TPM News

Two Florida newspapers have published pictures of the birthday cake for Charlie Crist sponsored to the tune of $52,000 by Fort Lauderdale super attorney Scott Rothstein.

Remember, Rothstein has been accused of orchestrating a gigantic fraud scheme out of his firm, but Gov. Crist claims that Rothstein is just another supporter, suggesting this week he hardly knows the man.

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The "independent" ethics adviser that astroturf lobbyist Jack Bonner told Congress he'd retained in the wake of the flap over those forged letters to lawmakers has backed out of the role, citing the TPMmuckraker-driven fallout over an ad he placed this week praising Bonner.

James Thurber, a long-time political science professor at American University, told National Journal he'll recommend a different ethics adviser for Bonner's firm, and noted:

I teach a class on ethics and lobbying and I have never had anything like this. There have been articles about this and I have received phone calls. I never am going to do [ads] like this again, thanking people. I'll do it through personal correspondence.

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Rep. Bill Owens (D-NY) can be counted on as a "yes" in this weekend's expected vote on the House Democrats' health care bill, announcing his support in a press release.

"This legislation will reform the insurance industry and provide increased access to affordable healthcare without taxing healthcare benefits, cutting Medicare benefits or raising taxes on the middle class, and that is exactly the direction we need to go," said Owens. "There are still changes I would like to make, including raising the payroll exemption for small businesses, but like I said last week, there is a fundamental need for reform and we must act with a sense of urgency."

Owens won a narrow upset victory in this past Tuesday's NY-23 election, defeating the Conservative Party nominee Doug Hoffman who had opposed the bill, and picking up the seat for the Democrats. Owens's position here is in line with his prior statements at a debate held last week, shortly before the election.

His full statement is available after the jump.

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The White House just released a lengthy statement supporting the House health care plan.

Statements of administration policy, as they are officially known, sometimes help guide wavering lawmakers on how to vote.

The statement, in full after the jump, says the House bill "meets the President's criteria for health insurance reform."

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Rep. Bill Owens (D-NY) has just been sworn in as the member of the House of Representatives for the NY-23 district, after winning this past Tuesday's special election and picking up a previously GOP-held seat for the Democrats.

His certificate of election has not been finalized yet, but the outcome of the race is not in any doubt, and his Conservative Party opponent Doug Hoffman conceded the race. Thus, Owens was able to be sworn into office as soon as was practical.

The following is the prepared text of his first speech to the House:

"Madam Speaker,

"I am honored to be here with you all today, and to join you in our continuing effort to build a better, stronger America. This is a proud day for me and my family but it is also a sad day for our country. The shooting at Fort Hood last night that claimed the lives of 13 fine Americans is a stunning reminder of how quickly the peace we enjoy here at home can turn to violence, and how heavily we rely on our brave men and women to keep us free from harm. My thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims, and with our soldiers to whom we owe our safety and our freedom.

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President Obama will speak to House Democrats before they vote on the health care bill, even if the vote is pushed to Sunday or Monday.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters in his daily briefing that due to the shootings at Ft. Hood yesterday, schedules changed and that's why Obama is planning to go to the caucus tomorrow instead of today as originally scheduled.

"The president wanted to go closer to the vote," he said.

Obama "will go to Capitol Hill to advocate for continuing that progress," Gibbs said.

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White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters today that President Obama will attend the memorial service for the 13 killed at Fort Hood.

"When a service is scheduled, the President will attend," he said.

Gibbs said the service will be held after all of the notifications have been completed, and that the White House will work Obama's schedule around what's best for the families.

He added that it will likely be held before the President's trip to Asia next Wednesday.

Early in the health care debate, Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised single-payer advocate Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) that the House would hold a mostly-ceremonial vote on a Medicare-for-all amendment. It was a move intended to appease the sizable faction of House liberals who felt they'd had to swallow too many compromises during the committee process.

But if you allow a vote on one amendment you might get drowned in them, so Pelosi and Weiner have come to an understanding and are walking away from the agreement.

"I have decided not to offer a single payer alternative to the health reform bill at this time," says Weiner in a statement. "Given how fluid the negotiations are on the final push to get comprehensive health care reform that covers millions of Americans and contains costs through a public option, I became concerned that my amendment might undermine that important goal."

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I noted yesterday that, in its own quiet way, the Congressional Budget Office gave the Republicans' health care bill a failing grade: A package seemingly meant to address the problem of the uninsured that does almost nothing to expand insurance or lower premiums.

But somehow, someway, conservatives don't seem to have noticed. In fact, they're celebrating!

"As a result of the House Republican bill, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office now confirms that families will see their health care premiums reduced by up to 10 percent and hard-working taxpayers can expect deficits to decrease by $68 billion over the next decade," reads a statement from Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN).

Let's go to the tape:

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