TPM News

The New York Times reports that several labor friendly Democrats, including Sens. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) have embraced an Employee Free Choice Act compromise to win the support of conservative Democrats. That compromise? Eliminating Card Check--the majority sign-up provision that would end the secret ballot process, and, labor leaders say, curb employer intimidation.

AFL-CIO spokesman Eddie Vale tells Ben Smith: "[T]his is the normal process of how a bill becomes a law."

We are very optimistic about passing the strongest labor law reform since the Wagner Act -- one that lets workers choose to join a union without intimidation or harassment, ensures that workers who join a union get a first contract, and has meaningful penalties for violations.

But Andy Stern seems less than pleased, tweeting, "we expect a vote in the bill or by amendment on majority sign-up in both houses of Congress."

I'm told a fuller statement is on its way, but clearly this compromise won't go down without several spoons full of sugar.

Earlier this week, we told you over at TPMDC about the newly named members of what's being called the Pecora II commission, which has been given the crucial task of getting to the bottom of the financial crisis.

The stakes are high here. If we're ever to come to a full understanding of the causes of an episode that has created enormous pain, dislocation, and anxiety for a large number of Americans -- allowing us to craft policies to ensure it doesn't recur -- we need an effective commission. In other words, one that's capable of conducting an aggressive investigation that goes after the truth and lets the chips fall where they may, even if that means publicly calling out powerful Wall Street interests and lax Washington regulators. And not one that settles for making a few polite recommendations while protecting its political overseers -- as too many Washington commissions have done in the past.

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The House Ways and Means Committee voted landmark health care legislation out of committee this morning on a 23-18 vote. Three Democrats--Reps. Ron Kind (D-WI), Earl Pomeroy (D-ND) and John Tanner (D-TN)--joined Republicans in opposing the bill.

Ways and Means has jurisdiction over taxation, and approved a financing measure that would impose a surtax on wealthy Americans. That provision, though, may be a non-starter in the Senate.

The Education and Labor, and Energy and Commerce Committees are still at marking up the same bill. Energy and Commerce is expected to round out work on the bill next week, although due in part to the political make-up of the panel, that will be a harder climb.

A Thursday New York Post piece made a number of startling claims about Democratic health care reform proposals, which, the authors claim, will devastate the wealthy. Take a look at the associated chart, which was fronted on Drudge.

Notice a problem? Take the single gentleman on the top left, who earns $285,000. House Democrats would charge a surtax of one percent on every dollar he makes over $280,000. That means one percent of $5,000 or $50. But according to the Post he'll be on the line for one percent of his entire salary--an extra $2,850. Can you say "marginal taxation?" Apparently they can't at the post.

A Democratic aide sends over the following corrective:

One should note that a major source for the post article was the Tax Foundation, which releases an annual anti-tax "report" that the non-partisan Center for Budget and Policy Priorities blasts year in and year out for its numerous inaccuracies. Looks like they did no better on this project.

Former Rep. Chip Pickering (R-MS) and erstwhile C Street resident turned down Trent Lott's old Senate seat so he could be with his mistress, according to the lawsuit filed by his estranged wife this week.

The suit alleges that when Trent Lott resigned in 2007, Gov. Haley Barbour offered Rep. Pickering the seat. But the congressman turned it down after his girlfriend, Elizabeth Creekmore-Byrd, "insisted" that their relationship could not continue if he accepted the seat, as he would have to stay married for public appearances. She allegedly gave him an ultimatum, and he chose her.

A spokesman for Barbour told Muckraker that he never offered Pickering the seat.

Shortly afterward, the suit says, Pickering moved out of his home. He filed for divorce in 2008, but that case is sealed.

Other gems from the suit, which Leisha Pickering filed against Creekmore-Byrd for alienation of affection:

Creekmore-Byrd is allegedly on the board of Telepak, her family's Internet company, which employs the lobbyist organization Capitol Resources. Pickering claims the mistress got her husband a job with the lobbyists. (A visit to the company's web site shows he does work in their Mississippi office.)

The suit alleges that Creekmore-Byrd aimed "to entice and tortuously interfere" with the Pickerings' marriage, with the help of seven unnamed defendants. It also says the alleged mistress's actions would "evoke outrage and disgust in civilized society."

Pickering alleges that Creekmore-Byrd showed up at a family ski vacation intending to cause a marriage-ending rift.

Leisha Pickering apparently gleaned this information from her husband's journals and other documents, which a judge ordered returned to Rep. Pickering. The judge also apparently forbade Mrs. Pickering and her lawyers from discussing what was in the documents.

You can take a look at the lawsuit here.

TPMDC's roundup of the biggest initiatives on Capitol Hill.

  • Health Care: Three House committees are now holding mark-up hearings on health care legislation. At the Energy and Commerce hearing, seven Blue Dogs gave identical opening statements--which I've placed below the fold--restating their desire for a health care bill that cuts costs, but eschews cost cutting measures. They're countered by House progressives, dozens of whom have silently committed to oppose any health care bill without a public option. And in the Senate, things still just don't seem to be coming together.

  • Nominations: Fire fighter Frank Ricci--better known as the thorn in Sonia Sotomayor's side--finally had his moment in the sun. But even Sen. Jeff Sessions is saying she won't be filibustered.

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If you have about a half hour to kill tonight or tomorrow or over the weekend, take a look at this video, produced by Senate Republicans:

Sens. Tom Coburn (R-OK) and John Barrasso (R-WY) are among the Senate's more conservative members. But they're also M.D.s! (You may remember Coburn from TPMMuckraker's reporting on the John Ensign scandal as the conspirator who has pre-emptively refused to testify citing patient-doctor confidentiality.)

Now he's back, with his colleague from Wyoming, using his professional degree to give questionable cover to his political aims. This isn't new to the Republican party. Recall that in 2005, then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) said he disagreed with physicians' diagnosis of a vegitative Terri Schiavo, based on videotaped footage he'd viewed in his office. Frist is a heart surgeon.

A couple more data points for you. The LA Times Johanna Neuman describes House health care legislation as "a bill that could end up costing taxpayers $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years." And the New York Daily News calls it as a "massive $1.5 trillion measure" that will "hit the rich hardest."

Even if the Associated Press was correct about the cost of the bill, that wouldn't reflect the cost to taxpayers, which will be much, much lower. A large percentage of the outlays are expected to be financed by savings wrung from within the health care system itself

If you haven't seen this ad already, you probably will soon.

Patients United Now is an offshoot of the well-funded conservative group Americans for Prosperity. The ad's been around since Patients United was created on May 27, but it hasn't gone national until today as the health care debate on Capitol Hill hits a fever pitch.

The ad, which previously ran in eight states, will be on the air for the next week.

As you can see it suggests that Congress wants to impose a Canadian style health care system on the United States. And though the Canadian health care system outperforms the American system on many levels, they also have a single payer system, and the reform bills making their way through Congress are not single payer proposals.

House Minority Leader John Boehner is clearly pleased with CBO Director Doug Elmendorf's testimony before the Senate Budget Committee.

As I noted earlier today, the fact is that the CBO hasn't analyzed many of the bill's cost saving measures, and that, other cost-saving provisions haven't yet been written or otherwise remain unrealized.

But Elmendorf said what he said, and it's no surprise that Boehner's latched on.