TPM News

Fast on the good news from the Congressional Budget Office, the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee has circulated its finalized language on the two key issues that had slowed progress on its health care reform bill to a crawl: The public option and the employer mandate. You can see the new language of the bill--if that sort of thing appeals to you--here (PDF).

HELP chairman Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and his chief deputy Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) sent a letter to committee colleague touting the provisions and urging them to support the full bill. You can read that letter here.

One reason for the delay has been the objections of Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC). I have a call out to her office to see if she's now on board with the public option.

Late update: Committee leaders seem confident that every Democrat will vote to move the bill forward. That would include Sen. Hagan.

I just got off the phone with Minnesota Republican state Rep. Marty Seifert, who recently stepped down from his position as state House Minority Leader to run for Governor, about a very important topic: What might happen if former Sen. Norm Coleman runs for the GOP nomination, too. And Seifert gave a sneak preview of what lines of attack Coleman will face from his intra-party rivals if he makes the race, as he's reportedly looking at.

Seifert struck a careful balance between praising Coleman, but also making clear that he himself won't step aside. "Well certainly, his name ID and the ability to raise money is gonna be there, but we're Republicans and we believe in the marketplace and choices," said Seifert. "So I'd say the more people in the race the better. I believe in a multiplicity of choices -- it's not the Politburo, it's the Republican Party."

As for what lines of argument Seifert might take with state Republican caucus-goers, to show that he's the better candidate: "I think my appeal is that I'm electable and that -- you know, the bottom line is, I love Norm as a person and as a public servant, but he lost to Al Franken, for goodness' sake."

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After an embarrassing miscue, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee can now say near-universal should be achievable at a relatively low cost. Last month, HELP Democrats asked the Congressional Budget Office to score an incomplete version of its health care reform bill--one that had been voided of its most controversial provisions. The results were embarrassing. They suggested that the bill--which lacked an employer mandate and a public option--would leave many uninsured, at a nonetheless tremendous cost.

Now, the committee has received a new CBO score--this one of the complete bill--and the results are much, much better. At a glance, they imply that the HELP bill will cover most Americans at a cost of just over $600 billion, but as TNR's Jon Cohn explains, the results are actually a bit more complicated than that. His conclusion? As experts expected, a comprehensive reform package will likely cost about a trillion dollars over 10 years. That may sound like an unholy amount of money, but as a percentage of the next 10 years worth of overall health care spending, it's a drop in the bucket.

Poll: Obama's Disapproval Numbers Rising, But Approval Still Strong A new Quinnipiac poll finds that President Obama's approval rating remains stable at 57%, but his disapproval rating has shot up from 30% a month ago to 37% now, as more undecided voters shift into the disapproval category. From the pollster's analysis: "He still has a ways to go before his coalition becomes politically unstable, but there are some groups and issues - especially the economy - where he needs to make sure this trend does not continue."

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will have a closed meeting with business leaders to discuss innovation and job creation, at 1:45 p.m. ET. At 2:20 p.m. ET, he will deliver public remarks about innovation and jobs. At 4:30 p.m. ET, he will depart from Fort McNair en route to Camp David.

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Former Sen. John Sununu (R-NH) has announced that he will not run for the open Senate seat of retiring GOP incumbent Judd Gregg.

Sununu lost his seat in the 2008 Democratic landslide to Democratic former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, a rematch from his previous victory over her in the Republican year of 2002. New Hampshire has very much realigned to the Democrats in a lot of ways since then, and Sununu was swept out along the way.

The presumptive Democratic nominee for the open seat in 2010 will be Rep. Paul Hodes. The Republicans do not yet have a candidate, though a lot of people were waiting on word from Sununu first. This appears to be leaning towards a Democratic pickup, but the cycle has obviously just begun.

The Obama Administration publicly released its Annual Report to Congress on White House Staff today, which contains the title and salary details of all White House staffers. Of those, 22 make the maximum salary of $172,200, including Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Senior Advisers David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett, Director of Speechwriting Jon Favreau, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, and Director of the National Economic Council Larry Summers.

On its official blog, the White House noted that it has been required to submit such a report to Congress every year since 1995. The implied difference this year is that, "consistent with President Obama's commitment to transparency," the report has also been published for the public to see on their website.

See the full report after the jump.

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TPMDC's update on the biggest legislative initiatives on the Hill:

  • Health Care: In contravention of their previous position, and of the position of the Chamber of Commerce, Wal-Mart has come out in support of an employer mandate. That'll help woo Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) aboard the efforts to advance legislation in the Senate Finance Committee. But that means little for the more contentious issue of the public option, and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) just pulled a Dianne Feinstein, saying there aren't enough votes in the Senate for a public option, and that he'll work with conservative Democrats and moderate Republicans to pass a bill without one.

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One day after Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC) held a press conference in which he admitted to having an affair with a woman from Argentina, 50% of registered voters in South Carolina said they wanted him to resign.

Now, nearly one week and many more affair confessions later, the calls for his resignation from elected officials are piling up. Today, 14 of the 27 state GOP senators are asking him to step down. That number has already grown from last night, when six senators took the step of signing a letter calling for Sanford's resignation. This group includes Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler and "five of [Sanford's] dozen closest allies," according to local Columbia TV station WLTX.

State Senator Jake Knotts, who initially called the State Law Enforcement Division two days after Sanford left for Argentina to find out his whereabouts, has also called for the governor to leave office.

See other sources of pressure calling for Sanford's resignation after the jump:

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Fresh off his narrow and long-awaited victory, Sen.-elect Al Franken (D-MN) will be going on a victory lap of sorts, headlining the Tom Harkin Steak Fry in Iowa this September.

The Harkin event is of course a frequent stop for prospective or actual presidential candidates, leading Jonathan Martin to jokingly (?) wonder if Franken has his eye on 2016. There is of course a simple explanation, consistent with everything we've known for years: You can't keep Al Franken away from a big, raucous Democratic fundraising event.

I attended just such a gathering for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, held in a backyard in Madison in November 2003. Franken stood up in a super-crowded tent that was filled way beyond the hosts' expectations, on top of a heater that had been put in to warm up the space, and opened his speech by joking about how safe he felt. It was a fun time.

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