TPM News

Florida Republican Senate candidate Marco Rubio charged grocery bills, car repairs and a number of other personal expenses to a GOP-issued credit card during his tenure as speaker of the state's House, according to a report in the Miami Herald.

Records obtained by the newspaper show that during his time as speaker, from 2005 to 2008, Rubio charged $13,900 in personal expenses on the American Express the party issued him. That includes $1,000 for repairs to the Rubio family car. Among the other charges, which were covered by the party as "political expenses":

• $765 at Apple's online store for ``computer supplies.''

• $25.76 from Everglades Lumber for ``supplies.''

• $53.49 at Winn-Dixie in Miami for ``food.''

• $68.33 at Happy Wine in Miami for ``beverages'' and ``meal.''

• $78.10 for two purchases at Farm Stores groceries in suburban Miami.

• $412 at All Fusion Electronics, a music equipment store in Miami, for ``supplies.''

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Harold Ford Jr., a former congressman who's considering a challenge to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), spoke tonight before the Stonewall Democrats' New York City chapter, one of the largest gay political organizations in the state. For Ford, who in 2004 voted for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, it was a test of his mettle in the face of those who may be his most fervent opponents.

Ford now says he supports marriage equality and tonight -- despite boos, chants and signs reading "Snake Oil Harry" -- he defended his change of mind.

"I freely admit there are issues I've evolved on," he said.

"The position I hold now is the right one," he said later, and pointed out that over the last 10 years, public support for gay marriage has increased.

"The reason the numbers and the support continues to go up is because of people like me, who change their minds," he said.

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Attorney General Eric Holder has "the utmost confidence" in the Justice Department's ethics office, despite the fact that it was recently overruled by a top Holder aide in its most high-profile case in years, a DOJ spokeswoman tells TPMmuckraker.

The 290-page torture memo report produced by the Office of Professional Responsibility, which is tasked with investigating misconduct by DOJ attorneys, found that Bush-era attorneys John Yoo and Jay Bybee had committed professional misconduct in writing the legal opinions that authorized torture.

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Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) was one of the Senators who switched from voting against cloture on the jobs bill on Monday, to voting in favor of its passage today. So what was the reason for this difference?

TPM asked Alexander's office for an explanation of why he voted block the bill on Monday, compared to his vote for it today. Alexander's press secretary Jim Jeffries told us: "The senator also said of his Monday vote, 'Majority Leader Reid wouldn't allow Republicans to offer amendments.' His vote on Monday was against ending debate on the bill."

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Sparks were flying at hearings today probing an expected 39 percent rate hike for Anthem Blue Cross customers in California as Democrats pilloried the insurer as greedy and Republicans used the event another platform to oppose health care reform.

Anthem parent company WellPoint's CEO Angela Braly was the main focus of Democratic ire and members of the Oversight subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee asked her to explain why such a profitable company was increasing rates so drastically.

"It's a difficult situation," she said, detailing the costs of care on the rise in California and across the country.

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Republicans asked to negotiate health care with President Obama in front of C-Span cameras, but now slam the bipartisan health care summit at the White House slated for Thursday as nothing more than a "photo-op," "infomercial" and "a taxpayer-funded media event."

The GOP has telegraphed its strategy in recent days, saying Obama is making a mistake by attempting to forge ahead with his own compromise version of the Senate bill as Democrats say they see the finish line ahead. The Republicans also are approaching it like a debate, setting up a war room and rapid response center within the Republican National Committee.

The Democrats are eager to wrap up health care and are closely coordinating with the White House on the summit agenda. A Senate leadership aide told TPMDC the Democrats' strategy is to "leave much of the heavy lifting to the president" because he has proven to be "very skilled" in similar situations.

"[W]e're confident that we have a strong hand to play and we're going to strike a tone of compromise and willingness to sit down and listen and negotiate while pressing forward to get health care done as quickly as possible," the aide said.

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In advance of tomorrow's bipartisan health care reform summit at the White House, a new poll shows Democrats have the upper hand when it comes to what Americans want fixed in their health care system. But they remain unhappy with both bills passed in the Democratic-led Congress.

A CNN national poll out today confirms what health care reform advocates have been saying -- Americans want health care reform, and they favor (if only slightly) most of the reforms Democrats are pushing. But the poll also confirms what Republicans and reform opponents have been saying for months: Democrats are walking into the summit with a set of bills basically no one wants.

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A must-watch performance on the House floor today from Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY).

"You gotta love these Republicans," Weiner said. "I mean, you guys have chutzpah. The Republican Party is a wholly owned subsidiary of insurance companies."

One of Weiner's Republican colleagues asked that the Democrat's words be stricken from the record because they were inappropriate for debate. Weiner's comeback: I'd be glad to -- I'll just substitute other words.

Make no mistake about it, every single Republican I have ever met in my entire life is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the insurance industry.

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Amid all the talk of what might result from tomorrow's health care summit, here's a rundown of what will actually happen tomorrow.

The summit is being held at the Blair House, an official guest house of the president, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

There are lots of places to watch the summit: It will be streamed live on whitehouse.gov and broadcast on C-Span 3. The RNC and DNC are both planning to run their own live streams, as are the major cable networks. And TPM will have a live wire on the front page, as well as posts from TPMDC throughout the day.

The White House released a sketch of the schedule to the Huffington Post yesterday. President Obama will make open remarks, and so will the Democrats and the Republicans. The discussion will then focus on four issues: controlling costs, insurance reforms, reducing the deficit and expanding coverage.

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