TPM News

A new Susquehanna poll has some awful numbers for Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA), with him stuck in a dead heat for re-election -- and a huge majority of the state's voters saying he doesn't deserve re-election.

Only 31% of voters said Specter should be re-elected, with 59% saying someone else should be given a chance. It's not surprising to learn that Specter has a large base of opposition -- after all, he switched from the Republicans to the Democrats in order to avoid defeat in the GOP primary at the hands of former Rep. Pat Toomey -- but that's quite bad.

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Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) issued the following statement today regarding the Senate health care reform debate. Here's the full text:

There simply is no question that our nation's health care system requires substantial reform. The status quo of soaring health care costs, families struggling, millions uninsured, and health care provider shortages is unacceptable. Maine families and small businesses are paying ever higher premiums, increased deductibles and greater co-pays.

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A still-grinning Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) was on CNN a few minutes ago to discuss yesterday's Senate Finance Committee vote to pass health care reform legislation out of committee -- "It feels absolutely great" -- and where the push for health care reform goes from here.

Baucus is meeting later today with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel to discuss merging the two Senate committee health reform bills. The key, Baucus said, is creating a final bill capable of getting 60 votes in the Senate. And much of that depends on Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME).

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Appearing on Fox this morning to talk health care reform, Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele offered two contradictory -- and somewhat baffling -- metaphors for bipartisanship.

"I'm not trying to be an obstructionist here. To the contrary, I'm saying, Can we all get in the room and have a Rodney King moment?" he said. He was referring to King's famous "Can we all get along?" line following the 1992 Los Angeles race riots sparked by the acquittal of the police officers who beat King.

Later in the interview, Steele said he is indeed obstructing health care reform, calling himself the "cow on the tracks." The Fox anchor had noted that Democrats are saying the health care reform train has "already left the station" and "Republicans better jump on board."

"Well, I'm the cow on the tracks. You're gonna have to stop that train to get this cow off the track to move forward," Steele said. "They told us in June that there would be a health care bill on the president's desk on Aug. 1. I think our efforts helped change that dynamic, and our efforts this fall will continue to change that dynamic."

Video after the jump.

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Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL) issued the following statement today regarding his new position as president of the Center for Middle East Peace. Here's the full text:

Today, I am announcing that I will be accepting the position of president of the Center for Middle East Peace and will leave Congress effective in January of 2010.

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Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) predicted on CNN this morning that Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) -- who was the only GOP senator to vote for the Senate Finance Committee's health care reform bill yesterday -- will eventually vote with Republicans when a health care reform bill makes its way to the Senate floor.

"Her vote might go the other way," Hatch said. "I suspect in the end that she's going to go the other way. Because they're going to add some version of a public plan to this."

Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) tried to issue assurances on MSNBC this morning that today's House Financial Services Committee mark up of a bill regulating derivatives trading will include requirements for an exchange where derivatives are traded openly. Such a firm requirement has not been included in early drafts of the bill.

"Everything they do in the derivative area will be forced onto an exchange," said Frank, who chairs the committee. "There'll be amendments adopted today."

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White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel won't be alone today when he huddles with senators about health care, as Brian noted earlier.

The White House says he's part of a 5-person team leading the charge for meetings expected to last from 2:30 to 4:15 p.m. The focus is merging the bill passed by the Senate Finance Committee yesterday with the one passed earlier in the year by the Senate Health Education and Labor Committee.

A White House official told TPMDC Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called for the meeting.

"As we've said throughout this process, the White House stands ready to assist Leader Reid and Chairmen Baucus and Dodd in moving the reform effort forward. White House and HHS staff have regularly been present for legislative action so far, and they'll continue to play a similar advisory role," the official said.

The group of visitors after the jump.

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