In it, but not of it. TPM DC

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."

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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.

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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.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been pretty adamant: She would prefer to pass a health care bill by early August, and would be willing to hold the House in session past a scheduled recess to get there. But she's also unwilling to move unless the Senate does...something.

'[I]f we're done, and they're not done and they're gone, what is the point?" Pelosi said in a meeting with reporters yesterday. "It's interesting to me that people are saying, 'Don't leave until it's done.' I don't know how much more we can do if the Senate is not going to move."

The concern, as I suggested earlier today, is that the Senate may be on a completely different script. Nobody knows--or at least no Democrats know. And it would be politically risky for Pelosi to ask her vulnerable members to take a vote on a big issue if the Senate is doing something significantly different.

And on that score, she's also willing to wait. "I'm not afraid of August," Pelosi said at a press conference today. "It's a month."

Her mark seems to be the Senate Finance Committee: "I think that some of the negotiations that are going on now [with House Blue Dogs] will be facilitated by the Senate doing something, because it removes some questions as to what are they doing," she said. "What is it that they are doing?"

In other words, if the Senate Finance Committee comes forward with a bill, then you'll likely see the House push something through before recessing. "They could come out with something in the next 24 hours," Pelosi told the reporters. "I'd be a little more concerned if it were next Wednesday and they still hadn't shown anything, but they have another week."

But that's all assuming congressional leaders don't decide to work well into August--and it's still somewhat unclear how likely that is.

Roll Call is up with an interesting piece about increasing Democratic frustration with the glacial pace of Sen. Max Baucus' bipartisan health care negotiations in the Senate Finance Committee. Interestingly, though, it seems as if one of the chief sources of irritation is a disparity in access--namely, that senior Democrats are being frozen out, while senior Republicans are completely keyed in.

[T]he level of consultation with Democrats stands in contrast with how Republican negotiators are briefing their Members. Senators said Enzi, who is the ranking member on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, briefs leaders every day on the talks. And all three of the GOP negotiators have agreed to brief the entire GOP Conference before they sign on to any deal with Baucus.

But Democrats said Baucus is unlikely to run any deal by his caucus before he shakes hands on an agreement with Republicans.


Also troubling Democrats: the growing realization among some that Baucus may simply be trying to run out the clock.

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