TPM News

On Friday, July 24, the President and First Lady spent an evening at the Washington Marine Barracks, where they watched more than an hour of music and marching. From right to left: Marine Commandant General James T. Conway, Mrs. Conway, Michelle Obama, and President Obama arrive at the event.

Newscom / Kristoffer Tripplaar / CNP

President Obama and the First Lady

Newscom / Kristoffer Tripplaar / SIPA

The Marine Band performs at Friday's event.

Newscom / Kristoffer Tripplaar / CNP

From left to right: Washington Marine Corps Barracks Commander Colonel Andrew H. Smith, Marine Commandant James T. Conway, and President Obama salute during the Evening Parade.

Newscom / Kristoffer Tripplaar / CNP

Newscom / Kristoffer Tripplaar / CNP

President Obama at the Evening Parade.

Newscom / Kristoffer Tripplaar / CNP

The United States Marine Corps Silent Drill Team performs.

Newscom / Kristoffer Tripplaar / CNP

Not sure whether this should count as a data point vis-a-vis news this news out of the Senate Finance Committee, but Rep. Chris van Hollen (D-MD), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, took the rare step today of weighing into the upper chamber's internal negotiations. "What concerns me about what's happened in the Senate Finance Committee is that they've had a whole lot of time to work these things out, and just don't seem to be able to break the impasse," Van Hollen told Bill Press. "At some point they're going to have to pull the plug on that process, and when they do that is something they're in a better position to know."

A somewhat unclear report from the Associated Press indicates that they may have reached that point. We'll know soon enough.

Allen Stanford, the Texas banker charged with orchestrating an $8 billion fraud, isn't too happy behind bars, it seems.

His attorney, the heavy-hitting criminal defense lawyer Dick DeGuerin, has filed papers calling conditions at the federal detention facility north of Houston where Stanford is being held "oppressive," and asking that the cricket-loving billionaire be moved.

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If accurate, this Associated Press report is a big deal:

Officials say that a bipartisan group in the Senate is edging closer to a health care compromise that omits a government insurance option that President Barack Obama favors. Nor is it expected to require businesses to offer coverage to their employees.

I've heard this possibility floated once or twice as a sort of unlikely contingency--in the event that bipartisan negotiations drag on and on past deadlines, the Senate Finance Committee could vote on an extremely slimmed-down bill, completely silent on controversial provisions, in order to get it through the panel with bipartisan support. Then, as it's merged with the HELP bill, and then later with House legislation in conference committee, those provisions would be imported, meaning the final votes would be much more partisan.

The Senate adjourns at the end of next week, so time is really of the essence, and the above interpretation makes a certain amount of sense given that time line. But again, I'm not positive that's what's going on here. I'll report back when I know more.

Late update: Of course, a simpler (and less newsy) interpretation of the same article is that the committee is set to endorse private co-ops instead of a public option. But that's been expected for quite some time now. Either way, if their bill contains no employer mandate, that's a pretty major punt.

Later update: Significant updates here.

Congressfolk won't just be getting an earful about health care over the August recess. The National Right To Work Committee will be pressuring Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) and Mark Warner (D-VA) in the coming weeks to oppose the Employee Free Choice Act

"[W]orkers' rights will be trampled on by the U.S. Senate's action," said the group's president Mark Mix, who, in a statement, calls EFCA the "Card Check Forced Unionization Bill". Cute. But if Mix had been reading TPMDC he'd know that, earlier this month Senate negotiators deep-sixed card check from EFCA in an effort to woo people just like Webb and Warner.

Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MS) is continuing to fight for national health care reform while battling brain cancer.

Steve Brusk of CNN reported today that the "ailing senator" has spoken to President Obama twice in the last two weeks about health care legislation.

A Los Angeles Times story published yesterday states that Kennedy's wife prepares a packet of news clips for him every morning at their house in Cape Cod. "If there's a hearing going on in Washington, he watches on his computer," the article continues.

The LA Times piece also notes that Kennedy has been advising his aides in D.C. via phone on health care reform issues, and, perhaps more importantly, includes this anecdote about his continuing commitment to what the Massachusetts senator calls the "cause of his life":

Democratic leaders plan to bring him back to the Senate floor later this year in a wheelchair, or a bed if necessary, to cast his vote for healthcare reform.

Kennedy has also taken his battle to the pages of Newsweek, where in the most recent issue he details his legislative and personal health care issues from 1964 to the present.

Kennedy was diagnosed with brain cancer in May 2008.

Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-HI) is set to give the House Republicans a chance to put up or shut up on the Birtherism that is circulating among their grassroots base, Greg Sargent reports: A House resolution recognizing Hawaii as President Obama's birthplace.

Technically, the resolution's main purpose will be to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Hawaii's statehood. And while commemorating that grand history, the resolution will of course mention how the state is Obama's birthplace.

This gives Republicans a choice: Vote yes on the resolution, which would repudiate the Birthers; vote no, to endorse them; or skip the vote, which would basically be the same as voting no.

Abercrombie spokesman Dave Helfert seemed to be humorously denying that this was an effort to put the GOP on the spot. "Far be it from us to try to stir things up," said Helfert. "The president was born there, so what are you gonna do? Not mention it?"

Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) has announced that he will not run for re-election in 2010, after months of speculation about what he would end up doing.

In most cases, an open seat is a blow against the party controlling it. But this time, Bunning may have done the GOP a favor. Previous polling had shown Bunning running much poorer against his Democratic challengers than Kentucky Sec. of State Trey Grayson, the likely Republican nominee now that Bunning is out. In both his 1998 and 2004 races, Bunning just barely defeated his Democratic opponents in a state that is usually much more friendly to Republicans at the federal level.

Bunning had previously made open accusations against his party's leadership, accusing them of trying to force him into retirement by undercutting his efforts to raise money. About three months ago, he gave a green light to Grayson to start raising money for the race, apparently a sign that he was anointing his successor.

On the Democratic side, there is currently a primary between Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo, who just barely lost to Bunning in 2004, and state Attorney General Jack Conway.

Late Update: In his official statement, Bunning again slams his party leadership for sabotaging him:

"Unfortunately, running for office is not just about the issues. To win a general election, a candidate has to be able to raise millions of dollars to get the message out to voters. Over the past year, some of the leaders of the Republican Party in the Senate have done everything in their power to dry up my fundraising. The simple fact is that I have not raised the funds necessary to run an effective campaign for the U.S. Senate. For this reason, I will not be a candidate for re-election in 2010."

Senate Democrats are perhaps set to start the ball rolling on repealing the ban on gays in the military, with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) announcing that hearings have been scheduled for the Armed Services Committee to examine the impact of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

"This policy is wrong for our national security and wrong for the moral foundation upon which our country was founded,'" Gillibrand said in a press release. "I thank Chairman Levin for agreeing to hold this important hearing. Numerous military leaders are telling us that the times have changed. 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' is an unfair, outdated measure that violates the civil rights of some of our bravest, most heroic men and women. By repealing this policy, we will increase America's strength - both militarily and morally."

Some people might suspect that Gillibrand could have a political motivation. She is an appointed Senator facing a 2010 primary challenge in a liberal state -- with the polls putting her challenger, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, narrowly ahead -- and would have something to gain from taking the point position on this. A spokesman said this is not politically motivated, drawing attention to the fact that Gillibrand had already been on the record for repealing DADT when she was still in the House.

On Saturday, for about the third time since the health care debate really picked up steam on Capitol Hill, the Congressional Budget Office released an analysis that triggered bad headlines for health care reformers and big head aches for the White House.

According to CBO Director Doug Elmendorf, a proposal widely touted by the White House to give an external panel the authority to reform Medicare and Medicaid would save a mere $2 billion over a 10 year time horizon--less than one percent of the overall cost of the legislation.

"CBO deals new blow to health plan" blared a headline at Politico--conventional wisdom that threatened to provide new momentum to reform opponents on the Hill and within the greater Republican machine.

There are a number of analytical problems with this framing--sort of what you'd expect when cool kids (like, ahem, the Politico team) stop tormenting their favorite dweebs and start trying to understand their science projects. But as if to underscore just how seriously the administration took the political threat, the White House quickly blasted out a response from Peter Orszag, director of the Office of Management and Budget, which called the CBO's work--and by proxy its director--into question.

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