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Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), ranking member on the Senate Finance Committee, insisted today that there will be no bipartisan agreement on his panel's health care reform legislation if it includes a public option.



"We don't need any more government in the medicine."

The public disagrees with this sentiment, of course--notwithstanding Grassley's comedic, grandfather-like tendency to use teh unnecessary definite article. It's worth noting, too, that there's a great deal of terrain between bipartisan agreement on the principle of a health care co-ops and Republican support for the entire reform package.

The Waxman-Markey climate change bill will come to the floor of the House at the end of this week after a weeks-long dispute between the bill's chief author, Henry Waxman, and House Agriculture Committee chairman Colin Peterson.

Peterson had been threatening to whip farm-state Democrats to vote against--and therefore kill--the bill unless Waxman agreed to significant changes (subscription required).

Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) told reporters today he would vote for the House climate bill -- and bring dozens of rural lawmakers with him -- after Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) agreed to make a number of concessions that had drawn the ire of farm state members.

Waxman agreed to put the Agriculture Department -- rather than U.S. EPA -- in the lead for management of the offset program that pays farmers and other landowners to conduct environmentally friendly projects. Congress will turn to the Obama administration for guidance on how to fold in EPA.

Waxman also consented to block EPA from calculating "indirect" greenhouse gas emissions from land-use changes when implementing the federal biofuels mandate. The Democrats will impose a five-year moratorium to allow further study of the issue, with consultation from Congress, EPA, the Energy Department and USDA instrumental in restarting the measurements in the biofuels rules.


No word yet on if or when the Senate plans to take its own chainsaws to the bill.

Check out this line from Gov. Mark Sanford's (R-SC) second inaugural address in 2007, paying tribute to the march of technological progress and South Carolina's part in it:

Think for one second about the rate of change in the world around us.

The Pan Am Clipper Class used to be the envy of airline travel. One of their planes would fly 32 passengers at 150 miles per hour from point A to point B. The Miami to Buenos Aires flight took 6 days with numerous crew stops along the way.

The new Boeing 787, being in large part produced here in South Carolina, will soon take 300 passengers at 560 miles an hour on a 9 hour trip straight from Miami to Buenos Aires.


Apparently he's been thinking about traveling to Buenos Aires for quite a while.

Also, Stephen Colbert last night flashed back to an interview he did a year ago with Sanford, asking the governor to tell him about the Mark Sanford nobody knows about. "Well, I guess it would be the degree to which I love solitude," said Sanford. "I love to be out in the woods with my boys."

It's worth noting that Globetrotting guv Mark Sanford seems to have gone to some lengths to avoid reporters upon his return.

Sanford left for this trip from the Columbia, South Carolina, airport, it turns out. But he came back by flying into Atlanta. Why?

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After being pressed twice yesterday (once by USA Today's David Jackson, then again by ABC's Jake Tapper) at yesterday's press conference, President Obama declined to insist upon a public option. "[W]e are still early in this process," Obama said, "so we have not drawn lines in the sand other than that reform has to control costs and that it has to provide relief to people who don't have health insurance or are underinsured."

There are a whole host of other issues where ultimately I may have a strong opinion, and I will express those to members of Congress as this is shaping up. It's too early to say that. Right now I will say that our position is that a public plan makes sense.


Well, some key senators are saying that Obama's chief of staff Rahm Emanuel has already reached out to them--and not to express a "strong opinion" about the public option.
White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel met last night at the U.S. Capitol with Senate Democrats and told them Obama is "open to alternatives" to a new government insurance program in order to get legislation overhauling the health-care system to his desk, said Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota.

"His message was, it's critical that you do this," Conrad said.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus of Montana said Emanuel urged the senators to seek Republican support and didn't discourage them from pursuing the use of non-profit cooperatives, an idea Conrad has proposed.


Conrad says that, unlike the public option, his co-op proposal can attract Republican support, but at this point the evidence suggests that it's been a good tool for attracting conservative Democrat support and that Republicans remain broadly opposed to several aspects of the reform proposals on the table.

MSNBC just had the reaction from State Sen. Jake Knotts, who has been raising the alarm about Sanford's disappearance for days now.

Said Knotts:

Cover-up, cover-up. Lies, lies, lies. His staff lied -- they didn't know where he was. I don't believe a word that comes out of that office.


Sounds about right.

Sanford: I Was In Argentina Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC) has now resurfaced at the Atlanta airport, telling The State that he was in Buenos Aires, Argentina, taking a break after a busy legislative session -- not hiking the Appalachian Trail, as his staff had claimed. Sanford said he'd considered hiking the Trail, "But I said 'no' I wanted to do something exotic." When asked why his staff had said he was hiking the Trail, he said, "I don't know," but then later added that "in fairness" to his staff, he'd previously told them he might go hiking there.

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will meet at 2 p.m. ET today with Govs. Jennifer Granholm (D-MI), Jim Douglas (R-VT), Jim Doyle (D-WI), Mike Rounds (R-SD) and Christine Gregoire (D-WA) to discuss health care. At 8 p.m. ET, he will hold a town hall from the White House on health care, which will be broadcast on ABC.

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We didn't know the Appalachian Trail went all the way down to Buenos Aires!

AWOL South Carolina guv Mark Sanford resurfaced at the Atlanta airport this morning, and told The State newspaper he hadn't been hiking the trail, as his staff said. Instead, he'd taken a jaunt down to Argentina...

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Gil Duran, a spokesman for Sen. Dianne Feinstein, email's over the following statement in response to inquiries about her support for broad health reform.

I support:

1) Reducing costs and expanding coverage

2) Prohibiting the denial of insurance because of pre-existing conditions

3) Moving toward either a non-profit model of medical insurance or to one where premium costs can be controlled, either through competition in a public or cooperative model or through a regulated authority.

4) Assuring the financial survival of Medicare, because it is slated to run out of money in 2017.

5) Preventing the transfer of Medicaid costs to states, which could result in billions of dollars of additional loss to the State of California.

6) Establishing means testing for programs like Medicare Part D, which pays for prescription drugs

Clearly, the individual mandate - and how it is funded - is the critical, and as yet unanswered, question.


Though Democrats don't bandy about the term too often, the mandate is a provision that will require uninsured people to buy health insurance--private or public--on the individual market. Because many can't afford their own plans, though, it will require a great deal of subsidy and could, in the short term, impose a significant cost. Without the mandate, health care won't be universal. But supporters of the public plan note that without a government run option to root out waste and inefficiency, the choices available to consumers will suffer, and private insurance companies will reap windfall profits on the consumer dime.

As I noted earlier, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) appeared on CNN over the weekend and tried to pour some cold water on the idea that a systemic health care overhaul is in the country's future. In response, MoveOn is pouring some cold water on Feinstein.

The group is calling on its California members to pressure the senior Democrat to get on board with the President's agenda, and threatening to run an ad singling her out.

A slightly abbreviated version of the letter appears below the fold.

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