TPM News

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) says there's no sense in trying at this point. The public option should be put aside for the moment, so that health care reform can pass unperturbed--particularly because the measure on offer has already been watered down to a great degree.

"I fought for a meaningful public option, both in the Senate Finance Committee and on the Senate floor," Rockefeller says in a new statement. "My version didn't pass out of committee and other versions were watered down. Unfortunately, there simply has not been enough support to date to pass a strong public option, despite these efforts."

I will continue to support viable options for enacting a robust public plan. Right now, however, there is no value for the American people in diminishing a meaningful public option so substantially that it exists in name only -- and that is why we must focus our attention on the many great private health insurance reform ideas on the table today.

Rockefeller took a similar position on the issue of drug reimportation--a policy he supports and which may have had enough votes to pass in the Senate, but which was met with resistance by leading Democrats seeking to preserve industry's support for health care reform. You can read the entire statement below the fold.

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With health care reform seemingly on the ascent, and insurance companies as ripe a target as ever, the Foundation for Patient's Rights--on offshoot of the Service Employees International Union--has launched a new ad in support of health care reform.

The ad, inspired by the revelation that California insurer Anthem Blue Cross plans to boost premiums by as much as 39 percent this year, will run in DC through Sunday, with a significant portion of the buy appearing on Fox News. The $250,000 spot will appear on cable TV, and on network television during the Sunday shows.

A new Franklin and Marshall poll of Pennsylvania has a lot of bad news for Sen. Arlen Specter, with the incumbent Democrat and former Republican viewed unfavorably by his state's voters and trailing his longtime nemesis, Republican former Rep. Pat Toomey, among the likely general election voters.

Among all registered voters, Specter is viewed favorably by only 32%, with an unfavorable rating of 45%. Only 25% said he deserves re-election, with 63% saying it is time for a change. Among those who say he doesn't deserve re-election, the most commonly listed reasons are his long time in office, and his party-switch.

The only good news for Specter is in the Democratic primary, in which he leads Rep. Joe Sestak by 33%-16%. But in the general election, the horse-race numbers show just how much the current enthusiasm gap has become destructive for the Democrats. Among all registered voters, Specter leads Toomey by 33%-29%, and Toomey leads Sestak by just 25%-22%, with very high undecideds in both cases. Among the more important category of likely voters, Toomey leads Specter by 44%-34%, and Toomey leads Sestak by 38%-20%.

Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons was caught by a local news team repeatedly fibbing about whether he traveled to Washington with a Reno woman who the reporters then saw getting off the same plane, and later getting into the governor's state SUV.

Kathy Karrasch, the woman with whom Gibbons traveled to Washington for the National Governors Association conference, has been publicly linked to the governor since he had to reimburse the state for over 800 text messages he sent to her over a five-week period in 2007.

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Yesterday, Toyota USA's president testified to Congress, saying the company failed to focus enough on how people were using their vehicles. Jon Stewart's response? "So it's our fault? Well I don't understand why people insist on trying to drive the world's largest novelty paperweights!"

Stewart added, "We're not f@*kin' em!"

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Senate To Vote On Modest Jobs Bill, Passage Likely The Senate is set to vote today on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-NV) $35 billion jobs bill. Final passage is expected after the bill cleared a Republican filibuster on Monday. The House of Representatives had previously passed a more ambitious $174 billion bill, though it is possible that it could simply be discarded and the Senate's bill adopted by the House.

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama and Vice President Biden will receive the presidential daily briefing at 10 a.m. ET, and the economic daily briefing at 10:30 a.m. ET. Obama will meet at 11 a.m. ET with senior advisers. Obama will address the Business Roundtable at 1 p.m. ET. He will participate in a 3:15 p.m. ET credentialing ceremony for foreign ambassadors. Obama and Biden will meet at 4:15 p.m. ET with Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke.

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Congressional Democrats say Thursday's health care summit is likely to clear the final hurdles to passing health care reform - and say that President Obama returning to the issue with a clear focus and a specific health care proposal makes it easier for them to get it done.

Health care reform was in hibernation after the special election in Massachusetts ended the 60-vote supermajority in the Senate, with some even declaring it dead and buried. But over the last few weeks there have been a series of developments that gave new life to health care reform. Democrats say the summit is the final step to securing House and Senate support for a compromise bill that could pass by the spring.

TPMDC has been surfacing where the momentum came from, with Congressional and Washington sources telling us that the White House at first seemed wary about spending political capital on something that was plummeting in the polls and which had wounded the party's chances at success in November.

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The push to revive the public option suffered a major setback today when White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the popular measure lacks the 50 votes it would need in the Senate to survive the budget reconciliation process. Gibbs' abruptness caught Senate Dem leadership by surprise, but what he said isn't really at odds with their own take. And yet, the number of public proponents of the plan keeps growing, and it's easy to remember a time when it seemed pretty clear that there were at least 50 votes for a public option in the Senate.

So what are the public option's chances in the Senate? Ostensibly, they're not very good.

"I think the public option ought to be done, but it's a long shot," said Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA). Specter is one of 23 signatories to a letter advocating passing the public option by way of reconciliation, so he has his eyes wide open. And there's some reason to believe this. The public option had four ardent Democratic opponents during the long fight over the Senate bill this past fall and winter: Sens. Ben Nelson (D-NE), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), and Joe Lieberman (I-CT).

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Rep. Baron Hill (D-IN) is still keeping the door open to the possibility of seeking the Democratic nomination for the Senate seat of retiring Democrat Evan Bayh. However, it should be remembered that if he does seek the Dem nomination, for which Rep. Brad Ellsworth is already a candidate, it will be through a process without a conventional primary.

As we have reported, the fact that nobody filed the petitions necessary to appear on the Democratic primary ballot means that the state Democratic Party's central committee has the authority to name a new candidate. That meeting of the committee will come some time after the May 4 primary, and before June 30.

"A lot of people are undecided on the state committee. Some are favoring me. Some are favoring Brad," Hill told CNN. He also added: "I think I have to make it sooner rather than later. I think I need to make it this week."

Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA)--who has signed a letter urging the Senate to pass the public option through the budget reconciliation process--says don't hold your breath.

"I think the public option ought to be done, but it's a long shot," Specter said on a conference call in response to a question from TPMDC.

"Regrettably the case, which started with the town meetings in August...has persuaded the American people that the public option would be a governmental takeover of health care," Specter went on. "It's really not, it's an option."

The public option actually has the support of a significant majority of the country. Pressed to square that fact with his sense that voters don't support it, Specter clarified: "I get that sense from my travels throughout the state and around the country. People are madder than hell at the government," he said.