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Here's a video from yesterday, courtesy of our friends at The Uptake, of Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) speaking to a reception held in his honor at the Hart Senate Office Building after he'd been sworn in.

When speaking of his family, his friends, supporters, and the late Sen. Paul Wellstone, Franken was frequently choking back tears -- as he noted, he has a tendency to stop just short of actually crying. And he also got in some nice jokes:



"If I thanked everyone here individually, who helped in this campaign, I would be thanking virtually everybody in this room," Franken said. "There's a couple of you who are kind of -- just here for the ride. (The crowd laughs.) But, 95% of you in this room had a tremendous amount to do with this victory."

After sparking progressive outrage, and sending the White House into damage control mode, a chastened Rahm Emanuel appeared before House Democrats yesterday to reassure them that the administration stands foursquare behind a public option.

At the meeting, House liberals warned Emanuel that he couldn't count on them to vote for a bill that contains a triggered public option. "We have compromised enough, and we are not going to compromise on any kind of trigger game," Woolsey apparently told Emanuel. "People clapped all over the place. We mean it, and not just progressives."

Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman said Emanuel assured him that "he doesn't stand by [the] trigger."

But all may not be forgiven and forgotten. Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY), chair of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, said the Chief of Staff ""made a hell of a mistake. He made a hell of a mistake and he knows it."

Meanwhile, across the Capitol, Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid laid down the law, urging Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) to walk away from his efforts to reach bipartisan consensus on health care reform--specifically, to advance a bill with a public option, and financed without taxing workers' health benefits. It's unclear as of now how closely the two major developments are connected.

Poll: Most Americans Wouldn't Vote For Palin A new Gallup poll finds that 54% of Americans say it is not too likely or not at all likely that they would vote for Sarah Palin if she ran for President in 2012, compared to 43% who say it is somewhat likely or very likely that they would support her. In addition, 70% say her resignation as Governor of Alaska has had no effect on their view of her, with 17% saying they now view her less favorably, and 9% more favorably.

Obama's Day In Italy President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama arrived in Rome, Italy, at about 4:20 a.m. ET (10:20 a.m. local time). At 5:10 a.m. ET, Obama met with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, and the two delivered brief statements to the press. At 6:45 a.m. ET, Obama arrived at the Guardia di Finanz School, greeted by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. There was a G-8 working lunch at 7 a.m. ET, and Obama will attend a G-8 session on global issues at 9:30 a.m. ET. At 11:45 a.m. ET, Obama and Berlusconi will tour L'Aquila historic center, and Obama will attend a G-8 working dinner at 2 p.m. ET.

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At an AFL-CIO reception moments ago, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) got the crowd all worked up--not by lampooning politics, but by participating in them. "I just became a cosponsor of my first bill in the Senate, the Employee Free Choice Act."

EFCA's been out of the headlines in recent weeks as Congress tackles a major health care overhaul. But labor must nonetheless be thrilled to have a new, high profile ally in the Senate.

TPMDC's update on the biggest legislative initiatives on the Hill:

  • Health Care: On the House-side, a phantom CBO score, trumped up by Republicans, plagued Democrats for much of the afternoon, before it was conclusively revealed to be a fiction. In the Senate, as the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee completed marking up the long-term care provisions in its health care reform bill, Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee began to tiptoe away from efforts at bipartisanship. An end-of-the-day report suggests that, with time running out to pass a bill before August recess, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid laid down the law and demanded an end to efforts to bring Republicans aboard.


  • Climate Change: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a hearing today on "moving America toward a clean energy economy." In an embarrassing twist, though, a number of conservative cap-and-trade foes became convinced that the the Senate was voting on climate legislation and embarked on a brief but hilarious Twitter rampage urging all concerned to "LIGHT UP THE SWITCHBOARDS" on the Hill.


  • Senate Politics: As reported, Sen. (!!!) Al Franken (D-MN) was sworn in today--the 60th member of the Democratic caucus.

Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) takes his knocks for not driving a hard bargain with Republicans and conservative members of his own party. But a breaking report suggests that might be changing on the issue of health care reform. According to Roll Call Reid "ordered" Senate Finance Committee chair Max Baucus (D-MT) to "drop a proposal to tax health benefits and stop chasing Republican votes on a massive health care reform bill."

That tax provision--more regressive than other financing proposals--is how many expected the committee to pay for their forthcoming health care bill. This jibes well with an earlier report that Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND)--an influential member of the panel--was walking away from the idea.

According to Roll Call "Reid told Baucus that taxing health benefits and failing to include a strong government-run insurance option of some sort in his bill would cost 10 to 15 Democratic votes."

If Baucus got the message, it would indicate a major change in the committee's direction. His is the only relevant panel not to have introduced a draft of health care reform legislation thanks in large part to internal wrangling over provisions like financing and the public option. Finance was widely expected to eschew a public option in favor of privately run health care co-operatives, and to propose paying for the bill by taxing employer-provided health care benefits. Neither idea has support among liberal Democrats.

If the Finance Committee does indeed change course, then all committees of jurisdiction, in both the House and Senate, will be working with legislation that calls for the creation of a public option--something Republicans have vowed to oppose.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), who has been a staunch supporter of the recent coup in Honduras against leftist President Manuel Zelaya, made a rather interesting comparison on the Senate floor today:



"On what basis does the Administration demand Zelaya's reinstatement?" DeMint asked. "His removal from office was no more a coup than was Gerald Ford's ascendance to the Oval Office, or our newest colleague Al Franken's election to the Senate."

Um...I thought Republicans were calling Franken's election an illegitimate coup!

President Obama may have acted swiftly to put out the fire Rahm Emanuel set when he suggested the White House might support delaying a public option. But he seems to have missed some embers. The progressive group MoveOn--which has taken an active role in campaigning for the public option--is now urging its members to call the White House and demand they reject the idea of a trigger mechanism altogether.

"President Obama has been speaking out for weeks about the heart of health care reform: a public health insurance option that will lower costs and help cover everyone," the letter reads.

But yesterday, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel signaled support for a "trigger" provision--a proposal that would undermine the public option, and put off real reform for years....

Right now, when key committees are finalizing health care legislation, Emanuel's remarks will only embolden conservative opponents of reform. He should be standing with the majority of Americans for a strong public health insurance option--not disastrous half-measures like the "trigger."

Can you call the White House switchboard and tell them you're disappointed in Chief of Staff Emanuel's comments supporting the "trigger"? Tell them voters want a strong public health insurance option--not half-measures like the "trigger."


Earlier today, I noted that some reformers remained concerned that the White House hadn't gone far enough in responding to Emanuel's comments. You can read the entire letter below the fold.

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This afternoon, Congress Daily reported that the Congressional Budget Office had scored the House's health-care overhaul bill--the so-called tri-committee bill--and determined it would cost $1.5 trillion over 10 years. That's at least a couple hundred billion dollars more than Democrats really want to see, and they were no doubt alarmed when the information began to spread.

The only problem is, it there is no CBO score. A joint statement from the House Committees on Energy and Commerce, Ways and Means, and Education and Labor, clears the air none-too-subtly.

"This report is premature and entirely fabricated. In fact, none of the reporters working on this piece contacted our press offices to fact check their story. The three House committees are still working to develop legislation and have not yet received a score from CBO on the discussion draft. As the three chairmen have made clear, our health care reform legislation will be paid for and we're still considering revenue options."

The CBO confirms this account. But that, unsurprisingly, isn't stopping Republicans from trying to make hay out of fiction. According to Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA) "Today's CBO announcement demonstrates the enormous cost that a new, government-run bureaucracy will create, and cutting Medicare funding by $500 billion to pay for a new, government program will limit treatment options for thousands of patients."

Which might be perfectly fair if any of it were true.

It's only early July, but the gloves are fully off in this November's election for Governor of New Jersey. Democratic incumbent Jon Corzine's campaign just launched this new attack ad against Republican former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie, who is currently ahead in the polls:



"A million lawyers in America. So who did Chris Christie give contracts to?" the announcer asks. "The Bush Attorney General who was Christie's boss. He got a $52 million no-bid contract."

Beyond the accusation of ethical impropriety, there's an even more damaging attack here: The Corzine campaign is reminding people that Christie worked in the Bush Administration.

New Jersey is a very Democratic state, but to a certain extent this is in a negative sense -- a good portion of swing voters are casting their ballots against the Republicans, rather than for the Democrats. If Corzine is to win this race, he'll need to remind those voters just how much they hate the GOP.

Late Update: Christie campaign manager Bill Stepien has released the following statement: "While Chris Christie is out on the trail talking about real solutions to turn around Corzine's failing economy, Governor Corzine responds with what he does best - throwing his millions behind negative, misleading attacks. New Jerseyans are frustrated with Mr. Corzine's tired and out of touch tactics, and who can blame them when they're facing skyrocketing unemployment and suffocating new taxes."

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