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After working out a deal to weaken it, Rep. Mike Ross (D-AR)--chairman of the Blue Dogs' health care task force--has now publicly stated that he'll oppose any health care bill with a public option. The news rankled progressives, who believe the public option in the House is already compromised enough. But is Ross' statement indicative of a larger post-August shift in Blue Dog sentiment.

The short answer is yes--at least to some extent.

According to one Blue Dog aide, skepticism rose among members of the coalition not as a result of wacked-out tea baggers, but because, toward the end of the month, they had heard a different kind of skepticism.

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President Barack Obama delivered a speech to students around the country at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia, on Sept. 8, 2009, which was also the first school day after summer break. Conservative critics spent much of the last week fear mongering about socialist propaganda and decrying Obama's access to millions of malleable minds. Obama told students to work hard, stay in school and take responsibility of their own education. Check out TPM's coverage of this non-controversy.

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Students wait for President Obama to speak to them on the first day of school at Wakefield High School. Obama's remarks were broadcast live to schools around the country. After the conservative hysteria however, school districts in 6 states opted not to show the president's address. Read the full speech here.

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President Obama delivers his national address directed to students across the nation.

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Fourth graders watch President Obama's speech via internet at Reinberg Elementary School in Chicago, Illinois.

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Students at the Nap Ford Charter School in Orlando, Florida watch a webcast on a classroom computer of President Barack Obama as he delivers remarks from a school in Arlington, Virginia.

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President Obama delivers his national address directed to students across the nation.

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Elsa Guenther, 17, a Wheaton-Warrenville South High School senior, watches President Obama's speech at Arrowhead Golf Club in Wheaton, Illinois. When the school district opted not to broadcast the president's message on Tuesday, a group of high school students and their parents organized their own private viewing of the speech.

Newscom/Chuck Berman/Chicago Tribune




Third grader Elizabeth Bahlhorn watches President Obama's speech at Sequoia Elementary in Sacramento, California.

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President Obama greets Tim Spicer, a student at Wakefield High School.

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President Obama greets audience members after speaking to students on the first day of school at Wakefield High School.

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President Obama shakes hands with students after delivering his national address at Wakefield High School.

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President Obama and US Education Secretary Arne Duncan host a group discussion with ninth-graders students at Wakefield High School.

Newscom/UPI/Michael Reynolds




President Obama and US Education Secretary Arne Duncan at Wakefield High School.

Newscom/Michael Reynolds/ABACAUSA

The Weekly Standard is firing back at Democrats and the Washington Post for hammering away at Bob McDonnell, the Republican gubernatorial nominee, over his hard-right thesis/political manifesto that he wrote at age 34.

The Standard has now unearthed some campaign literature from Democratic nominee Creigh Deeds, published in a 1999 legislative campaign, in which Deeds defended his qualifications as a social conservative, after his opponent accused him of supporting "special rights" for gays:

NO SPECIAL RIGHTS FOR GAYS
I don't believe in discrimination, but I don't believe in special rights for anyone. I have never voted to allow gay partners to receive medical insurance -- or any other benefit -- from the state. It's sad that Mr. Collins has to resort to bigotry and hate-mongering.

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The White House has released a list of the guests who will be in Michelle Obama's box tonight, for the President's speech on health care before a joint session of Congress.

From a press release:

Below is a list of Americans who will be seated in the First Lady's box during the President's remarks. Some of these guests are featured in web videos on the WhiteHouse.gov blog: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/The-Speech-Tonight/.


See the full list, which includes Dr. Jill Biden and Vicki Kennedy, after the jump.

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Remember back on Friday, President Obama discussed the public option on a conference call with House liberals? And remember how the upshot of that call was that Obama planned to meet yesterday with the chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Congressional Black Caucus, Congressional Hispanic Caucus, And Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus?

Well that meeting never happened. Yesterday, sources told me that the meeting hadn't been scheduled, but could happen as late as this morning. Today, a House aide tells me that it's not going to happen at all.

"They never called," the aide said.

Before reading too deeply into this, I have a call in to the White House seeking an explanation. But at a glance it doesn't seem to suggest that House liberals are being roped in to the health care negotiations between the House and the Senate.

Fox News anchor Neil Cavuto had Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) on his show tonight to talk public option, Medicare and single-payer health insurance, all of which Weiner is for and all of which Cavuto's employers are very much against. It didn't end well.

The conversation rather quickly devolved into the two talking over each other, with Weiner calling out Cavuto for his "Republican friends" and Cavuto attacking Weiner for "making it political football!"

It's fun. Watch:

During his radio show today, Rush Limbaugh made a very blunt case we don't hear stated so clearly by Republicans -- that not going through health insurance is better than using it, because it creates a direct link between the patient and the price, and creates the incentive to shop around:



"You oughtta try this, folks, just a standard doctor visit, offer to pay for it yourself," said Limbaugh. "I guarantee it'll cost you less than if you use your insurance."

Josh Marshall commented on this idea yesterday: "To be clear, such an approach probably would cut costs because most people just couldn't afford to get a lot of care, which is a great way of cutting costs. But remember, the problem according to most Republicans in Congress isn't that there's not enough insurance or that it's not good enough. It's that there's too much. The problem is that you have insurance. And good policy will take it away from you."

The White House has released the following excerpts from President Obama's prepared remarks for tonight's address to a joint session of Congress on health care reform.

I am not the first President to take up this cause, but I am determined to be the last. It has now been nearly a century since Theodore Roosevelt first called for health care reform. And ever since, nearly every President and Congress, whether Democrat or Republican, has attempted to meet this challenge in some way. A bill for comprehensive health reform was first introduced by John Dingell Sr. in 1943. Sixty-five years later, his son continues to introduce that same bill at the beginning of each session.



Our collective failure to meet this challenge - year after year, decade after decade - has led us to a breaking point. Everyone understands the extraordinary hardships that are placed on the uninsured, who live every day just one accident or illness away from bankruptcy. These are not primarily people on welfare. These are middle-class Americans. Some can't get insurance on the job. Others are self-employed, and can't afford it, since buying insurance on your own costs you three times as much as the coverage you get from your employer. Many other Americans who are willing and able to pay are still denied insurance due to previous illnesses or conditions that insurance companies decide are too risky or expensive to cover.



***



During that time, we have seen Washington at its best and its worst.



We have seen many in this chamber work tirelessly for the better part of this year to offer thoughtful ideas about how to achieve reform. Of the five committees asked to develop bills, four have completed their work, and the Senate Finance Committee announced today that it will move forward next week. That has never happened before. Our overall efforts have been supported by an unprecedented coalition of doctors and nurses; hospitals, seniors' groups and even drug companies - many of whom opposed reform in the past. And there is agreement in this chamber on about eighty percent of what needs to be done, putting us closer to the goal of reform than we have ever been.



But what we have also seen in these last months is the same partisan spectacle that only hardens the disdain many Americans have toward their own government. Instead of honest debate, we have seen scare tactics. Some have dug into unyielding ideological camps that offer no hope of compromise. Too many have used this as an opportunity to score short-term political points, even if it robs the country of our opportunity to solve a long-term challenge. And out of this blizzard of charges and counter-charges, confusion has reigned.



Well the time for bickering is over. The time for games has passed. Now is the season for action. Now is when we must bring the best ideas of both parties together, and show the American people that we can still do what we were sent here to do. Now is the time to deliver on health care.



The plan I'm announcing tonight would meet three basic goals:



It will provide more security and stability to those who have health insurance. It will provide insurance to those who don't. And it will slow the growth of health care costs for our families, our businesses, and our government. It's a plan that asks everyone to take responsibility for meeting this challenge - not just government and insurance companies, but employers and individuals. And it's a plan that incorporates ideas from Senators and Congressmen; from Democrats and Republicans - and yes, from some of my opponents in both the primary and general election.



***



Here are the details that every American needs to know about this plan:



First, if you are among the hundreds of millions of Americans who already have health insurance through your job, Medicare, Medicaid, or the VA, nothing in this plan will require you or your employer to change the coverage or the doctor you have. Let me repeat this: nothing in our plan requires you to change what you have.



What this plan will do is to make the insurance you have work better for you. Under this plan, it will be against the law for insurance companies to deny you coverage because of a pre-existing condition. As soon as I sign this bill, it will be against the law for insurance companies to drop your coverage when you get sick or water it down when you need it most. They will no longer be able to place some arbitrary cap on the amount of coverage you can receive in a given year or a lifetime. We will place a limit on how much you can be charged for out-of-pocket expenses, because in the United States of America, no one should go broke because they get sick. And insurance companies will be required to cover, with no extra charge, routine checkups and preventive care, like mammograms and colonoscopies - because there's no reason we shouldn't be catching diseases like breast cancer and colon cancer before they get worse. That makes sense, it saves money, and it saves lives.



That's what Americans who have health insurance can expect from this plan - more security and stability.



Now, if you're one of the tens of millions of Americans who don't currently have health insurance, the second part of this plan will finally offer you quality, affordable choices. If you lose your job or change your job, you will be able to get coverage. If you strike out on your own and start a small business, you will be able to get coverage. We will do this by creating a new insurance exchange - a marketplace where individuals and small businesses will be able to shop for health insurance at competitive prices. Insurance companies will have an incentive to participate in this exchange because it lets them compete for millions of new customers. As one big group, these customers will have greater leverage to bargain with the insurance companies for better prices and quality coverage. This is how large companies and government employees get affordable insurance. It's how everyone in this Congress gets affordable insurance. And it's time to give every American the same opportunity that we've given ourselves.





***



This is the plan I'm proposing. It's a plan that incorporates ideas from many of the people in this room tonight - Democrats and Republicans. And I will continue to seek common ground in the weeks ahead. If you come to me with a serious set of proposals, I will be there to listen. My door is always open.



But know this: I will not waste time with those who have made the calculation that it's better politics to kill this plan than improve it. I will not stand by while the special interests use the same old tactics to keep things exactly the way they are. If you misrepresent what's in the plan, we will call you out. And I will not accept the status quo as a solution. Not this time. Not now.



Everyone in this room knows what will happen if we do nothing. Our deficit will grow. More families will go bankrupt. More businesses will close. More Americans will lose their coverage when they are sick and need it most. And more will die as a result. We know these things to be true.



That is why we cannot fail. Because there are too many Americans counting on us to succeed - the ones who suffer silently, and the ones who shared their stories with us at town hall meetings, in emails, and in letters.

Is Heidi DeJong Barsuglia, the energy lobbyist named in press reports as being the subject of Mike Duvall's filthy sexual boasting, denying that she was involved with the married Republican lawmaker, who resigned this afternoon? [SEE LATE UPDATE BELOW]

Sempra Energy, where Barsuglia works, just released the following statement:

Sempra Energy takes very seriously any reports involving the conduct of our employees. We are investigating this matter and the recent media reports that named one of our employees. The employee has denied the speculative media reports. Our investigation will be conducted to ensure not only that our policies on employee conduct are strictly adhered to, but also that our employee is treated fairly.

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President Obama will be hitting the road to campaign for health insurance reform, in a sign that tonight's speech is going to be the opening round of a new wave of direct presidential involvement in the debate.

Obama will hold a rally for health insurance reform this Saturday in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The doors of the Target Center will open at 9:30 a.m. CT, with space given on a first-come, first-served basis, and no tickets required. The event will begin at 12:30 p.m. CT.

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