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Facing a deluge of letters from (mainly conservative) party members, House leaders have delayed unveiling their health care reform bill for at least a few days as they address a number of members' concerns. But the prime mover in their decision seems to have been pressure from Blue Dog Democrats, who delivered a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer last night.

"From where we are today, significant progress on the draft tri-committee health care reform proposal needs to be made in order to address each of these concerns," the letter reads. "We cannot support a final product that fails to do so. "

The letter, which you can access here, was signed by 40 of the 52-member coalition. Their concerns include deficit neutrality (the Blue Dog hobby horse) but also, financing, and the public option--which they say should not be able to use Medicare, or Medicare-like reimbursement rates (about 20 to 30 percent below the private market) but ought to compete on a level playing field. "We also wish to reiterate our support for the recommendations previously made by our Coalition regarding how to appropriately structure a public option," the letter reads. "In order to establish a level playing field, providers must be fairly reimbursed at negotiated rates and their participation must be voluntary."

That's fairly gentle language, and pretty remarkable when you consider that, until recently, a number of Senate Democrats were vying to scrap the public option altogether. I'll have more on this later today, but my immediate read on all this is that the Senate--its rules and its political makeup--remains the biggest hurdle to health care reform.

President Obama took questions this morning about health care legislation after his closing remarks at the G8 summit in Italy.

A reporter asked if the bill was "do or die" by Congress's August recess.

"I never believe anything is do or die. But I really wanna get it done by August recess," he said with a grin.

Obama also said that, although the negotiations will be tough, "I'm confident we're gonna get it done."

He acknowledged his opponents' criticisms that the deficit is growing under his presidency. "Fair enough," he said. "This occurs on my watch."

He added that the only way to get a handle on deficits is to corral health care costs.

Late last night, House leadership decided it would postpone the release of its completed draft of health care reform legislation, after Blue Dog Democrats--and a variety of other concerned members--raised a number of objections to aspects of the proposal.

The bill was originally supposed to be unveiled late last night, but will now be postponed until at least early next week.

Leadership characterizes this as part of the negotiating process--and that's fair enough. The House is still on a much clearer, more united course toward passing legislation than is the Senate. But after weeks of smooth sailing in the lower chamber, this is the first serious speedbump.

Obama: "Full Recovery Is Still A Ways Off" During his press conference this morning, President Obama said the world seems to have avoided a total economic collapse, but that "full recovery is still a ways off." With the end of the G-8 Summit, Obama said leaders have agreed on significant measures for the economy, the environment and national security, with a "widespread consensus we must continue our work to restore economic growth and restore our financial regulatory systems."

Obama's Day: Meeting With The Pope President Obama attended a working breakfast with G-8 and African leaders, at 2:30 a.m. ET (8:30 a.m. local time). At 4:30 a.m. ET, he attended a meeting with G-8 and African leaders, and then at 6:35 a.m. ET he met with South African President Jacob Zuma. He held a press conference at 8 a.m. ET. At 10 a.m. ET, he will meet with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone at the Vatican, and then at 10:15 a.m. he will have a bilateral meeting with Pope Benedict XVI. The First Family will have an audience with the Pope at 10:40 a.m. ET. At 12 p.m. ET, Obama will leave Rome for Accra, Ghana, arriving there at 4:20 p.m. ET.

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Defying a government ban on rallies, hundreds of demonstrators once again took to the streets of Tehran today to protest the results of last month's presidential election. Protesters were also marking the 10th anniversary of violent student demonstrations in which one student was killed.

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Reports indicated that riot police were out in full force and fired in the air to disperse the protesters.

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See TPM photo galleries of the June protests in Iran here.

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's office just told TPMDC that the senator will file for cloture on the nomination of Robert Groves, whom President Obama tapped to be director of the Census Bureau on April 2.

Groves, the 60-year-old director of the University of Michigan's Survey Research Center, sailed through confirmation hearings in mid-May, but shortly thereafter, anonymous Republican senators held up his nomination, preventing a confirmation vote and leaving the bureau without a director. Earlier today Roll Call (sub. req.) reported that those holds were placed by Sens. Richard Shelby (R-AL) and David Vitter (R-LA).

The census, performed every ten years by Constitutional mandate, is not merely an exercise in demography: The populations of states and counties are used to determine Congressional reapportionment and redistricting, which will happen again before the 2012 election cycle. Moreover, state population totals affect the allocation of hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding to states for highway construction and renovation, Medicaid, and education, among other expenditures.

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In case you thought health care drama was limited to the Senate, just remember that there are spoilers in the House as well:

Conservative Democrats in the House are rebelling against their party leaders and trying to put the brakes on the push to pass a health care overhaul by August. The fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition plans to present a letter to House Democratic leaders Thursday raising concerns about costs and other issues and asking for more time, members of the group tell The Associated Press.


The Blue Dogs, I'm told, are meeting with leadership tonight to express their concerns over speed and scope of reform efforts, and are suggesting that a majority of their 52-member caucus would vote against the current draft proposal without significant changes.

Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) isn't taking being called a hypocrite lightly. In response to Sen. Arlen Specter's attack on his voting record, Sestak--who plans to challenge Specter in the 2010 Pennsylvania Senate primary--is setting the record straight. And he's not pulling any punches: "We've learned today that Arlen Specter can abandon his party, but he just can't quit making Republican swift-boat attacks on the integrity of Democrats who served in our military.

"Let's be clear," Sestak said, "I voted for Bill Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry, and Barack Obama while Arlen Specter was voting for George Bush and Bob Dole and John McCain. My question to Arlen Specter is this: do you regret voting for George Bush and John McCain? Why should Democrats support someone like you who actively campaigned - as recently as last year - for politicians with values like George W. Bush?"

Specter accused Sestak of not taking an active interest in politics, citing the fact that Sestak didn't become a Democrat until 2006. But Sestak says that's all about being a military officer.

"Like Colin Powell (who was also registered as an Independent while he served), I believe that military officers should be nonpartisan," Sestak said. "The military depends on cohesion and unity, and the defense of this nation must never be political. I'm proud that I was an Independent during my 35 years in the Navy, and I was proud to register as a Democrat as soon as I retired from active duty. "

You can read the full statement below the fold. But one things clear--Specter better be cautious about attacking Sestak on any grounds that leave him an opening to pivot back to his military service record.

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The campaign of Gov. Jon Corzine (D-NJ) announced last week that they'd be holding a big campaign event with President Obama on July 16 -- and it now turns out that they're moving to a bigger venue, after too many people tried to sign up.

Here's a new Web video from campaign manager Maggie Moran, announcing the switch:



The previous venue had been Voorhees Mall on the Rutgers University campus. The new location, the PNC Bank Arts Center, has a seating capacity of 17,500. This is still just a fraction of the more than 50,000 people who tried to sign up on the Web site. People who had signed up and couldn't get on the list will be on a preferred reservation list for future events. In fact, Moran said, there will be many more opportunities to see Barack or Michelle Obama.

President Obama and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi tour earthquake-damaged areas of L'Aquila, Italy at the G8 summit on Wednesday, July 8. The damage is leftover from a 6.3-magnitude quake that struck the town in early April. See TPM's gallery of the initial devastation here.

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President Obama arrives at the main conference hall in L'Aquila on Thursday, June 9, day two of the G8 summit, for the talks between the G8 countries, G5 countries and Egypt.


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The main conference hall. From left to right: UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, President Obama, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi, and Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso.


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From left to right: Italian Equality Minister Isabella Rauti (also the wife of Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno), First Lady Michelle Obama, Italian Minister of Education Maria Stella Gelmini and Italian Minister for Equal Opportunity Mara Carfagna on the Caffarelli terrace at the Campidoglio palace in Rome.


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Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno and his wife Isabella Rauti host a luncheon for the First Ladies on the Caffarelli Terrace.


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The First Ladies with Mayor Alemanno and his wife Isabella in front of the statue of Emperor Marco Aurelio.


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The First Ladies visit the historic city center of L'Aquila on the second day of the G8 Summit. Pictured here on the far right is Gursharaan Kaur, wife of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.


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Michelle Obama in L'Aquila.


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G5 and G8 leaders pose for a photo on Thursday. From left to right: Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, President Obama, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev.

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Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Brazilian President Lula da Silva, and President Obama.

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Brazilian President Lula da Silva gifted the G5 leaders with his country's soccer jerseys at their press conference on Thursday. From left to right: Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Mexican President Felipe Calderon, Lula da Silva, South African President Jacob Zuma and Chinese State Counselor Dai Bingguo. Lula also gave President Obama one of the jerseys.


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World leaders pose with the "Junior 8" on Thursday in L'Aquila. The Junior 8 Summit, or J8, is an annual forum where young people from around the world meet to share their concerns and recommendations on how to solve global issues with G8 leaders and the world community.


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From left to right: German Chancellor Merkel, French President Sarkozy, Italian PM Berlusconi, Japanese PM Taro Aso, and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.


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President Obama confers with Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso at a G8 working dinner.


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Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi (R) greets President Obama as he arrives for a round table session.


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Japanese PM Taro Aso, President Obama, and German Chancellor Merkel.


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President Obama, French President Sarkozy, and German Chancellor Merkel.


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President Obama and French President Sarkozy.


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