TPM News

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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Former Worldwide Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon, a candidate for the Republican nomination to run against Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), is now facing some strong attacks from a Mr. Eldridge Wayne Coleman -- a.k.a. "Superstar Billy Graham," a former pro-wrestler who worked for McMahon.

"She may look like a Sunday school teacher," said Graham, who described himself a conservative, and who supports one of McMahon's GOP rivals, former Rep. Rob Simmons. "Linda McMahon's hands are as bloody as her husband's [Vince McMahon] because she is aware of every move in the ring."

Graham said that the McMahons condoned steroid use that damaged wrestlers' health (including himself), didn't provide health care or pensions to those same wrestlers, and have quickly shifted from all manner of inappropriate TV programming -- ranging from wrestlers being told to cut themselves with razors in order to bleed on stage, to "bra and panty" wrestling matches between scantily-clad female performers -- to cleaner content in the run-up to her campaign.

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The White House is going for the attract 'em with honey strategy, heaping praise on some of the holdouts in the battle to get a health care reform bill passed.

Sen. Blanche Lincoln has been "and important and constructive player in this process and has made this a much better bill in this process," White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said when asked on a conference call about where the conservative senator is leaning.

"She was a stalwart in working to protect seniors and taxpayers," White House health care czar Nancy-Ann DeParle chimed in.

They each said Lincoln (D-AR) was instrumental in improving the early version of the bill when it was clearing the Senate Finance Committee.

DeParle said Lincoln "was up there fighting" to get the Elder Justice Act included in the bill and said she saved taxpayers $600 million by capping tax deductions for CEO pay.

"That is huge that she got it in the bill," DeParle said.

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The new national poll from Public Policy Polling (D) has an astonishing number about paranoia among the GOP base: Republicans do not think President Obama actually won the 2008 election -- instead, ACORN stole it.

This number goes a long way towards explaining the anger of the Tea Party crowd. They not only think Obama's agenda is against America, but they don't think he was actually the choice of the American people at all! Interestingly, NY-23 Conservative candidate Doug Hoffman is now accusing ACORN of stealing his race, and Fox News personalities have often speculated about ACORN stealing the 2008 Minnesota Senate race for Al Franken.

The poll asked this question: "Do you think that Barack Obama legitimately won the Presidential election last year, or do you think that ACORN stole it for him?" The overall top-line is legitimately won 62%, ACORN stole it 26%.

Among Republicans, however, only 27% say Obama actually won the race, with 52% -- an outright majority -- saying that ACORN stole it, and 21% are undecided. Among McCain voters, the breakdown is 31%-49%-20%. By comparison, independents weigh in at 72%-18%-10%, and Democrats are 86%-9%-4%.

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Is the Justice Department leaning towards laying off Sen. John Ensign (R-NV)?

That's the direction in which Politico's reporting seems to point. According to the new site, DOJ officials "signal that the case is a low-priority matter for them." It adds that "no one close to Ensign or the Hamptons has been contacted by any federal investigators." And it notes that the Senate Ethics committee, which usually stands down when Justice is involved, has been forging ahead with its probe of the philandering Nevada senator.

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Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she's feeling positive that a controversial abortion amendment found in the House-passed health care bill won't derail reform if and when a bill leaves the Senate.

"I'm optimistic we'll find common ground," she told reporters this morning. "This is not a bill about abortion, this is a bill about health care."

The Senate reform package which made its debut last night doesn't contain the Stupak Amendment language found in the House bill. In her first public comments on the controversy the amendment has created among members of her caucus on both sides of the abortion debate, Pelosi said she sides with pro-choice advocates who say the language in Stupak goes too far.

"Stupak goes beyond maintaining the status quo" on abortion funding, Pelosi said.

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Conservative Democrats couldn't have asked for better top-line numbers from the CBO on Senate health care legislation. Low total cost, big long-term deficit reductions, millions insured, and a public option that insures perhaps one percent of the population. But is that enough to actually cool their heartburn?

Well, yes and no.

"Listen, anytime you add more to deficit reduction, you have to say that it's a move in the right direction," Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) told reporters yesterday. "So there's no doubt...that clearly would be one [area of improvement]--but again you have to have a lot of faith and trust in the scoring system."

Nelson cautioned that the CBO numbers released yesterday are preliminary, and subject to some uncertainty, but basically applauded the bill for being fiscally responsible.

But is that what's really driving the moderates' skepticism?

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