TPM News

Will Republicans attend the health care summit at the White House next week?

They've voiced their loud complaints, and the White House has fired back, saying the GOP is hypocritical since the Republicans called for the televised meeting to begin with.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said today the Republicans haven't yet accepted the invitation that President Obama's staffers sent on Friday.

We can't get a straight answer out of Republicans, but not for lack of trying.

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As we look into which Republicans support Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) budget plan -- especially the parts that would partially privatize Social Security and dismantle Medicare -- we now have Rep. John Boozman (R-AR) on the record.

"Social Security and Medicare face great challenges and we are considering all proposals to make these programs successful for future generations. I haven't cosponsored any legislation at this point but when I do it will be a plan that is supported by the people of Arkansas," he said in a statement to TPMDC.

Boozman, who is running for Sen. Blanche Lincoln's (D-AR) Senate seat, sent TPMDC a similarly noncommittal statement about Ryan's overall budget last week.

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White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said today the proposed insurance rate hikes from Anthem Blue Cross in California that we've been writing about will serve as a backdrop for President Obama's health care summit next week.

Gibbs struck an ominous tone, suggesting that if reform doesn't pass now, there are more increases to come. It's an issue the Democrats seized on recently as they attempt to push a final measure over the goal line.

"People are getting letters in the mail now. They got them in California. Your health insurance is going to go up almost 40 percent from last year to this year. That's a preview of what's going to happen if we don't do anything," Gibbs said.

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The scramble for a new Democratic Senate candidate in Indiana, with the sudden retirement of Sen. Evan Bayh and his expected replacement by the state Democratic Party, has seen a lot of attention focused on some of the state's Democratic House members -- which could in turn set off an additional scramble to fill one of their seats, should they decide to run.

A Democratic source in Indiana filled us in on the possible candidates for the seats of three Dem House members who could conceivably become the new Senate nominee: Joe Donnelly, Brad Ellsworth and Baron Hill. (Most speculation has centered on Ellsworth and Hill, though Donnelly is not out of the question, either.) If any of these three were to accept the Democratic nomination for Senate and subsequently vacate their own nominations for the House, the party would go through an internal process to replace them as Congressional candidates.

The Democratic Party precinct chairs within the district, who are elected from each of the state's election precincts, would meet for a caucus at which they would vote for a new candidate. If more than two people were to run for a seat, and nobody were to win a majority at first, voting would continue until somebody reached 50-percent-plus-one. In this kind of process, different local allegiances and records in office can have a genuine role to play among the hundreds of people voting in the contest. "Needless to say, that is a more interesting process than the state mechanism," the source said.

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Prominent right-wing columnist Joseph Farah is threatening to sue Newsweek, after the magazine reported that he believes President Obama was not born in the U.S.

Farah, the founder and editor of WorldNetDaily (WND), claims he's never said that -- he just wants Obama to release his birth certificate, in order to put "concerns" about the issue to rest.

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Progressive senators are calling on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to use reconciliation to end the health care reform deadlock. In a letter co-signed by Sens. Mike Bennet (D-CO), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) today, the group calls on Reid to use reconciliation to pass health care reform with a public option attached.

"Although we strongly support the important reforms made by the Senate-passed health reform package, including a strong public option would improve both its substance and the public's perception of it," the senators write. "The Senate has an obligation to reform our unworkable health insurance market -- both to reduce costs and to give consumers more choices."

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Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks this morning in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, at the funeral of Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, who died last week. Read her remarks in full after the jump.

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For years, thousands of donors have poured millions of dollars into Sen. Evan Bayh's (D-IN) coffers, helping him to establish a war chest of contributions that most politicians would give their right arm to have. But now that Bayh's decided not to run for reelection, the decision of what to do with the $13 million in campaign cash he has left will be Bayh's alone. Not surprisingly, people are already lining up to get a piece.

FEC rules dictate what Bayh can do with his campaign money, but within their confines is a lot of leeway for Bayh to reward political allies or establish a beach head for future electoral politics. The choice is his alone.

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