TPM News

TPMDC's roundup of the biggest initiatives on Capitol Hill.

  • Health Care: Two House committees--Education and Labor, and Ways and Means--passed historic health care legislation today. But the Energy and Commerce committee still has a long way to go, and it's going to be a hard climb.


  • Employee Free Choice: Union-friendly Senate Democrats have reportedly agreed to drop a key provision--majority sign-up--from the flagship labor legislation to win the support of skeptical, conservative Democrats like Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor. But even if all Democrats are on board, with Sens. Kennedy and Byrd all but out of commission, EFCA still has a long way to go. The bill is anathema to Republicans like perhaps no other legislation on the Democratic agenda.

Earlier today, we saw that six Senate centrists, are asking Senate leaders to slow down the pace of health care reform efforts. I've explained a number of times why that's a terrible proposition from the perspective of the President and key Democrats. But there's a distinct question about why some Democrats--including a guy like Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), who'd almost certainly vote for anything to come to the floor between now and August--would want to slow things down.

Richard Kirsch, national campaign manager for Health Care for America Now, has some ideas. "They're trying to become players," he says. And they can't become players unless Obama and others stop to ask, "What do you want time for? What are your concerns? How do we make you feel better about this?"

He also cautions, wisely, that each tepid senator will have his or her own reasons for wanting to delay legislation.

But, intentionally or otherwise, their actions all serve the same ends: buying time to weaken the bill, or to make it harder to pass, or to force leadership into a fight over budget reconciliation. And if these are in fact their goals, they can't, for obvious reasons, give the game away. In fact, they have to be very careful about the entire effort.

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We've made it through all 570 pages of those emails sent from and to Mark Sanford's office in the period just before, during, and after his disappearance.

Earlier we highlighted how big name TV journalists like David Gregory, George Stephanopoulos, and John King aggressively wooed the South Carolina governor's press secretary in an effort to get the governor to come on their shows. But here are a few of the other interesting finds -- mostly press related -- from our search:

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Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) must've sat around waiting on President Obama's speech for as long as we did here at TPMHQ.



Obama speech on healthCareReform (sic) Absolutely (sic) nothing new Waste (sic) of time saying we are going to get that done Baucus (sic) and I know that But (sic) doRITE (sic)[.]


As ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, Grassley's no small voice in the health care debate. But he's also developing a reputation as an ornery tweeter. Last month, he similarly took to the text messaging service to blast Obama. "Pres Obama you got nerve while u sightseeing in Paris to tell us"time to deliver" on health care," Grassley said. "We still on skedul/even workinWKEND."

In an unscheduled White House health care speech this afternoon, President Obama reiterated his commitment to accomplishing health care reform "this year."

Notably absent from his statement was any reference to the looming August congressional recess, or the mid-October deadline he and Democratic leaders had set for signing a bill into law.



The House of Representatives will recess on August 3, and the Senate on August 10, and Obama has insisted in the past that both chambers complete work on individual health care bills before adjourning for the summer.

As I've detailed previously, there are a number of reasons the administration wants swift action, and today's speech is among the first public signs that the White House might be girding itself for possibility that Congress will miss its deadlines.

In a nod to new concerns that House and Senate proposals don't do enough to curb long-term health spending, Obama noted his work with Congress on an initiative that would create an "Independent Medicare Advisory Commission" which would have the power to set the rates Medicare pays for services. Currently, Medicare seeks advice on those issues from MedPAC. This plan would strengthen that commission, and make its findings binding, unless overridden by the President or Congress.

The White House announced today (via Twitter) that President Obama will be holding a primetime news conference on Wednesday, July 22 at 9 p.m. ET.

Here's the tweet:

You heard it here first: Primetime presidential news conference at the White House, Wed. 7/22 @ 9PM EDT

Rep. Silvestre Reyes, who chairs the House Intelligence committee, has announced an investigation into the secret CIA program that Leon Panetta recently ended, and which Dick Cheney reportedly ordered kept secret from Congress.

From Reyes's statement:

After careful consideration and consultation with the Ranking Minority Member and other members of the Committee, I am announcing an official Committee investigation into possible violations of federal law, including the National Security Act of 1974.

This investigation will focus on the core issues of how the congressional intelligence committees and Congress are kept fully and currently informed. To this end, the investigation will examine several issues, including the program discussed during Director Panetta's June 24th notification and whether there was any official decision or direction to withold (sic) information from the Committee.

Earlier today, I highlighted an error-plagued New York Post article, complete with an error-plagued infographic, which claimed that House Democrats' health care bill would result in an astronomical tax increase for wealthy Americans. The author--seemingly unaware that Democrats were proposing an increase in marginal tax rates--reported that high-income earners would be on the hook for thousands, or tens-of thousands of dollars per year if Democrats get their way, when the the reality is much less extreme.

One of the author's sources for the piece was the anti-tax group The Tax Foundation--but now The Tax Foundation is disavowing the article. In an email, Tax Foundation economist Gerald Prante notes, "the Tax Foundation did not produce the results for the NY Post graphic. The only thing in that graphic that was from Tax Foundation was the 58.68 top rate for New York. We refused to do the calculations."

The NY Post interpreted that 58.68% as being an average rate, and we were explicit in our paper: http://www.taxfoundation.org/publications/show/24863.html that it was an effective marginal tax rate.


A call to the Post this morning went unanswered, but clearly responsibility for the misinformation in the piece--which was spotlighted on The Drudge Report--falls to the paper itself.

The Charleston Post and Courier has posted online (pdf) all 570 pages of emails obtained from the office of South Carolina governor Mark Sanford.

There's a bevy of information in there, but one exchange that jumped out at us was the one between Sanford's press secretary, Joel Sawyer (who just today announced he's quitting -- good for him!) and David Gregory, the host of NBC's Meet the Press. In courting Sanford's office, Gregory wrote that "coming on Meet The Press allows you to frame the conversation as you really want to."

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The reform campaign Health Care for America Now, in partnership with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees is airing television ads targeting two senators and seven congressmen. Here's the version that's running in the district of Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI)



The ad will run for five days, targeting Suptak, as well as Reps. Bart Gordon (D-TN), Mike Ross (D-AR), John Barrow (D-GA), Baron Hill (D-IN), Zachary Space (D-Oh), and Charlie Melancon (D-LA). Starting Monday it will air in North Dakota, home of Sen. Kent Conrad. AFSCME is also sponsoring the ad in California, whose senior senator Dianne Feinstein has been lukewarm about the prospects of reform.

Stupak is threatening to derail health care reform efforts in the House unless his fellow Democrats agree to major changes to the legislation.

TPMLivewire