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Sens. Ben Nelson (D-NE), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) issued the following statement regarding Max Baucus' health reform bill Thursday. Here's the full text:

"We commend Chairman Baucus for his efforts to forge a health care reform proposal that has the potential to gain broad bipartisan support. We are encouraged by his commitment to work with both Democrats and Republicans in the Finance Committee, and believe there is a responsibility for both sides of the aisle to work together to develop a bill that will earn strong support from the full Senate.

"Despite the differences that have emerged in this health care debate, there is much that we all agree on, including insurance market reforms that bar insurance companies from discriminating against people based on their health status or denying coverage due to pre-existing conditions. We also agree on prevention and wellness investments, critical delivery reforms like paying for quality rather than quantity, increasing access to care by improving health care provider training programs, and reducing uncompensated care by extending tax credits to American families to help pay for their health care coverage.

"Each of us has an obligation to put aside partisan views and to consider how health care reform addresses the needs and challenges faced by individual citizens and our economy as a whole. While we each have outstanding concerns we wish to see addressed, Senator Baucus has taken an important and critical step forward with this legislation, which is budget neutral and reduces future health care costs according to CBO. We will continue to work together in the full Senate on bipartisan health care reform that reduces costs, improves care, and expands access."

The new Rasmussen poll in Virginia finds that Democratic candidate Creigh Deeds is closing the gap against Republican Bob McDonnell -- and that McDonnell's hard-right grad school thesis could be sinking in further with the public.

The numbers: McDonnell 48%, Deeds 46%, within the ±4.5% margin of error.

Two weeks ago, when the thesis story had just broken, McDonnell was ahead 51%-42%. At the time, the pollster's analysis said it was possible that the thesis could become a bigger factor.

And here's the analysis of the new survey: "Fifty-two percent (52%) of voters now say the writings are at least somewhat important in terms of how they will vote. That's up from 36% in the previous survey. The number of unaffiliated voters who consider the writings important is up to 47%."

John Bolton implied today that political reasons are behind Defense Secretary Robert Gates's support for President Obama's decision to change the European missile defense strategy.

"Secretary Gates is, how should I put this, he's a survivor in Washington," Bolton told Fox News. "I think he saw the direction of the White House. Sen. Biden, Sen. Obama, Sen. Kerry, in their day, never believed in national missile defense ... They haven't changed their view at all. Secretary Gates has now moved in their direction. You can draw your own conclusions."

Martha MacCallum, the Fox anchor, asked if he was saying that Gates is compromising his military opinions to please the White House.

"I think the intelligence analysis they're basing this on is highly theoretical," he responded. "I would protect America."

Gates was the only member of the Bush cabinet to stay on with the Obama administration.

Bolton called the new missile defense plans "an unambiguously bad decision," and "naive and dangerous."

Video after the jump.

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In the wake of a scandal in which employees were caught on tape advising people posing as a prostitute and pimp in how to break the law, the House of Representatives voted today to strip ACORN of all federal funding.

The vote was 345-75 on a measured pushed by GOP House leader John Boehner. The Senate voted earlier this week to withdraw housing and urban development funding. But the House bill would remove all federal funding.

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David Barton, who critics call a "Christian nationalist history revisionist," comes off more as smooth-talking history buff than fiery evangelist.

Among the panel of experts appointed to guide the Texas textbook standards writing process, Barton is probably the most committed right-wing activist. He served as vice-chair of the Texas GOP for many years. He was responsible for the uproar over deletion of a reference to Christmas that the chair of the board of education tried to tamp down first thing this morning.

And when his turn to speak came at the hearing on new history textbook standards in Austin today, Barton was the only expert to bring along a slideshow.

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Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) warned today that the health care reform proposal put forth by Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) is "still fairly sketchy" and not representative of the final legislation.

"It's not the plan that necessarily moves through," Brown said on MSNBC. "That may be implicit in media coverage by it's not at all explicit, it's not at all clear."

Brown pointed out that there are four other proposed bills in Congress, included the one written by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, of which Brown is a member.

That bill, he said, includes 161 Republican amendments, giving it a "bipartisan flavor."

"But on the big questions," such as the public option, "there are partisan differences because there are philosophical differences," he said.

"While I want it to be bipartisan, my goal is not a bipartisan bill. It's a good bill that I hope Republicans vote for. And I believe they will in the end," Brown said.

Over on the main blog, Josh wrote the other day about the alleged terror plot which led police to raid an apartment building in Queens on Monday, and then a suburban Denver home yesterday. Josh noted that the Feds seem to being playing this one a lot closer to the vest than in other cases of recent years -- which could be a sign that it's more serious.

So let's take stock of what we know...

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The Rev. Peter Marshall is one of the "experts" appointed by the Texas State Board of Education who has come under fire for his lack of academic credentials and unapologetic right-wing Christian agenda.

Testifying today at the board of ed hearing on controversial new social studies standards, Marshall didn't disappoint. He got things started with a rousing 10-minute tour through a Christian-centric version of US history.

"It is obvious beyond contradiction that [the founders] structured American government on the natural rights of mankind, which they firmly believe were the gift of God," he said.

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The Virginia gubernatorial debate today showed both candidates running to the middle ground, with a very interesting pattern: Republican Bob McDonnell would stress areas of agreement he had with President Obama, in addition to wide policy disagreements -- while Democrat Creigh Deeds would say how much he respects and supports Obama, while also pointing out his differences.

It's a very interesting pattern, and perhaps indicative of Obama's current approval levels. He's not so massively popular as to have a Dem candidate rushing to tap into his brand name, but he's not unpopular to the point where he would be freely bashed by a top GOP candidate, either.

As examples, McDonnell tied Deeds to national Democrats on issues like cap-and-trade and the Employee Free Choice Act, which aren't big sellers in Virginia and which Deeds is not supporting, either. Deeds pointed out his respectful disagreement. "I've shared with him my concerns," he said, discussing how he's met the president during a recent campaign stop -- and that he looks forward to campaigning with him again.

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The Politico reports that House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) are worried about the potential damage to the party's reputation from a certain back-bencher: Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN).

This paragraph is buried deep within their latest piece on Boehner's efforts to keep up with the GOP base:

Sources say they [Boehner and Cantor] have been especially wary of the possible damage inflicted on the party's reputation by bomb-throwing Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), who last fall called for an investigation into whether members of Congress are "pro-America or anti-America."


They certainly are in a bind when it comes to Bachmann. On the one hand, the base loves her and she's frequently invited on television. On the other hand, she calls for revolution and warns against the government using Census data to round people up into internment camps. What's a body to do?

(Via Think Progress.)

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