TPM News

As we've been reporting today, House Democrats held a private caucus meeting on health care and the various public option possibilities for a final version of their bill.

A Democratic leadership source tells TPMDC that leaders read out the names of the entire caucus this morning to get Democrats on record with their positions. Members were asked if they support a "robust" public option.

"There are a lot of undecided members," the source said.

Reports that any counts of House Democrats are firm or weak aren't accurate, the leadership aide said.

"We're still working on getting there," the source added. "At the end of the day, we will have a public option, the question is what it will look like."

There's been some scuttlebutt today about whether progressives promised Speaker Nancy Pelosi more than the votes they could deliver on the most aggressive public option. Our leadership source says no, and believes progressives "did a great job of coalescing the caucus."

TPMDC has more detail here.

Nancy Pelosi called an "emergency meeting" of House Democrats this morning in an attempt to beat back rumors that she and other congressional leaders have abandoned the so-called robust public option. The House Speaker insisted that, despite reports to the contrary, the public option is very much alive as Democrats draft the health reform bill they hope to send to the House floor next month.

The Hill reports:

The Speaker met late Thursday night with the Progressive Caucus, the bloc of Democrats most supportive of a robust public option, and assured them that it was still on the table, according to a member in attendance. And according to attendees, Pelosi reiterated that pledge to the larger caucus at Friday's morning meeting."

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In a rich irony, the Republican congressman leading the fight to have Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) ousted as chair of the House's top tax-writing body turns out to have ethics problems of his own.

Rep. John Carter (R-TX) had nearly $300,000 in unreported profits from oil stock sales in 2006 and 2007, Roll Call reported yesterday.

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For days now, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been trying to sway skeptics in her caucus into supporting a robust public option. That effort has hit some road bumps--let's just say the votes didn't materialize as easily as she'd hoped. And the mood is definitely pessimistic. But no final decision has been made, and now it seems Pelosi is bringing out some bigger guns.

She is currently conducting what's known as a public whip--huddling with her rank and file and asking everybody, including fence sitters, where they stand on the robust public option. That means we should have answers soon.

Late update: The meeting ended a few minutes ago--though the push is continuing. We'll update you as details trickle out.

Minnesota Governor and expected 2012 presidential contender Tim Pawlenty (R) held his first D.C. fundraiser for his new PAC last night at a pub downtown. Pawlenty focused the event on young Republicans, and opened his address to the few hundred in the crowd with little taste of that rock-and-roll the kids are all talking about.

"Mick Jagger said in a song once, 'you can't always get what what you want. But if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need," Pawlenty said. "For those of us who are Republicans and conservatives, we didn't get what we wanted in the 2008 election for president but we did get something that we needed. And that is a chance to ask 'what are the lessons from 2008 and 2006?'"

Pawlenty said the lesson he learned was that Republicans need to make new friends -- but keep the old ones, too. "I know a little about reaching out to people who are not yet Republicans," he said. "But I want to make sure as we move forward we don't get confused about diluting our principles and our values."

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During an appearance yesterday on Hardball, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) jokingly suggested that former Vice President Dick Cheney is a vampire.

Chris Matthews asked Grayson what he thinks of Cheney's attacks on President Obama for "dithering" on Afghanistan.

"Well, my response is -- and by the way, I have trouble listening to what he says sometimes, because of the blood that drips from his teeth while he's talking," said Grayson. "But my response is this: He's just angry because the president doesn't shoot old men in the face. But by the way, when he was done speaking, did he just then turn into a bat and fly away?"

Even Matthews, no Cheney fan himself, was shocked: "Oh God -- we gotta keep a level here. Let me ask you this: Don't you have any Republican friends?"

Grayson laughed, and said that some of his best friends are Republicans.

Rep. Don Young (R-AK) is refusing to talk about new claims that for over a decade, he received gifts from the same oil-industry executive whose ties to Ted Stevens were at the heart of that case last year.

Don't bother me, don't bother me," the congressman commanded a reporter from the Anchorage Daily News yesterday. A spokeswoman for Young did not respond to a request for comment from TPMmuckraker. And even Young's Washington lawyer, John Dowd, didn't get back to the ADN.

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The White House released the official family portrait of the Obamas this morning. The First Family turned to famed celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz for the photo, which was taken in the Green Room, a parlor on the first floor of the executive mansion.

Click here for the full photo.

Politico's Mike Allen has a splashy story up this morning claiming, among other things, that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has concluded that she can't pass the robust public option. But is it accurate? Not according to Pelosi's spokesman Nadeam Elshami:

"Speculation that a final decision has been made about the public option are not accurate," Elshami tells TPMDC. "We continue to work with all the members of the caucus to build consensus."

As of yesterday, Pelosi was continuing to negotiate with members of her caucus who would prefer a public option that pays negotiated (as opposed to Medicare-like) rates, pointing out that a robust public option saves significantly more money than other versions, and that the savings will have to come from elsewhere if the public option isn't strong enough.

If Pelosi's push is not successful, it would be a blow to progressives who have insisted that the House pass a robust public option. But it appears for now that, contra Allen, the push is ongoing.

A senior House aide assures me that "the House bill will have a public option." But the leadership did not tell progressives last night that the robust public option is off the table. The votes are still being counted.

A source close to Doug Hoffman has just told me that Steve Forbes will be endorsing the Conservative Party candidate in the NY-23 special election -- yet another right-wing voice who is rebelling against the Republican Party for nominating moderate candidate Dede Scozzafava.

The biggest news, of course, is that Sarah Palin has endorsed Hoffman, denouncing the GOP for putting up their candidate. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) is also backing Hoffman, the only sitting member of Congress to openly do so -- though of Congressional Republican have not endorsed Scozzafava.

This sure is a mess, and it's looking more and more likely that Democratic candidate Bill Owens will win from the GOP split with the Tea Party purists, giving House Democrats a pick-up of a Republican-held seat.