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Jon Cohn over at The New Republic is reporting that, in early estimates, the Congressional Budget Office is finding that a robust public option, along the lines of the one recommended in the House health care bill, could save about $150 billion over 10 years--a notable chunk of the approximately $1 trillion Congress will need to finance an overhaul package.

Keep in mind, though, that the public option creates savings by driving down prices, and it can't do that nearly as effectively if it's prevented from setting below-market pay rates. But that's exactly what conservative Democrats are trying to do. At the same time, those Democrats are demanding that health care legislation do a better job of lowering health care costs. And that's just one of the contradictions inherent to the position of those attempting to scale back reform efforts.

A great nugget we missed from the portion of Doug Hampton's interview that aired last night...

Ever since the appearance last month of the famous letter Hampton wrote to Fox News -- asking for the network's assistance in exposing John Ensign's "relentless pursuit" of Hampton's wife Cindy -- there has been intense speculation that someone at Fox tipped off Ensign to the fact that Hampton was preparing to go public, prompting the Nevada senator to pre-emptively admit to the affair.

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Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) says he'd likely oppose health care reform legislation if it didn't include a public option--and that he'd have company. "I think a number of Democrats, and I among them, would have great difficulty voting for a bill without a public option," Brown told me today. "I don't want to say absolutely wouldn't. But I would have great difficulty voting for a bill without a public option."

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has similarly suggested that he'd oppose legislation without a public option.

Brown co-wrote the public plan provision in the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee bill with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)--a temporary member of that panel, who has nonetheless become a vocal proponent of the idea. In his capacity as a surrogate, Whitehouse has insisted that health care legislation include a government insurance option, though he hasn't come as close as his colleagues have to drawing a line in the sand.

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Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX), chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, released a statement about the inspector generals' report on President Bush's warrantless surveillance program.

I am pleased that the Administration has met this important obligation under the FISA Amendments Act. From the moment I learned of the Warrantless Surveillance Program, I have been committed to getting all the facts on the table. Today's report includes an unclassified discussion of the program that I hope will bring greater clarity for the public on what has been a troubling chapter in our nation's history.

Unfortunately, the bulk of the report is classified and cannot be released to the public. But the Committee will scrutinize every page and, wherever warranted, push the Administration to provide more information. If necessary, the Committee will investigate the matter ourselves.

Some readers will find the recounting of the program's history very troubling, but we need to cast light on such matters and subject them to public debate. Where the subject matter is too sensitive for public discussion, the Congress and the courts must still be involved. The FISA Amendments Act offers an excellent example of how the Congress can act to bring necessary oversight to important intelligence activities.

For many years, the Bush Administration chose to keep almost everyone in the dark about the Warrantless Surveillance Program. They didn't tell the FISA Court. They briefed only a select few in Congress. They didn't even tell some of the most experienced national security lawyers inside the Justice Department. This is not the way to conduct the business of national security. Our nation was founded on the principles of checks and balances, and all three branches of government must be involved in the process.

The FISA Amendments Act is important legislation. It created rigorous oversight mechanisms to review and control Executive Branch surveillance powers. It took what was a program that had no oversight--even from within the Executive Branch--and it established new requirements for judicial review, congressional oversight, and periodic reviews by agency inspectors general. It also called for the report that was released today, which I hope will be a big first step in bringing this program out from the shadows.

Moving forward, the Committee will continue to do its job of overseeing the intelligence activities of the U.S. Government, and we will continue to push for public disclosure wherever possible.

Sen. Roland Burris (D-IL) has made it official, announcing that he will not be running for a full term in 2010. In explaining the reasons why, Burris said that the strain of raising money would be too great, and the people of his state should come first.

"Political races have become far too expensive in this country," said Burris. "And in making this decision, I was called to choose between spending my time raising funds or spending my time raising issues for my state. I believe that the business of the people of the state of Illinois should always come first."

Burris reportedly raised only $20,000 last quarter. It should also be noted that polls have consistently shown that he would lose the Democratic primary, and that if nominated he would lose the general election, thanks to the controversies surrounding his appointment to the Senate by the later-impeached Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, released a statement on the inspector generals' report on President Bush's warrantless surveillance program:

This report, mandated by Congress last year, documents what many of us in Congress concluded long ago: President Bush's warrantless surveillance program was illegal from the beginning, and of questionable value. It clearly violated FISA and was based on legal analysis that was 'factually flawed.'

All the recommendations of the report should be promptly followed, and we in Congress will continue to carefully review today's surveillance activities to determine if further changes to FISA are appropriate. The refusal of key Bush Administration officials such as David Addington and John Yoo to cooperate with the IGs' review underscores the need for an independent commission with subpoena power to further review these issues, as I have called for.

As new controversies about the prior Administration's secret intelligence activities and the accuracy and completeness of intelligence briefings to Congress arise, this report offers a stark warning of the risks of executive branch overreach and the power of the executive to shield its activities from scrutiny. At the same time, this report reminds us of the many heroes of the past Administration who questioned these and other secret programs and stood up for the rule of law.

We've already published one timeline on the Ensign saga, but we figured that, what with the new revelations of recent days, it was worth compiling an updated one. So without further ado...

• Nov 2006: Ensign is easily reelected to the U.S. Senate from Nevada.

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Here are the line-ups for the Sunday talk shows this weekend:

• ABC, This Week: Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ).

• CBS, Face The Nation: Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Ranking Member Jeff Sessions (R-AL).

• CNN, State Of The Union: Sec. of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius; Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI); Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH); Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN); and Sen Kent Conrad (D-ND).

• Fox News Sunday: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX); House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA).

• NBC, Meet The Press: Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

So who exactly did call in that noise complaint against a fundraiser two weeks ago for Democratic House candidate Francine Busby (CA-50) -- the one that, through a bizarre series of events, culminated in a full-scale raid by the San Diego Sheriff's Department? One of the host's neighbors, it turns out, is very eager to clear her own name and say it wasn't her.

I just spoke with with Jeannie Goodsell, a retiree who lives immediately adjacent to the residence (though the lots are very large -- the houses are over 100 yards apart). The caller is believed by attendees to have been the same person who yelled obscenities and anti-gay slurs at the event -- and Goodsell doesn't want any confusion that this didn't happen from her house.

She said there was no noise at all. "We were home. We didn't even know that the party or whatever it was, the fundraiser, happened behind us," Goodsell told me. "We heard the helicopters that night, but every once in a while helicopters do fly over these orchards, so we didn't think anything about it." She only found out what happened from reporters who came by her home to ask her about it.

"What started bothering us is, it showed up in print that people directly west behind them started harassing them and yelling things about gays," said Goodsell. "We're liberal Democrats -- we have a Buddha on our table."

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