TPM News

After what Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) indicated was a tense health care discussion, Senate health care leaders declared, confidently, that the overhaul package that comes to the floor will earn every Democratic vote. However, they also made clear that the ultimate decision maker on key questions like the public option is Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

"Reid's making these decisions ultimately, and I think he's listening and...I feel good about it," said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH).

"Conrad spoke out for co-ops," Brown said, "six or seven people spoke out for [the public option]," adding later that the pro-public option senators were articulating a policy preference, and not pressuring Reid to act one way or another as he weaves two competing Senate bills together. Nobody, he says, spoke out against a public plan.

Brown's confidence springs from a belief that conservative Democrats do not want to be held responsible for killing reform. "No Democrat wants to be on the wrong side of history and vote on a procedural vote to kill the most important domestic vote of their careers," Brown said.

But Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus went even further and suggested that every Democrat would ultimately vote for the final bill.

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A former rival of RNC chair Michael Steele and one of the men behind the GOP's new media revolution said it will be a month before the party's new website is ready for prime time.

Saul Anuzis, the former chair of the Michigan GOP, challenged Steele for the RNC chairmanship last year. A central plank of his campaign platform was a new focus on social media and Internet outreach. After he lost the chairmanship, Anuzis became a transition adviser to Steele on transition issues.

"Overall, I think the roll out has been a success," Anuzis said of the relaunch of GOP.com, which has led to days of criticism of Steele from the left. "As with any massive project like this, there were some technical glitches, which is to be expected."

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A federal judge in Washington, D.C. plans to declare a mistrial on seven of eight counts in the case of top Jack Abramoff operative Kevin Ring, the Legal Times reports.

Ring was indicted last year on charges of bribing government officials and members of Congress with meals and event tickets in return for help for clients of Abramoff's lobbying firm.

The Legal Times reports:

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As we reported yesterday, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) yesterday launched a fundraising drive, with the intention of sending a message to the left about how Americans are fed up with the "gangster government" and "Big Sister Pelosi & Big Brother Reid," by donating a lot of money to her in one day. So how did it go?

When I checked last night at about 11 p.m. ET, Bachmann was at $83,751.38 Although it's been more than one day, the fundraising drive's Web page is still up, and as of right now shows $105,648.74.

Overall, it's not bad at all for a second-term back bencher who didn't have an immediate occasion for raising money -- as opposed to the rush of donations that accompanied Joe Wilson's "You lie!" moment or Alan Grayson's "Die quickly."

But in terms of sending a message to the left, it's probably not something that Big Sister Pelosi will be losing much sleep over.

On MSNBC this afternoon, Andrea Mitchell asked Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) about a MoveOn-organized protest outside his Salt Lake City office, where protesters criticized Hatch for allegedly being beholden to the insurance industry because it donated a lot of money to his past campaigns.

"I'm supported by people all over the health care system," Hatch said, "including doctors, including hospitals, including insurers, including liberal people, conservative people and moderate people. Everybody knows how much money you have to raise to run for the Senate."

Then Hatch turned his fury to MoveOn and George Soros.

"MoveOn.org is a scurrilous organization," he said. "It's funded by George Soros. He's about as left wing as you can find in this country. And they're up to just one thing, and that is to smear good people. And frankly, they're not gonna smear me without getting kicked in the teeth by me."

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Before members of the Senate Finance Committee were forced to go on the record about the public option, Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) refused to state a personal opinion on the question calling it "moot," and focusing all of his efforts on advancing a system of private, non-profit co-operatives instead.

Since then, though, Conrad's message has changed slightly, though he still says a public option will be a hard sell in the Senate. In response to a question from TPMDC, Conrad said it's "hard to see" where the public option gets the votes.

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With the focus on the Senate side of Capitol Hill, aides on the House side tell TPMDC they are just waiting patiently but not really expecting to be considered during the negotiations down the hall.

After deploying a 5-person health care team to kickstart talks yesterday, the White House has taken a step back. TPMDC hears there is no official meeting today as the administration lets Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid work through the merging of the two Senate bills and as he meets with his caucus.

The White House will stay involved in the process through staffers who hope to play a constructive role, but it's Reid's game now. (As Sen. Chuck Schumer said yesterday.)

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Chris Gaubatz, who went undercover as a Muslim to infiltrate the Council on American-Islamic Relations for a new book from WorldNetDaily, posed for a picture with Muslim Democratic Rep. André Carson (IN) while under guise as "CAIR intern" Dave Marshall.

The picture with Carson, who became the second Muslim member of Congress when he took office in 2008, was taken at the convention of the Islamic Society of North America in Ohio last year.

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The newest ad from Bob McDonnell stars a very special supporter: Sheila Johnson, a female African-American businesswoman and self-identified Democrat supporting a Republican -- and who also has publicly told jokes about Democratic candidate Creigh Deeds for stuttering.

The content of Johnson's ad isn't remarkable by itself -- she talks about how she understands what it takes to run a business, and how McDonnell is a bipartisan leader who can grow the economy and create jobs.

The really fun thing is that she refers to herself as a "Democrat businesswoman" -- note the phrasing usually favored by Republicans as an epithet -- and alternately pronounces her candidate's name as "McDonnell" and "McDonald."

As we've been reporting, many on the right are targeting Kevin Jennings, the director of the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools, over his homosexuality. Today, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) and 52 other House Republicans have taken their criticism of Jennings a step farther, writing a letter to the White House asking that President Obama fire Jennings. King has made that request before -- but never with the formal backing of so many other GOPers.

The letter claims that Jennings has "played an integral role in promoting homosexuality and pushing a pro-homosexual agenda in America's schools."

"The totality of Mr. Jennings' career has been to advocate for public affirmation of homosexuality," the letter continues.

Text of the full letter after the jump.

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TPMLivewire