TPM News

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) told MSNBC this afternoon that President Obama "wants to come in hard" on health care reform now that the Senate Finance Committee has voted on their version of the bill.

Rockefeller said he spoke with the President today. MSNBC anchor Ed Schultz challenged him, asking why Obama spoke so highly of the Finance Committee's bill, when it doesn't include a public option.

"He's the President, you gotta cut him some slack. He's an inside player," Rockefeller said. "Don't worry about that. He wants the public option. He wants MedPAC. ... Now that the Finance Committee is finally out of the way we can move on."

Rockefeller sits on the committee and proposed a public option, but it was voted down.

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On a conference call with reporters this afternoon, Elizabeth Warren, chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel, previewed the upcoming House Financial Services Committee mark up of the bill that would create the Consumer Financial Protection Agency by slamming the financial industry and emphasizing the need for more comprehensive and cohesive regulation.

"We have a market now that is driven by how many tricks and traps I can bury in the fine print," Warren said. "Regulations keep us safer."

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The Corzine campaign appears to have found some dirt in their searches through Chris Christie's records during his time as U.S. Attorney -- relating to some apparent lavish spending on the taxpayer's dime:

The Republican candidate for New Jersey governor, who has campaigned on a platform of ethical integrity and cutting government waste, regularly spent beyond federal guidelines on business travel while U.S. attorney, records show.

The newly released travel records show that Chris Christie occasionally billed taxpayers more than $400 a night for stays in luxury hotels and exceeded the government's hotel allowance on 14 of 16 business trips he took in 2008.

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President Obama Thursday will hold two events in New Orleans as part of his outreach to show the administration is serious about Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts.

(It's fulfilling a promise he made on the anniversary, and also adding to the other steps his administration has taken in recent months such as extending the Bush-era recovery office for the second time.)

As I wrote about in my past life, the Obama Cabinet secretaries didn't venture into the Lower Ninth during their spring visit. This time, the president will visit the Dr. King Charter School near one of the most devastated areas in the Ninth Ward.

The White House said the trip will offer Obama "a firsthand look at progress on the ground" and a chance to hear "directly" from Louisianans. "This will enable the people of New Orleans to convey their thoughts, challenges, and feedback directly to him," the White House announced, adding it's Obama's fifth visit since Katrina but first of his presidency and the first that's open to the public.

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Republicans just lost their top prospect to run against Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL), with former state Sen. Dan Webster announcing that he won't make the race.

"This has been a very difficult decision for me personally, especially because of the tremendous outpouring of support that has flooded me from all sides," said Webster, a big name among the state's religious conservatives. "However, in spite of this incredible encouragement, I still have a certain check in my spirit, prompting me to follow a principle that has always served me well: 'When in doubt, don't.'"

Grayson, of course, is the Democratic Congressman who has attacked the Republicans as having a health care plan for Americans to "die quickly," called them "knuckle-dragging neanderthals," and even borrowed the late GOP Vice President Spiro Agnew's words and called the GOP "nattering nabobs of negativism." The national GOP does not have a candidate yet, but has set up a special fund to raise money for the eventual opponent.

Florida's 8th District historically voted Republican, but went 52%-47% for Barack Obama in 2008, and elected the now-famous Grayson by 52%-48% over a Republican incumbent.

A health insurance agent and TPM reader sends along this set of health care reform talking points the agent says AHIP is distributing to local insurance offices across the country. Our agent got the talking points from the password-protected agent-only website of a major insurer.

"I was surprised to see AHIP is against any kind of public option at any time," the source told TPMDC when asked why he was forwarding the information our way.

The AHIP talking points offer several arguments against what the documents call a "government-run plan." Chief among them is that passing a public plan amounts to "turning back the clock on quality, care coordination and disease management." The AHIP memo also says that under a public plan "patients' choices and access to health care will suffer."

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Bill Clinton had his saxophone. JFK was an avid sailor. FDR collected stamps. These days, President Barack Obama has made basketball the First Hobby. From pick-up games with White House staffers to appearances at Washington Wizards games, the President has found plenty of ways to partake in his favorite pastime, in between that whole "leading the free world" thing. Even his Cabinet is mostly made up of former players, something that caused President Obama to joke that he's put together "the best basketball-playing Cabinet in American history." Here, the President tries to block a shot while playing with Reggie Love at St. Bartholomew's Church in New York on September 23, during the UN General Assembly.

Official White House photo by Pete Souza

Then-Sen. Barack Obama gets a rebound during a game with U.S. military service members during his visit to Camp Lemonier, Djibouti, in August 2006.


President Obama takes a shot while playing with White House staffers during his vacation in Martha's Vineyard on August 26, 2009.

Official White House photo by Pete Souza

Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan plays "keep-away" with the President following their Oval Office meeting on July 28, 2009.

Official White House photo by Pete Souza

President Obama poses with gifts from the WNBA Champion Detroit Shock after welcoming the team to the White House on July 27, 2009.

Newscom/Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/MCT

President Obama practices his moves after leaving a press conference with the WNBA Champion Detroit Shock.

Newscom/UPI Photos/Kevin Dietsch

The President plays with staffers at Camp David on July 18, 2009.

Official White House photo by Pete Souza

White House Butler Von Everett pumps up basketballs for the President on June 30, 2009.

Official White House photo by Pete Souza

President Obama receives a jersey from University of North Carolina Coach Roy Williams and his national champion Tar Heels on May 11, 2009.

Newscom/Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/MCT

He shoots! He scores? Obama warms up before a game at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C. on May 9, 2009.

Official White House photo by Pete Souza

The President blocks another player during the game at Fort McNair.

Official White House photo by Pete Souza

Obama and the 2009 NCAA women's basketball champion University of Connecticut Huskies play a spirited game of P-I-G on the White House court on April 27, 2009. The President won, though guard Renee Montgomery blamed her clothing on her loss -- "I couldn't extend my arms," she said. UConn coach Geno Auriemma called Obama's shot "unorthodox" but effective, and said that he had "swagger."

Newscom/Lawrence Jackson/SIPA Photos

The P-I-G loss didn't stop Renee Montgomery from giving a basketball and jersey to the President.

Newscom/Kevin Dietsch/UPI Photos

Before every election night, the President plays a game of basketball. Here, he plays a game of three-on-three in Kokomo, IN.

Jeff Malet/

The Easter egg roll event at the White House on April 13, 2009 also proved an occasion to shoot some hoops.

Newscom/Michael Reynolds/SIPA Photos

Enjoying the new South Lawn basketball court, President Barack Obama shoots from downtown.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

President Obama challenges the shot of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, a former professional basketball player in Australia.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

President Obama watches his favorite team, the Chicago Bulls, take on the Washington Wizards in D.C.'s Verizon Center. The President is being heckled by a passionate Wizards fan, as the Bulls lost that night. But the President's presence energized the game -- multiple Wizards players saluted the President after good plays.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Before the game, President Obama invited the Chicago Bulls to the White House. Veteran guard Lindsey Hunter said of the occasion: "He actually knew a couple of us -- me being one of the couple."

Newscom/Joyce H. Boghosian/SIPA Photos

Sasha Obama inherited the hoops gene. Here (in orange), she plays in a youth game in Washington D.C. on February 21 2009, cheered on by the President and First Lady.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

This photo from Punahou School's 1979 yearbook shows Obama on top right. Though Obama was a high school benchwarmer, he has said that the experience of not starting made him learn about "discipline, about handling disappointments, about being team-oriented and realizing that not everything is about you."


Here, Obama is shown scoring in 1979. The 1979 Punahou team won the state title, sent three players to D-I colleges, and according to Sports Illustrated's Alexander Wolff, is considered one of Hawaii's best high school basketball teams ever.


And the award for boldest denial in the face of evidence of financial mischief goes to ... Rep. Steve Buyer!

As we've been [reporting](, Buyer, Republican of Indiana, is closely affiliated with the Frontier Foundation, an organization that has taken in over $800,000 from industry groups who Buyer is in a position to help. Despite its stated mission, the foundation hasn't given out a single scholarship, but has [spent]( $258,136 over six years on salary, meals, travel, and "fundraising expenses."

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President Barack Obama said moments ago in an address in the Rose Garden that the Senate Finance Committee's 14-9 vote to pass a health care reform bill is "a critical milestone in our effort to reform our health care system."

"We are now closer than ever before to passing health reform," he said. "But we're not there yet. Now's not the time to pat ourselves on the back. Now's not the time to offer ourselves congratulations. Now's the time to dig in and work even harder to get this done."

Obama said of the bill: "It includes ideas from both Democrats and Republicans, which is why it enjoys the support of people from both parties. And I want to particularly thank Sen. Olympia Snowe for both the political courage and the seriousness of purpose that she's demonstrated throughout this process."

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There's no way around the fact that today's Senate Finance Committee vote was a major milestone in the five-month long health care reform saga. That much is not in doubt. But in a way, the outcome had been largely pre-determined, and the public focus--from pressure groups and pundits and reporters--has already turned to the next stage in the process: starting tomorrow, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, working with Finance chair Max Baucus, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), White House officials, and a handful of other people will begin the arduous and crucial task of merging the Senate's two competing bills.

That will likely be a crucial moment for the public option, and that means the story behind the story of the Finance bill's passage is still evolving. We learned today, in a moment of great political theatrics, that Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) decided to support the Baucus bill. What we'll learn in the days and weeks ahead is what that decision means for the substance of the bill going forward.

Here's why it could have significant implications:

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