TPM News

In a three-hour meeting with President Obama and White House officials, members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee--including chairman Henry Waxman and seven Blue Dogs--reached one key agreement: to give an independent Congressional agency the power to make cuts to, and modernize, Medicare and Medicaid.

Politically, that still leaves plenty of ground to cover before all of the Blue Dogs' concerns are addressed, if not entirely met. But on the merits it's one of a handful of proposals on the table that will bend the health care spending curve downward. Last week, CBO Director Doug Elmendorf fueled Blue Dog skepticism over health care reform efforts by saying the legislation he's seen wouldn't do enough to contain rising long-term health-care costs.

Leadership, meanwhile, insists that these negotiations are minor hiccups--part of the normal legislative process, and that their reform efforts are still on schedule.

A new Quinnipiac poll shows Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) in a dead heat with Republican former Rep. Pat Toomey, whose challenge against Specter in the Republican primary triggered Specter's party switch a few months ago.

The numbers: Specter 45%, Toomey 44%, with a ±2.9% margin of error. Back in May, shortly after he'd become a Democrat, Specter had a much better lead of 46%-37%. When Toomey is pitted against Specter's Dem primary challenger, Rep. Joe Sestak, Toomey has a lead of 39%-35%, with high undecideds because both candidates lack heavy name recognition.

In the Democratic primary, Specter currently leads Sestak by 55%-23%.

Only 40% of voters say Specter deserves another term, to 49% who say he does not. From the pollster's analysis: "Voters see Sen. Specter much less favorably than they once did and are net negative about giving him a sixth term in the U.S. Senate. Independent voters have shifted narrowly to Toomey 46 - 42 percent and say 53 - 35 percent that Specter does not deserve reelection."

DeMint Stands By "Waterloo" Comment Against Obama: "We've Got To Stop His Politics" Appearing this morning on the Today show, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) refused to take back his statement that Republicans can make health care policy into President Obama's "Waterloo," and that it will "break" him. When asked whether he stood by it, DeMint responded: "It's not personal. We've got to stop his politics."

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will meet with Treasury Sec. Tim Geithner at 11 a.m. ET. At 2 p.m. ET, he will have an expanded meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and a one-on-one meeting with Maliki at 2:45 p.m. ET. AT 3 p.m. ET, the two will hold a joint press availability. At 8 p.m. ET, Obama will hold a news conference.

Read More →

Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, seven of whom are fiscally conservative Blue Dogs, emerged from the White House this afternoon saying their hour-long meeting with President Obama was constructive and that they had a "breakthrough" on Medicare payment recommendations.

The White House's proposal to strengthen the Medicare Payment Advisory Committee, which makes recommendations on how Medicare pays health care providers, won support from Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), according to Rep. Mike Ross (D-AR), but they haven't finalized an agreement.

"We came out of the meeting with an understanding that we're moving in that direction, based on the fact that the CBO tells us that it's the biggest single item we can address as it relates to cost containment," Ross told Dow Jones.

Ross also said they agree with Obama's four main goals for health care reform, according to Politico.

"He said it must be deficit neutral. He said it must contain cost and reduce health care inflation. He said we've got to cover as many people as we possibly can, making health insurance affordable for them. And that we need insurance reform, that we've got to cover pre-existing conditions. We share all of those principles, all those concerns," Ross said.

He added that final decisions on cost-cutting measures won't be made until the Congressional Budget Office scores the various provisions under consideration, according to Congressional Quarterly.

Waxman pointed out that the entire committee, and not just the Blue Dogs, are committed to bringing down health care costs, reports The Hill.



Chris Matthews had a truly fascinating interview on Hardball today with Rep. John Campbell (R-CA), one of the co-sponsors of the "Birther Bill" to require that presidential candidates submit proof of citizenship.

After some drawn-out questioning, Matthews got Campbell to say that, yes, he does believe President Obama is a natural-born citizen:



"Okay," said Matthews, "glad we're making progress here."

The latest FEC filings show that Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL), the author and main sponsor of the infamous "Birther Bill" in the House to require Presidential candidates to submit proof of citizenship, is receiving financial support from some prominent people -- namely, the House GOP leadership, in their regular donations to GOP incumbents.

Minority Leader John Boehner's PAC, the Freedom Project, donated $5,000 to Posey's campaign in June. Minority Whip Eric Cantor's ERICPAC gave $7,500.

On the one hand, there's nothing unusual about the leadership giving money to an incumbent. On the other hand, not every incumbent has refused to say for sure that President Obama is a U.S. citizen

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) stands by his comment that health care will be President Obama's Waterloo, a comment Obama derided in a health care speech yesterday.

"I think he played right into my hands," DeMint told Neil Cavuto on Fox News this afternoon, adding that Obama's frequent appearances over the last several days show a level of desperation. "Any time the president of the United States goes after a freshman senator, he's losing his grip a little bit."



He insisted his comments weren't about politics, but renewed his call to block the president's reform attempts.

"We've gotta stop him. We cannot let him roll over us," DeMint said.

LATE UPDATE: A BAUCUS SPOKESMAN TELLS TPMMUCKRAKER THE DONATION WAS RETURNED.

Gotcha's don't come much purer than this one.

Today, the Washington Post reported that although Sen. Max Baucus, who chairs the Senate Finance committee, has raked in big bucks from private health-care interests, he has taken one step to in the direction of good government:

Read More →

A new analysis from Public Policy Polling (D) finds that independents are leaning more conservative, which at first glance doesn't look like good news for Democrats -- but a close examination shows that the trends also don't contain too much reason for Republican optimism, either.

"Part of that has to do with the decreasing number of Americans identifying as Republicans in recent years," writes PPP communications director Tom Jensen. "While they're eschewing the party's label, they're still conservative and more often than not voting for the party's candidates."

So to some degree, this conservative lean from the independent group comes from the continuing shrinkage in Republicans -- a shift in demographics that at the end of the day wouldn't actually have too much of a real effect on voting patterns.

Still, Jensen sees some potential for the GOP here, comparing his figures to Democratic performance among independents in 2008, which was significantly stronger than the current state of things: "This early success the GOP is having with them looking toward 2012 does seem to indicate a certain level of support for more divided government moving forward, as well as some dissatisfaction with the President and Democrats in Congress."

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce will launch an anti-public option campaign tomorrow featuring print ads and Internet banner ads with the slogan, "Don't Drag Down Health Care Reform."

The campaign will also include local events throughout the August recess, according to a conference call this afternoon with Chamber officials. They're starting with five states -- Louisiana, Arkansas, Colorado, Maine and North Carolina -- where they built up strong grassroots organizations during the 2008 election cycle.

The Chamber is aiming to boost support for House members and senators who have questioned the need for a public plan. The Chamber opposes a public plan, saying it would eventually put private insurers out of business. Its main concern is preserving the employer-supplied health care system and bringing down costs.

The organization does support an individual mandate, forbidding insurers to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions and guaranteeing that policies cannot be revoked. It also supports a nationwide marketplace so individuals could keep their policies if they move from state to state.

The August events will include independent rallies at town halls and other forums that members of Congress plan to hold during the recess.

TPMLivewire