TPM News

President Barack Obama will meet with Senate Democrats this afternoon, to build momentum as they enter the final stretch on far-reaching health care legislation. The rare visit to Capitol Hill comes as liberals and conservatives in his party clash over the contentious issues of abortion, and, especially, the public option.

Liberals, like Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) would like to see the President encourage moderates to support the health care bill in its current form. Conservative Democrats, meanwhile, are hostile to the public option and are threatening to filibuster the bill if it's not modified or removed. The two factions are currently discussing various compromises, including a variation on the "trigger" compromise, and a new initiative--distinct from a government insurance plan--which would give the federal government the power to negotiate private insurance premiums for some consumers.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is currently huddling with his leadership team, and White House officials, and the two sides of his caucus will meet late this afternoon, after the President's visit, to continue negotiations. The flurry of activity suggests real developments are afoot. We'll let you know what happens.

Gates: July 2011 Not An Afghanistan 'Exit Strategy,' But A 'Transition' Appearing on This Week, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said the plan for Afghanistan is not properly called an exit strategy. "Well, first of all, I don't consider this an exit strategy. And I try to avoid using that term. I think this is a transition," said Gates. He further explained: "Well, from my standpoint, the decision in terms of when a district or a cluster of districts or a province is ready to be turned over to the Afghan security forces is a judgment that will be made by our commanders on the ground, not here in Washington."

Feingold: Stopping Afghanistan Surge Will Be Difficult, 'We'll Do Whatever We Can' Appearing on This Week, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) said he would do what he could to fight the Afghanistan troop surge. "And what's going to happen here is that it's probably going to be difficult to stop it now. We'll do whatever we can," said Feingold. "We're already working with members of both parties in both houses to question whether this funding should be approved. We're going to fight any attempts to use sort of accounting gimmicks to allow it to be funded. If there's an attempt to have an emergency supplemental, I think that's something we're going to oppose, not only on the grounds of it being an unwise policy, but also being fiscally irresponsible."

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Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) addressed his former running mate Sarah Palin on Meet the Press this morning -- saying both that she's "irrelevant" and that "she's earned herself a very big place in the Republican political scene."

"I think that Sarah Palin is a -- has earned herself a very big place in the Republican political scene," McCain said. "I'm proud of her. I am entertained every time I see these people attack her and attack her and attack her. She's irrelevant, but they continue to attack her. I am so proud of her and the work that she is doing."

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Former (and perhaps future) GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney said on CNN this afternoon that the troubled asset relief program has become a "slush fund" being misused by the Obama administration.

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Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Face the Nation this morning that Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is safe -- despite instability in the region.

"We are comfortable with the security of their weapons," he said.

We have a good relationship with them ... Based on the information available to us, we're comfortable.

Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan's president who was recently sworn in for another five-year term after a contentious election rife with allegations of voter fraud, asked the U.S. for patience in interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour that will air later this afternoon. Several U.S. officials said on other news shows today that Karzai will have to shape up if he wants to retain their support.

In a video clip posted on CNN's website, Karzai said he expects Afghan forces to begin taking over security operations in much of the country within two years, and the whole country within five.

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Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on ABC's This Week today that the United States hasn't had good intelligence on Osama bin Laden's location in years.

"We don't know for a fact where Osama bin Laden is," Gates said. "If we did, we'd go get him."

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