Today's White House press briefing got heated over a question from Fox News about who's received the "viral email" sent out today as part of the administration's health care reform push.
Fox News correspondent Major Garrett said he'd heard reports of people receiving the email, even though they hadn't signed up for the White House email list. Garrett also said they hadn't signed up to receive emails from Organizing for America, President Obama's political group.
Press Secretary Robert Gibbs cut him off, saying the OFA has nothing to do with White House emails.
"I want you to rephrase your question that doesn't continue to assume that someone's violating the law," Gibbs said. Garrett repeated the question, this time replacing "OFA" with "Senator Obama as a candidate" -- still implying an illegal act.
He then asked if the White House was using databases or other "information about people" to target those who might be interested in health care reform. Gibbs said he didn't think so, but he'd have to look into that.
When Garrett insisted on an answer, Gibbs said he'd have to check the email list to see what had happened.
"You need the email addresses of these people?" Garrett asked, apparently aghast.
"I appreciate the fact that [you think] I have omnipotent clarity as to what you've received in your email box," Gibbs said.
Garrett, visibly annoyed, cut him off, saying, "I'm telling you what I got!"
Gibbs then called on another reporter, muttering something about looking for a more "constructive" question.
Gov. Jon Corzine (D-NJ) and his Republican opponent Chris Christie have come out with a dueling set of Web ads, touching on the health care debate and insurance company mandates -- and whether any candidate favors letting women be denied mammograms.
Corzine came out with this Web ad two days ago, attacking Christie for favoring the legalization of mandate-free policies -- that is, insurance companies wouldn't be required by the state to cover certain needs -- in order to make cheaper private policies available to those who would opt for them. The Corzine camp seized on this to say women would go without mammograms, after the state just passed a mammogram requirement a few years ago:
Christie has fired back with this hard-hitting Web ad called "Mom," about his own mother's fight against breast cancer:
Christie said he was prepared for tough attacks in this race: "But what I'm not gonna put up with is when Jon Corzine runs ad and puts out information that blatantly lies about something in my record that's also very, very important to me personally."
The White House denies it on the record, and PhRMA denies it on the record, but below, via Ryan Grim, is an outline of the deal drug manufacturers supposedly struck with the Obama administration early last month.
Commitment of up to $80 billion, but not more than $80 billion.
1. Agree to increase of Medicaid rebate from 15.1 - 23.1% ($34 billion)
2. Agree to get [follow on biologics] done (but no agreement on details -- express disagreement on data exclusivity which both sides say does not affect the score of the legislation.) ($9 billion)
3. Sell drugs to patients in the donut hole at 50% discount ($25 billion)
This totals $68 billion
4. Companies will be assessed a tax or fee that will score at $12 billion. There was no agreement as to how or on what this tax/fee will be based.
Total: $80 billion
In exchange for these items, the White House agreed to:
Here's a new rule of thumb if you ever become a powerful senator: If you want to kill a provision in a bill, lie about it publicly, then tell everybody the measure is dead because it's widely misunderstood.
Yesterday, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), ranking member on the Senate Finance Committee, told a crowd they were right to worry that Medicare reimbursement for end of life counseling by physicians might amount to euthanizing seniors. Today, he announces that the provision has been dropped because it "could be misinterpreted."
Late update: And, if that wasn't bad enough, Grassley's also patting himself on the back for delaying health care reform, which in turn created political space for the town hall disruptions.
Late late update: Here's more from Grassley: "Maybe others can defend a bill like the Pelosi bill that leaves major issues open to interpretation, but I can't," Grassley added.
Another way of putting this is that Grassley's shocked--shocked!--that anybody would write a bill that doesn't explicitly disavow death panels. In fact, all bills must clearly delineate that even their most antiseptic provisions aren't, in fact, secret passageways into death panels.
Harry Reid's office is quickly moving to quash a rumor that got floated in the Nevada press.
The Las Vegas Sun's report on GOP Rep. Dean Heller's (R) decision to not run for Senate -- which mainly focused on wanting to avoid being associated with Sen. John Ensign -- also contained this line: "A Republican operative, granted anonymity to speak freely, speculated that Reid assured Heller that he would not stand in the way of a 2012 run and would even tacitly help him by directing his fundraising network toward Heller."
Reid's campaign manager Brandon Hall shot that down to the Sun that any deal had been made regarding Ensign's Senate seat: "It's a ridiculous claim. Dean Heller made the decision on his own. You'd have to ask him what led to that decision."
In an e-mail to TPM, Reid spokesman Jim Manley was even clearer "The key word is 'speculated,'" Manley wrote. "As we made clear in the story, that theory is absolutely ridiculous. It didn't happen. Period."
A man who held a sign reading 'Death To Obama, Death To Michelle And Her Two Stupid Kids' at a town hall in Maryland yesterday has been detained by the Secret Service, according to the AP.
The Hill first reported on the sign yesterday afternoon. The man in question was attending a town hall event held by Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) at Hagerstown Community College.
Washington County Sheriff's Captain Peter Lazich said the as-yet-unidentified, 51-year-old man was detained by deputies near the entrance to the college after receiving multiple calls from people in attendance at the event. According to Lazich, the man was turned over to the Secret Service by the sheriff's office.
Barbara Golden, special agent in charge of the agency's Baltimore field office, said Thursday that an investigation is ongoing but declined further comment. A spokesman at the agency's Washington headquarters also declined to discuss the investigation.
Sen. Cardin's office did not immediately return a call for comment.
Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) has a new Web ad against his likely Democratic opponent Charlie Melancon, attacking the Dem for voting for government-run health care. The fun part here is that Melancon is a Blue Dog who voted against the current health care bill in the committee:
Vitter's ad uses as its citations two votes by Melancon, against amendments offered by Republican House members that would have presumably limited government health care in some fashion or another, using this as a vote in favor of government health care.
"It's odd that David Vitter put out an ad attacking Charlie for voting for government-run health care," Louisiana Dem spokesman Kevin Franck told TPM, "when I get a lot of calls complaining that Charlie voted against government-run health care."
Franck also put out a press release with a rather suggestive line: "Maybe David Vitter has been pampered so much by the company of those who are paid to agree with him, that he can't tell the difference between the truth and a lie." Franck had no comment when asked whether he was endorsing certain rumors.
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) is now backing up Sarah Palin's "death panel" line and Chuck Grassley's assertion that the Democrats would "pull the plug on grandma," citing as proof that the Democrats shot down an amendment he'd offered for an absolute prohibition on rationing based on comparative effectiveness research:
"Their plan -- they're not gonna speak it, because they know if they speak it, it'll never pass -- their plan is to control costs by limiting options," said Coburn. "That's how England controls costs, that's how Canada controls costs. They give you access to a waiting line. And unfortunately, tons of people die every year."
The pressure is growing for John Ensign to break his silence over his affair with a staffer who was his close friend's wife.
Rep. Dean Heller has become the first high-ranking Nevada Republican to call for the senator to address the numerous unanswered question about his torrid liaison with Cindy Hampton. Speaking in a televised interview to Las Vegas Sun political columnist Jon Ralston -- who has led the way in keeping the story in the spotlight -- Heller said: "I don't want to speculate, but until John talks, we haven't seen the end of it."