TPM News

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) better have a chat with his friends on the other side of the aisle.

At a press event this afternoon, Republicans lambasted the Senate health care bill for not adopting the language in the House's Stupak amendment, and reiterated their point that a vote to proceed to debate may as well be a vote for abortion.

"This first vote is the key vote," Nelson's Nebraska colleague, Sen. Mike Johanns, told reporters today.

That statehood camaraderie isn't likely to be lost on Nelson, who will soon have to decide whether to vote to allow the bill to proceed to debate. Nelson has gone to great lengths to distinguish this early procedural votes for more consequential votes down the line. But he says he still hasn't decided what his next move is, and isn't too pleased with the abortion provision in the Senate health care package.

House Minority Leader John Boehner's office has posted a long statement blasting the Senate health care plan, specifically targeting the abortion provisions with an accusation it levies an "abortion premium fee."

As we have been reporting, abortion has been a major negotiating point, though the Senate version of the health care bill seems to be winning approval from pro-choice lawmakers today.

Boehner (R-OH) claims on his blog that "a monthly abortion premium will be charged of all enrollees in the government-run health plan" under Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's plan.

The GOP office says:

"It's right there beginning on line 11, page 122, section 1303, under 'Actuarial Value of Optional Service Coverage.' The premium will be paid into a U.S. Treasury account - and these federal funds will be used to pay for the abortion services. ... The Commissioner must charge at a minimum $1 per enrollee per month.

We've asked senate officials for a response and will update when we hear back.

After the jump, the language from page 122 (and more) of the bill related to abortion. Read the bill in full here.

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One of the authors of the Bush Justice Department's notorious memos approving torture has set up a legal defense fund to help pay anticipated lawyers' fees in connection with the episode.

A website for the Bybee Legal Defense Fund "explains how contributions may be made to help Judge Jay S. Bybee pay costs and expenses he is incurring or may incur in connection with claims, investigations or proceedings relating to his service as Assistant Attorney General for the Office Legal Counsel in the U.S. Department of Justice or his service on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit."

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The new Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll of the Florida Republican Senate primary finds conservative former state House Speaker Marco Rubio catching up on moderate Gov. Charlie Crist.

The numbers: Crist 47%, Rubio 37%. Way back in January, Crist was ahead by 57%-11%.

Crist became vulnerable to a conservative primary challenge when he endorsed the stimulus package, and even hugged President Obama. He has since denied that he endorsed it, despite all evidence to the contrary.

Kos thinks Rubio will easily win the race: "Crist's only chance for political survival is a party switch, to either (I) or (D)." The poll also finds that the likely Democratic nominee, Rep. Kendrick Meek, is currently a non-player against either Crist and Rubio, and only becomes relevant in a three-way race with an independent Crist, which is roughly tied (full numbers not yet released).

(Via Dave Weigel)

We now have much more clarity on how the abortion provision in the Senate health care bill will work, and it's won the support of both senior administration officials, pro-choice Senators, and the co-chair of the House pro-choice caucus.

"I am pleased that the U.S. Senate has maintained current law when addressing the abortion issue," says Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) in a statement to reporters. "By adopting a common-sense abortion provision, the U.S. Senate ensures that no federal funds will be spent on abortion coverage while not further restricting a woman's right to choose. The health care bill is about providing access to quality health care to over 36 million Americans. I encourage the U.S. Senate to work towards producing a bill that works for everyone."

DeGette included a breakdown of the Senate's abortion provision, which I've included below the fold. One of the key sections reads, "Issuers of health insurance plans that offer coverage for abortion beyond those permitted by the Hyde amendment must segregate from any premium and cost-sharing credits an amount of each enrollee's private premium dollars that is determined by the Secretary to be sufficient to cover the provision of those services."

Which is a fancy way of saying insurers will have to set up an accounting system to keep private money separate from federal money, and only draw upon the private money when paying providers for abortion. Compare that to the Stupak amendment to the House bill, which both requires separation of funds, but also prevents women who receive federal premium assistance from purchasing policies that cover abortion, and it's no wonder Harry Reid's compromise is being met with praise by pro-choice members.

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Yesterday afternoon, Fox News used footage from 2008 McCain-Palin rallies when talking about the "crowds" coming out to see Sarah Palin on her book tour, which started yesterday.

Today, they issued an on-air apology for the mistake.

"We mistakenly aired what's called file tape of Sarah Palin. We didn't mean to mislead anybody in that tease. It was a mistake, and for that we apologize," said a host of Happening Now.

Watch after the jump.

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The New York Times reports that Rudy Giuliani will not run for Governor of New York, a serious blow to Republican hopes of winning this big governorship in 2010:

It was not clear what prompted the decision, but the prospect of potentially facing Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo, who is quietly planning his own run for governor, may not have appealed to Mr. Giuliani, who suffered a bruising defeat in the 2008 Republican presidential primary. While many political analysts believe Mr. Giuliani would have comfortably beaten Gov. David A. Paterson, he would likely have faced an uphill battle against Mr. Cuomo, one of the most popular politicians in the state.

It remains unclear if the former mayor is considering any other political race in 2010. Some have urged him to take on the newly-installed Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand, who has never run statewide and is still introducing herself to voters in parts of the state.

Yesterday, I asked Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) what he and other moderates had heard from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid at an impromptu afternoon meeting about health care reform. Nelson said Reid "talked about process, procedure, discussion about reconciliation and a whole host of issues of that sort."

Reconciliation is a complicated legislative process that would allow Reid to pass some version of reform without having to contend with a filibuster. "Nobody's really jumping up and down to push for reconciliation," Nelson added, "he's not threatening that, but anybody can conclude that if you don't move something on to the floor, that is one of the possibilities."

Today, at an event celebrating the unveiling of his health care bill, I asked Reid what specifically he'd said to Nelson--along with Sens. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA)--about reconciliation. His answer left no wiggle room: "I'm not using reconciliation," he said.

White House health care "czar" Nancy-Ann DeParle spoke with reporters this afternoon lauding the historic steps Congress has taken toward passing health care and to outline the next steps.

As we just reported, DeParle lauded Sen. Blanche Lincoln, a possible Democratic holdout on the procedural vote.

Reporters also asked about the provisions related to abortion, and both aides dodged the question by saying the issue was working its way through Congress and noting members are talking amongst themselves.

President Obama last week said he doesn't support the Stupak amendment, saying it was a health care, not an abortion bill, and DeParle took that a step further today.

DeParle signaled she prefers the Reid approach, saying the majority leader "carefully" worked on the issue and not mentioning the Stupak amendment.

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Chai Feldblum, an openly gay lawyer nominated to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, breezed through a Senate committee hearing on her nomination today, despite rumors that Republican senators would bring down "Armageddon."

Some right wing blogs and groups, such as World Net Daily and the Family Research Council, have attacked Feldblum for statements supporting gay marriage and for saying "gay sex is morally good."

And yesterday, Gay Politics Daily reported that "a source" claimed GOP senators on the Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee were planning an "Armageddon" against Feldblum. The rumor quickly traveled through the gay blogosphere.

But the hearing went rather smoothly.

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