TPM News

I just spoke with Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), who had a bit of a fractured take on the current state of the public option. He took issue with the President Obama's aloof approach to the public option, and at the same time echoed one of the administration's most controversial lines.

"They're a little difficult to fathom sometimes, to keep up with what they're doing," Rockefeller said. "They're in these meetings, all of these meetings, that I don't get to go to so I can't tell you exactly what they're saying."

But he also said something that seems a bit at odds with his consistent, emphatic support for the measure, which he has described as a necessary element of reform. "You know, the public option--which I think in the end is going to prevail--is not actually the biggest thing in the entire bill," Rockefeller told me. "I hate to hear myself say that, but it's true."

Earlier today, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY)--another ardent public option enthusiast--said much the same thing after an event heralding a plan to strip the health insurance industry of its anti-trust exemption.

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In an interview with NBC's Savannah Guthrie, President Obama said his administration may have a new strategy for the war in Afghanistan before the runoff election -- but he still may not announce it until after the results are determined.

"I think it is entirely possible that we have a strategy formulated before a runoff is determined. We may not announce it," he said.

"It is important to make sure that we understand the landscape and the partner we're gonna be dealing with," he said, because the strategy depends on civilian efforts and weeding out corruption, as well as military forces.

Part of his strategy decision includes whether to send more troops. The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, has requested 40,000 more troops.

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Sen. David Vitter's office has finally offered a comment on the Louisiana justice of the peace who refuses to marry biracial couples.

Though other statewide officials including the governor and his fellow senator called for Keith Bardwell's resignation, Vitter (R-LA) was silent.

But today a Vitter spokesman told the Washington Post the senator's sentiment on the issue.

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Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) has set up a new Web site, Names of the Dead, to memorialize Americans who died because they had no health insurance:

Every year, more than 44,000 Americans die simply because have no health insurance.

I have created this project in their memory. I hope that honoring them will help us end this senseless loss of American lives. If you have lost a loved one, please share the story of that loved one with us. Help us ensure that their legacy is a more just America, where every life that can be saved will be saved.

Grayson announced this new Web site on the House floor:

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The new survey of Maine by Public Policy Polling (D) finds that Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe is overwhelmingly popular with the state's Democrats, in the wake of her vote for the Senate Finance Committee's health care bill -- and not too well liked among Republicans.

A whopping 70% of Maine Democrats approve of Snowe's job performance, with only 17% disapproving. Republicans, by contrast, are tied at 45%-45%. Independents approve of Snowe by 51%-33%, yielding an overall top-line approval of 56%-31%.

"With less than half of Republicans approving of Olympia Snowe now it's going to be interesting to see if she's challenged from the right come 2012," said PPP president Dean Debnam, in the polling memo. "Is she going to be pushed into a corner the way Arlen Specter was where her only prospect for political survival is a party switch? It's certainly something political observers across the country will be watching."

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In an interview broadcast on Bloomberg TV this afternoon, Peter Cook asked Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi about the public option.

"Do you have a bill right now that would generate the support of 218 members of Congress that includes a robust public option, something tied to Medicare reimbursement?"


We have had, I've said for months, we will have a public option in our legislation. We have the votes to do that and we always have. The question now is what form will it take.

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At a small archiving business in Maryland today, President Obama announced that small banks will have access to TARP money if they increase lending to small businesses.

"I continue to believe that the success of our small businesses will be a foundation upon which our future prosperity is built," he said. "So we will continue to do whatever we can to help these businesses grow and thrive. "

Obama said he's asking Congress to increase how much money entrepreneurs can borrow through the Small Business Administration.

He also said that Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and SBA Administrator Karen Mills will hold a conference "in the coming weeks" with lawmakers, lenders, small business owners and regulators "to determine what additional steps we can take to get credit flowing to small businesses."

Read his full remarks, as prepared for delivery, after the jump.

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So far, the charges that Chris Christie turned the U.S. attorney's office into a "branch office" of his campaign for governor, as Jon Corzine put it yesterday, have centered on the relationship between Christie and Michele Brown, a close friend and top aide to Christie when he was US attorney. Brown reportedly took several actions this year that benefited Christie's GOP bid for governor, and in 2007 got an undisclosed $46,000 loan from him.

But did another of Christie's former top aides also put the prosecutor's office in the service of his one-time boss's political aspirations? Ralph Marra, who until this month was the acting U.S. attorney, has several times appeared to insert himself into the political back-and-forth over the race, appearing to pointedly criticize a request by the Corzine campaign for public information, and even triggering a Justice Department probe into whether he made inappropriately political public comments that may have boosted Christie.

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An FBI agent has been poking around in southern California looking at a lawsuit over land bought by a group including Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA), the Riverside Press-Enterprise reported Friday. But Calvert says he has not been contacted by the FBI and the dispute that is the subject of the lawsuit has nothing to do with his group.

The Press-Enterprise reported:

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Senate hopeful Linda McMahon (R-CT) has bought airtime for a statewide campaign ad Friday aimed to compete with President Obama's fundraiser for Sen. Chris Dodd.

Dodd (D-CT) and Obama are doing a $1,000 per plate fundraiser as part of the president's political push this week.

McMahon, a billionaire who is the former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, will speak to the camera for the 30-second ad. It will run throughout the state and also reach into the New York media market.

Campaign spokesman Ed Patru said:

"Chris Dodd has spent a career chasing special interest cash and looking out for their interests. He was asleep at the switch while the banking system crashed, then he rewarded his special interest friends in the financial industry with taxpayer-funded bonuses. He's created a mess and it's time for him to go. It's important for Connecticut voters to know that just as another 6,600 people in the state have lost their jobs, and the state's unemployment rate hits a 33-year high, Chris Dodd is calling in every last political favor he's built up over 30 years as a career politician, and scrounging for every last special interest dollar in an attempt to save his job. Linda will remind Connecticut's families of that Friday."

McMahon is one in a crowded field of Republicans hoping to unseat Dodd next fall, and we posted last week about the Connecticut Democrats going after her WWE ties.