TPM News

TPMDC's update on the biggest initiatives on Capitol Hill.

  • Health Care: Negotiations continue behind closed doors in both the House Energy and Commerce Committee and Senate Finance Committee--though the sense of urgency must be dissipating. Harry Reid announced today that there would not be a vote on legislation before the Senate adjourned and President Obama has come to terms with it. Republicans are already rejoicing. The House could still vote on its bill next week--but the Senate will have to come a long way before then. And given the pace in the upper chamber to this point...


  • Gun Control: Yesterday, Democrats filibustered a Republican amendment to the 2010 Defense Authorization Act that would've allowed gun-owners with concealed weapons permits to bring carry their concealed weapons across state lines and into regions with prohibitions on carrying concealed weapons.


  • Defense Spending: The day before yesterday, the Senate adopted, as an amendment to the same defense bill, a measure to strike $1.75 billion in procurement funding for the F-22--a major victory for defense spending reformers. Of course, if it had been filibustered, it would've failed.

The new Fox News poll has some mixed news for President Obama on the economy. On the one hand, his numbers in this area aren't all that impressive -- but people still blame former President George W. Bush more than they blame him.

Obama's overall approval rating is 54%, with 38% disapproval. On the economy, this is a narrower 50%-43%, still in positive territory. This question could be troublesome: "Do you think the Obama administration has a clear plan for fixing the economy?" Here it is only Yes 42%, No 53%. The same question is asked about Congress, yielding an abysmal 21%-73% rating.

However, people still don't view the economy as Obama's fault, as Republicans would like to see things. Here's one question: "Who do you think is more responsible for the current state of the economy -- Barack Obama or George W. Bush?" Here it's Obama 16%, Bush 61%, and both equally 5%. The same question is asked about the current size of the budget deficit: Obama 28%, Bush 53%, both 8%.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) released a statement today, celebrating the delay of a vote on health care reform until after the August recess. Key paragraph:

"I am very pleased my Democrat colleagues have now rejected the President's strategy to force through a bad bill before anyone has had a chance to even read it," said Senator DeMint. "Americans can win this debate but they are going to have to continue speaking out. They know the promises the President has made do not match up with the policies he is pushing. Over the August break, they need to connect with their Congressmen and Senators and let know that Washington shouldn't make their families' health care decisions."

By now you're probably at least somewhat familiar with the cast of characters in the Senate Democratic caucus--Ben Nelson, Joe Lieberman, etc.--who pop up every time a major Obama agenda item is making its way through the legislative process to say, "not so fast!"

But right now, in the House, a group of Blue Dog Democrats is stifling its own party's health care reform proposal, and, for the most part, Americans don't really know who they are. They might know what a "Blue Dog" is, generally speaking--a conservative Democrat from a Republican district, primarily concerned with shrinking the federal deficit (unless the deficit is created by defense and war spending, or tax cuts for the wealthy) and the well-being of big business.

For their pro-corporate positions, and willingness to throw their weight around Congress, the Blue Dogs are richly rewarded. And this year--with energy, financial, and, yes, health industry interests trying desperately to weaken reform legislation--they're on a record pace. But within the Blue Dog caucus there are a range of personalities and animating forces, and it's worth taking a moment to review who the key players are.

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Paging Keith Olbermann. You can call off the search...we've found your Worst Person in the World for tonight.

Meet Tennessee state senator Paul Stanley. He's a solid conservative Republican and married father of two, who according to his website is "a member of Christ United Methodist Church, where he serves as a Sunday school teacher and board member of their day school." (Check out the religious imagery on the site -- the sun poking through clouds, as if manifesting God's presence -- which of course shows Stanley's deeply pious nature.)

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It's looked unlikely for at least a couple weeks now, but unless events intercede to convince congressional leaders to delay August recess, today will likely be remembered as the day when Democrats admitted they'd be unable to pass health care reform bills in the House and Senate before August recess.

"We just heard today that, well, we may not be able to get the bill out of the Senate by the end of August, or the beginning of August," President Obama said. "That's OK. I just want people to keep on working. Just keep working."

He's reacting to today's news out of the Senate--and he sounds fairly sanguine about it. There's still a possibility of a House vote--but as I noted earlier today, Speaker Nancy Pelosi will likely need to see progress out of the Senate if she's going to put her vulnerable members out on a limb.

President Obama is standing by his comments about the Henry Louis Gates case, which the Republicans have been attacking him on. From an interview with ABC News:

"I have to say I am surprised by the controversy surrounding my statement because I think it was a pretty straight forward commentary that you probably don't need to handcuff a guy, a middle-aged man who uses a cane, who's in his own home," Obama said.

...

"I think that I have extraordinary respect for the difficulties of the job that police officers do," the president told Moran. "And my suspicion is that words were exchanged between the police officer and Mr. Gates and that everybody should have just settled down and cooler heads should have prevailed. That's my suspicion."

The president said he understands the sergeant who arrested Gates is an "outstanding police officer." But he added that with all that's going on in the country with health care and the economy and the wars abroad, "it doesn't make sense to arrest a guy in his own home if he's not causing a serious disturbance."

Yesterday, we reported that we hadn't heard a clear story from the Pentagon about how Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl was captured in Afghanistan. We started looking after a Fox News analyst claimed the soldier deserted (and therefore should be executed by the Taliban).

But last night, an NBC News correspondent reported that Pentagon officials are certain Bergdahl is not a deserter.

"Senior military and Pentagon officials, not only in Washington but there on the ground in Afghanistan, say there's no question he's not a deserter," said Jim Miklaszewski, NBC's Pentagon correspondent.

Video after the jump.

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The Democratic National Committee has launched this new TV ad on national and D.C. cable, warning against the high costs involved in the health care debate -- that is, the cost of not enacting reform:



"What's the cost of not reforming our health care system?" the announcer asks. "Premiums rising faster than your paycheck; insurance companies dictating more and more medical decisions; denying you coverage, while their profits soar."

This is continuing a line of argument that President Obama made last night at the press conference, presenting the continuing status quo as an alternative plan that is inferior to his own proposals -- thus shifting the burden of proof in the argument.

Also notice the cast of villains in this ad: Michael Steele, Rush Limbaugh, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) -- and the new star, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC).

TPMLivewire