TPM News

Karl Rove did his second and final day of testimony before Congress about his role in the U.S. attorney firings today. And we're getting more confirmation that that role was more extensive than he's yet let on.

The Washington Post and New York Times have obtained emails that offer glimpses into Rove's role in the firing of certain of the U.S. attorneys. They jibe closely with many similar emails that were released last year as part of a Justice Department inspector general report which essentially found that the firings were engineered by Rove and other White House officials.

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National Democrats are taking steps to mobilize supporters in the health care debate, with DCCC chairman Chris Van Hollen gearing up to hold a tele-town hall this Friday to discuss the issues with the folks at the grassroots level.

The tele-town hall will be held this Friday, at 2:30 p.m. ET.

"With all the fast-breaking developments this week," Van Hollen says in an e-mail sent out to the DCCC's support list, "I wanted to gather our most dedicated supporters like you to provide an update on where we stand, answer your questions, and discuss our plan for action on health care reform."

Check out the full e-mail, after the jump.

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Of the 53 progressives who have signed a letter saying they won't abide by the compromises Democratic leaders offered to Blue Dogs, none sit on the House Energy and Commerce Committee--the panel where health care legislation originally stalled, necessitating the concessions in the first place.

That leaves the legislation in decent shape to pass out of the committee in time for August recess. But this throws the bill's prospects on the floor into some doubt. If the compromises Blue Dogs fought for--particularly a public option that isn't tied to Medicare--are included in the legislation, and progressives stick to their pledge, then the bill won't have enough votes to pass. But if the public option were to be restrengthened, it could alienate enough Blue Dogs to similarly imperil the legislation.

Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) just announced that Congressional progressives have 53 signatures on the letter that says their caucus won't vote for legislation that contains the Blue Dog compromise.

Woolsey spoke at a rather raucous press conference happening right now outside the Capitol building. (You can watch live on

Several members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, speaking at this presser, said they won't vote for legislation that doesn't include a "robust public option."

In a letter to be delivered to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House health care leaders, Congressional progressives will reject a compromise Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) forged with Blue Dog Democrats to advance legislation. "We regard the agreement reached by Chairman Waxman and several Blue Dog members of the [Energy and Commerce] Committee as fundamentally unacceptable," it reads.

This agreement is not a step forward toward a good health care bill, but a large step backwards. Any bill that does not provide, at a minimum, for a public option with reimbursement rates based on Medicare rates - not negotiated rates - is unacceptable.

You can read the letter, the text of which was obtained by TPMDC, below the fold. It was being circulated for signatures until early this afternoon*, and could be released officially later today. Members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus are hoping 50 or more members will sign on, to prove they have enough votes to kill the final bill. Earlier today, over 30 had added their names to it, according to one source, but that number could have grown. We'll get you more details as they're made available.

Late update: House Progressives have announced that they've rounded up 53 signatures--if every one of them legitimately votes against a bill that incorporates the compromises the Blue Dogs extracted, they would kill it.

Late, late update: * After making it to 50 signatures, progressives will continue to seek signatures, hoping to achieve 60.

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If it was up to reformers, Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) probably wouldn't be anywhere near the heart of health care negotiations. But unfortunately for them, he's right in the middle of the action. Yesterday he said he'd vote against the legislation he's helped craft in the Senate Finance Committee unless Democratic leaders in both the House and Senate guaranteed they wouldn't make it any more liberal. And now he's suggesting that, after months of delay, the committee probably won't settle on a final product before adjourning for August recess at the end of next week.

Enzi's access infuriates liberals--but in a way his presence at the negotiating table is emblematic of the Finance Committee's entire process.

If after the Democrats' historic election in November, I had suggested that one of the Senate's most conservative Republicans would stand a chance of hijacking President Obama's health care proposal, you might have waved off the threat, and rightly so. But thanks to Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus--who has insisted on passing a consensus bill at the expense of a number of liberal goals--that's basically what's happening.

Enzi, the ranking member on the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, isn't without health care knowledge--but he's also not the sort of Republican who comes to mind when Democrats need a few Republicans to pass a major piece of legislation. He probably less in common with Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Susan Collins (R-ME) than do most Democrats. In fact, he vociferously opposed the HELP Committee's reform bill, and is basically insisting that that bill, and House legislation, be completely scrapped before he and other conservatives hop on board. But despite that distinctly GOP-first outlook, Baucus gave him a seat at the table.

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A senior American military adviser in Baghdad, whose memo arguing that the U.S. should leave Iraq is currently the top story on the New York Times website, is also the author of an unhinged online screed against health-care reform.

The health-care post, by Colonel Timothy Reese, sketches far-fetched scenarios about forced abortions and accuses President Obama of being "deceitful" in telling Americans they can keep their doctor under his plan. Its harsh tone raises questions about an active duty officer inserting himself into the political arena. And it suggests that that his widely-publicized military advice -- which was posted on the same blog as the health-care post -- should perhaps be treated more skeptically than is currently being done.

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Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO) is in a bit of a murky situation, as to whether he believes President Obama was in fact born in the United States, in the wake of comments he made the other day that seemed to back up the various objections made by the Birthers.

Greg Sargent asked Blunt's office whether he believes Obama is legitimately the president, and they instead complained that the video had been edited. Greg asked again what Blunt believes, and still did not get a straight answer.

In response, Mike Stark at Fire Dog Lake has released his full videos. In their first encounter, Blunt made a barely-audible comment that seemed to indicate to he believed Obama was born in the United States. Then Stark went back a second time:

Stark asked Blunt for confirmation that he believes Obama was born in America. "I don't have any reason not to believe that," Blunt said. When Stark asked about Birthers being "kooky," Blunt then immediately dignified them. "What I don't know is why the president can't produce a birth certificate," said Blunt. "I don't know anybody else that can't produce one. And I think that that's a legitimate question -- no health records, no birth certificate."

Stark e-mailed us a lengthy comment, available after the jump.

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A new Rasmussen poll out this morning shows that President Obama may have some work to do with the American public at today's "Beer Summit," with an overall negative review of his handling of the Gates-Crowley situation so far:

How do you rate the way the President has handled the situation over the past week?

13% Excellent
17% Good
18% Fair
44% Poor
8% Not sure

The Hill reports that some liberal members of the Senate are toying with the idea of stripping Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) of his chairmanship of the Finance Committee. Well..."toying" maybe a bit too strong. But they're not happy. Without naming names, they're nodding toward the idea of creating a referendum system, which would allow caucus members to decide every two years whether particular committee chairmen get to keep their gavels.

Most senators would be in fine shape under such a system--but Baucus hasn't won many friends over the years. He was instrumental in the passage of Bush tax cuts and in Republican Medicare reforms and has provoked the ire of senior Democrats many times in the past. In 2003, The New Republic suggested stripping Baucus of his seniority on the Finance Committee; and in a 2006 article that's been lost to the magazine's archive abyss its editors argued that he should be kicked off the Finance Committee altogether.

Not to suggest that anything like that anything like this is in the works. But in addition to past heresies, Baucus' broken health care process--and the degree to which he's let that process be held hostage by Republicans--hasn't gone unnoticed by many of his peers.