TPM News

The polls that have been conducted since President Obama's speech to Congress on Wednesday night collectively suggest that Obama improved his position on the issue of health care.

• Democracy Corps (D) conducted a dial-tested focus group of debate-watchers in Denver, Colorado, made up of swing voters who were almost evenly divided 54%-46% between Obama and John McCain in the 2008 election. Among this group, support and opposition of the health care plan went from 46%-46% before the speech, to 66%-30% afterward. In addition, before the speech only 44% described the plan as "the right kind of change," with 52% saying it was not. That number then shifted to 50%-40% after the speech.

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Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) told reporters today that while non-citizens won't be barred, under Senate Finance Committee legislation from entering health insurance exchanges, the exchanges themselves will require all consumers to show proof of citizenship, in order to insure that undocumented residents don't receive any federal subsidies.

"You can't prevent someone from being able to purchase insurance," Conrad said. "They would not get any government assistance.... What we're trying to prevent is anybody who is here illegally from getting any federal benefit."

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In the annals of damage control strategies, this one from Bonner & Associates may go down as one of the least effective ever: We may have forged 13 letters to lawmakers about climate change, on behalf of our coal industry client. But definitely not 14!

Yesterday we reported that congressional investigators had found a fourteenth forged letter to a lawmaker criticizing the recent climate change bill, purporting to come from a Virginia American Legion post, but actually sent by Bonner, the Washington-based astroturf lobbying firm, on behalf of a coal-industry client.

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President Obama spoke at a wreath-laying ceremony at the Pentagon this morning to commemorate the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. Here are his full remarks, as released by the White House.

THE PRESIDENT: Secretary Gates, Admiral Mullen and members of the Armed Forces, fellow Americans, family and friends of those that we lost this day -- Michelle and I are deeply humbled to be with you.



Eight Septembers have come and gone. Nearly 3,000 days have passed -- almost one for each of those taken from us. But no turning of the seasons can diminish the pain and the loss of that day. No passage of time and no dark skies can ever dull the meaning of this moment.



So on this solemn day, at this sacred hour, once more we pause. Once more we pray -- as a nation and as a people; in city streets where our two towers were turned to ashes and dust; in a quiet field where a plane fell from the sky; and here, where a single stone of this building is still blackened by the fires.



We remember with reverence the lives we lost. We read their names. We press their photos to our hearts. And on this day that marks their death, we recall the beauty and meaning of their lives; men and women and children of every color and every creed, from across our nation and from more than 100 others. They were innocent. Harming no one, they went about their daily lives. Gone in a horrible instant, they now "dwell in the House of the Lord forever."

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Republican Rep. Joe Wilson's shout heard round the world has turned into a political food fight and a minor scandal for the GOP. By blurting "you lie" during the President's address, Wilson was insinuating--wrongly--that Democratic health care legislation would provide federal subsidies to undocumented immigrants to buy health insurance. But though Wilson's allegation was false, and the political impact has been largely negative, Democratic leaders on the Senate Finance Committee seem to think it's worth fixing the non-existent problem Wilson was complaining about.

"We really thought we'd resolved this question of people who are here illegally, but as we reflected on the President's speech last night we wanted to go back and drill down again," said Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND), according to Time. The incident reportedly has led Finance chairman Max Baucus to insert a provision in his legislation to require participants in the health insurance exchanges to provide proof of citizenship.

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It turns out that the fundraising avalanche for Rep. Joe Wilson's (R-SC) Democratic opponent Rob Miller, in the wake of Wilson's "You lie!" outburst during President Obama's speech, also cuts the other way, too.

Wilson has now taken in more than $200,000 since the outburst, during which time he has hit the radio and TV talk show circuit and launched his own fundraising effort.

It's not as much as Miller's $750,000 from outraged liberals, but it's not chump change, either. And seeing as how the right was a bit slower to mobilize in fundraising over this, in comparison to the immediate flood of donations to Miller from liberals, this could shape up as a real race for money.

An official with the DC Harbor Patrol just told us definitively that no rounds were fired, that the Coast Guard was just conducting a training exercise.

CNN had been reporting that shots had been fired at a "suspicious vessel."

Obama had traveled to the Pentagon for a ceremony commemorating the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The Washington Post reports: "D.C. police spokeswoman Traci Hughes said the incident near the Memorial Bridge was a training exercise."

More here.

CNN is reporting that the Coast Guard has fired on a vessel in the Potomac River in Washington, D.C., after it entered a restricted area.

But MSNBC reports the Coast Guard is denying that shots were fired, and the Washington Post is calling the incident a "training exercise."

Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), chairman of the Armed Services Committee and the top Senate Democrat on military issues, will give a floor speech today urging the president to hold off on sending more U.S. troops to the war in Afghanistan, and instead focus on strengthening the Afghan army and police force.

Here's the full text of his speech as prepared for delivery, released by his office:


Today we mark a solemn anniversary. Eight years ago this morning, our nation was attacked by terrorist extremists motivated by hatred and bent on destruction. It is always appropriate to remember the shock of that day, the innocent lives lost, and the efforts our nation has made since that day to ensure that Afghanistan, the nation that hosted those terrorists, cannot again become a safe haven for terrorists seeking to attack us. But today is an especially appropriate occasion to take stock of those efforts, and consider how best to continue them.

I recently returned from a trip to Afghanistan, where I was joined by my colleagues Senators Jack Reed and Ted Kaufman. The situation in Afghanistan is serious. Security has deteriorated. But if we take the right steps, we can ensure that Afghanistan does not revert to a Taliban-friendly government that could once again provide a safe haven for al Qaeda to terrorize us and the world.

The Obama administration's new strategy, focusing on securing the Afghan population's safety and partnering with the Afghan security forces in that effort, is an important start at reversing the situation in Afghanistan. The change in strategy has led our forces, in the words of General McChrystal's Counterinsurgency Guidance, to "live, eat and train together [with the Afghan security forces], plan and operate together, depend on one another, and hold each other accountable....and treat them as equal partners in success." The Guidance goes on to say that the success of the Afghan security forces "is our goal."

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While the liberal policy community in Washington mostly acknowledges that the health care plan put forward by Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) falls short of its counterparts in the House and Senate, they also believe it would be an improvement over the status quo. But at least one of the measures, reportedly supported by Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), is so poorly designed that it has some critics downright worried.

"The Baucus plan is going to create all kinds of incentives to avoid hiring low income people," says Edwin Park of the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. Shortly after Baucus unveiled his proposal, CBPP--a respected policy shop that tilts liberal--released a report warning about this very possibility.

"It's the one [measure] that we've been worried about in the Finance Committee discusions or months now," Park warned.

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