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Where have we heard this before...

Republican members of the Senate Judiciary and Senate Intelligence Committee are warning Attorney General Eric Holder that by appointing a special prosecutor to investigate allegations of torture by the CIA during the Bush era, he'll be endangering national security.

Such an investigation could have a number of serious consequences, not just for the honorable members of the intelligence community, but also for the security of all Americans," reads a letter the senators sent yesterday.

It goes on, obliquely recalling the September 11 attacks.

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Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) isn't content to fight attempts at government-run health care here -- he wants to destroy it in other countries, too.

The central Louisiana newspaper The Town Talk reports that Vitter was asked at a town hall meeting about the fact that he opposes government health care, but supports re-importing prescription drugs from, as a constituent said, "countries that have socialized medicine." Vitter has campaigned in the past on re-importing drugs from Canada.

"My ultimate goal," Vitter explained, "is to use that (re-importation) to cause that (pricing) system to collapse."

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Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ)--co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus--says that the 60 House progressives who have committed to voting against a health care reform proposal if it does not include a public option are serious.

"If there is a slippage, it's minimal," Grijalva said.

A report in The Hill this morning warned that "the 60 signatures might be soft."

According to the report, the 60 "include lawmakers who have said they can accept health cooperatives and others who say they wouldn't vote against the House bill in the end."

Howard Dean, former head of the Democratic National Committee and a vocal supporter of health care reform, told PBS Wednesday that he believes there will be a public option.

"The Republicans have no interest in health care reform ... The administration now realizes this is gonna be done with Democrats alone and that means there's gonna be a public option," Dean said, "because the vast majority of Democrats in Congress and, frankly, the majority of Americans think there ought to be a public option."

The fate of a public option has seemed uncertain in recent days. Last weekend, the White House seemed to back off its support, with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius saying it was not the "essential" piece of reform. (The administration later said nothing had changed.) Conservatives continue to describe it as "a government takeover of health care" and even "socialism," while centrist Democrats such as the Blue Dogs are telling their constituents they won't vote for a bill with a public option.

Yet, Dean seemed confident. He even cheered on the Blue Dogs for their efforts at negotiating.

"The Blue Dogs made the bill a better bill. And I continue to think it is going to be a very good bill in the end," he said. "It won't be perfect but it will be a real piece of reform that is badly needed."

Talking points, distributed to employees of UnitedHealth Group argue against a public option. "Our company is very concerned that a government-run health plan would be a road block to meaningful health care reform. It would significantly increase costs for individuals and families, would add billions of dollars in new liabilities to the federal budget, would break down the current health care system upon which more than 160 million Americans rely, and would violate the President's commitment that those who like their current coverage can keep it," the memo reads.

In a letter from UHG, obtained by TPM, employees are encouraged to communicate this and other views directly to members of Congress at town hall events. As TPM reported yesterday, a source who obtained the letter says UHG directed him to an anti-health care reform tea party outside of the office of Rep. Zack Space (D-OH). UHG denies that report.

You can read all the talking points below the fold. According to Ben Smith of Politico, these are the talking points cited in the UHG letter.

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A new national survey from Public Policy Policy (D) finds President Obama leading four potential Republicans with, with Mike Huckabee currently polling as the strongest opponent -- and Sarah Palin as the weakest.

The numbers: Obama leads Huckabee 47%-44%; Obama is ahead of Newt Gingrich 49%-41%; Obama leads Mitt Romney 47%-40%; and Obama is ahead of Sarah Palin 52%-38%.

Huckabee also has the best personal ratings of the four tested Republicans, with 45% favorable to 28% unfavorable. Gingrich is at 33%-42%, Romney 37%-34%, and Palin 40%-49%.

Attorney General Eric Holder released a statement today on the release of Pan Am 103 bomber Abdel Basset Mohamed al-Megrahi, saying, "The interests of justice have not been served by this decision." Scottish officials released the bomber early from his life sentence because he has terminal cancer.

We are extremely disappointed with the Scottish Executive's decision to release Abdel Basset Mohamed al-Megrahi. The interests of justice have not been served by this decision. There is simply no justification for releasing this convicted terrorist whose actions took the lives of 270 individuals, including 189 Americans. Megrahi did not show and has not shown compassion for innocent human life, and as we communicated to the Scottish authorities and the UK government, it continues to be our position that he should have been required to serve the entire sentence handed down for his crimes. Our deepest sympathies go out to the families of those whose loved ones were killed in 1988 due to Megrahi's vicious actions.

In an acknowledgment of his grave condition, and that health care reform may be on the rocks, the ailing Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) has asked Governor Deval Patrick and Massachusetts' legislative leaders to change the state's election laws to allow Patrick to appoint a temporary replacement to the Senate in the event of Kennedy's death.

"I strongly support that law and the principle that the people should elect their senator,'' Kennedy wrote in a letter to Patrick. "I also believe it is vital for this Commonwealth to have two voices speaking for the needs of its citizens and two votes in the Senate during the approximately five months between a vacancy and an election.''

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Kennedy Urges Massachusetts To Provide For Speedy Senate Appointment Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) has written a letter to Gov. Deval Patrick (D-MA) and state legislative leaders, urging them to change the state's special-election law to allow a temporary gubernatorial appointment. Kennedy wrote that "it is vital for this commonwealth to have two voices speaking for the needs of its citizens and two votes in the Senate during the approximately five months between a vacancy and an election."

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will appear by phone on Michael Smerconish's radio show at 1:10 p.m. ET. At 2:45 p.m. ET, he will participate in the Organizing for America National Health Care Forum, at DNC headquarters.

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For months now, Senate Democrats have been preparing for what they regarded as the unlikely contingency that they'd have to pass health care reform--or some elements of health care reform--in a filibuster-proof budget reconciliation bill. But the deadline for that bill is October 15, and with legislative talks still stalled in the Senate Finance Committee, aides are now beginning to say that reconciliation may be inevitable.

The Wall Street Journal confirms this account this morning: "The White House and Senate Democratic leaders, seeing little chance of bipartisan support for their health-care overhaul, are considering a strategy shift that would break the legislation into two parts and pass the most expensive provisions solely with Democratic votes," report Jonathan Weisman and Naftali Bendavid.

Senate rules give the Senate parliamentarian the authority to determine whether provisions of legislation are germane to the budget (i.e. whether they substantially impact the deficit).

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