TPM News

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) is receiving a visit, CNN reports, from Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, who has been actively lobbying his former Senate colleagues on health care -- and it should be noted, also had a key role in Lieberman retaining his position in the Democratic caucus.

Back in 2006, Salazar continued to endorse Lieberman for re-election even after Joe had lost the Democratic primary to Ned Lamont. At the time, Salazar said that Lieberman's "ability to bring people together would be missed if he wasn't there."

And in 2008, in the aftermath of Lieberman's support for John McCain in the presidential election (and his frequent attacks on Barack Obama), Salazar took a lead role in helping Lieberman to keep his committee chairmanship, and thus stay in the Democratic caucus.

When Salazar arrived at Lieberman's office, he told reporters, "I'm just talking to my friends." One can only imagine what those two friends are talking about.

The cry of "RINO" in Virginia's fifth Congressional district is starting to sound a bit familiar as Republicans have opted for a primary election to choose their nominee to challenge freshman Rep. Tom Perriello (D-VA).

Tea party activists in the district don't think the favored candidate Robert Hurt, a state senator from rural Chatham, is conservative enough.

The June primary is an interesting development in the VA-05 district, which is the top target for Congressional Republicans who held it until last year.

There are seven candidates and Democrats see a potential for a NY-23 repeat, with an independent candidate gaining steam if Hurt picks up the nomination.

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As Politico first reported, the White House is pressuring a reluctant Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to cut a deal with Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) to keep the prospects for health care reform legislation alive, a keyed in aide confirms.

Reid's inclination is to wait until the CBO reports back on the public option compromise at the root of Lieberman's filibuster threat. But the White House has made it clear that they don't want to mess around.

The White House denies the charge. Spokesman Dan Pfeiffer tells TPMDC, "The report is inaccurate. The White House is not pushing Senator Reid in any direction. We are working hand in hand with the Senate Leadership to work through the various issues and pass health reform as soon as possible."

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was less responsive. "The President is anxious to see progress and will continue to work with Democrats and Republicans and independents and everyone in between."

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The pending resignation of Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-HI) presents a potential pitfall for Democrats: A special election in which the Dem vote could be split, handing a strongly blue seat to the Republicans.

Hawaii special elections for the House don't function according to the usual rules in other states, where candidates either compete in separate party primaries, or the parties select their candidates through committee meetings. Instead, a single-round election is held in which all the candidates appear on a single ballot, and the plurality-winner takes the whole thing.

Abercrombie was already running for governor, and three candidates were in the race to succeed him: Democrat Ed Case, who previously represented the state's other House seat; Democrat Colleen Hanabusa, the state Senate President; and Republican Charles Djou, a Honolulu city councilman.

With these three candidates all running in the special election, there could be split voter demographics no matter which way you look at it: two Democrats against one Republican (Djou); two men against one woman (Hanabusa); or two Asians against one white person (Case).

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At a press conference this afternoon, RNC chair Michael Steele announced a new nationwide radio ad campaign he said would help to explain to voters the GOP position on health care reform. The promise he makes to voters? Republicans will do all they can to kill Democratic health care reform proposals.

Steele, from the ad's script:

"The Democrats are accusing us Republicans of trying to delay and stonewall their government takeover of health care. You know what? They're finally right."

Listen to the ad:

In the wake of some troubling signs that the progressive wishlist might get cut out of health care legislation, Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, have sent a curt letter to President Obama, requesting a meeting to discuss the push for reform.

"On behalf of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, we write to request a meeting with you to discuss health care reform legislation," they write. 'We have attached the Congressional Progressive Caucus' Principles that we expect to be included in the health care reform bill conference report."

Those principles include: "The creation of a nation-wide public option, such as the one in the House bill that increases competition, affordability and access for all Americans."

But, of course, all indications in the Senate are that the public option will not be part of the package, and now it appears as if even the consolation prize--a Medicare buy-in--might have to be stripped from the legislation as well. You can read the entire letter here. This could get ugly.

President Obama spoke about the economy at the White House today following a meeting with top banking executives.

"America's banks received extraordinary assistance from American taxpayers to rebuild their industry," Obama said. "And now that they're back on their feet, we expect an extraordinary commitment from them to help rebuild our economy."

Here's the full text of the president's remarks:

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John Podesta, President of the influential Center for American Progress, and head of President Barack Obama's transition effort, says that Sen. Joe Lieberman's filibuster threat likely has Senate Democrats pulling their files on passing health care reform through the 51-vote reconciliation process off the shelves.

"I suspect musty folders on reconciliation got dusted off this morning," Podesta told USA Today's Susan Page. "If you don't have Lieberman and you don't have Nelson, the question is whether you can get Snowe and Collins."

Podesta is, of course, referring to Sens. Ben Nelson (D-NE), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), and Susan Collins (R-ME).

The Democrats will be discussing this question--how to get 60 votes for a health care bill without Lieberman's support--at a 5:30 p.m. caucus meeting tonight. Emotion's are expected to be very raw.

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