TPM News

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) told constituents Saturday that he expects that the deal cut with Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) to secure his vote will be cut from the final health care reform bill.

"Well, whether that provision was legal or illegal, it shouldn't have been done," Feingold said. "I understand that Sen. Ben Nelson has already indicated he knows he's probably not going to get it in the end. I think it's going to get stripped from the bill."

Nelson secured federal funding for a Medicaid expansion in Nebraska in perpetuity. Other states have partial funding, or 100 percent funding for a few years. Only Nebraska has such a complete deal.

Today, asked about growing criticism over the Nelson deal, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said President Obama "understands greatly the fiscal situation that governors find themselves in." He was asked if Obama would consider Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's idea to extend the Nelson deal to all states, and said it was "part of the discussion."

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Democrats have quickly become aware of the potential of a defeat in the Massachusetts special Senate election -- a race that has become close in some of the polls, despite this being a heavily Democratic state -- and are working to mobilize Democratic turnout.

Over the last few days the Democratic National Committee, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and Organizing For America have all been stepping up, with the latest news that DNC national press secretary Hari Sevugan is headed to Boston.

A Democratic source in Washington tells TPMDC that the prominent public discussion of potential low Democratic turnout in the Massachusetts special Senate election could have a beneficial effect: Alerting Democrats to the problem and thus helping to boost that very turnout.

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Speaking at the National Press Club this afternoon, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka blasted a controversial provision in the Senate health care bill, which would impose a stiff tax on high-end health care plans--a penalty that would impact many middle class workers and union members. From the prepared remarks: "[T]hanks to the Senate rules, the appalling irresponsibility of the Senate Republicans and the power of the wealthy among some Democrats, the Senate bill instead drives a wedge between the middle class and the poor."

The bill rightly seeks to ensure that most Americans have health insurance. But instead of taxing the rich, the Senate bill taxes the middle class by taxing workers' health plans--not just union members' health care; most of the 31 million insured employees who would be hit by the excise tax are not union members.

The tax on benefits in the Senate bill pits working Americans who need health care for their families against working Americans struggling to keep health care for their families. This is a policy designed to benefit elites--in this case, insurers, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and irresponsible employers, at the expense of the broader public. It's the same tragic pattern that got us where we are today, and I can assure you the labor movement is fighting with everything we've got to win health care reform that is worthy of the support of working men and women.

Complicating things for labor is the fact that President Obama supports the excise tax. Neverthless,Trumka will no doubt be making this argument to Obama himself this afternoon at a White House gathering of labor officials.

You can read the complete transcript of Trumka's remarks below.

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It was inevitable. Fox News confirms to the New York Times today that former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin will become a regular contributor to the cable news channel.

In a multi-year deal, Palin will appear on the channel regularly. A source told the Times that while she will not have her own regular show, she will host an occasional series.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

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White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said on MSNBC today he will stay in place "as long as the president wants me to stay here," or at least through 2010.

Emanuel was the first guest on the new show "The Daily Rundown" anchored by the network's White House reporters. They asked him about a "lot of rumors around town" that he might want to leave or bid to become Chicago's mayor.

He said he left Congress to join President Obama at a "historic time with great challenges" and isn't interested in running for mayor.


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When you're a Tea Party activist and you've been caught holding a racist sign that refers to taxpayers as the "n" word, maybe it's better to just leave the whole subject alone.

Dale Robertson seems to disagree. Over the weekend, the Houston-based Tea Party leader posted a picture of himself at a rally last year that you can see opposite.

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Once upon a time, it seemed all but certain that New Jersey's legislature would legalize gay marriage. But last Thursday, the state senate voted against the measure, 20-14, in a last-ditch effort to pass the law before Gov-elect Chris Christie (R) takes office Jan. 19.

Now, the effort to enact gay marriage legislatively is dead, at least for the next four years.

So what happened? According to those involved, the effort was dead the second Christie won in November.

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