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Sen. Max Baucus' health care reform proposal doesn't have any friends on the right or left, and most of the support it does have comes from industry, and industry-backed House Blue Dogs. But though the skepticism of the Baucus plan is borne out of a number of flawed policy proposals, there are some genuinely good aspects to it, too. Herewith, the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of Baucuscare:


Fiscal responsibility: Yes, calls for "fiscal responsibility" seem to rear their ugly heads only when conservatives and conservative Democrats oppose the policy changes at stake. But liberal experts also agree: it's crucial that the costs of health care reform be covered, and that the reforms themselves address the problem of health care inflation. Baucus' bill succeeds on both scores. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities concludes "The proposed offsets in the Baucus plan are sound policies that would use resources in the health care system more efficiently.... [W]eakening or eliminating these offsets would not only result in a less efficient health care system but also make it more difficult to provide low- and moderate-income Americans with sufficient subsidies to afford health coverage." And the CBO finds that, via it's main financing mechanism and other measures, Baucus care would be a deficit reducer over both 10 and 20 year windows.

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This will come as a welcome moment of relief for House progressives and public option enthusiasts.

"I fully support the public option. The public option will be in the bill that passes the House," Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters today.

Last week, Pelosi said "This is about a goal. It's not about provisions. As long as our goal of affordability and accessibility and quality, meeting the four...goals that we have in the legislation, then we will go forward with that bill."

But all along she's been a strong proponent of the public option, and earlier in the process she insisted that a bill without a public option could not pass in the House.

Former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie, the GOP nominee for Governor of New Jersey, ended up having a very special (and, he says, a surprise) guest at a fundraiser last night: Former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL).

Christie told the Star-Ledger that a co-host of the event had invited Bush without notifying him, and he didn't know about it until he was on the way to the event itself. Also, Bush did not give a speech. However, Christie and Bush did get their picture taken together, and Christie said that the visit by Jeb "doesn't cause a problem for me" politically.

The Corzine campaign, which has sought to bring Christie down by reminding voters in this Democratic state that Christie himself was a Bush administration official, was quick to pounce last night in a statement: "Christie has vowed to do for New Jersey what George Bush did to the country, by embracing his massive tax cuts for big corporations that will force property taxes higher and drive us deeper into debt and deficit. If that's the economics he embraces, it's no surprise Christie is embracing Bush's brother,

President Obama, continuing his efforts to rally his base around health care reform, spoke at the University of Maryland today to a loud and sometimes rowdy crowd of students.

"Health care is more than details on a policy, it's about what country you want to be," he said. "We don't fear the future, we shape the future."

As Obama told stories about patients getting shafted by insurance companies -- a common tactic in his speeches -- the crowd booed so loudly Obama had to pause and ask what was going on.

"We're doing OK, everyone's doing OK," he said, and the boos turned to cheers.

The audience booed again when Obama mentioned the proposed bill released yesterday by Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus. The President replied, "Each bill has its strengths."

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In a new fundraising e-mail from the DCCC, Speaker Nancy Pelosi sought to mobilize supporters by giving them a serious warning: That 2010 is the toughest midterm election for Democrats ever.

"The Republican defenders of the status quo are shouting because they understand that this is the toughest Midterm Election that Democrats have ever faced," Pelosi writes. "They also understand that this is a critical month for health insurance reform and they are trying to deal a serious blow to President Obama's agenda for moving America forward."

Of course, most people would say the toughest midterm cycle for Democrats in modern memory was 1994, when the Dems lost eight Senate seats and 54 House seats -- and which also followed a failed attempt to guarantee universal health care.

Check out the full e-mail after the jump.

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Did Gale Norton, President Bush's far-right interior secretary, illegally use her position to benefit an oil company that later hired her? Justice Department investigators want to know, reports the Los Angeles Times.

In a nutshell, here's what DOJ is looking into:

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At the Virginia gubernatorial debate just now, Democratic nominee Creigh Deeds just agreed that some of the opposition to President Obama is motivated by racism -- and he included Rep. Joe Wilson's (R-SC) outburst during Obama's speech as an example.

After moderator David Gregory asked Deeds about the subject of racism, he responded: "I'd like to think in this country that we are beyond some things. But clearly, there is a hint of racism in some of the opposition to President Obama. That is crystal clear. I was very disturbed the other night at the outburst on the floor of the House. I thought that was unprecedented, and would not have occurred under past president -- and did not occur. I would hope we are broad enough as a people to be able to discuss our differences civilly."

As we told you yesterday, the Texas State Board of Education is meeting in Austin today for the first public discussion of new history textbook standards, which include a controversial section that would require knowledge of Newt Gingrich, Phyllis Schlafly, et al.

Before the board turned to social studies, the hearing got to an odd start when an animated member of the public testifying about the importance of health education declared, "I'm 56 years old and I'm a virgin." The chair promptly warned her to stay on topic.

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The administration will tackle malpractice reform -- which many conservatives have been calling for in the health care debate -- away from the legislative process, with President Obama asking Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today to give grants to governments and organizations that develop alternatives to the current system.

"The President thinks we should do this right now," Sebelius told reporters this morning, adding that reform can get done faster if it's not part of the larger health care reform debate in Congress.

Sebelius has 30 days to announce grants to states, local governments and health care organizations for developing, practicing and evaluating alternatives to the current medical liability system, according to a memo the President sent today.

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The Virginia gubernatorial debate is going on (a live stream is available here) and moderator David Gregory kicked off the questions by asking Republican nominee Bob McDonnell about his single worst Achilles' heel: The thesis he wrote in grad school, in which the 34-year old McDonnell denounced working women.

McDonnell responded by citing his own personal family life: His wife has been a working woman and mother for his whole political career, and he encouraged all three of his daughters to pursue master's degrees. He especially cited his oldest daughter, Jeanine, who has served in the Army in Iraq.

"I would say that's the ultimate working woman," said McDonnell. "I supported her going into the military and being able to defend this nation, and I'm proud of her."

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