TPM News

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) wouldn't denounce bringing guns to town halls at one of his own town halls in Cherokee, Iowa, on Wednesday.

An audience member asked Grassley if he would publicly denounce the gun-toters, writes an Iowa resident who blogs at TableTopTalk.

The senator replied, "We need a more civil society and we need the kind of civility that Jesus spoke about when he used the word agape: interest and seeking the highest good and welfare of the other person."

Grassley's office has confirmed the account.

(h/t TPMcafe contributor Todd Gitlin)

Earlier we noted an AP report in which an anonymous source claimed the pay-to-play probe of New Mexico governor Bill Richardson "was killed in Washington," implying that political appointees at DOJ acted on behalf of an Obama ally.

A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment to TPMmuckraker. But reports by the New York Times and Washington Post seem to largely knock down that suggestion.

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One wish these sorts of denunciations weren't necessary, but a spokesman for the American Medical Association writes in to rebut the RNC's suggestion that "GOP voters might be discriminated against for medical treatment in a Democrat-imposed health care rationing system."

"Patients should rest assured that the health care legislation under consideration in the House does not ration medical care or discriminate based on political affiliation. The fact is that the House bill will expand coverage and prohibit denials for coverage based on pre-existing medical conditions. The AMA is working for all Americans to have affordable, quality health coverage so they can get the care they need."

The AMA is the largest professional association of physicians in the country--and I for one will rest easily knowing that their members aren't hatching a revenge conspiracy to deny care to Republicans in a reformed health care system.

A spokesman for Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) confirms to me that Warner would vote for a health care bill with a public option. "It's not a make or break thing--he wants to see a health reform bill that contains costs, and if it includes a public option...he would vote for it."

The blog Blue Virginia first reported Warner's position this afternoon, though Warner's office notes that his support for any legislation--public option or no--is contingent upon its ability to control costs.

Warner has been ambivalent about the public option in the recent past, but this is the clearest indication yet that he'd support the measure.

When most people contribute to a campaign, they don't expect their money is going to be used to pay the legal bills of Washington lobbyists ensnared in a wide-ranging corruption investigation. But that's what could end up happening.

For months now, federal investigators have been looking at whether the PMA Group, a now defunct lobbying firm, tied campaign contributions to earmarks. Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-IN), who sits on the Defense Appropriations subcommittee and has close ties to PMA, has been subpoenaed for documents in the probe.

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Former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) has announced that he will not run in the special election for Ted Kennedy's Senate seat.

"Gov. Romney's focus right now is on helping other Republicans run for office, and that is how he will be spending his time," said Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom.

Not running is the right decision for Romney -- and quite frankly, it seemed odd that anybody was floating this idea in the first place. After one term as governor, Romney was unpopular when he left office, and then spent the 2007/2008 Republican primary season routinely talking about how he was the conservative champion inside that dreaded, liberal state.

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A new Democracy Corps (D) poll of the New Jersey gubernatorial campaign suggests that it could be a very close race, though Republican former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie still leads Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine.

Christie has 43%, Corzine 41%, and independent candidate Chris Daggett is at 7%. In a two-way race -- support for independents can often evaporate going into Election Day, so this is an important number -- Christie leads by 46%-43%. In the last poll from two weeks ago, Christie led in the three-way race by 40%-35%-10%, and Christie led the two-way race by 43%-37%.

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Chris Broughton, the man who brought an assault rifle and a handgun to the Obama event in Arizona last week, attended a fiery anti-Obama sermon the day before the event, in which Pastor Steven Anderson said he was going to "pray for Barack Obama to die and go to hell", Anderson confirmed to TPMmuckraker today.

Anderson also said Broughton had informed the pastor about his planned show of arms-bearing, but "he planned out the AR15 thing long before he heard that sermon," delivered Sunday August 16 at the fundamentalist Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, AZ.

This is the second example of the gun-toters at the Arizona Obama event tied to the violent fringes of American life.

"I don't obey Barack Obama. And I'd like Barack Obama to melt like a snail tonight," Anderson said in the sermon.

The sermon, which was titled "Why I Hate Barack Obama" and also contained virulent anti-gay themes, continued:

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At a town hall Wednesday night, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) told constituents, "We're almost reaching a revolution in this country."

The reason? "People are not buying these concepts that are completely foreign to America."

Inhofe also said he doesn't need to know what's in a health care reform bill to vote against it.

"I don't have to read it, or know what's in it. I'm going to oppose it anyways," he said at the event in Chickasha, Okla.

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Two crucial questions hang over the Senate. Will it pass Democrat-only health care reforms? And can a public option survive the whims of the so-called budget reconciliation process?

If the answer to both questions is yes, then the public option could survive in the stasis-oriented upper chamber. But if the answer to the second question is "no," then the Democrats will a lot of whipping to do. Below are the key hold outs.

One thing that's striking about this the list is how reluctant senators are to take a firm position. Compare that to the situation in the House, where dozens of liberals have vowed that they'll oppose any health care bill without a public option, and it casts some doubt on the conventional wisdom that health care reform will pass without a public option after the Congressional Progressive Caucus caves to pressure from Democratic leadership and conservatives in their own party.

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