TPM News

The invitations had barely landed in Congressional inboxes before Republican leadership started calling President Obama's upcoming White House health care summit a "backroom deal."

The Obama administration's invitation to the Feb. 25 summit informs members that text of a "proposed health insurance reform package" will be posted online before the meeting. A White House official tells TPMDC that the text will be the product of the discussions that have been ongoing between the House and Senate since each chamber passed their bills last year.

That's the sticking point for the GOP, who say Obama is inviting them to a meeting but doesn't really want their ideas if he already has a draft bill.

"A productive bipartisan discussion should begin with a clean sheet of paper," Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) said in a statement this weekend.

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Iowa Gov. Chet Culver (D) is the latest Democratic governor to find himself in trouble in the polls ahead of the 2010 elections. As the Hotline's Steve Shepard reports, the latest Des Moines Register poll shows Culver, first elected as Governor in 2006, trailing his most prominent potential GOP opponent, former Gov. Terry Barnstad, by more than 20 points.

Culver isn't the only sitting Democratic governor in poll trouble. Gov. Ted Strickland (D-OH) is locked in a tight race with Rep. John Kasich (R), the likely GOP gubernatorial nominee in the state. In Massachusetts, incumbent Gov. Deval Patrick (D) is locked in a tight reelection contest many observers say it will be tough for him to win.

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Anthem Blue Cross' proposed 39 percent rate increases in California have become a new rallying point for the Obama administration and Democrats eager to get health care reform across the finish line.

The issue gives President Obama and Democrats a new enemy that can help drive home the need to fix the health care system, and they won't be letting up any time soon, administration and Congressional sources tell TPMDC.

There will be Congressional hearings this month and Obama has held it up as an example.

Already they have seen results, with Anthem agreeing to delay the hikes until May.

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WaPo: White House Revamps Communications Strategy The Washington Post reports that the White House is retooling its communications strategy for this midterm election year. "It was clear that too often we didn't have the ball -- Congress had the ball in terms of driving the message," said communications director Dan Pfeiffer. "In 2010, the president will constantly be doing high-profile things to be the person driving the narrative."

NYT: After 9/11 Trial Plan, Holder Hones Political Ear The New York Times reports that Attorney General Eric Holder has started to work on his political skills, in the wake of controversy over the planned 9/11 terrorism trials: "'The political attacks over terrorism cases were 'starting to constrain my ability to function as attorney general,' he said in an interview last week. 'I have to do a better job in explaining the decisions that I have made," Mr. Holder also said, adding, 'I have to be more forceful in advocating for why I believe these are trials that should be held on the civilian side.'"

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On Meet The Press yesterday, Rachel Maddow challenged Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL) on the issue of the Miranda warning read to the attempted Christmas bombing suspect, correcting Schock's assertion that Abdulmutallab stopped talking after he was read his rights.

"What's the basis of the assertion that reading someone their Miranda rights in unsafe? We did that with every single person who's been arrested on terrorism charges since 9/11," Maddow said.

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Cheney: Obama Administration Should Thank Bush, Admit They Were 'Just Dead Wrong' On Iraq Appearing on This Week, former Vice President Dick Cheney attacked the Obama administration's handling of Iraq and other national security issues. "They opposed the surge that was absolutely crucial to our getting to the point we're at now with respect to Iraq. And for them to try to take credit for what's happened in Iraq strikes me as a little strange," said Cheney. "I think if -- if they had had their way, if we'd followed the policies they'd pursued from the outset or advocated from the outset, Saddam Hussein would still be in power in Baghdad today. So if they're going to take credit for it, fair enough, for what they've done while they're there, but it ought to go with a healthy dose of 'Thank you, George Bush' up front and a recognition that some of their early recommendations, with respect to prosecuting that war, were just dead wrong."

Biden: Cheney 'Trying To Rewrite History' Appearing on Meet The Press, Vice President Joe Biden fired back at his predecessor Dick Cheney's frequent criticism of the administration. "I'm not gonna guess about [Dick Cheney's] motive. All I know is he's factually, substantively wrong, on the major criticisms he is asserting. Why he's insisting on that - he either is misinformed or he is misinforming. But the facts are that his assertions are not accurate," said Biden, who also added: "It's almost like Dick is trying to rewrite history. I can understand where the-- why that would be, you know, an impulse."

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Obama Touts PAYGO Rule, Executive Order To Create Fiscal Commission In this weekend's YouTube address, President Obama touted the return of the Pay-As-You-Go rule, compared to the policies of the previous administration that passed massive tax cuts while simultaneously creating a new drug program that wasn't paid for. And Obama confirmed that he is creating a bipartisan Fiscal Commission by executive order:

"Because in the end, solving our fiscal challenge - so many years in the making - will take both parties coming together, putting politics aside, and making some hard choices about what we need to spend, and what we don't," said Obama. "It will not happen any other way. Unfortunately this proposal - which received the support of a bipartisan majority in the Senate - was recently blocked. So, I will be creating this commission by executive order. After a decade of profligacy, the American people are tired of politicians who talk the talk but don't walk the walk when it comes to fiscal responsibility. It's easy to get up in front of the cameras and rant against exploding deficits. What's hard is actually getting deficits under control. But that's what we must do."

Graham: Civilian Terror Trials Compromise Intelligence, Help Bin Laden In this weekend's Republican address, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) criticized the Obama administration's decision to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other terrorists in civilian criminal courts, instead of military commissions. Graham said that the 1995 Blind Sheikh trial, regarding the first World Trade Center bombing, compromised U.S. intelligence and aided Osama bin Laden:

"In the 1995 trial, because of civilian court rules, the government was required to disclose the identity of all known co-conspirators to the defense," said Graham. "One of the conspirators -- relatively obscure at the time -- was Osama bin Laden. Our intelligence services later learned this list made its way back to bin Laden tipping him off about our surveillance. A conviction was obtained in that trial, but valuable intelligence was compromised. The rest is history."

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Gov. Charlie Crist (R-FL) is presenting to the public a mocking "gift" regarding his rival in the Republican Senate primary, former state House Speaker Marco Rubio, to commemorate Valentine's Day weekend: An imaginary box of chocolates called the "Rubio Valentine's Day Sampler."

The sample box, an online gag posted by the Crist campaign, likens the supposedly conservative Rubio to a box of chocolates, borrowing from the Forrest Gump movie to say that Rubio isn't as genuinely conservative as he lets on: "Marco Rubio Is Like A Box of Chocolates...You Never Know What You're Gonna Get."

(Click image to enlarge.)

It turns out that Debra Medina, the Tea Party activist and candidate for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in Texas who clarified remarks yesterday that seemingly presented her as a 9/11 Truther, later that same day gave an interview in which she dignified both Trutherism and the Birthers.

"The 9/11 Commission report, you know, great sections of that are redacted and they're top secret," Medina said. "That makes us all wonder, 'well what's happening back there?' The same is true with the birth certificate thing. I think it's healthy that people are asking questions."

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We've been asking Republican House members if they support Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) "roadmap" budget plan, specifically his proposal to partially privatize Social Security and dismantle Medicare.

TPMDC got a response from one member today, Rep. Steve King (R-IA): no comment.

King has been in the news recently for his vocal opposition of ACORN and for participating in Rep. Michele Bachmann's (R-MN) Capitol Hill tea parties.

We'll keep you updated as we continue to find out which members publicly support Ryan's plans.