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A Democratic staffer has been convicted of assault after decking a man who confronted the staffer for cutting a long bathroom line at a Washington sports bar.

Marc Goldberg, communications director for Rep. Suzanne Kosmas (D-FL), was found guilty of simple assault in D.C. Superior Court in October for the August incident at Public Bar.

The altercation came to light this week after Roll Call reported that the matter was reviewed by the House ethics panel, which, under a new rule, is supposed to look at any incident in which a member of staffer is charged with a crime.

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President Obama went on ABC's World News with Charles Gibson last night and warned that without the passage of health care reform the federal government will go bankrupt.

"If we don't pass it, here's the guarantee," Obama said. "Your premiums will go up, your employers are going to load up more costs on you. Potentially they're going to drop your coverage, because they just can't afford an increase of 25 percent, 30 percent in terms of the costs of providing health care to employees each and every year, and the federal government will go bankrupt, because Medicare and Medicaid are on a trajectory that are unsustainable. And this actually provides us the best chance of starting to bend the cost curve on the government expenditures in Medicare and Medicaid."

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The Senate is still on track--barely--to pass a health care bill by Christmas. To pull that off, Democrats will need to speed through the next week without hitting any unexpected bumps in the road. And Republicans love to throw bumps into the road.

But this health care fight has made it abundantly clear: there's never any rest for the weary. Even if Harry Reid does everything right, he'll likely wake up the following Monday at the helm of a new project, and a new, short timeline. He'll have to reach agreement with the House of Representatives on a final health care bill that doesn't lose him a single vote.

Two key questions will determine whether that happens: 1). Will the final bill that emerges have moved too far to the left for the likes of conservative Democrats in the Senate? And 2). Will the lag time between passage of the Senate bill, and a vote on that final bill shake loose any Democrats, nervous about the ramifications of voting for a controversial, and increasingly unpopular package of reforms.

Though they can't be amended, conference reports can be filibustered. And the conservative Democrats in the Senate are so entrenched in their positions that Reid can't take their continued support for granted. Some of them are even demanding that certain provisions--most notably the public option--don't come back to life when Reid and other Senate health care principals sit down with their counterparts in the House.

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Rep. John Murtha's (D-PA) office is shooting down a rumor that the long-time Congressman could retire in 2010 -- despite having asked the DCCC for a memo on how his war-chest could legally be spent if he were to do so.

The request to the DCCC was made in late October, The Hill reports. Murtha spokesman Matthew Mazonkey responded to the news: "Congressman Murtha is not retiring and looks forward to winning reelection to a 20th term in 2010."

Murtha's office and the DCCC both told The Hill that the memo was obtained in response to an inquiry by one of Murtha's constituents, who worried that retiring members of Congress might be able to put campaign money to personal use. The Hill points out that this explanation "seemed strained to some observers," since his office could have easily informed a constituent that this would be illegal.

If Murtha were to retire, it could present a headache to Democrats. His district narrowly voted for John McCain in 2008 -- the only Congressional district in the whole country to switch from John Kerry in 2004 to the Republican column in 2008.

A new Rasmussen poll says that it's a tight race for a Republican-held Senate seat in Missouri, a state that voted for John McCain in 2008, with possibly a slight edge for the Democrats.

The numbers: Democratic Secretary of State Robin Carnahan 46%, Republican Rep. Roy Blunt 44%, within the ±4.5% margin of error. Back in September, Rasmussen had them tied at 46% each.

It's interesting that Democrats would be competitive and perhaps even ahead in this state, in the midst of an apparently tough national environment.

The poll finds that only 40% of Missouri voters favor the health care bill, to 57% against. But Carnahan leads not only among those in favor of the plan, but even among those are "somewhat opposed" to it.

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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