TPM News

What's the matter with Georgia? Two long-shot candidates in the state's governor's race were suspended as school-teachers after allegations of inappropriate conduct with female high-school students.

One of those, Republican Ray McBerry, leads a Georgia secessionist group and is hovering around 2 percent in GOP primary polls. McBerry already last weekend issued a hilarious pre-emptive denial of those charges -- as well as several others. The other, Democrat Carl Camon, is the mayor of Ray City, and polls around 2 percent in the Democratic primary.

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It's been coming for weeks. For at least the third time in the year-long fight over health care reform, abortion has become the seemingly insuperable issue standing between Democrats and their signature agenda item. And now, as we inch closer to a final vote on health care, Catholic groups are getting into the fray -- and are opposing each other on the issue of reform.

On one side, there is the Conference of Catholic Bishops, who take a conservative line on the issue. Like Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI), they are adamantly opposed to the language in the Senate health care bill, and, back in November when the House passed its own legislation, the Bishops played a key role in inserting heavily restrictive abortion language at the last moment.

On the other side, however, other Catholic groups like the Catholic Hospital Association and about 60,000 nuns are chiming in--as are key pro-life Democrats who support the Senate language--and they're saying, in essence, ignore the Bishops, and pass this bill. The difference of opinion among Catholics could open up wiggle room for pro-life Dems looking for a way to support health care.

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Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) has, in recent days, said he can't vote for health care reform unless his state is reimbursed by the federal government for expanding Medicaid benefits as are other states. Today, after hearing a summary of what's in the reconciliation package, Engel tells Brian Beutler and other reporters that he could vote for the bill.

"I want to vote for health care reform," Engel wrote in an op-ed last week in the New York Daily News. "However, my vote cannot be taken for granted if my home state is getting a bad deal."

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Yesterday, Rep. Rob Andrews (D-NJ) told me and several other reporters that the long wait for CBO numbers had a lot to do with making sure the final language would survive the constraints of the budget reconciliation process--and that required tweaking some of President Obama's proposed changes to the Senate health care bill. One of the tweaks Democrats have had to make, according to lawmakers, has to do with the excise tax on high-end health care plans--the so-called "Cadillac tax."

The change is technical, but important, particularly because labor unions still don't like the Cadillac tax and don't want to see it enhanced. In the Obama proposal, the Cadillac tax was designed to impact high-end health insurance policies--$27,500 per year policies for families, and $10,200 per year policies for individuals. Those thresholds were to be indexed to the Consumer Price Index plus one percent. In order to get the CBO scoring right, Democrats had to drop the additional one percent, meaning the threshold for those insurance plans subject to the Cadillac tax will rise more slowly over time.

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The White House released President Obama's prepared remarks for the signing of the HIRE Act today. Here are the President's complete prepared remarks:

Good morning. In a few moments, I'll sign what's called the HIRE Act - a jobs bill that will encourage businesses to hire and help put Americans back to work. Before I do, I'd like to say a few words about what this jobs bill will mean for workers, businesses, and America's economic recovery.

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The new Field Poll finds Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) in a tough race this year, with the results within the margin of error against her three Republican challengers.

Former Rep. Tom Campbell has a statistically insignificant edge of 44%-43% over Boxer, within the ±3.7% margin of error. Boxer has a similarly narrow 45%-44% advantage over former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, and Boxer leads state Rep. Chuck DeVore by 45%-41%. Back in January, Boxer led Campbell by 48%-38%, led Fiorina by 50%-35%, and led DeVore by 51%-34%.

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