TPM News

On Morning Joe today, White House Senior Adviser David Axelrod got into a contentious exchange with MSNBC host Ed Schultz over the health care bill.

"Where's the competition?" asked Schultz "You talk about the exchange. The exchange is gonna be -- the oversight there is gonna be private insurance. The key is, people in this country right now, the progressives, don't believe that the White House has stood up to the insurance industry."

"Ed, let me ask you a question. Why is the insurance industry so vigorously opposing this bill?" Axelrod responded.

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The CBO is expected to weigh in today on a package of changes to the Senate health care bill--a so-called manager's amendment--and barring any major surprises, such as an unexpected spike in the cost of the bill, the report will likely close the door on most other major changes to the legislation.

One issue that will be handled separately, though, is abortion. As I reported yesterday, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), who has been working with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), presented Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) with new legislative language on federal funding for abortion yesterday. Nelson says abortion is a make or break issue for him, and he regards the provision in the current Senate bill as too lax to support.

As of last night, Nelson hadn't had a chance to evaluate the new compromise. But according to Politico, Douglas Johnson of the National Right to Life Committee has already decided: "This proposal would break from the long-established principles of the Hyde Amendment by providing federal subsidies for health plans that cover abortion on demand. This is entirely unacceptable."

That might make it difficult for Nelson to sign off, and his cloture vote will likely be necessary for the bill to succeed.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty may be attempting to win over New Hampshire voters as a probable contender for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, but after his debut appearance yesterday it seems he has more work to do.

He remains unknown, the Pioneer Press reports.

From that story's top:

"Never heard of him," said Patricia Goulet, of Concord, shopping for books at a local Border's.

How about you, Susan Chabot, of Manchester? "No."

He's the governor of Minnesota. Ring a bell, Rich Audet, of Northfield? "Nope."

Before Pawlenty embarked on his first trip to the crucial early primary battleground, Minnesota Democrats mocked him as abandoning the state with one year left in office.

But in town for a Senate Republican campaign fundraiser, he earned good headlines on the ground, mostly portraying him as sharply challenging President Obama and calling the health care bill a "liberal monstrosity."

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SEIU President Andy Stern doesn't like the Senate health care bill. But he can't quite bring himself to oppose it. In a letter to members, after an emergency meeting of the SEIU executive committee yesterday, Stern has penned a letter to members highlighting both the good and the bad in the legislation, and urging a fight to improve it.

The good:

We talked about everything that makes this reform meaningful:

· The 30 million more people who will have healthcare they can count on;

· The people who will no longer lose their coverage if they get sick;

· All of us who no longer have to worry about being denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions;

· Women who will no longer be discriminated against just because of their gender.

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Last night, SEIU president Andy Stern sent a letter to union members saying the union will still fight for health care reform, and urging President Obama to do the same. Here is the full text, as released by the SEIU:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

A little over a year ago, you stood up and showed a nation that Yes, We Can. You knocked on doors, picked up phones, wrote your friends and family and neighbors and helped ring in a resounding victory. It was a win not just for a candidate, but for a people. For a country. For a promise of a better future for all of our kids and grandkids and generations to come.

And after that bright and shining day in November, you hung in there. At a time when people usually pack up, go home, and play the spectator sport of complaining about the system, you got up each and every day and did things both heroic and small to make sure that this time, we didn't leave change to chance.

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Private security contractors in Afghanistan are being accused of paying protection money to warlords and the Taliban along convoy routes, prompting an investigation by a House oversight committee.

Walter Pincus at the Washington Post has the story this morning. The staff of Rep. John Tierney (D-MA) has begun an investigation of eight trucking companies that hold a combined $2.2 billion in DOD contracts in Afghanistan.

Tierney, chairman of the House oversight subcommittee on national security and foreign affairs, said in a statement:

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Senate GOP Accuses Parliamentarian Of Democratic Bias Senate Republicans are accusing Senate Parliamentarian Alan Frumin of bias in favor of the Democrats, when he allowed Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to withdraw his single-payer amendment in the face of a Republican push to have it read aloud and thus delay the legislation process for hours. "If there was any good faith, it's gone," said Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), adding: "No one can say this is a fair process when they basically have a Parliamentarian in their pocket."

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will receive the presidential daily briefing at 9:30 a.m. ET, will meet at 10 a.m. ET with members of the National Economic Council, and will meet at 11 a.m. ET with senior advisers. At 6:50 p.m. ET he will depart the White House, taking off at 7:05 p.m. ET from Andrews Air Force Base en route to the Copenhagen climate-change conference.

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