TPM News

The Capitol Hill Tea Party crowd is now at roughly 8,000 people.

A TPM reader texts to us that the subway to the Capitol is clogged with protestors. Hundreds of people are still streaming in.

Late Update: NBC's Luke Russert says a Capitol policeman just gave a crowd estimate of 3,000-3,500.

At her weekly press conference this morning, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi bucked the conservative spin that Tuesday's election was a boon to the GOP by noting that the results actually make health care reform easier for her to pass.

"Tuesday night we won two more votes for health care," Pelosi said. Both candidates won, she noted, amid a flurry of anti-reform ads in their districts and, despite the fact that one of the new members hails from a red-leaning district, both will vote for the plan.

"Bill Owens will be a great representative, independent voice, for his district," Pelosi said this.

She also took aim at the Republican health care plan, denouncing it in no uncertain terms.

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Former NYC police commissioner and Rudy Giuliani crony Bernie Kerik today pleaded guilty to lying during his vetting to become George W. Bush's Secretary of Homeland Security. It was the first of eight expected pleas, in exchange for which prosecutors will suggest 27 to 33 months in prison, the AP reports.

The pleas by Kerik, who has been in prison since Oct. 20 when a judge revoked his bail for giving out sealed information, are designed to resolve three separate criminal cases.

In the White House case, Kerik was accused of falsely denying to Bush vetters that he had an improper relationship with city contractors who performed pricey renovations on Kerik's Bronx apartment.

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The House ethics committee will likely clear five Democratic members of Congress including Charlie Rangel (D-NY) of wrongdoing in an investigation into whether a privately financed trip to the Caribbean broke House travel rules, Roll Call reports this morning.

The case, which involves a trip the members took on the dime of the Carib News Foundation, is perhaps the flimsiest in the slew of ethics charges against Rangel.

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Today's big Capitol Hill Tea Party, promoted by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), is getting ready to begin this morning, and already about 1,000 people are there, many of them arriving on buses sent by the event's organizers. This is not like the failed flash-mob from last week -- it's a seriously organized protest.

Attendees are set to go inside the Capitol itself, and personally lobby members of Congress to oppose the Democrats' health care bill. Many of them are carrying the Gadsden Flag and other protest signs. There is no sign of any increased security on Capitol Hill, which some Tea Partiers and their supporters had warned about.

One attendee was a man named Keith, a disabled veteran from Goldsboro, North Carolina, bused in this morning with about 50 other people from his area, and who was carrying an empty suit on a pole. "Look, the lights are on but nobody's home in there," said Keith, pointing at the Capitol. asked if that was directed at any specific people in Congress, he replied: "Pick one."

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Rep. Nathan Deal (R-GA), a candidate in the GOP primary for Governor of Georgia, has announced that he is signing a letter to the White House with several of his colleagues -- asking for a copy of President Obama's birth certificate.

Deal made the announcement this morning in an online chat held by his campaign, when asked by Tom Crawford of the Georgia Report (subscription required):

[Comment From Tom Crawford]
Do you believe that Barack Obama is a native-born American citizen who is eligible to serve as president? I am asking because your comments on this issue have been a little ambiguous. I would appreciate your clearing this up.

Nathan Deal - I am joining several of my colleagues in the House in writing a letter to the President asking that he release a copy of his birth certificate so we can have an answer to this question.

Deal's campaign spokesman Harris Blackwood confirmed the authenticity of the chat to TPM, explaining the Congressman's comment: "There have been so many constituents, a lot of people have asked him, they ask him on the campaign trail. Let's just get an answer, that's all we're saying, not suggesting anything to the contrary."

Nine people protesting in favor of universal health care were arrested for unlawful entry this morning after occupying the office of Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), according to Capitol Police.

Protesters chanted "Everyone in and no one out, universal health care now!" and "Represent Connecticut, not AETNA!" as they were taken from the office, ABC News reports.

Lieberman, who votes with the Democratic caucus, has said he does not support the public option and may join Republican efforts to filibuster the Senate health care bill.

These may prove to be just the first of many arrests today, as protesters from the opposite side of the debate meet at the Capitol and flood the halls to confront their representatives.

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Dozens of FBI and IRS agents spent the night sifting through files at the firm of south Florida attorney Scott Rothstein, the politically connected ally of Charlie Crist who has been accused by investors of running a massive fraud scheme, local media report.

WPLG 10 has video outside Rothstein, Rosenfeldt and Adler's office building in Fort Lauderdale, where FBI and IRS agents searched the 16th floor through the night. A source told WPLG that 40 agents were involved. Partner Stuart Rosenfeldt said: "We want them to search and look for eveything they need to find evidence of any crimes that may have occurred."

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President Obama will travel down Pennsylvania Avenue Friday to speak privately with House Democrats on the eve of a critical vote on health care.

The White House may be attempting to put more of a stamp on the legislation as it weaves its way through the halls of Congress, and administration officials have been forcefully pushing back against reports suggesting health care won't happen until next year.

Last night, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and administration health care staffers huddled with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and leadership senators Dick Durbin, Chuck Schumer and Patty Murray on Capitol Hill.

Leadership and administration officials were mum on the details.

Meanwhile, the DNC's Organizing for America has been urging supporters to phone their member of Congress before the Saturday vote.

"We expect it to be very close," Mitch Stewart, director of OFA, wrote to the campaign's 13 million-strong email list.