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As you may have heard, progressive groups are petitioning Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to throw down the gauntlet and get conservative Democrats on board against Republican filibusters. The idea: "Any Democratic senators who support a Republican attempt to block a vote on health care reform should be stripped of their leadership titles. Americans deserve a clean up-or-down vote on health care."

A letter from the Progressive Change Campaign Committee to supporters announces, "We'll deliver the petition signatures to Harry Reid next week after a big news conference in front of the Senate."

So what does leadership think of this? Not too much, apparently. "These kinds of gestures are counter-productive and won't have any impact on Capitol Hill," says a leadership aide. "These kinds of efforts will fall flat."

Additionally, the aide added, even if Democrats were responsive to the pressure, it's improperly placed. "There's a fundamental miscalculation here, in that ultimately this is not a decision for Senator Reid to make. This is a decision that's going to be made by the caucus as a whole."

I doubt whether that will assuage progressives, but generally speaking the notion that party defectors should be stripped of their seniority and other perks is often embraced by grassroots activists on both the left and the right. But in recent years it hasn't typically resulted in any action on the Hill.

A new study from the Nielsen Company helps explain how Gov. Jon Corzine (D-NJ) has been catching up with his Republican opponent Chris Christie, and also how Bob McDonnell and Mike Bloomberg have been maintaining leads in the Virginia and New York City races: Seriously outspending their opponents on advertising.

Between June 3 and September 20, Corzine ran a whopping 4,806 TV ads, compared to only 1,393 from Christie, a ratio of 3.45 to 1. Interestingly, Corzine massively out-advertised Christie in July by a margin of about 17 to 1, with Christie closing the gap to 2.26 to 1 in the period since then. It was in that earlier period when Corzine had some of his worst numbers, and yet he's been catching up in the polls in the later period:



The reason for the discrepancy could be that voters in New Jersey don't pay very close attention until the final several weeks of the election -- thus Corzine was unable to really break through with his attacks. On the other hand, he probably would have been doing even worse if not for the ads.

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As we've reported, a faction of the right wing has been attacking Kevin Jennings, the director of Safe and Drug-Free Schools for the Department of Education, on various charges related to his open homosexuality. The faction -- including Fox News personalities, anti-gay groups and at least one Republican Congressman -- opened their attacks with the claim that Jennings supports statutory rape, a claim that has been debunked.

In an incident described in one of Jennings' books, Jennings counseled a high school student who'd had a sexual encounter with an older man. According to Fox's Sean Hannity, et al, the student was 15, and Jennings should have reported it as "sexual abuse."

But the student involved came forward to say he was actually 16 at the time.

"Were it not for Mr. Jennings' courage and concern for my well-being at that time in my life, I doubt I'd be the proud gay man that I am today," he said in a recent statement.

It's been debunked, but the Hannity crew, including Karl Rove and Rep. Steve King (R-IA), is still hungry to get an Obama-appointed "czar" out of office. So they're accusing Jennings of supporting NAMBLA, the North American Man-Boy Love Association.

(NAMBLA, as its name suggests, is a fringe group which supports consensual sexual relationships between boys and men and opposes age-of-consent laws.)

Here's how Jennings' opponents make the connection:

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Both conservative and liberal Democrats seem to be open to a new public option proposal floated by Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Tom Carper (D-DE) to allow states not to participate in the plan if they decide they don't want to.

A Baucus aide tells me "Senator Baucus will look closely at this proposal, as well as other proposals, and could consider supporting them as part of an overall package as long as it achieved his health care reform goals while getting 60 votes."

Along the same lines, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) told Politico that he likes the idea of leaving the decision up to the states.

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It's been known for a long time now that a "robust" public option, tied to Medicare rates is a big money saver--bigger than a public option that has to negotiate rates with providers. Now, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is going to make members reckon with the fact that the more liberal proposal is actually the more fiscally responsible plan.

"One will be what I call the robust public option, Medicare plus five; and then we will have two versions that we are sending that involve the negotiated rates that were supported, and of course passed by the Energy and Commerce Committee."

She went on:

The thing is, there is absolutely no question, the robust public option scores very well, $110 billion [in savings]. And that is why I so strongly supported it. It is hard to ignore $110 billion, especially when you are trying to lower the cost of coverage.

In all fairness to those who believe that the negotiated rates work better for them in their district, we are trying to get from the Congressional Budget Office how we can have more savings out of negotiated rates, because so far all they have told us is that saves $25 billion.

It is an $85 billion difference. That is a big difference. And I am saying there must be some way we can get more savings; and they have given us some suggestions which we have narrowed the choices to and sent them back.


This is how it will work:

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President Obama will be visiting New Orleans on Oct. 15, according to the Times Picayune.

The newspaper said Obama will "assess progress and remaining community needs more than four years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city."

The Times Picayune didn't have details on where Obama would go, or whom he would visit with, and said he was not expected to stay overnight.

The White House announced last month that Obama planned to make his first visit to New Orleans since taking office, but didn't say exactly when his visit would be, saying only that it would take place in mid-October.

A top activist with the anti-tax Tea Party movement has had a personal brush with federal tax collectors. Jenny Beth Martin, a co-founder and national co-ordinator for the Tea Party Patriots, owed, with her husband, over half a million dollars to the IRS when the pair filed for bankruptcy last year, according to filings examined by TPMmuckraker.

The couple's bankruptcy filing, made in August 2008 to the US Bankruptcy Court for Georgia's Northern District, stated that Martin and her husband Lee Martin, of Woodstock, Georgia, owed the IRS $510,000, after making a payment of $16,640 that June. The couple also owed just over $71,000 to Ford Motor Credit, the automaker's financing arm.

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The new SurveyUSA poll of the New Jersey gubernatorial race gives Republican nominee Chris Christie a narrow lead over Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine, confirming the trend of polls that have shown this race becoming very tight.

The numbers: Christie 43%, Corzine 40%, and independent Chris Daggett with 14%, with a ±4% margin of error. There is no prior SurveyUSA poll of this race for direct comparison.

The poll finds a sharp gender gap, with men going for Christie by 48%-35%, plus 16% for Daggett, and women for Corzine by 46%-37%, with 13% for Daggett. Keep in mind that Corzine has been attacking Christie among women voters on the issue of insurance company coverage of mammograms.

Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) and Sen. Bob Bennett (R-UT) want to amend the pending Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations bill (which funds NASA and the census, among other things) to force census takers to ask immigration status.

The amendment ties funding for the census bureau to asking of the question on "all future" decennial censuses.

Vitter said because some states have included illegal immigrants in their counts, that's led to more Congressional seats.

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In a press conference today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi responded to a statement from Republicans that Gen. Stanley McChrystal should "put her in her place," saying "that language is something I haven't even heard in decades."

"I'm in my place. I'm the Speaker of the House, the first woman Speaker of the House. And I'm in my place because the House of Representatives voted me there," Pelosi said.

"They really don't understand how inappropriate that is," she said.

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