TPM News

Half a day later, we know a lot more about where the key players who will determine the fate of health care reform stand on a burgeoning public option compromise. Unfortunately, there's still a substantial lack of clarity about where we go from here.

The long and short of it is this: It is possible that Democrats will reach a consensus on a plan to trade the public option for several concessions, including a plan, supported by progressives, to allow people age 55-64 to buy into Medicare. That could be the grand bargain that allows health care to pass the Senate. But not a single Republican--including Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME)--seems to support the ideas on offer. And with Democrats unable to lose a single vote, one of them--Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE)--could defect over the issue of abortion.

As I reported this afternoon, Snowe (R-ME) says she's not a fan of the ideas coming out of series of meetings between Democrats seeking accord on the public option. Snowe didn't explicitly say she'd filibuster the health care bill if that compromise emerges, but she has told Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid she doesn't support the idea.

That makes it seem quite likely that Reid needs all 60 of his members to support whatever compromise comes out of the negotiations. Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) made no promises, but seemed open to the trade-off on the table. Optimistically, that makes 59.

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The recent Mason-Dixon poll of Nevada finds that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid continues to be in trouble for his 2010 re-election bid -- and what's more, his son Rory, a Clark County (Las Vegas) commissioner, isn't polling well for his gubernatorial campaign, either.

The Senate race poll found Harry Reid trailing Republican Sue Lowden by 51%-41%, and trailing Republican Danny Tarkanian by 48%-42%. In the gubernatorial poll, Rory Reid trailed Republican frontrunner Brian Sandoval by 49%-34%, and came in third place in a potential three-way race involving Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman as an independent: Goodman 35%, Sandoval 32%, Rory Reid 24%.

To the best of my knowledge, this could be the first time ever that a father and son have been on a statewide ballot before, and it's a case of some very high-profile politicians, too. It does present some interesting potential ramifications -- that the two could end up rising or falling together.

"Harry Reid has always been kind of a cat on a hot tin roof here," said UNLV political science professor Ted G. Jelen, regarding the Senator's lackluster poll numbers, in an interview with TPM. "He's never been particularly comfortable. He has been winning elections, but it is a swing state, and it's also difficult to run in a swing state from a leadership position."

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Former Washington Times opinion editor Richard Miniter has filed suit against the Times in U.S. district court in Washington, more than two weeks after first threatening to sue. The complaint lists six counts, including breach of contract and intentional infliction of emotional distress, and seeks actual and punitive damages.

The full complaint, sent along by Larry Klayman, Miniter's attorney, can be read here. A clerk at the court confirmed to TPM that a complaint was filed by Miniter today.

Named as defendants along with the Times are: Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the Unification Church leader who founded the paper; News World Communications, the Times' parent company; Preston Moon, who chairs News World Communications; Publisher Jonathan Slevin; and Beth Wolffe, an attorney for the Times. Also named is One Up Enterprises, reportedly a holding company for the church's U.S. businesses, and Sonya Jenkins, vice president of human resources at the Times.

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The White House released a readout of Vice President Joe Biden's calls with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki:

The Vice President spoke to both Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki earlier today. The Vice President conveyed the condolences of the American people to those Iraqis killed and injured in today's bombings in Baghdad. The United States strongly condemns these attacks on the Iraqi people and their elected government. The perpetrators of today's bombings will not succeed. The Iraqi people have repeatedly made clear they embrace a future of promise and progress and reject extremism and destruction. The United States will stand with the Iraqis and their government as a partner and a friend as they build national unity.

With Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) unlikely to support a trade off that would replace a public option with a measure allowing certain people to buy into the Medicare program, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) is a must have vote. He just gave his Democratic colleagues some breathing room.

Lieberman said he's open to both the Medicare buy-in idea, and a separate proposal to extend the private system that insures federal employees to individuals and small businesses.

On the Medicare buy-in--which has significant appeal among liberals--Lieberman was open, but non-committal. "I'll take a look at it," Lieberman said. "I think the good news is, however, that the current bill will, for the first time, provide people 55 and over who are not yet eligible for Medicare with subsidies to go on to the exchanges and buy, so they can buy for a lot less than it costs them in the marketplace now."

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Here's an interesting window into the legislative sausage-making process - and a classic example, among countless others, of the way in which Senate leaders working on health-care reform are having to walk a tightrope between well-meaning policy goals and crude political imperatives.

As we reported last week, Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI) has sponsored a measure designed to crack down on "pay-for-delay" deals by pharmaceutical companies, in which the maker of a brand-name drug pays a generic to hold off on marketing its cheaper drug, thereby preserving the brand-name's monopoly. This textbook anti-competitive tactic is hugely valuable to drug-makers, because it essentially allows them to buy more protection than their patent confers. But by keeping cheaper generic drugs off the market, it costs consumers billions -- and those costs fall disproportionately on the uninsured.

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We asked the White House what they think about the statue going up in Jakarta honoring President Obama's few years living in Indonesia as a young boy.

"The president is flattered," National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer told TPMDC.

"He recalls fondly his time growing up in Indonesia and looks forward to visiting next year," Hammer said.

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) has formally introduced his war bonds bill, proposing to finance the Afghanistan surge and other military efforts through a targeted borrowing endeavor.

Nelson is pitching this as an alternative to war-tax proposals that have been floated by liberals.

"I believe that we need shared sacrifice and fiscal discipline in financing the war effort," Nelson said in a statement. "I don't believe our first instinct should always be a rush to tax. The government has gone to great lengths to address the economic downturn and adding new taxes right now could undermine those efforts."

As we reported last week, Nelson previously told reporters: "Some people jumped right out and said you need a war tax, and I said, Whoa! We didn't have a war tax in the Second World War." In fact, taxes were increased during World War II, in addition to the war bond campaign, thought the tax increases were not literally called a "war tax."


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