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The Senate Finance Committee can't even endorse a modest public option like Chuck Schumer's. Citing his belief that a public option can't pass on the Senate floor "at this time," Finance chairman Max Baucus joined two Democrats and all Republicans in voting down the amendment, which failed 10 to 13.

Joining Baucus on the Democrats' side of the dais were Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) and, by proxy, Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) who wasn't present for the vote.

There will be no public option in the Finance Committee's health care bill.

In the period after 9/11, law-enforcement agencies around the country suddenly made rooting out anyone with possible ties to terrorism a top priority. But did one Bush appointee take that zeal too far by targeting people based on little more than an Arabic-sounding name?

The Convenience Store Initiative was the farcical-sounding name of a program launched by the office of Jim Greenlee, the US attorney for Mississippi's northern district, according to documents obtained by the state's Clarion-Ledger newspaper.

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The Associated Press has tracked down the son of the Bill Sparkman, the Census Bureau worker found dead earlier this month in rural Kentucky. And Josh Sparkman, 19, has no doubt his father was murdered.

"I look at it as disrespectful to be still throwing suicide and accident around," he said. "He didn't do this to himself. That's dishonorable. My dad was a good man. No person on this planet is going to fight cancer like he did, then turn around and kill himself a year or so later."

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Yesterday, HarperCollins announced that Sarah Palin's much-anticipated memoir will now be released on November 17. Originally slated for spring 2010, the 400-page book's release was moved up after a quick finish by Palin and ghostwriter Lynn Vincent.

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In an interesting statement ahead of a public option vote earlier today, Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) said he opposes a Medicare-like public option on the grounds that North Dakota providers get low Medicare reimbursement rates.



That's a parochial concern and one that would be easy to fix in theory. In practice he voted against the Rockefeller amendment. But here comes the Schumer amendment, which would not be tied to Medicare at all. That completely undercuts his objection. So let's see how he votes.

Introducing his public option amendment, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) cited many of the differences between his proposal and the more robust public option offered unsuccessfully by Jay Rockefeller: No providers would be forced to take public option insurance, and the government would not be allowed to set prices. These differences are crucial, and reformers don't like them, but they do mean less government involvement and undermine the criticism of a number of conservative Senate Democrats. So let's see how they vote.

3:06 p.m.: Bill Nelson, who voted against the Rockefeller public option, says "I will vote for the Schumer amendment." Well, that clears that up.

3:16 p.m.: Kent Conrad says the fact that the Schumer amendment is an improvement over Rockefeller's because it's not tied to Medicare. But he says he worries that the House's bill will be tied to Medicare, and now he's saying he doesn't like that it's government run. He also continues to misconstrue the French health care system.

3:20 p.m.: Conrad didn't ultimately say whether he'd vote yes or no--he seems like a no, he's probably a no, but let's keep an eye out. He opposed the Rockefeller amendment on the grounds that it was tied to Medicare, but Schumer's plan is specifically not designed that way. That dramatically undercuts his argument. What will he do?

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After debating all morning and well into the afternoon, the Senate Finance Committee voted against an amendment, written by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) that would have added a public option to the panel's health care reform bill.

The final vote was 8-15 with 5 Democrats--Sens. Kent Conrad (D-ND), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Tom Carper (D-DE), Bill Nelson (D-FL), and Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT)--voting with all Republicans to kill the proposal.

Next up, Chuck Schumer's more modest public option proposal.

Earlier today, Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) claimed that the U.S. health care system is just fine -- if you don't count injuries from gunshots and car accidents.

"Are you aware that if you take out gun accidents and auto accidents, that the United States actually is better than those other countries?" Ensign said during Senate Finance Committee debate over the public option. ("Those other countries" included France, Germany, Japan and Canada.)

Where did he come up with such an argument? TPMDC's Brian Beutler tracks down the source: Betsy McCaughey said as much when she appeared on the Daily Show last month. McCaughey is the former lieutenant governor of New York and the first person to push the idea that, under health care reform, the government would decide who gets care, who lives and who dies -- a precursor to the "death panel" articulated by Sarah Palin.

On the show, McCaughey said that, without violence and auto accidents, the U.S. would have the highest life expectancy in the world. It was an attempt to undermine an argument for reform, that the U.S. spends more money than any other country but still lags in life expectancy.

The Wall Street Journal explains that McCaughey the idea from a 2006 report published by conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute.

Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) has clarified his comments from the How to Take Back America conference, where he called President Obama an "enemy of humanity" -- with his spokesperson saying that he should have made it clear that he was referring to Obama's abortion policies.

As the Associated Press reports:

Trent Franks of Arizona said in a speech to conservatives Saturday in St. Louis that Obama's decision to fund international family planning organizations that support legal abortion shows "he has no place in any station of government and we need to realize that he is an enemy of humanity."

Bethany Haley, spokeswoman for Franks, said the congressman was referring to "unborn humanity" and should have clarified his statement.

Yesterday, two Republicans, Karl Rove and Sen. Kit Bond (MO), accused President Obama of being out of touch with Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

Asked about it today, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs defended President Obama. Gibbs said Obama reads McChrystal's weekly memos, and meets every week with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, as well as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen (or vice-chair Gen. James Cartwright, if Mullen is traveling).

"The President receives tremendous input from the commanders on the ground and receives input from regional commanders like Gen. Petraeus," Gibbs said.

Rove and Bond were attacking Obama for McChrystal's recent comments on 60 Minutes, when he said he had talked to Obama once in the last 70 days.

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