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In recent days, a new right-wing scare tactic on health-care has blossomed on conservative blogs and emails lists: the notion that the reform bill making its way through the House would lead to euthanasia by requiring senior citizens to submit to "end-of-life consultations."

It won't surprise you to learn this is a lie. But President Obama just got a question on it at a public event. And the idea has now made it into Politico, where a straight news story asks in its headline, all even-handed: "Will proposal promote euthanasia?" Since Politico thinks it'll be easier to "win the morning" by misleading readers into believing there's a legitimate debate over this issue, it's worth taking a minute to debunk it.

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The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is asking the Congress to slow down the pace of health care negotiations, and to strip the public option and employer mandate provisions from various legislative proposals, according to a letter delivered today.

"The undersigned...wish to urge caution in addressing one of the most difficult problems facing our nation today - reforming the health care system," the letter reads.

The creation of a new government-run insurance plan is a step in the wrong direction. Employers currently suffer a significant cost-shift from existing public programs, and the program described in House legislation would significantly increase costs for every American who purchases private insurance. We do not believe that the government plan will be a fair competitor. Because of the increased costs and lack of competition caused by a government plan, employers will not be able to continue offering their current plans, which cover more than 170 million Americans.

We are further concerned with a proposal to mandate that employers either provide health insurance or pay huge fines or payroll taxes. This "pay or play" mandate is especially bad because employers are also required to pay the majority of employee premiums. Even with some exemptions, this provision will kill many jobs. Market forces and employer autonomy should determine what benefits employers provide, rather than Congress.
You can read the entire letter below the fold. If there's something familiar to you about the idea of a health care plan without a public option, and without an employer mandate: congratulations. You've been paying attention.

That's basically the plan Max Baucus' Senate Finance Committee is set to propose--the sort of plan that a wellspring of progressivism like the Chamber of Commerce could get behind. And it should come as no surprise. Yesterday, the Chamber delivered a letter to the Finance Committee, praising its work, and taking swipes at the House's efforts.

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The new survey of the New Jersey gubernatorial race from Public Policy Polling (D) finds Republican nominee Chris Christie, a former U.S. Attorney, leading Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine by 50%-36%.

This is even a bit better for Christie than a month ago, when he led 51%-41%.

The internals show Corzine only leading 64%-20% among Democrats in this heavily blue state, with Christie up 86%-6% among Republicans and 54%-26% among independents.

"A visit from Barack Obama and negative ads against Chris Christie haven't gotten Jon Corzine any momentum so far," said PPP president Dean Debnam, in the polling memo. "The key to his chances of getting reelected is going to be moving that 64% of the Democratic vote he's earning right now closer to the 90% mark."

After meeting to discuss an unspecified health care compromise offered by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), the Blue Dogs have agreed that...they need to have more meetings.

"The bottom line of the Blue Dogs has not been met yet," said Rep. Earl Pomeroy inauspiciously (D-ND) according to The Hill.

But the fate of health care reform in the House is now back in the hands of the seven Blue Dogs on the Energy and Commerce Committee who've been holding things up all along--and Pomeroy isn't one of them. Waxman wants to continue marking up his health care reform bill tomorrow--but these seven conservative Democrats will have to decide one way or another whether they're in or out before that can happen.

Tea Party activists are reacting to the David McKalip setback with defiance and redoubled resolve -- as well as by comparing President Obama's health-care reform plans to slavery, and by attacking TPMmuckraker.

McKalip, a prominent Florida neurosurgeon and conservative activist, announced last week that he would withdraw from the public debate over health-care reform and step down from several medical leadership posts after TPMmuckraker revealed that he had forwarded to other Tea Partiers a racist email showing Obama as a witch doctor.

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In a 13-6 vote, the Senate Judiciary Committee today approved the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court. The full list of senators who voted for and against is below.

Sotomayor's nomination will now come before the full Senate, most likely early next week, according to AP reports.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was the only Republican to vote yes for Sotomayor, an interesting turn of events given his tone of questioning during the confirmation hearings. He announced he would vote for her on July 22.

As for those who voted against her confirmation, the favored Republican talking points about her "wise Latina" quote and alleged bias in judging seemed to be the major issues. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) once again said that some of Sotomayor's speeches "bug the hell out of" him, while Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) said she didn't explain her more controversial statements satisfactorily during the hearings.

Here's the vote breakdown:

Yes

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI) Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) Sen. Edward Kaufman (D-DE) Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)

No or No by proxy

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK)

In the wake of last night's vote by the House to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Hawaii's statehood -- and its status as the birthplace of President Obama -- the Florida Democrats have put out a statement challenging Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL) to drop his proposed legislation to require birth certificates from presidential candidates.

The Florida Dems' statement cites Posey's own vote in favor of the Hawaii resolution, contrasting that with his being the lead sponsor of the widely-ridiculed "Birther Bill":

Now that Rep. Bill Posey not only allowed the House of Representatives to certify the Presidential Election in January, but he also voted last night in Congress to declare President Barack Obama was born in Hawaii, the question he needs to answer today is: Will Bill Posey withdraw his crazy bill questioning President Obama's citizenship?

Because the people of Florida's 15th District need a Congressman focused on creating jobs and fighting for NASA, hopefully last night's vote shows that Posey has finally taken off his tinfoil hat and will finally get to work on the issues that matter.


Late Update: Posey spokesman George Cecala told me that Posey will not withdraw the bill, and it is not a personal slight against President Obama -- citing Posey's vote for the Hawaii resolution as evidence. Instead, it's about ensuring transparency and disclosure as a general principle for an issue that has come up multiple times throughout American history for politicians like Chester Arthur, Charles Curtis, John McCain and others.

"Quite honestly, the bill was never about Barack Obama and Mr. Posey, and I think that's true as to what our original statement was back when we introduced the bill," said Cecala. "The bill is simply about implementing the Constitution through legislation, and Mr. Posey is not going to withdraw the bill."

It's easy to read too deeply into exchanges between the President's press secretary and the White House press corps. But in light of last night's confirmation that the Senate Finance Committee will eschew a public option in favor of privately held, non-profit co-ops, this clip seems worthwhile.



We'll see if Gibbs has a straighter answer today. Several days ago, Obama appeared to say, in no uncertain terms, that any health care bill he signs would need to include a public option. Now Gibbs is saying Obama's team is at least considering a co-op model.

As more details emerge, it's worth keeping in mind that as far as the Finance Committee's negotiations are concerned, a "co-op" is a very fuzzy concept. As with a public option, a co-operative can be strong or weak or in between. Earlier in negotiations, the public option's point man, Chuck Schumer, suggested he could endorse a robust co-op model, but that committee Republicans were only willing to accept something much weaker.

When they share a beer at the White House Thursday evening, President Obama, Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Sgt. James Crowley will likely sit at a picnic table outside the Oval Office, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said this morning.

"This is about having a beer and de-escalate," Gibbs said during the press gaggle. "What the president talked about is the chance to talk and the chance to have a dialogue."

The event, scheduled for 6 p.m., will be a photo op for the press and Crowley will probably bring family, Gibbs said.

Crowley suggested the meeting, said Obama, who took over Friday's press briefing to make comments about the racially charged incident between Gates, a black Harvard professor, and Crowley, a white Cambridge Police officer.






To borrow a Rumsfeld-ism for a moment, one of the health care debate's known unknowns may soon become a bit clearer. To wit, we may soon know just how much the Senate Finance Committee's negotiations will impact negotiations in the House?

Last night, House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Henry Waxman made an offer to seven Blue Dogs on his committee, lead by Alpha Dog Mike Ross. This morning, Ross will take that offer to the rest of the Blue Dog coalition to gauge how much support it has among conservative Democrats.

But here's the thing: The slow-down in the House has been driven in part by the fact that conservative Democrats don't want to go out on a limb and support a proposal that's significantly more liberal than what the Senate Finance Committee's cobbling together. Now we have a bit more clarity on that proposal, and it's--unsurprisingly--significantly weaker than what the House originally drafted. That'll no doubt weigh heavily on the minds of several Blue Dogs. But how much? I suspect we'll know more after this morning's meeting.

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