TPM News

On the Senate floor yesterday, Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) railed against gender discrimination by insurance companies, citing an example of a women who was refused coverage unless she agreed to sterilization. Mikulski said, "I thought that's what they did in Nazi Germany, or in the old Communist China."

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White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs scoffed at President Obama's 47 percent approval rating in the Gallup daily tracking poll, the lowest the firm has recorded at this point in a presidency.

"If I was a heart patient and Gallup was my EKG, I'd visit my doctor," Gibbs told reporters in his morning gaggle.

Gibbs said the swing in the poll could be duplicated by a "six-year-old with a crayon" and said he doesn't put a lot of stake in the daily poll and "never have."

A string of mysterious sealed filings and orders in a case pitting a Islamic group against the authors of Muslim Mafia -- as well as a WorldNetDaily claim about an FBI intervention -- suggests that some aspect of the case has caught the attention of federal authorities.

The question in the case has become: who is under scrutiny by the Feds? Is it the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or could it be Dave Gaubatz, the man behind the WND-published book that purports to expose CAIR as a terrorist front?

CAIR sued Gaubatz and his son, Chris, over thousands of pages of documents taken while Chris was working as an intern at CAIR, undercover as a Muslim convert. WND says the book, which is partly based on the documents, shows CAIR is a terrorist front devoted to instituting "Saudi-style Islamic law" in America.

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The Wall Street Journal is officially burying use of the phrase "death tax" in its pages about a month after the politically charged phrase made repeated appearances in a straight news story.

In its latest "Style and Substance" newsletter, the editor of the Journal's stylebook, Paul R. Martin, has asked reporters and editors to "bury" the phrase.

"Because opponents of estate taxes have long referred to them as death taxes, the term should be avoided in news stories," he writes. "The term death tax has become too politicized to be of any use except in editorials. Bury it."

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Today is a big day in Massachusetts, with voters headed to the polls in the Democratic primary for the special Senate election -- and in a heavily Democratic state, this will be tantamount to electing the successor to Ted Kennedy.

The four main candidates are state Attorney General Martha Coakley, Rep. Mike Capuano, City Year founder Alan Khazei, and businessman and Boston Celtics co-owner Steve Pagliuca. The favorite for the Republican nomination is state Sen. Scott Brown, against frequent GOP candidate Jack E. Robinson.

Unfortunately, there's been surprisingly little public polling on this race. The last survey was a Rasmussen poll from two weeks ago, which put Coakley ahead with 36%, Capuano at 21%, and Khazei and Pagliuca at 14% each. In addition, special elections are inherently difficult to predict with their low and irregular turnout patterns and heavy reliance on get-out-the-vote efforts. So while Coakley is viewed as the frontrunner, anything could have happened in the last two weeks, and anything could happen today.

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Lieberman Skips Health Care Talks Roll Call reports that Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) has not been attending the meetings of centrist and liberal Democrats, aimed at working out a compromise on the public option. "The Senator was invited, but his position is clear on the public option and staff did attend," an aide told the paper.

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama and Vice President Biden will receive the presidential daily briefing at 9:30 a.m. ET, and the economic daily briefing at 10 a.m. ET. Obama will meet at 10:30 a.m. ET with senior advisers. Obama will deliver remarks on the economy at 11:15 a.m. ET, at the Brookings Institution. He will have lunch at 12:10 p.m. ET with Biden, and the two of them will meet at 1:15 p.m. ET with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

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Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) is perhaps the Democrat most reluctant to sign on to major health care legislation. Cautioning that he and the rest of the group of 10 senators negotiating a public option compromise have plenty of work left to do, he says that the newest option--allowing some under 65 to buy insurance through Medicare--has some traction.

"This is not necessarily a final decision for all those 55-65, it would be one option," Nelson told reporters. "You're still faced with What do you do for the people below that?"

Nelson described it as, "just another idea being kicked around, that there probably is support for--the question is how much."

A fairly positive sign, given the source. More developments are expected tomorrow.

He's a once-disgraced former senator straddling two worlds and with a finger on the pulse of health care debate, influential with former colleagues and close to President Obama, but not even employed by the White House.

TPMDC set out to find out what exactly is Tom Daschle's role in the health care debate.

Some question whether Daschle should be part of the process since he does health care consulting for influential groups who do health care lobbying. He's not a registered lobbyist. (He was with Alston and Bird most of this year, but just joined DLA Piper).

TPMDC spoke with lawmakers, administration aides and Senate staffers, who said Daschle has been crucial as they negotiate health care. Some said that his role is playing out exactly as they had hoped it would when Daschle was first nominated to be HHS Secretary.

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