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The Schloz can breathe a sigh of relief.

The Justice Department has decided to uphold the Bush administration's decision not to charge former Bush DOJ official Bradley Schlozman with perjury in connection with his testimony about politicized hiring at DOJ. The news was contained in a letter from Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich to Sen. Chuck Schumer, which was obtained by TPMmuckraker.

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The new survey of North Carolina by Public Policy Polling (D) continues to show that Sen. Richard Burr is on shaky ground, with very low approval ratings -- but nevertheless, he is still able to lead potential 2010 Democratic opponents for now.

Burr's approval rating is only 38%, which would usually be considered abysmal for an incumbent. Interestingly, his disapproval is only 32%, with a whopping 29% undecided. Burr leads a generic Democrat by 45%-38%, and has various leads over named Democrats. For example, he leads Sec. of State Elaine Marshall -- who recently filed paperwork to create a campaign committee, but has not yet formally announced a candidacy -- by 42%-31%.

It's not that he's unpopular -- it's that in the time since he was first elected in 2004, he has thus far failed to actually make an impression on the voters.

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I just got off the phone with Frank Sharry, Executive Director of the immigrant rights group America's Voice, who's not exactly pleased that Sens. Kent Conrad (D-ND) and Max Baucus (D-MT) are responding to the Joe Wilson scream incident by writing immigrant restrictions into health care legislation.

"Baucus and Conrad are caving on a fake issue that is trumped up by Republicans not to better the bill but to trump up opposition to reform," Sharry declared. "I just find it stunning that they would validate what Joe Wilson did."

Sharry also points out that the changes to the bill are likely to be extremely inefficient. Under Medicaid, he says, "there is currently a verification system in place called the SAVE program, which works pretty well."

But under President George W. Bush, Congress passed the Deficit Reduction Act, which implemented a checkpoint system resembling the plan Baucus and Conrad have adopted. In 2007, a Government Accountability Office report (PDF) found that "the DRA documentation requirements have led to widespread declines in Medicaid enrollment and increased administrative costs [and] have cost significantly more to implement than they have saved in expenditures by excluding undocumented immigrants from Medicaid coverage. For every $100 spent by federal taxpayers to implement the new requirements in six states, only 14 cents in Medicaid savings can be documented."

So not only is this particular method of avoiding systemic abuse by low-wage, undocumented residents ineffective and politically dubious. It's also extremely wasteful. Thankfully, though, Congressmen like Joe Wilson will no longer be tempted to scream "you lie!" at President Obama. Or maybe it won't even accomplish that.

It turns out that "Hot Mike" Duvall wasn't the only lawmaker to take a political hit from the exposure of his lewd sexual braggadocio.

Yesterday, the colleague who sat next to him and heard his raunchy tales, fellow Republican Jeff Miller, was removed from the Ethics committee which is probing the scandal. But could Miller, whose Orange County district is close to Duvall's, have been more than just a passive listener in this scandal?

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Just because President Obama set out to fully debunk the "death panel" smear in his speech to Congress last night, it doesn't mean for a moment that Republicans are actually going to stop playing that card, as Greg Sargent has noticed.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN), a potential presidential candidate, appeared today on Morning Joe, and admitted that the health care bill does not create death panels -- but warned that people should be worried about it happening ten years from now, in order to lower costs:



"Joe, there is nothing int he legislation that directly says that," Pawlenty admitted. "It's the indirect concerns that I'm trying to articulate, that I think are at least worth raising."

Pawlenty need not worry about death panels hurting Minnesota, though. If it ever gets to that point, he could always run for governor again and then nullify them.

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The polls that have been conducted since President Obama's speech to Congress on Wednesday night collectively suggest that Obama improved his position on the issue of health care.

• Democracy Corps (D) conducted a dial-tested focus group of debate-watchers in Denver, Colorado, made up of swing voters who were almost evenly divided 54%-46% between Obama and John McCain in the 2008 election. Among this group, support and opposition of the health care plan went from 46%-46% before the speech, to 66%-30% afterward. In addition, before the speech only 44% described the plan as "the right kind of change," with 52% saying it was not. That number then shifted to 50%-40% after the speech.

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Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) told reporters today that while non-citizens won't be barred, under Senate Finance Committee legislation from entering health insurance exchanges, the exchanges themselves will require all consumers to show proof of citizenship, in order to insure that undocumented residents don't receive any federal subsidies.

"You can't prevent someone from being able to purchase insurance," Conrad said. "They would not get any government assistance.... What we're trying to prevent is anybody who is here illegally from getting any federal benefit."

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In the annals of damage control strategies, this one from Bonner & Associates may go down as one of the least effective ever: We may have forged 13 letters to lawmakers about climate change, on behalf of our coal industry client. But definitely not 14!

Yesterday we reported that congressional investigators had found a fourteenth forged letter to a lawmaker criticizing the recent climate change bill, purporting to come from a Virginia American Legion post, but actually sent by Bonner, the Washington-based astroturf lobbying firm, on behalf of a coal-industry client.

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President Obama spoke at a wreath-laying ceremony at the Pentagon this morning to commemorate the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. Here are his full remarks, as released by the White House.

THE PRESIDENT: Secretary Gates, Admiral Mullen and members of the Armed Forces, fellow Americans, family and friends of those that we lost this day -- Michelle and I are deeply humbled to be with you.



Eight Septembers have come and gone. Nearly 3,000 days have passed -- almost one for each of those taken from us. But no turning of the seasons can diminish the pain and the loss of that day. No passage of time and no dark skies can ever dull the meaning of this moment.



So on this solemn day, at this sacred hour, once more we pause. Once more we pray -- as a nation and as a people; in city streets where our two towers were turned to ashes and dust; in a quiet field where a plane fell from the sky; and here, where a single stone of this building is still blackened by the fires.



We remember with reverence the lives we lost. We read their names. We press their photos to our hearts. And on this day that marks their death, we recall the beauty and meaning of their lives; men and women and children of every color and every creed, from across our nation and from more than 100 others. They were innocent. Harming no one, they went about their daily lives. Gone in a horrible instant, they now "dwell in the House of the Lord forever."

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Republican Rep. Joe Wilson's shout heard round the world has turned into a political food fight and a minor scandal for the GOP. By blurting "you lie" during the President's address, Wilson was insinuating--wrongly--that Democratic health care legislation would provide federal subsidies to undocumented immigrants to buy health insurance. But though Wilson's allegation was false, and the political impact has been largely negative, Democratic leaders on the Senate Finance Committee seem to think it's worth fixing the non-existent problem Wilson was complaining about.

"We really thought we'd resolved this question of people who are here illegally, but as we reflected on the President's speech last night we wanted to go back and drill down again," said Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND), according to Time. The incident reportedly has led Finance chairman Max Baucus to insert a provision in his legislation to require participants in the health insurance exchanges to provide proof of citizenship.

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