TPM News

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) will reportedly be taking over the chairmanship of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee -- which was vacated by the death of Ted Kennedy -- after Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) declined to take the post.

This was a widely-expected move after Dodd turned down the position, as Harkin was next in line in seniority.

Another key development here in the committee shuffle is that Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) will take over Harkin's chairmanship of the Agriculture Committee -- which could potentially give her a real boost as she goes into a tough re-election fight in 2010. Lincoln would be better positioned to argue that she can advocate for her rural state's interest.

On the other hand, Lincoln's move to the Agriculture gavel could also be bad news for climate change legislation.

The momentum is building for a potential impeachment of Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC), the Palmetto Scoop reports, with 60 House Republicans signing a letter calling on him to resign.

"Your decision to abandon our state for five days, with no defined order of succession and with no known way to contact you, is inexcusable," the letter says, later adding: "But perhaps even more disturbing than the abandonment of your post and the multiple ethics allegations against you is the extreme amount of stress, uncertainty, an negative scrutiny that the citizens of South Carolina, our government and our party have had to endure due to your behavior."

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Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY)--a single payer-supporter and one of the most visible surrogates for a public option in Congress--has some stark words of warning for Congressional liberals: If they don't vote against a health care bill without a public option, as he intends to do, nobody will ever buy their threats.

"There is clearly a sense that progressives in Congress are easily rolled," Weiner told Greg Sargent.

"If the Congressional left can't pass even something as modest as a watered down public option, then frankly I don't think anyone is going to take the left very seriously later on in this Congress," he added. "When Blue Dogs talk, there are fewer of them but they have more influence than when progressives talk."

Weiner reiterated his intent to vote no on health care legislation without a public option. In mid-August, Weiner cautioned that "unless [President Obama] says a public option is the way to go, I'm gonna be a no, and so will a lot of people."

The University of Wyoming has decided to name a new center for international students after former Vice President Dick Cheney, prompting a backlash from students, teachers, and local residents.

The center is partially funded by $3.2 million the Cheneys gave to the university while he was in office. A dedication ceremony is planned for 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, with Dick Cheney and wife Lynne slated to attend. Protesters are organizing a demonstration in the campus quad during the ceremony (they "don't plan to disrupt the ceremony but will be visible," according to the AP).

Laramie, Wyoming resident Nancy Sindelar, who is with the group Veterans for Peace, said that "Mr. Cheney is not the best example of demonstrating how nations should get along with each other...putting his name on an international center is counterintuitive." That statement is a touch milder than what she told The Wyoming Underground: "I feel sorry for the University of Wyoming and the state of Wyoming when they have to change the name after he's indicted."

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Senate Finance Committee chariman Max Baucus (D-MT) told reporters today that he's moving forward on his health care proposal with or without Republicans. He said that the trigger concept hasn't really been discussed in his panel's negotiation, and that he's increasingly of the belief that a public option can not pass the Senate.

"I will move forward anyway," Baucus said. "We have to move forward. I told Chuck Grassley that."

Grassley is the Finance Committee's ranking member, and the Republican leader on health care negotiations in the committee's so-called "Gang of Six"

Baucus said the proposal he unveils next week will be similar to the draft he released yesterday, which mandates subsidized coverage and expands Medicaid, but only provides for the creation of private co-ops--not for a public option.

"It is similar to the proposal I issued on Sunday night. I think that is close to a measure that will pass both the committee and Senate," Baucus said.

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The new AP/GfK poll today, coming out just as President Obama is about to address Congress on health care, finds that he's coming into the debate in a weak position.

Obama's approval on his handling of health care right now is only 42%, with 52% disapproval on health care.

This other question should concern Democrats: "If President Obama and the Democrats in Congress are unable to win support from Republicans to pass a health care plan this year, what should they do?" The numbers: Go ahead and pass a bill without Republican support, 28%; Keep trying until they are able to make a deal with the Republicans, 66%.

Looking at this number, it's clear that the burden on Obama and the Democrats at this point is to demonstrate clearly through tonight's speech and the following events that Republicans won't make a deal. If that case isn't made, there really might not be enough political capital to withstand the potential fallout from a Dems-only bill.

Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) plans to unveil a draft of his health care legislation next week, and begin hearings on September 21st. Baucus has reportedly told the panel's Democrats that he will move ahead whether or not Republicans plan to support the meeting.

The move keeps with Baucus' vow to release a completed draft by September 15. More details as they emerge.

Our friends at the Dump Bachmann blog have spotted a fun little quirk in Rep. Michele Bachmann's (R-MN) schedule for this Saturday.

In the early part of the morning, Bachmann will be hosting a town hall on health care. Then in the late morning, she will be proceeding directly to speaking at...a Tea Party.

So first it's a Bachmann town hall, and then a Tea Party. Really, how do you tell the difference?

Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) today took a shot at the president for pushing a deadline for passing health care reform legislation, saying a deadline is "counterproductive."

"The president's job is to push ... if he doesn't push it tends to drift," Conrad told reporters this morning. "But this idea that there is a drop-dead day or hour is absolutely counterproductive to doing something that is critical."

Conrad, a member of the Senate Finance Committee, has expressed dismay with the idea of a deadline before.

But yesterday it was committee chairman Max Baucus (D-MT), not the president, who was pushing deadlines. Baucus said yesterday that bipartisan negotiators on the committee had better speak up by 10 a.m. today if they had changes to his proposal.

We've all seen those stories where a careless politician gets a little too candid when speaking into a hot mic. But this one's really in a whole different league.


Michael Duvall is a conservative Republican state representative from Orange County, California. While waiting for the start of a legislative hearing in July, the 54-year-old married father of two and family values champion began describing, for the benefit of a colleague seated next to him, his ongoing affairs with two different women. In very graphic detail.

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