TPM News

After months of bipartisan negotiations, and significant concessions intended to win Republican support, Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) has unveiled a draft of his health care reform bill, and, for now, no Republicans on the Senate Fiance Committee are endorsing it, even tentatively. Not even Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME). And one Senate Democratic aide says it's highly unlikely that she'll support the bill at the finance committee stage.

But that won't deter Democrats from wooing her anyhow.

One of Snowe's main concerns is that the financing scheme Baucus proposed, which involves taxes on high end insurance plans, could disproportionately harm Maine consumers, who pay some of the highest health insurance rates in the country.

Calls to Snowe's office asking if she plans to offer amendments to alleviate that and other concerns--and whether the adoption of such amendments would win her support--have thus far gone unanswered.

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During a House floor speech on Monday night, Rep. Michele Bachmann gave a dire warning: That President Obama has already begun efforts to limit our energy usage from cars and home heating and air conditioning -- and our food consumption is next:

"President Obama said we can't eat as much food as we want and think the rest of the world will be okay about that -- as if that matters to freedom-loving Americans," said Bachmann. "Well, we just heard last week that the Federal Government now under the Obama administration is calling for a re-ordering of America's food supply. What's that going to mean? Now will the White House decide how many calories we consume, or what types of food we consume?"

She spoke to Rep. Steve King (R-IA): "You're from an agriculture State, I'm from an agriculture state. My farmers are very concerned about this."

During a press conference today, Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus (D-MT), who released his proposal for a health care reform bill this morning, said, "This is a good bill. This is a balanced bill. This can pass the Senate."

The "chairman's mark," as it's called, will now go to the full committee for debate, and will likely emerge with many changes.

"I'm looking forward to having an even better bill that can pass with a larger margin," he said.

He brushed off signs that Republicans have all but abandoned the reform effort.

"I worked very hard to get bipartisan support, and I think we'll get it," he said. "By the time the finance committee votes on this bill, there will be Republican support."

Linda McMahon, the CEO of Worldwide Wrestling Entertainment, has now officially resigned her position in order to run for Senate in 2010 against Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) -- joining a crowded Republican field, despite the NRSC's efforts to rally behind former Rep. Rob Simmons.

In her announcement video, McMahon introduces herself, touts her long experience in business, and pledges to run an unconventional campaign: "For starters, I won't be accepting campaign contributions from PAC's or other special interest groups -- and I will limit all contributions from individuals to $100. I think Connecticut deserves a Senator that isn't bought and paid for by the banks and Washington special interests."



To her credit, this is a pretty good video. Then again, another video of her has been making the rounds -- the sort of thing that might detract from her efforts to be taken seriously.

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she hopes the Senate Finance Committee health care bill improves over time. But she's also glad that it's finally been unveiled.

"The fifth and final Congressional committee is now putting forward a product that will move this historic debate forward," Pelosi said.

But, she added, "The House bill clearly does more to make coverage affordable for more Americans and provides more competition to drive insurance companies to charge lower premiums and improve coverage."

"[W]e hope to see modifications that result in the Senate bill better reflecting the work of the House to make health care more affordable for all Americans and promote competition that is key to keeping costs lower. I believe the public option is the best way to achieve that goal," Pelosi said.

You can read the entire statement below the fold. Note that earlier this month, Pelosi said a bill without a public option--like Baucus' bill, for instance--could not pass the House. But she seems recently to have backed away from such an absolute position.

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Last week, when Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) circulated an outline of the bill he released today, the reform campaign Health Care for America Now pointed me to letters they'd written to leading Democrats urging Baucus to include a public option in his legislation. Ultimately, he didn't.

Now, HCAN says the Baucus bill is a "failure."

"The Baucus bill is a gift to the insurance industry that fails to meet the most basic promise of health care reform: a guarantee that Americans will have good health care that they can afford," says HCAN's campaign director Richard Kirsch.

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Taking questions with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper today, President Obama said there is "no immediate decision pending" on troop increases for the war in Afghanistan. He emphasized that such decisions won't come until he determines a strategy.

"We have lacked as clear of a strategy and a mission as is necessary in order to meet our overriding objective, which is to dismantle and disrupt and destroy al-Qadea," Obama said. He intends to get that strategy right, he said.

"There is no immediate decision pending on resources, because one of the things I'm absolutely clear about is, you have to get the strategy right and then make determinations about resources," he said. "Certainly you don't make determinations about sending young men and women into battle without have absolute clarity about what the strategy is gonna be."

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The House Ethics committee has revealed that it's conducting separate inquiries into three lawmakers: Reps. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL), Maxine Waters (D-CA), and Sam Graves (R-MO).

• In the case of Jackson, the committee said in a statement that it's looking into "whether Representative Jesse Jackson Jr., or an agent of Representative Jackson, may have offered to raise funds for then-Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich in return for the appointment of Representative Jackson to the Illinois Senate seat." In a phone conversation that was recorded by prosecutors, Blago said that a staff person for Jackson offered $1 million in campaign contributions in return for appointing Jackson to the seat.

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My home state of New Jersey is one crazy place, according to the new survey of the state by Public Policy Polling (D).

Dave Weigel points out that one out of every three New Jersey conservatives think that Obama could be the anti-Christ. To be precise, 18% of self-identified conservatives affirmatively say that Obama is the anti-Christ, with 17% not sure. Among the self-identified Republican label, it's 14% who say Obama has the number 666 hidden underneath his hair, plus 15% who aren't sure.

But oh it gets even worse on some other questions -- among both the right and the left.

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As we've reported before, former Bush adviser Karl Rove will be playing himself in an upcoming episode of Family Guy. And he had some thoughts on both the script and the show's creator, Seth MacFarlane.

"I had a telephone conversation with the creator of the program, who is a completely mindless liberal who had an incredibly tasteless joke in the script which I talked him out of," Rove said. "But it was a sign of how much help he needed from a conservative in order to make this program succeed."

Rove went to the Washington, D.C., Fox affiliate to record his lines last week.

Rove and Rush Limbaugh are appearing in an episode where Brian, the liberal family dog, gets bored with Democrats in power and decides to become a conservative.

"I play myself, meaning the son of Satan, the spawn of evil," Rove said.

Video after the jump.

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