Here's a new rule of thumb if you ever become a powerful senator: If you want to kill a provision in a bill, lie about it publicly, then tell everybody the measure is dead because it's widely misunderstood.
Yesterday, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), ranking member on the Senate Finance Committee, told a crowd they were right to worry that Medicare reimbursement for end of life counseling by physicians might amount to euthanizing seniors. Today, he announces that the provision has been dropped because it "could be misinterpreted."
Late update: And, if that wasn't bad enough, Grassley's also patting himself on the back for delaying health care reform, which in turn created political space for the town hall disruptions.
Late late update: Here's more from Grassley: "Maybe others can defend a bill like the Pelosi bill that leaves major issues open to interpretation, but I can't," Grassley added.
Another way of putting this is that Grassley's shocked--shocked!--that anybody would write a bill that doesn't explicitly disavow death panels. In fact, all bills must clearly delineate that even their most antiseptic provisions aren't, in fact, secret passageways into death panels.
Harry Reid's office is quickly moving to quash a rumor that got floated in the Nevada press.
The Las Vegas Sun's report on GOP Rep. Dean Heller's (R) decision to not run for Senate -- which mainly focused on wanting to avoid being associated with Sen. John Ensign -- also contained this line: "A Republican operative, granted anonymity to speak freely, speculated that Reid assured Heller that he would not stand in the way of a 2012 run and would even tacitly help him by directing his fundraising network toward Heller."
Reid's campaign manager Brandon Hall shot that down to the Sun that any deal had been made regarding Ensign's Senate seat: "It's a ridiculous claim. Dean Heller made the decision on his own. You'd have to ask him what led to that decision."
In an e-mail to TPM, Reid spokesman Jim Manley was even clearer "The key word is 'speculated,'" Manley wrote. "As we made clear in the story, that theory is absolutely ridiculous. It didn't happen. Period."
A man who held a sign reading 'Death To Obama, Death To Michelle And Her Two Stupid Kids' at a town hall in Maryland yesterday has been detained by the Secret Service, according to the AP.
The Hill first reported on the sign yesterday afternoon. The man in question was attending a town hall event held by Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) at Hagerstown Community College.
Washington County Sheriff's Captain Peter Lazich said the as-yet-unidentified, 51-year-old man was detained by deputies near the entrance to the college after receiving multiple calls from people in attendance at the event. According to Lazich, the man was turned over to the Secret Service by the sheriff's office.
Barbara Golden, special agent in charge of the agency's Baltimore field office, said Thursday that an investigation is ongoing but declined further comment. A spokesman at the agency's Washington headquarters also declined to discuss the investigation.
Sen. Cardin's office did not immediately return a call for comment.
Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) has a new Web ad against his likely Democratic opponent Charlie Melancon, attacking the Dem for voting for government-run health care. The fun part here is that Melancon is a Blue Dog who voted against the current health care bill in the committee:
Vitter's ad uses as its citations two votes by Melancon, against amendments offered by Republican House members that would have presumably limited government health care in some fashion or another, using this as a vote in favor of government health care.
"It's odd that David Vitter put out an ad attacking Charlie for voting for government-run health care," Louisiana Dem spokesman Kevin Franck told TPM, "when I get a lot of calls complaining that Charlie voted against government-run health care."
Franck also put out a press release with a rather suggestive line: "Maybe David Vitter has been pampered so much by the company of those who are paid to agree with him, that he can't tell the difference between the truth and a lie." Franck had no comment when asked whether he was endorsing certain rumors.
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) is now backing up Sarah Palin's "death panel" line and Chuck Grassley's assertion that the Democrats would "pull the plug on grandma," citing as proof that the Democrats shot down an amendment he'd offered for an absolute prohibition on rationing based on comparative effectiveness research:
"Their plan -- they're not gonna speak it, because they know if they speak it, it'll never pass -- their plan is to control costs by limiting options," said Coburn. "That's how England controls costs, that's how Canada controls costs. They give you access to a waiting line. And unfortunately, tons of people die every year."
The pressure is growing for John Ensign to break his silence over his affair with a staffer who was his close friend's wife.
Rep. Dean Heller has become the first high-ranking Nevada Republican to call for the senator to address the numerous unanswered question about his torrid liaison with Cindy Hampton. Speaking in a televised interview to Las Vegas Sun political columnist Jon Ralston -- who has led the way in keeping the story in the spotlight -- Heller said: "I don't want to speculate, but until John talks, we haven't seen the end of it."
Less than a day after Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) validated cooked-up fears that Democratic health care legislation would create "death panels," it appears, according to the Wall Street Journal, that the Senate Finance Committee will not be including a provision to reimburse Medicare doctors who provide end-of-life counseling to dying patients in its bill.
Grassley is the Finance Committee's ranking member, and one of six senators on the panel working to craft a bipartisan health care bill.
Until a few days ago, the measure--which is included in House legislation--was completely uncontroversial. But with opponents desperate to undermine support for health care reform, high profile Republicans are now equating it to "pulling the plug on grandma," reaffirming the fears of misinformed protesters who are lashing out at this and other misconceptions at health care town halls across the country.
"[W]e should be trying to achieve reforms by moving in the opposite direction--toward less government control and more individual empowerment. Here are eight reforms that would greatly lower the cost of health care for everyone." Sounds like a policy brief written by House Republicans, right?
The above passage comes from a Wall Street Journal op-ed written by Whole Foods CEO John Mackey. His solution for the health care crisis includes common Republican ideas--"Enact tort reform to end the ruinous lawsuits that force doctors to pay insurance costs of hundreds of thousands of dollars per year"--to unexplained platitudes--"Now employer health insurance benefits are fully tax deductible, but individual health insurance is not. This is unfair."
But conveniently, it also includes the following advice: "Recent scientific and medical evidence shows that a diet consisting of foods that are plant-based, nutrient dense and low-fat will help prevent and often reverse most degenerative diseases that kill us and are expensive to treat."
Translation: Whole Foods is the solution to all of America's health care woes.
The White House's health care industry coalition may be about to pay off. In spades.
A new coalition called Americans for Stable Quality Care--which includes the American Medical Association, PhRMA, as well as more predictable groups like SEIU and FamiliesUSA--will launch their first pro-reform ad later today as part of an August recess campaign that's expected to cost $12 million.
According to Politico, the ad--which is scheduled to run for two weeks and cost about $6 million on its own--will air in Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota and Virginia, home to a number of key congressional centrists, whose support for reform will be vital to its success.
Though PhRMA has recently been involved in a bit of a dust up with the White House, it will continue to participate in this and other pro-reform activities, and plans to spend as much as $150 million along the way.