TPM News

Democrats and Republicans will begin considering amendments to far-reaching health care legislation on the Senate floor momentarily. This process will go on for weeks, and involve hundreds of proposed changes. But to touch things off, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will likely introduce Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) who will offer a women's preventive health care amendment, according to a Senate Democratic aide--the first amendment of the process.

By contrast, the first Republican amendment will come from Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who will propose that the bill be recommitted to the Finance Committee, which would be instructed to strip it of its Medicare cuts. At a 60 vote threshold, the amendment won't pass, but if it did, it would likely be the end of health care reform this Congress.

In other words, we're dealing with two very different species of amendments.

Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL), who is running for President Obama's former Senate seat in 2010, is now embracing an offshoot of the "death panel" line -- warning that the health care bill could result in women being denied mammograms!

As Greg Sargent reports, Kirk's campaign sent out an e-mail, officially a "questionnaire":

This month, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended eliminating mammograms for women ages 40-49. The panel concluded that while thousands of women's lives would be saved by continuing the test, "the net benefit is small" for the population as a whole.

Currently, this is only an advisory recommendation. But under the health care bill moving through the Senate, this recommendation could become law.

TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK: Should women between the ages of 40 and 49 be denied access to life-saving mammograms?

However, the fact is that the Senate health bill would not do such a thing. But that panel recommendation has become a big talking point of the right in the past couple weeks, warning of government-rationed care -- and this e-mail is a strong sign of how conservative Kirk is going in this statewide race, after years of maintaining a moderate profile in a Democratic district.

As we told you earlier, Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) said during a radio interview this morning that despite his well-chronicled personal travails, 2010 candidates have told him they wanted him to campaign for them.

"A lot of people running for office next year, I've met with them, they actually want me involved in their campaigns," the philandering lawmaker told Alan Stock of Las Vegas's KXNT News Radio. "I'm gonna try to be helpful without being hurtful."

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Don't be surprised if someone asks you if you love freedom this Thursday. The national organizers of Tea Party Patriots have singled out Dec. 3 for a national recruitment drive, calling on all good tea partiers "to reach out to 1 new person who is not a member of Tea Party Patriots" and ask them to join up.

From the TPP email sent to tea partiers today and obtained by TPM:

Tell them why you are a member of the tea party movement and ask them if they agree with our core principles of fiscal responsibility, constitutionally limited government, and free markets ... If you send emails, follow up with phone calls to the people to add a personal touch.

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President Obama is calling world leaders all day to outline in general terms his decision for sending more troops to Afghanistan and he's also deployed Vice President Joe Biden and key Cabinet secretaries to phone allies today and tomorrow in the lead up to the announcement.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Obama added Danish Prime Minister Anders Rasmussen to his list of calls on Afghanistan.

"The president expressed his appreciation for Denmark's leadership in this process. The president also updated the prime minister on his review of our strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and thanked him for his country's significant contribution to the effort in Afghanistan," Gibbs said.

In addition, Obama is calling President Karzai, President Zardari, Chancellor Merkel, Prime Minister Tusk of Poland, President Hu of China and Prime Minister Singh of India to offer details of his decision, to be formally announced during a speech tomorrow night..

Gibbs said administration officials, including Biden, General Jim Jones, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Adm. Mike Mullen of the Joint chiefs are will "make consultation calls to our allies over the course of the next many hours before the speech."

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Meet the latest high-living accused Ponzi schemer with close ties to Republican politicians. That would be Tim Durham, the flamboyant Indianapolis-based owner of Fair Finance Co., and ally of Governor Mitch Daniels...

In court papers filed last week by the Feds and examined by TPMmuckraker, Durham was accused of using money from new purchasers of his company's investment certificates to pay off earlier investors, thereby thereby "lulling the earlier victims into believing that their money was being [handled] responsibily." The filing followed an FBI raid last Wednesday on Durham's Indianapolis office.

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White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the investigation into the state dinner party crashers was focusing exclusively on the Secret Service, not administration staffers.

Reporters pressed Gibbs on whether the White House social office was also being investigated since the checks at large events were part of protocol in previous administrations.

"My understanding is Secret Service will look at what the Secret Service did," Gibbs said. "The Secret Service, through the director, has admitted that somebody who wasn't on a list and wasn't waived in was allowed into an event that clearly he said shouldn't be."

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Same sex marriage advocates are seeing the end of the line for their cause in an unlikely place: New Jersey. Marriage equality was once expected to be all but inevitable in the Garden state, but as Newark Star-Ledger political columnist Tim Moran reports today, all that changed with the election of Gov.-elect Chris Christie (R).

Christie promised on the campaign trail to veto the same-sex marriage law that Moran reports many expected the state legislature to pass this year. Christie's defeat of Gov. Jon Corzine (D), coupled with a stepped up opposition campaign by the Catholic Church, has led one-time supporters of marriage equality in New Jersey to change their tune.

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Moderate and conservative Democrats want to empower an outside entitlement commission to reshape major domestic spending programs like Medicare and Social Security, and they're threatening a truly nuclear option to get their way. If Congress does not create this commission, they say, they will vote against must-pass legislation to raise the nation's debt ceiling, which would trigger a default, and, perhaps, economic calamity.

"I will not vote for raising the debt limit without a vehicle to handle this," Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) told McClatchy. "This is our moment."

On the one hand, the threat is so outlandish as to be self-defeating. Would Democrats really extract such a devastating toll, both on their own political fortunes, but also on the national and global economy, just to prove that they're serious about entitlement reform?

But on the other hand, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid may not want to rock the boat too hard in the midst of a health care debate in which Democrats are hanging their political fortunes on many of the same centrist senators making the threat. And the Obama administration has been broadly supportive of the idea of reining in deficits and paying down the national debt for some time now.

So it seems fairly likely that, whether this commission passes in the form deficit hawks would like to see, debt reduction will be a key theme, both at the White House and on Capitol Hill, after the fight over health care is over.

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