TPM News

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid emerged from tonight's Democratic caucus meeting all smiles as he approached waiting microphones with several caucus leaders in tow. But in a short press conference where he took no questions, Reid and the other Democrats gave little information about what was accomplished in the emergency party meeting.

"This is like a steeplechase race with a couple of hurdles left," Reid said. "Democrats are not going to let the American people down."

Reid said a health care bill will pass the Senate next week, but he didn't say what would be in it. Neither did anyone else who spoke.

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Joe Lieberman is the man of the hour. But though he's threatening to filibuster the Democrats' health care bill, he did not speak at an impromptu caucus meeting on the legislation this evening. Perhaps that's because he appears to have won this round: The Medicare buy-in--the key feature of a public option compromise reached tentatively last week--is now being discussed in the past tense by some of its most ardent proponents.

One member who did speak, according to a source briefed on the meeting, was Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA), who offered an impassioned plea. "Don't let these obstructionists win," Specter reportedly said. "I came to this caucus to be your 60th vote." His words were met with a loud applause, which was audible through the doors of the LBJ room, and down the hall toward the Senate chamber.

But that applause may belie the reality--that the chief items on the Democrats' wish list appear to be dead or dying. The public option is gone from the Senate bill. The Medicare buy-in, which was supposed to take its place, is on life support at best.

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Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) just walked walked into the Democrats all-important caucus meeting tonight sounding defeatest about the chance that a Medicare buy-in or public option trigger will survive Sen. Joe Lieberman's (I-CT) decision to block the compromises this weekend.

Asked by a reporter if the Medicare buy-in will be pulled out, Harkin said "looks that way," before praising a Democratic health care bill without the two public option compromises.

"There's enough good in this bill that even without those two, we gotta move," he said. "All the insurance reforms, all the stuff we wrote so hard for prevention and wellness in there, the workforce development issues that we have in there, the reimbursement based on quality not on quantity -- there's good stuff in this bill. It's a giant step forward, changing the paradigm of health care in America."

With that, Harkin turned and walked into the caucus meeting. Shortly after him came Lieberman, dashing into the room and taking no questions from the reporters swarmed around him.

While en route to a meeting of the Democratic caucus this evening, where members will discuss his threat to filibuster health care reform, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) addressed charges of hypocrisy over an alternative to the public option. Sort of.

"I didn't change my mind," Lieberman insisted. "I've been in this position for the last few weeks."

"We've got this very strong network and system of subsidies for people, including people who are 55-65 so the idea of the Medicare buy in no longer was necessary because they're taken care of very well under the Finance Committee proposal," Lieberman said.

For years, Lieberman had supported the idea of a Medicare buy-in as a promising vehicle for reform, including, as TPMDC first noted this morning, as recently as three months ago. Asked specifically about his position this past September, Lieberman now says that the Senate Finance Committee bill, finalized in October, dealt with the problem of the uninsured so well that the buy-in became redundant.

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Top music and Hollywood executives will meet with Vice President Joe Biden and administration Cabinet members Tuesday for a roundtable discussion about piracy of intellectual property.

TPMDC has obtained an early look at the attendees, a host of big-wigs from the Motion Picture Association, the Recording Industry Association of America and top companies such as Viacom, among others.

According to the Vice President's office, it's the "first of its kind" meeting to talk with stakeholders on "ways to combat piracy in this rapidly changing technological age."

The full list of expected attendees after the jump.

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A new internal polling number from Public Policy Polling (D) further illustrates the popularity of Sarah Palin among the most hard-line elements of the Republican base.

Among voters who both disapprove of Barack Obama and also want to impeach him, Palin has a whopping 86% favorable rating. By comparison, among this group Mike Huckabee is at 62%, favorable and Mitt Romney is at 49%. (The overall top-line was that 20% of voters want to impeach Obama.)

Among Republicans who don't want to impeach Obama, Palin's favorable rating is 62%, Romney's is 54%, and Huckabee is at 51%.

"Romney is more popular with the reasonable wing of the Republican Party than the lunatic fringe, which probably hurts his chances at the 2012 nomination," writes PPP communications director Tom Jensen. "Palin on the other hand is the most popular candidate at this point with both, but is considerably better liked by the crazies who already support impeaching Obama for...what I'm not sure."

The White House has announced a settlement in a lawsuit filed by two good-government groups concerning emails that went missing over a two-and-a-half year period during the Bush administration.

Under the terms of the deal, 94 days of emails -- which could shed light on controversial topics that the Bush administration sought to obscure from public view, such as the Valerie Plame scandal and the run-up to the war in Iraq -- will be transferred to the National Archives, and eventually made public.

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When President Obama was forced this spring to sign a $410 billion omnibus spending bill laden with earmarks, he called it "imperfect" and called for a more transparent process moving forward.

And he's about to do it again. With the renewed focus on fiscal responsibility on the horizon, Obama is likely to sign a $1 trillion spending bill that passed Congress and contains about $4 billion worth of more than 5,000 earmarks.

"It's not perfect. The president will continue to try to make progress on those issues," Gibbs said. "There's no doubt we've still got a long way to go."

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The North Dakota Republican Party has a humorous new image on its front page today: A "Joke of the day" that just so happens to involve President Obama's birth certificate.

The picture shows the photo of President Obama shaking hands with state dinner party-crasher Michaele Salahi. Obama is given a speech balloon in which he asks to see Salahi's invitation. She answers: "If I can see your birth certificate!"

I asked Adam Jones, political director for the North Dakota GOP, whether it was appropriate to have a joke involving the president allegedly not being born in this country. "You said the keyword, Eric," he replied. "It's a joke."

I asked again whether he thinks this is a proper thing to put on a state party's homepage. "I think it is a joke, and that would be my only comment for you," he said.



(Via Dave Weigel and Ben Smith)

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