TPM News

What a difference a week makes. After casting votes to kill the Senate health care bill, Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Susan Collins (R-ME) are meeting with high-level White House officials as Democrats try to reach sixty votes.

When Harry Reid announced that his health care bill would include a public option, but that Washington would allow individual states to opt out, it left him basically no wiggle room. He lost the cautious support of Snowe and suddenly needed to run the table in his caucus.

In the hours and days afterward, it became clear that a clean sweep would be difficult, if not impossible. Days before Thanksgiving recess, leaders began negotiating with conservative Democratic hold outs on a possible compromise, modeled on Snowe's trigger plan. And if you wanted some evidence that, on balance, the discussions are currently favoring the centrists, Tuesday offered a pretty clear picture of that.

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The health care debate has been something of a prize bonanza for members of Congress facing the ire of the Tea Party Patriots. First, tea partiers sent members thousands of tea bags. Since then, there's been salt and pink slips. And today comes the rubber chickens.

According to a Tea Party Patriot email sent early this morning, tea partiers will gather on Capitol Hill at 11:30 this morning to deliver rubber chickens to each Senator that voted to allow debate on the health care bill on Nov. 21.

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Gen. David Petraeus appeared on Morning Joe this morning to discuss the plans for Afghanistan laid out in the president's speech last night -- and said the U.S. isn't "trying to make Sweden in Afghanistan."

"I think the overriding importance of why we went there, what we must do, the important objectives on the ground in Afghanistan, are quite evident to all of us," said Petraeus when asked how public disapproval of a prolonged stay in Afghanistan might affect troop morale and recruiting.

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Via Spencer Ackerman, it looks like President Obama is trying to solidify support for his escalation in Afghanistan on the right, with one of his top advisers set to give a speech at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. And the discussion around the speech will be moderated by the adviser to Gen. Stanley McChrystal who is known as the architect of the surge in Iraq.

Spencer explains two reasons why this is an interesting choice of venue for Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michéle Flournoy:

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Bush White House officials met with top CIA honchos to discuss the agency's torture tapes that later were destroyed, according to new documents obtained recently by the ACLU.

An email from February 22, 2003 reveals that the meeting was called to discuss how the CIA should respond to a letter from Rep. Jane Harman advising the agency not to destroy the tapes. The White House's participation in discussions of the issue of the tapes was previously known. But the February 2003 email is the earliest known record of the White House's participation.

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Speaking at the National Press Club this morning, White House Budget Director Peter Orszag confirmed that in high level discussions between Democratic health care principals just about every possible public option compromise is on the table.

"There are many sensitive discussions that are ongoing," Orszag said. "I'll just say there are a lot of those discussions going on - opt outs, opt ins, triggers and I'll leave it at that"

Last month, TPMDC broke the news that Senate Democratic leadership had initiated discussions with Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) and Democratic health care swing voters about a compromise that would require only states that failed to meet insurance affordability standards to offer a public option.

Pressed on the public option, Orszag offered up his support for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

"My job is hard enough, I'm going to let Senator Reid do his," Orszag said. "He is managing the movement in the senate and he is confident he is going to get where he needs to be."

Additional reporting by Christina Bellantoni

McCain Challenges Obama In Private Meeting CNN reports that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) challenged President Obama on Afghanistan policy, at a meeting yesterday with members of Congress: "Three GOP sources told CNN that Sen. John McCain used the meeting to directly challenge the president on his exit strategy. The sources said that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell deferred to McCain, who questioned the concept of announcing now plans to begin withdrawing in July, 2011. These sources said the president responded to McCain by promising that the withdrawal would be based on conditions on the ground."

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will have lunch with Vice President Biden at 12:35 p.m. ET. He will meet with Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) at 3:25 p.m. ET, and will meet with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) at 4:10 p.m. ET.

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