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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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Two Washington D.C. Metro trains are pictured here after they collided just outside the Fort Totten Metro station on the afternoon of Monday, June 22. Federal authorities are currently investigating the cause of the crash, which killed 9.

Newscom / UPI / Alexis C. Glenn

Newscom / UPI / Alexis C. Glenn

Newscom / SIPA / Kris Connor

David Corn, Washington editor of Mother Jones, posted multiple photos of the crash on his Twitter page. MJ's James Ridgeway rounds up the questions about causes here.

David Corn

Passengers line up to take the bus after Metro services were rerouted.

Newscom / SIPA / Kris Connor

A report from the National Transportation Safety board said the train involved in the crash was "recommended for phaseout," according to the AP.

Newscom / MCT / Ken Cedeno

The National Republican Senatorial Committee has done a lot recently to help Norm Coleman's legal fight against Al Franken's super-narrow victory in the 2008 Minnesota Senate race, the Associated Press reports -- chipping in $938,000 in the last month alone.

The latest federal filings show that roughly $600,000 was spent directly by the NRSC on Coleman's legal bills, with $300,000 transferred to the state Republican Party for the same effort.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee did not itemize spending that might have gone to the Minnesota race, but it did raise $282,000 that was specifically earmarked for it.