TPM News

The Democratic push-back against the GOP-led bid to challenge the constitutionality of health-care reform is gaining steam.

Virginia Democrats announced today that they've filed a Freedom of Information Act request with Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, seeking information on the amount of taxpayer money being spent on the lawsuit Cuccinelli filed yesterday, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

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The Columbus Dispatch unmasks the Americans for Prosperity protester who angrily threw dollar bills at a man with Parkinson's last week:

"I snapped. I absolutely snapped and I can't explain it any other way," said Chris Reichert of Victorian Village, in a Dispatch interview.

...

"I've been looking at the web sites," he said. "People are hunting for me."

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Gov. Chris Gregoire (D-WA) says she will "legally oppose" state Attorney General Rob McKenna's push to get the health care reform bill repealed.

She added: "I don't know who he represents. He doesn't represent me. I don't think he represents a million and a half Washingtonians that will be helped by this. "

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At first it seems absurd even to ask the question in the title. After all, the emergence of the Tea Partiers has been among the hottest political stories of the past year, and the group just came within inches of stymieing President Obama's major agenda item.

But lately, it's begun to appear that the Tea Partiers -- at least as defined by the media -- aren't so much a new force of previously apolitical regular folks, stirred from their apathy by an expansion of government and Rick Santelli's famous rant. Rather, they're essentially conservative Republican base voters, who were demoralized by the failures of the Bush years and have been re-energized by Democratic control of Washington. And they're part of a strain of the conservative movement that has long been driven by cultural resentment and racial paranoia.

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Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has long been a vocal critic of the Democrat's health reform efforts, but today he started taking credit for some provisions of the bill, and talking up his own role in crafting the legislation.

In a release sent out by his staff to reporters today, Grassley says the bill will "hold tax-exempt hospitals accountable for the federal tax benefits they receive" thanks to his work.

The full text of his release is after the jump.

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In a further sign that Gov. Charlie Crist (R-FL) is seeking to recapture the conservative vote in his primary for Senate, Crist has now come out for the repeal of the health care bill, and is also supporting his state attorney general's effort to challenge the bill's constitutionality.

Crist's campaign said in a statement to the CBS station in Miami: "Governor Crist will work for the repeal of the health care will (sic) when elected to the U.S. Senate."

Crist's opponent in the Republican primary, former state House Speaker Marco Rubio, has been successfully attacking Crist's conservative credentials due to Crist's support for President Obama's 2009 stimulus bill. Rubio has also supported repeal of the health care bill. The current TPM Poll Average has Rubio ahead in the primary by 58.2%-28.3%, after Crist had previously led by a similar margin last summer.

The Democrats' Congressional campaign arms have sent out a pair of fundraising e-mails from two big names that were involved in passing the health care bill, in two very different ways: Vice President Joe Biden, who spoke with Senators throughout the process -- and Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), whose switch to supporting the bill, after he'd previously opposed it for not going far enough, helped bring it over the finish line.

"Just over a year ago, President Obama and I were sworn into office to preside over a country in desperate need of change," Biden writes in his e-mail for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. "One year later, we have signed historic health care reform into law. Republicans want to exact a political price for our success. Their plan is this: Use the midterm elections to strengthen their numbers, weaken Democrats, repeal health care reform and destroy President Obama. And they are more than willing to lie to do it."

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The Republicans seem to be responding to the passage of health care and likely passage of the reconciliation measure by invoking little-known rules to slow everything down. Senate Republicans have used a rare tactic during the opening of Senate business to cancel or postpone committee hearings.

In simple terms, the Senate has a rule about the hours that hearings can be held each day. They can't be held until two hours after convening business, or after 2 p.m. To adjust the timing, any changes must be agreed upon each day by the chamber. They always are, with no fanfare. But today the Senate Republicans objected to holding the hearings, which forced several hearings to either be postponed or canceled. The maneuver is done by voice vote on the floor, and we don't yet know which senator objected.

Senate Democrats are decrying the tactic -- used yesterday to stop a subcommittee hearing on bark beetles and then today to slow a hearing on police training contracts in Afghanistan and cancel a Judiciary hearing on nominees -- as obstructionism beyond the pale. Senate gallery staff told TPMDC it's possible the GOP will try to force votes today to elongate the overall debate time for the bill, potentially even pushing it into the weekend.

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