marketplace doesn't work the way it should work right now is we really don't have the competitive marketplace that I'd like to see put in place."

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