TPM News

The Montana Republican who was driving a boat that crashed while carrying Rep. Denny Rehberg and four other passengers has pleaded not guilty to three felony charges related to the August incident.

Prosecutors allege that State Sen. Greg Barkus had a blood alcohol content twice the legal driving limit nearly two hours after the crash. All five passengers -- the two elected Republicans, as well as Barkus's wife and two Rehberg staffers -- were injured in the crash.

Rehberg has said that Barkus "didn't appear to be impaired" when driving the boat, and that he is cooperating with the investigation.

Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) has not committed to supporting a vote on a health care reform bill, Greg Sargent reports today.

When asked if she would vote yes on a procedural motion (cloture) to bring the bill to a vote, a spokeswoman said Lincoln "has not committed her vote to anyone."

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid appears poised today to announce his intent to include a public option with an opt out clause in the bill he brings to the Senate floor.

Policy details will likely be scarce, and the draft bill could still change. What goes to CBO will have different options under certain sections of the legislation, and there are conflicting reports that Reid might ask the CBO to send back analyses of other versions of the public option. Though most on the left would prefer it if public option compromises would simply be suffocated of all oxygen, it's also true that if a public option with an opt-out clause is included in the base bill, it will to a great extent shape the the floor debate. (For instance, 60 votes would be required to strip the public option out of the bill.)

Democrats are being very tight lipped today about exactly what Reid will say, but are suggesting strongly that there will be news.

In an op-ed for CNN.com, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor called for a bipartisan bill -- but one that doesn't include a public option.

Cantor wrote that, although Republicans and Democrats agree on "several key reforms," House Democrats want a bill "riddled with toxic and controversial provisions."

"The most prominent poison pill is the government-run plan," he wrote.

He then claims that private insurers won't be able to compete against a government plan, even though the government plan would be lower quality.

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Former President Bill Clinton will be campaigning tomorrow in New Jersey for Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine, yet another Democratic heavy hitter coming in to support Corzine for the home stretch of the campaign in this blue state.

Clinton will join Corzine at a 7 p.m. fundraiser for the Essex County Democratic Committee in West Orange, and an 8:45 p.m. rally in Little Falls, which is located in nearby Passaic County. Both counties are strongly Democratic (Essex much more so than Passaic), and Corzine will need big get-out-the-vote efforts in these areas.

The president of major labor union SEIU, Andy Stern, today called on all 60 members of the Democratic caucus to allow a vote on a health care reform bill, claiming, "There is no such thing as a Republican filibuster."

Writing on the Huffington Post, Stern threatened that Democratic senators who join Republicans to block a vote would face "disaster in 2010...and even in 2012."

With 60 votes on the Democrats' side, Republicans alone cannot filibuster reform, he wrote.

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Democratic New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine appeared on the local Fox morning program Good Day New York, where he continued to hammer Republican nominee Chris Christie on issues like the economy, pre-school funding, health care, and support for President Obama.

Corzine also denied allegations that he's attacked Chris Christ'e weight, which originated from an ad saying that Christie "threw his weight around" to get out of trouble in a traffic accident when he was U.S. Attorney.

Corzine told host Greg Kelly: "Greg, I couldn't give a hoot about his weight. And when the issue was raised about one given ad, it was about his driving down a one-way street, hitting somebody on a motorcycle, putting the fella in the hospital, and not getting a traffic ticket. How many of the viewers would hit somebody going down a street, on a one-way -- he's going the wrong way, hits somebody, put him in the hospital, wouldn't get a ticket. Flashed his credentials, and I think that the whole point was one set of rules, and another set of rules for somebody else."

Vice President Biden is on a fundraising blitz helping Democratic candidate in Ohio today, and offered a defense of the economic stimulus.

Per a pool report, Biden spoke for 30 minutes at the $1,000-per-plate fundraiser for freshman Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy (D-OH) and also posted for photos with donors for $2,400 each.

Biden touted Ohio-specfic stimulus jobs and benefits but went after the Bush administration as leaving President Obama an economy in peril.

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Health insurers are using every tool at their disposal to pressure senators into opposing a public option.

The latest example: Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina has sent a mailer -- obtained by TPMmuckraker -- to voters in the state, warning that a public option will lead to "a single payer system," and urging recipients to send a postcard to Sen. Kay Hagan that asks her to "oppose government-run health insurance."

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A new poll from the right-wing Club For Growth, which is supporting Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman in the NY-23 special election, says that Hoffman is ahead in the three-way race -- and moderate Republican Dede Scozzafava in third place.

The numbers: Hoffman 31%, Democrat Bill Owens 27%, and Scozzafava 20%. The margin of error is ±5.66%.

This is contrary to other polls that have shown Owens in front, Scozzafava second, and Hoffman third. The Club points out that no information about the candidates was given before the ballot question, meaning that they did not try to prime the pump for Hoffman in the lead-up to asking people for their preferences.

From the pollster's analysis: "Hoffman now has a wide lead among both Republicans and Independents, while Owens has a wide lead among Democrats. Dede Scozzafava's support continues to collapse, making this essentially a two-candidate race between Hoffman and Owens in the final week."

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