In it, but not of it. TPM DC

It's looked unlikely for at least a couple weeks now, but unless events intercede to convince congressional leaders to delay August recess, today will likely be remembered as the day when Democrats admitted they'd be unable to pass health care reform bills in the House and Senate before August recess.

"We just heard today that, well, we may not be able to get the bill out of the Senate by the end of August, or the beginning of August," President Obama said. "That's OK. I just want people to keep on working. Just keep working."

He's reacting to today's news out of the Senate--and he sounds fairly sanguine about it. There's still a possibility of a House vote--but as I noted earlier today, Speaker Nancy Pelosi will likely need to see progress out of the Senate if she's going to put her vulnerable members out on a limb.

President Obama is standing by his comments about the Henry Louis Gates case, which the Republicans have been attacking him on. From an interview with ABC News:

"I have to say I am surprised by the controversy surrounding my statement because I think it was a pretty straight forward commentary that you probably don't need to handcuff a guy, a middle-aged man who uses a cane, who's in his own home," Obama said.


"I think that I have extraordinary respect for the difficulties of the job that police officers do," the president told Moran. "And my suspicion is that words were exchanged between the police officer and Mr. Gates and that everybody should have just settled down and cooler heads should have prevailed. That's my suspicion."

The president said he understands the sergeant who arrested Gates is an "outstanding police officer." But he added that with all that's going on in the country with health care and the economy and the wars abroad, "it doesn't make sense to arrest a guy in his own home if he's not causing a serious disturbance."

The Democratic National Committee has launched this new TV ad on national and D.C. cable, warning against the high costs involved in the health care debate -- that is, the cost of not enacting reform:

"What's the cost of not reforming our health care system?" the announcer asks. "Premiums rising faster than your paycheck; insurance companies dictating more and more medical decisions; denying you coverage, while their profits soar."

This is continuing a line of argument that President Obama made last night at the press conference, presenting the continuing status quo as an alternative plan that is inferior to his own proposals -- thus shifting the burden of proof in the argument.

Also notice the cast of villains in this ad: Michael Steele, Rush Limbaugh, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) -- and the new star, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC).

The right is now mobilizing heavily against President Obama's comments last night about the Henry Louis Gates case.

The NRCC has sent out a press release, challenging individual House Dems about whether they agree with Obama that the police "acted stupidly":

The president was slow to point out any wrongdoing in the wake of the Iranian election and his administration was quick to force through a failed stimulus plan even though they 'misread' the economy. This is certainly a questionable rush to judgment coming from a president who hasn't exactly been quick to call out unconscionable behavior by a merciless foreign dictator or gotten his facts straight before advocating a trillion-dollar mistake to address our ailing economy. Is it really presidential for him to cast harsh judgment of a law enforcement official without all the facts?

Meanwhile, Rush Limbaugh is being much more blunt in a racial appeal:

"Last week, we saw white firefighters under assault by agents of Barack Obama and Sonia Sotomayor," said Limbaugh (emphasis his). He added: "Now, white policemen are under assault from the East Room of the White House, by the President of the United States, after admitting he had no -- he didn't know all the facts, what went on in there."

When Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) was originally running for Senate, a lot of people doubted that he would be able to effectively reach across the other side of the aisle and work with Republicans. But, as we can see from his first major initiative, he's already getting a start on that.

In the last few days, Franken announced a proposal to fund service dogs for disabled veterans. And it turns out, from a press release his office put out yesterday, that his main co-sponsor is a Republican Senator, Johnny Isakson of Georgia.

Franken really has come a long way since 2003, when he wrote Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them. "But, you know what, I don't want to get into a whole partisan politics thing here," he wrote at the time. "Not in this book, anyway. We'll leave that for my next book, I F------ Hate Those Right-Wing Motherf-----s!, due out in October 2004."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says there will be no health care vote before August recess. According to the Associated Press, Reid says the Finance Committee will finish its legislation soon, and its bill will be merged with the HELP Committee's bill, before the Senate adjourns in two weeks.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters Thursday the Finance Committee will act on its portion of the bill before Congress' monthlong break. Then Reid will merge that bill with separate legislation already passed by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

The Nevada Democrat says the decision to delay a vote was made Wednesday night in the hopes of getting a final bipartisan bill.

\Reid also veered off the President's script. "The Republicans have asked for more time, and I don't think it's unreasonable," Reid said.

President Obama has been pretty clear in recent days that Republican calls for more time are rooted in a desire to kill the legislation--a gambit which he characterizes as an endorsement of the status quo. But, for now, they appear to be getting their way.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reports that President Obama does not regret his comments last night about the arrest of Prof. Henry Louis Gates -- and that Obama was not calling the officers stupid.

"Let me be clear," said Gibbs. "He was not calling the officer stupid, okay? He was denoting that . . . at a certain point the situation got far out of hand, and I think all sides understand that."

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."

Read More →

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.

Read More →

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.