TPM News

All the news coverage these last few days has focused on the developments in the Senate Finance Committee. And for good reason! That's where all the news is. But that may obscure the fact that there's another health care bill that's been voted out of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, and a final package emerging in the House of Representatives, and each of these will help shape the bill President Obama hopes to sign.

Before August recess, each of the three House committees with jurisdiction over health care reform approved different versions of the same so-called "tri-committee bill". Over the break, the chairmen of those committees, working with leadership and the Democratic caucus, made progress on stitching those bills together into a package that will be voted on by the entire chamber. That work continues, and yesterday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House will pass a bill "when we're ready," but that she's not waiting for the Senate to move ahead first.

Things haven't matured quite that much in the Senate. The Finance Committee will hold hearings on its bill next week, and the current thinking is that the legislation will likely pass with only Democrats (or Democrats plus Republican Olympia Snowe of Maine). When that's done, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid--working with Finance Chair Max Baucus, HELP Comittee leaders, and the White House--will take the lead merging the two bills into a final product that he thinks can overcome a filibuster, and then pass with at least 51 votes. This will mostly happen behind closed doors.

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Former Miss California Carrie Prejean, who became a conservative darling after saying marriage should be between a man and a woman at the Miss USA pageant, drew a standing ovation at the Values Voter Summit in Washington today.

She said she had learned to stick to her principles even when it's not easy -- even, say, when it costs you a Miss USA crown.

"Even though I didn't win the crown that night," she said, apparently trying to collect herself despite a wave of emotion, "I know that the Lord has so much of a bigger crown in heaven for me."

The crowd got up and cheered.

At the pageant, Prejean told judge Perez Hilton, "I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anybody out there, but that's how I was raised." In June, Donald Trump fired Prejean from her Miss California gig for failing to make official appearances, which was part of her contract.

Video after the jump.

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Ex-Bush official Scott Bloch was granted a law license last year after the staff of a DC court didn't notice that he is under criminal investigation by the FBI -- and failed to flag that fact to the Committee on Admissions, despite extensive documentation provided by Bloch.

He now practices at a business law firm in the District he joined several months ago. The clerk of the court for the D.C. Court of Appeals revealed the error to TPMmuckraker today after we inquired about the case.

In October 2008, Bloch ended a rocky tenure leading the Office of Special Counsel during the Bush Administration that was marked by charges of retaliation against his employees and politicization of the agency in charge of protecting the rights of federal workers.

But one scandal refused to go away: while being probed for the alleged retaliation, he allegedly destroyed evidence and, investigating Bloch for obstruction of justice, the FBI raided his home and office.

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According to Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), 95 percent of our health care problems would be fixed if we allowed people to buy their own insurance. Plus a little tort reform.

In this utopian world, "You own your health care just like you own your auto insurance," Bachmann said. One might ask, how would that lower costs? "You can band together with whomever you want," she said, "so you have purchasing power."

"It's called freedom!" she said to whoops and cheers. She was speaking, along with Reps. Tom Price (R-GA) and Chris Smith (R-NJ), at a health care Q&A, part of the Values Voter Summit in Washington.

The hour-long panel was a lesson in how removed many conservatives are from the health care debate the rest of us are having. Insurance company regulations, preventive care, getting insurance for people who can't afford it -- these things are replaced with calls for tort reform, making sure abortion isn't federally funded and lauding Medicare out of one side of the mouth while attacking government run health care out of the other.

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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.

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