TPM News

Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), the religious-right champion whose career became embroiled in the D.C. Madam prostitution scandal, says he is ready to be confronted with his personal issues during his 2010 re-election campaign.

"I have complete confidence in their (voters') judgment, their ability to look at those issues," Vitter told the Times-Picayune. "I think, quite frankly, character is displayed in a variety of different ways."

Yesterday, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) said he supports a public option...but only as a fallback mechanism if a modified health insurance market fails to provide affordable insurance to all consumers.

"If, somehow, the private market doesn't respond the way that it's supposed would trigger a public option or a government-run option," Nelson said Sunday on CNN's State of the Union, "but only as a fail safe, backstop to the process. And when I say trigger ... I don't mean a hair trigger. I mean a true trigger."

Nelson is one of the Senate's most conservative Democrats, and, as such, often a barometer for the sorts of measures that might win the one or two Republican votes needed to overcome Republican filibusters. And, tellingly, Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) has endorsed the idea of affixing the public option to a trigger.

After months of frustrating deliberations, and a threat from the White House that President Obama would write his own legislation, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus has finally circulated a draft of a health care bill--one that does not create a public option, but allows for the creation of health care co-operatives. According to the New York Times, Baucus' plan is calculated to win the support of Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME). But Snowe supports a public option affixed to a so-called "trigger mechanism," raising questions about why this plan doesn't at least propose something along those lines.

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Obama To Meet With Labor Leaders, Could Face Pressure On Health Care The Washington Post reports that President Obama will meeting today with outgoing AFL-CIO president John Sweeney and his incoming successor Richard Trumka, when he visits the Labor Day picnic in Cincinnati: "In what could be a moment of high tension, they [Sweeney and Trumka] will have a chance to argue that, after being elected in part because the AFL-CIO's persuaded its more skeptical members to vote for him, Obama should not disappoint it by settling for half measures."

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will depart from the White House at 10:45 a.m. ET, heading to Cincinnati, Ohio. He will address the Cincinnati AFL-CIO Labor Day Picnic at 1:15 p.m. ET. He will depart form Cincinnati at 2:35 p.m. ET, arriving back at the White House at 4:10 p.m. ET.

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Axelrod: Public Option A "Good Tool," But Shouldn't Define Whole Debate Appearing on Meet The Press, White House Senior Advisor David Axelrod said that President Obama "believes the public option is a good tool." However, Axelrod also added, "It shouldn't define the whole health care debate, however."

Van Jones Resigns Van Jones, President Obama's adviser on green jobs, has resigned in the wake of controversy surrounding past attacks on Republican, and his having signed a petition by 9/11 Truthers years ago. "On the eve of historic fights for health care and clean energy, opponents of reform have mounted a vicious smear campaign against me," Jones said in his resignation letter, also adding: "I cannot in good conscience ask my colleagues to expend precious time and energy defending or explaining my past. We need all hands on deck, fighting for the future."

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Obama Announces New Initiatives For Retirement Savings In this weekend's YouTube address, President Obama announced a set of new policies to make it easier for workers to invest towards their retirements. Obama tied the importance of this policy into the current economic troubles:

"We have to revive this economy and rebuild it stronger than before," said Obama. "And making sure that folks have the opportunity and incentive to save - for a home or college, for retirement or a rainy day - is essential to that effort. If you work hard and meet your responsibilities, this country is going to honor our collective responsibility to you: to ensure that you can save and secure your retirement."

GOP Address: "No Wonder Americans Are Scared" In this weekend's Republican address, Rep. John Kline (R-MN) called for "hitting the rest button on health care reform," and warned against the dire consequences of the current Democratic proposals:

"No wonder Americans are scared," said Kline. "Health care reform is being imposed upon them, rather than developed with them, and the potential costs are far too high. And sadly - monetary costs are only part of the picture. Many are concerned that Democrats' plans may cost patients the right to see their family doctor or have any input into a life-altering - if not life-saving medical treatment."

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The Democratic National Committee has a new TV ad on national and D.C. cable, firing back at GOP attacks that allege the Dems would weaken Medicare by playing up an obvious theme -- that the Republicans have long opposed Medicare, and have repeatedly voted to weaken or even abolish it:

"America's seniors have relied on Medicare for over 40 years - and Democrats are working to strengthen Medicare," the announcer says. "But the plain truth is, Republicans have opposed Medicare from the start. Their leaders have called for cutting Medicare -- and now for killing it."

With the White House stepping in to take control of the health care debate out of the hands of bipartisan health care negotiators, Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, seemingly realizes it's time to put up or shut up.

In a Friday afternoon conference call, Baucus told the so-called Gang of Six that he'd be releasing a plan very soon, according to Politico--perhaps as early as tomorrow.

The White House is reportedly working on a bill of its own, amid negotiations with the gang of six's most moderate Republican, Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME). And though the administration's plans to introduce it aren't final, Baucus seems to have gotten the message and could unveil his committee's bill sooner than expected. If that happens, it'll be interesting to see if the draft lands with a splash or a thud.

New Jersey GOP gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie's spotty driving record is one thing. But what's worse is that he may have violated clear Justice Department guidelines by pulling rank with cops on the scene.

Today we learned about a 2002 episode in which Christie hit a motorcyclist after making a wrong-turn that had him briefly going the wrong way down a one-way street in Elizabeth. The motorcyclist ended up in hospital, but Christie didn't get so much as a ticket. And a police official told the Star Ledger that Christie "did identify himself as U.S. attorney."

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A variety of reports suggest that, during a conference call this afternoon, President Obama probed House progressives to see just how flexible their demands are.

A source familiar with the call tells TPM that Obama asked the group to define their red line when they talk about a "robust public option."

NBC reports that Obama reminded the group that they enjoy the security of representing safely Democratic districts.

And progressive caucus co-chair Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) told Greg Sargent that Obama outright asked the participants how far they're willing to compromise on the public option.

All in all it appears very much as if the President is feeling out how willing House Democrats will be to support a bill that falls short of meeting their earlier demands for a Medicare-like public option available to consumers nation-wide, without any triggers. As I reported earlier today, Obama's set to meet with progressive House leaders Tuesday ahead of his big health care speech before Congress. That's shaping up to be an extremely crucial meeting.