TPM News

In his opening remarks at the health care summit this morning, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid sought to...downplay...the likelihood that Democrats will finish off health care reform by using the reconciliation process.

"No one has talked about reconciliation," he said.

It's true that reconciliation isn't the only technical way to finish off reform. And Reid would likely be happier not using reconciliation--he'd rather get one or two Republican votes and finish off reform through the regular order. But the fact is, if Democrats do pass health care, they will in all likelihood do so by using the reconciliation process.

It is a much-discussed option to say the least.

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Leaked documents showing that Marco Rubio charged computer supplies, groceries, and products from a music equipment store and a wine store, among other items, to the Florida GOP may represent the first major bump in the road for the U.S. Senate candidate and conservative darling. But was the leak an act of political payback?

In a letter to the state party chair, Rubio accused former party chair Jim Greer -- a close ally of Rubio's rival, Gov. Charlie Crist -- of being behind the leak. "It is clear these internal documents were taken from the RPOF by former Chairman Jim Greer, or someone working for him, and were leaked to the media by the Crist Campaign," Rubio wrote, calling the leak, "an appalling act of political desperation."

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The Republicans let Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) give the GOP's opening statement at today's health care summit. His opening bid? Democrats should scrap their entire plan and start from scratch. That's perfectly expected. But he also repeated the Republican line that Democrats are planning to jam "health care reform" through the majority-rules budget reconciliation process.

That's not true.

Democrats have already passed comprehensive legislation through regular order in both chambers. Two different bills What they're planning, tentatively, to do now is use reconciliation to make some minor changes to one of those bills.

Though he once himself supported the comprehensive Wyden-Bennett approach to health care, Alexander now says Republicans favor a non-comprehensive approach.

RNC Chair Michael Steele, appearing on MSNBC this morning ahead of the health care summit, compared health insurance to having a driver's license.

"Health care insurance is a right or a privilege? Is your driver's license a right or a privilege?" Steele said.

"Fundamentally speaking, I don't see health care insurance guaranteed in the Constitution," he added.

Watch:

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Orly Taitz, the best-known national activist in the Birther movement, has posted a statement on her blog slamming Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), for posting a Web ad that attacked his opponent in the Republican primary, former Rep. J.D. Hayworth, by tying Hayworth to Taitz and the Birthers.

In her statement, Taitz accuses McCain of improperly influencing various federal judges who are set to rule on her various motions and lawsuits against Obama's eligibility to be president.

Taitz also calls upon McCain to join her, as a plaintiff in her lawsuits: "He has the best standing to file Quo Warranto. Senator McCain could withstand torture by Vietnamese communists for years, he can withstand putting his signature on the pleadings. If I could withstand constant deaththreats, tampering with my car, convicted forgers submitting perjured testimony in different courts to undermine my law license, Obama'sbrown shirts in the media and government constantly insulting me, assaulting, harassing and subjecting to retaliations; I am sure he can withstand putting his signature on the pleadings." (All typos, spelling and grammatical errors in the original.)

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Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and RNC Chairman Michael Steele appeared back-to-back on MSNBC today to talk about the health care summit. When asked, neither of them could specify any concessions their side might make today.

Sebelius, when asked if the president would "try to grease the wheels for some kind of bipartisan deal," listed things that are already in the proposal: crackdowns on fraud, prevention measures, high risk pools and new rules for insurers.

"Those are already in the measures and were proposed by Republicans in the House and the Senate. So he has actually put a lot on the table. He wants to know what else they want to talk about," Sebelius said.

Neither could Steele name anything specific.

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Democrats finally seem ready to act on health care reform, and for perhaps the first time in the entire year-long health care reform debate, they're speaking--openly--about the likelihood that they'll invoke the budget reconciliation process to make some tweaks to the Senate's health care bill. But there remains no clear path forward, with the House and Senate still jockeying over who will make the first move, and even Senate Democrats divided on how the process should work in their chamber and who among them gets to decide on it.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she won't pass the Senate bill until the reconciliation process is complete. And Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) says the Senate can't do reconciliation until after the House acts on the Senate bill. Has an unstoppable force just met an immovable object?

Not necessarily.

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Jon Stewart has been watching Republicans complain about President Obama's health care reform summit, and thinks "there really is no winning at this carnival game is there?"

"Mr. President," he said, imitating GOPers, "we cannot talk about health care until you grow a mustache! A handlebar mustache! I refuse to talk health care reform with a man in a silly mustache!"

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The White House is about to kick off a bipartisan health care summit that the Obama administration and Congressional Democrats hope will be the closing chapter in their long fight to pass the legislation and prepare for the midterm elections.

The summit starts at 10 a.m. at the Blair House across Lafayette Park from the White House. There are 38 Congressional attendees, administration staffers and Cabinet secretaries.

In trying to be transparent, the White House has detailed the agenda and even the seating arrangement, and will stream the event all day at WhiteHouse.gov.

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LiveWire

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