TPM News

As I noted earlier, Senate Finance Committee Democrats talked health care yesterday in what appears to have been a productive meeting. So productive, in fact, that Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV)--who has said he can't support the bill--now says he's "very" optimistic that the panel will pass legislation.

"The meeting we had last night helps me say that," Rockefeller told the Washington Post's Ezra Klein.

Separately, Rockefeller said that Baucus has already begun making assurances to committee Democrats that their concerns will be addressed. "[I]t was the best meeting we've ever had with the chairman. He told me they'd make sure CHIP is preserved. He knows he needs our votes."

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Whatever you think about ACORN, poor people and minorities may end up being hurt the most by Congress's sudden vendetta against the group.

As we told you, the House yesterday overwhelmingly backed a Republican measure to cut off all federal funding from ACORN, in the wake of a scandal in which employees were caught on camera advising two people posing as a pimp and a prostitute on how to break the law.

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Former President Clinton is optimistic on the chances for bipartisan support for a health care bill, he told Bloomberg.

"It would be good if [Sen. Max Baucus] could get some Republican support," Clinton said. "I believe he'll get Snowe and he could get Collins and he might get three or four others."

But, he warned, most Republicans will only vote for it if they see it as inevitable.

"If they believe a bill is going to pass, some of them will vote for it," Clinton said. "And if they believe they have a chance to keep any bill from passing, they will be put under excruciating pressure to vote against whatever is there for reasons that have nothing to do with health care and have everything to do with politics. I've been through this. I've seen it."

Here's the latest development in the Snowestakes: Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) says that though she'd prefer health care reform legislation to have broader Republican support, she's not going to let her party dictate her vote on the issue.

"Obviously, I'm a Republican, but I'd like to have more Republicans," she told CNBC's John Harwood.

But asked whether having more Republicans is a requirement, she said, pointedly, "no...I'm going to support the right policy."

Yesterday, I noted that Snowe believes her party has changed, leaving her an isolated moderate. And it's sounding more and more like she's resolved herself not to cave to pressure from the right to stand with the GOP in opposition to health care reform.

Earlier this week, Roland Burris (D-IL) became the first member of the Senate to definitively say he'll vote against health care reform legislation unless it includes a public option.

That's an important development, but, looking at the math in the Senate, it would be a really important development if Burris was saying he'd help filibuster the bill if it omitted a public option. So I asked for a bit of clarification from Burris' staff, and his spokesman Jim O'Connor said "the Senator was very serious in saying he will vote against any bill that doesn't include a public option."

But, he added, "[h]is goal is not to be an obstructionist, but as his statement said, to build consensus among his colleagues for a public option."

So it doesn't seem likely that he'd block a health care bill from coming to the floor for a vote over this issue. But he could still pave the way for other liberal senators to take a similarly strong stance. We'll keep an eye out for that.

Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) is looking for a reason to support health care reform, according to MSNBC correspondent Chuck Todd -- a very good sign for the Democrats.

"Every sign Olympia Snowe is giving is that she wants to find a reason to support this legislation, not oppose it," Todd said this morning.

"This isn't just about getting her. But getting her guarantees those last four or five, some of the more conservative Democrats," he said.

Yesterday, Snowe signed a statement with conservative Democrats Joe Lieberman, Claire McCaskill and Ben Nelson commending the proposal put forth by Senate Finance Committee chair Max Baucus (D-MT), a sign that they'll likely support similar legislation.

It's also "more likely than less likely" that if Snowe supports the bill, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) will also fall in line, Todd said.

The new Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll of the Virginia gubernatorial race has Republican Bob McDonnell still leading Democrat Creigh Deeds by a healthy margin.

The numbers: McDonnell 50%, Deeds 43%, with a ±4% margin of error. This is essentially unchanged from the last Kos/R2K poll in early August, when McDonnell was ahead 51%-43%.

This differs from yesterday's Rasmussen poll, which put McDonnell ahead by only 48%-46%, and suggested that his hard-right college thesis was hurting him.

It's long been known (reported at TPMDC and elsewhere) that, among the now defunct Gang of Six, two senators were advocates for giving poor and middle class taxpayers greater government assistance to buy health insurance: Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and, unexpectedly Olympia Snowe (R-ME).

But now Snowe says that, if she's to support the final package out of the finance committee, the subsidies in the bill will have to be strengthened. "[T]here would have to be more subsidies," she told the New York Times.

That's something liberals support to, though it would require more revenue, which likely means new taxes. And Snowe's been less forthcoming about how to pay for the subsidies than about her general support for them.

Still, reformers on the left probably won't be too excited by this. Despite advocating for greater government assistance, Snowe also opposes a public option unless it's affixed to a trigger mechanism, and supports the "free-rider" provision, which would make it profitable for employers to discriminate against poor people.

Rep. Mike Capuano (D-MA) is the first candidate to come out with a TV ad in the special election for Ted Kennedy's Senate seat. In Capuano's new ad, he very strongly ties himself to Ted Kennedy's legacy, and puts himself forward as the truly progressive candidate.

"Only one candidate stood with Ted Kennedy against Bush's Iraq War, and mirrors his progressive record," the announcer says. "Mike Capuano: passionate, progressive, supports a strong public health care option, equal marriage, middle class tax cuts, ethics reform, pro-choice, and against the death penalty."