TPM News

Former Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ), who is challenging Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) in the Republican primary, appeared on The O'Reilly Factor on Friday, and disavowed ever having any belief in the Birther movement, after the McCain campaign attacked him for his prior Birther-friendly statements.

"Hey Bill, I view this entire debate as esoteric. It's as esoteric as arguing about the eligibility of Chester Alan Arthur well over a century after he served as president," said Hayworth, referring to the 19th-century president whose detractors would spread rumors that he was born in Canada. "Look, Barack Obama's the 44th president of the United States. His election was certified. I believe he was born in Hawaii. I made certain statements on the air to -- to provoke conversation. That's what happens in broadcasting."

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Five leading Democrats--including Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin--have publicly announced that they will vote for a public option if it's offered up during the budget reconciliation process, where legislation can pass with a majority vote.

"Sen. Durbin has long been a supporter of the public option," reads a statement from Durbin spokesman Joe Shoemaker to the progressive groups Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Democracy for America, and Credo. "I don't know whether the votes exist in the Senate right now, but if the House version of the public option came up for a vote in reconciliation Sen. Durbin would vote yes."

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Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) got a primary challenger this morning, but she says she's not worried about squaring off against members of her own party ready to spend money to prevent Lincoln from being reelected.

In an interview with the AP over the weekend, Lincoln was asked about a Lt. Gov. Bill Halter -- the man who progressive groups hope will defeat her in the Democratic primary -- and said she wasn't sweating the primary. Lincoln said what she called a record of being one of the Senate's few true bipartisans will see her through to victory.

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In his op-ed on the OPR report that we just told you about, John Yoo also appears to claim ignorance on the subject of those missing emails, and accuses the Senate Judiciary committee chair of "chasing his own tail to feed left-wing conspiracy theories." But Yoo's bravado raises as many questions as it answers.

As we've detailed, OPR wrote that its probe was "hampered" by the fact that it didn't have access to many of Yoo's emails, and was told that they were missing and unrecoverable. Numerous observers, including the National Archives and Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT), the Judiciary committee chair, have expressed concern about that omission, and asked for more information on what happened to the emails.

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Much is known about how Democrats hope to finish off health care reform. Later this week, President Obama will submit yet more proposed changes to the Senate's health care bill. Those changes--with some tweaks--will almost certainly be moved through the majority-vote budget reconciliation process in both chambers. And that will likely happen after the House passes the Senate's more comprehensive package. But there are at least two significant unknowns--and truly the fate of health care reform depends on the answer to those questions: Can the House muster the votes for a major health care bill again? And how much, substantively, can the Senate pass through reconciliation.

The first question is obviously the big one. Due to expected vacancies, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will likely need only 216 votes to pass the Senate bill. Recall, though, that when she moved her own health care bill through the House, only 219 Democrats voted for it. It's almost certainly the case that she had more votes in her pocket than that, and that she allowed certain vulnerable Democrats to vote no even though they were willing to vote yes. But over the last several months, the party as a whole has become more reluctant to take risky votes on unpopular legislation. In other words, it's hard to imagine that more "no" votes have become "yes" votes since November. More likely, the opposite is true.

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John Yoo is celebrating the Justice Department's finding that his Torture Memos did not violate standards of professional conduct, while calling investigators from DOJ's internal ethics unit "incompetent" and "obviously biased," and describing their probe as a "farce."

In a Philadelphia Inquirer column -- his first public comments since the release of the Office of Professional Responsibility report -- Yoo accuses the OPR investigators of "the politicization of national security." He describes their probe as a "witch-hunt" against Bush administration lawyers, and asserts that "OPR's political bias was legion." As evidence, Yoo cites the fact that former Attorney General Michael Mukasey and his deputy had argued that there were errors in the report.

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President Obama has chronic tendinitis and his cholesterol has increased, according to his first presidential physical exam performed yesterday at Bethesda Naval Medical Center.

The bottom line is Obama, 48, is "fit for duty," Chief White House Physician Dr. Jeff Kuhlman wrote in his report. But Obama's overall cholesterol of 209 needs to come down, Kuhlman wrote.

That's up from overall cholesterol of 173 in spring 2008. Obama's other cholesterol stats: 46 Triglycerides, 62 HDL and 138 LDL. Kuhlman recommended a healthier diet to reduce the LDL number to below 130.

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Bunning's Senate Impasse Puts Two Thousand Federal Employees Out Of Work Two thousand federal transportation workers will be put on unpaid furlough today, due to Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) blocking the passage of the extension of transportation funding and unemployment benefits. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said in a statement: "As American families are struggling in tough economic times, I am keenly disappointed that political games are putting a stop to important construction projects around the country."

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will receive the presidential daily briefing at 9:30 a.m. ET. He will deliver remarks at 10:10 a.m. ET, at the America's Promise Alliance Education event. He will receive the presidential daily briefing at 10:45 a.m. ET. He will meet at 11:30 a.m. ET with senior advisers. He will meet at 3:45 p.m. ET with Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. He will meet at 4:30 p.m. ET with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

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The Republican National Committee has narrowed down possible locations for the 2012 presidential nominating convention, with Phoenix, Tampa and Salt Lake City making the final three.

A 12-member team of top Republican officials will visit the cities in late March and early April to prepare for a July vote by the full RNC membership. Each city is fraught with political meaning. Florida is a longtime battleground while Utah is solidly Republican.

Democrats have long said Arizona will be their top new battleground, and the Obama campaign even made a last-minute play for the state in 2008 despite it being Sen. John McCain's home turf.

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After months of speculation, Arkansas Lt. Gov. Bill Halter made it official this morning, announcing he'll challenge Sen. Blanche Lincoln for the Democratic Senate nomination in Arkansas.

"Enough is enough," Halter said in a video announcing his candidacy posted this morning. "It's past time to put more Arkansas values in Washington."

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