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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid remarks on the HELP Committee's passage of their health care reform bill, the Affordable Health Choices Act.

"I want to thank Chairmen Kennedy and Dodd for their tireless work to gain final passage of the Affordable Health Choices Act before the Senate HELP Committee," Reid says.

Americans called for Congress to reform our health care system and this action is a positive step toward quality and affordable health care that Americans need and deserve. Along with my colleagues in the Senate, I will continue to examine all proposals in the spirit of lowering costs, improving health outcomes and preserving choice for Americans when it comes to their health care. I look forward to considering this legislation along with the Finance Committee product before the August recess. Health care reform is now one step closer to reality because of the diligent work of the members of the HELP Committee.


Senate leaders will have to merge the Finance Committee and HELP Committee bills before a floor debate and vote can happen--but here Reid seems to be saying that he may only be able to get past that first step before the August recess. If that's right, it stands in contrast to his outlook Monday, when he said "We are going to do health care before we leave."

The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee has voted along party to move its health care reform legislation out of committee. The panel has been in mark-up for weeks now, and along the way, has approved 160 Republican amendments--and for all that largesse, not a single member of the minority voted in its favor. I'll pass along more details as they become available.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) has taken a softer approach than most of his colleagues to Sonia Sotomayor since President Obama nominated her to the Supreme Court. But now, with her confirmation hearings entering their third day, the high-ranking Republican is saying he'll go to the mat for Sotomayor if Republicans try to filibuster her.



Of course some have been filibustered, they've been denied the opportunity to have an up or down vote on the Senate floor. I told you when we visited in my office, that's not going to happen to you if I have anything to say about it. You will get that up or down vote on the Senate floor.


Cornyn's job, of course, is to make sure vulnerable Republicans don't lose their Senate seats, and that task is complicated when the Republican party is seen as--or is actually--hostile to Hispanics. A filibuster attempt against the first Latina nominated to the Supreme Court would probably be a major headache for him.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) started off Wednesday morning's confirmation hearings with some blunt questioning, bringing up the favorite Republican talking point of Judge Sonia Sotomayor's "wise Latina" comment.

In addition to explaining what she originally meant - and admitting that her "words failed" and "didn't work" in getting her real message across - Sotomayor adopted a new strategy today, citing past comments from Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito. Watch the video below.

During his own confirmation hearings, Alito said the following:

When I get a case about discrimination, I have to think about people in my own family who suffered discrimination because of their ethnic background or because of religion or because of gender. And I do take that into account.


Sotomayor paraphrased Alito, using it as evidence that judges can acknowledge that background has an influence while not letting that affect rulings in discrimination cases.

As a member of the current Supreme Court, Alito recently ruled on Ricci v. DeStefano, the New Haven firefighter case that Republicans have also brought up repeatedly against Sotomayor. So far, only a few media voices like Glenn Greenwald have asked whether Alito's Italian-American heritage influenced his decision in that case.

Still, Sotomayor sought to distance herself from her controversial remarks, saying "it fell flat. I understand that some people understood [my words] in a way I never intended."

This hearkens back to some news we brought you as the anti-Sotomayor campaigns were just warming up on the right. Do you remember Curt Levey and the Committee for Justice? Levey's the guy who went on TV and offered up race- and gender-based attacks on Sotomayor, then turned around and expressed shock that other conservatives had gone so far as to call her a racist.

Now his group is running this ad:



In the spot, Sotomayor is compared to conservative bogeyman Bill Ayers, and is alleged to have "led a group supporting violent, Puerto Rican terrorists." Sotomayor was a Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund board member, and from there, I suppose, it's only a hop, skip, and a jump to leading a support group for terrorists. Early last month, Levey said he "underestimated the degree to which a few conservatives would say a few extreme things, and that would be characterized as what all conservatives think." Then his group made this ad.

As the two senators from Nevada, John Ensign and Majority Leader Harry Reid have an agreement not to criticize each other publicly, according to the Las Vegas Sun.

Reid has publicly stayed mum on Ensign's affair and his decision to run for re-election in 2012. But Ensign claims he enjoys support from "both sides" of Senate leadership.

"These are the kinds of personal decisions that Senator Ensign will have to make," a spokesman for Reid told us yesterday, adding, "Reid is staying out of it."

McConnell also dodged, telling the Sun, "I think Sen. Ensign will have to speak to those issues himself."

How long can they go on in silence? From the Sun:

"There's a nervousness that maybe the full story has not been told," said a Republican strategist from Nevada. "Most people think there's another shoe to drop."

Yesterday we told you about how the conservative media sucked up to Mark Sanford's office by calling stories about the governor's disappearance overblown -- even while the gov was still AWOL.

But it looks like it wasn't just the acknowledged right-wingers who were denigrating the story to Sanford's aides. The State has written up a few more of the emails, and look what they found:

Read More →

President Obama's campaign arm, Organizing for America, has begun running television ads stressing the need for a health care system overhaul across the country, just as the reform debate on Capitol Hill reaches a crucial turning point. The ads will run on national cable channels, and locally in Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, and Washington, D.C.



Though the ads don't name any politicians, it's pretty clear from the placement that they're directed at conservative Democratic and moderate Republican congressmen and senators.

The ads come as the White House has begun to acknowledge that Congress--and particularly the Senate--is well behind schedule if it's to prepare a bill for the President's signature by mid-October. As for Obama himself, in the last two days, he's jumped into the legislative back and forth like at no other time since the push for health care reform began this spring. Since returning from a trip to Europe and Africa, he's met with Democratic leaders, and Blue dogs, and has urged key members of Congress to pick up the pace as August recess approaches.

Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) raised just over $1.7 million in the second quarter--not quite double his rival Joe Sestak's take--giving him about $7.5 million cash on hand going into the third quarter.

Sestak's shop was certainly prepared for this--Specter, after all, is being treated as an incumbent by the state and national Democratic parties. But, they say, things are fine. "Joe...has added more to his cash on hand this quarter than Arlen Specter," says campaign spokesman Joe Langdon.

And that seems to be true. Though he's taken in $1.7 million since last quarter, Specter's cash-on-hand has only increased by about $800,000 since April. Sestak's increased by slightly more than that, despite raising a lower haul of $1.2 million this quarter.

With that, they say, they raised enough money to get their message out and to viably challenge Specter in the Pennsylvania Senate primary.

The campaign Health Care for America Now is out with a statement in support of the House's reform proposal. "The House's legislation shows that achieving quality, affordable health care for all in 2009 is absolutely possible," says HCAN national campaign manager Richard Kirsch.

This bill will make health coverage more affordable both for those who have it through their job and for those who have to find coverage on their own. It builds on what works in our current health care system and starts the process of fixing what doesn't - including stopping health insurance companies from denying care based on pre-existing conditions.

The House bill includes key provisions like an exchange that includes both private insurance plans and a new public health insurance option and shared responsibility between individuals, employers, and government - key elements to achieving President Obama's goals of lowering costs, covering everyone, and keeping the insurance companies honest.


There's a risk, I suppose, in taking this too literally. After all, the most important provisions in the bill won't take effect until about 2013, and universal (or near-universal) coverage won't be reached until years after that. But reformers by and large are pleased with what the House has offered.

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