TPM News

Vice President Biden today responded to the newest jobless numbers, which show unemployment jumping to a 26-year high of 9.7 percent, with 216,000 jobs lost in August.

"There would have been another half million jobs lost without the recovery act," he said. Biden was speaking via satellite at Solyndra, a solar panel company in California. Biden and Secretary of Energy Stephen Chu were announcing a $535 million loan guarantee to the company through the recovery act.

He said the country is losing jobs at a slower rate than in January, which is an improvement.

"Less bad is not good," he said.

"We won't be satisfied until we're adding jobs," Biden said. "Jobs you can raise a family on. Green jobs."

NBC News correspondent Chuck Todd said today that President Obama "is not going to throw away the public option," but will likely turn to the "trigger" option that's been proposed by Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe.

"This president loves to find the middle ground," Todd said. "The middle ground to keep the Democrats together appears to be this trigger idea."

Todd said it would be a way for Obama to keep the public option alive and bring in the "left flank" of his party.

With the apparent departure of Sens. Chuck Grassley and Mike Enzi from the negotiating table, Snowe has become the major GOP negotiator in the Senate. She supports a "trigger" option, in which a government corporation would offer a public plan in any state where fewer than 95 percent of people have access to affordable coverage.

Yesterday, Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) said that, although he didn't support such an option, it might be able to pass the House.

Did the Abramoff scandal extend into the highest reaches of the Justice Department?

John Ashcroft's chief of staff at DOJ may plead the fifth in the trial of Kevin Ring, the Team Abramoff operative accused of bribing lawmakers and public officials, according to court documents.

A motion filed this week by Ring's lawyers and examined by TPMmuckraker states:

Counsel for Mr. Ayres and counsel for Ms. Ayres [Ayres's wife] have indicated that each would invoke their Fifth Amendment privilege if subpoeaned.

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Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) is one of the Senate's strongest advocate of the public option. He talked to the White House yesterday and told them exactly what he thinks the President needs to do next Wednesday.

In the two days since Obama announced that he'd be giving a major health care speech on Wednesday, progressives and public-option supporters have filled the vacuum to pressure Obama to make the public option a major flank of that speech. By comparison, conservative Democrats have been relatively quiet--which may be good news for progressives, or it may be a sign that public option skeptics believe the President's on their side.

The White House has issued a statement saying it "regrets" new reports that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will approve the expansion of settlements. Obama has repeatedly called for a total settlement freeze.

"We regret the reports of Israel's plans to approve additional settlement construction. Continued settlement activity is inconsistent with Israel's commitment under the Roadmap," reads the statement from Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. ‪ He continues, "As the President has said before, the United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement expansion and we urge that it stop. We are working to create a climate in which negotiations can take place, and such actions make it harder to create such a climate."

Read the full statement after the jump.

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Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) is turning up the heat on the White House, saying the fate of health care reform is in President Obama's hands. But he's also leaving open the possibility that Obama could disappoint his supporters and not endorse a public option in his big health care speech Wednesday.

"If he stands up Wednesday and says, 'To the country and to my colleagues in Congress, we are going to have a public option in this plan because we need and here`s why,' it`s going to get done," Weiner said. "If he doesn`t, we`re going to have to settle for less and that will be a tragedy."

Yesterday, Weiner said it's possible that a "triggered" public option could pass in Congress. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi insisted that a health care bill without a "strong public option" (which typically implies no trigger mechanism) can not pass the House.

For weeks now, the health care debate has largely centered around the public option and its political feasibility. But some policy experts are concerned that a separate shortcoming of the health care plans under consideration could be damaging to working- and middle-class people. It's a substantive problem only gets worse if there's no public option, and could become a political disaster for Democrats.

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Via Greg Sargent, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE)--one of the Senate's perennial "centrists"--is staking clearer ground on the question of the public option. Asked by the Lincoln Journal-Star to look into the future a bit, Nelson said "I see two endings. One is we find areas we can agree upon and we begin to do things incrementally, taking more of an insurance approach, not a government approach. Or it implodes."

In the days leading up to the President's big Wednesday health care reform speech it will be crucial to keep an eye on how conservative Dems position, or reposition themselves. House progressives are renewing their insistence on a public option, and pressuring on the White House to stand with them. Democratic opponents of the public option, however, have yet to take such a firm stance.

The plot just keep getting thicker and thicker for former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie, the Republican nominee for Governor of New Jersey this year, and his bad driving record: In 2002, the Star-Ledger reports, Christie hit a motorcyclist while driving his car the wrong way on a one-way street -- but was not ticketed.

"This was an unfortunate accident and just like a lot of us, Chris knows he can always be a better driver," campaign spokeswoman Maria Comella told the paper.

Elizabeth Police Director James Cosgrove confirmed to the paper that Christie did identify himself as the U.S. Attorney. The Star-Ledger asked whether Christie's position factored into the officer's decision to not ticket him: "I don't think I want to make that kind of deduction, but I think the facts speak for themselves."