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Earlier today, President Obama welcomed a motley crew of health reform stakeholders to the White House for a summit of sorts. On hand were representatives of a number of health care industry lobbies--including America's Health Insurance Plans, the American Medical Association, PhRMA, and the American Hospital Association--and, on the other side of things, representatives of the Service Employees International Union.

The groups are pledging to support cost-reducing measures that, at least in theory, dovetail with an Obama-backed health care plan and which would incur saving that could potentially be construed as part of the up-front investment comprehensive reform will require.

Paul Krugman is pleased by this development. So is health wonk Jonathan Cohn, and The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder. Ezra Klein is somewhat less enthused. For their part, the administration is playing portraying today's development as something just shy of a watershed moment. But is there reason to be skeptical of the Kumbaya chorus?

Richard Kirsch of the group Health Care for America Now cautions that "the groups did not agree to anything specific whatsoever."

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We may not get to enjoy the spectacle of a Toomey-Ridge battle-for-the-soul-of-the-GOP in Pennsylvania next year, but as a consolation prize, we'll get to see a similar fight play out in Florida. Eric highlighted this in the Morning Roundup, but it's worth reiterating. Governor Charlie Crist will announce tomorrow that he intends to run for Senate in 2010 against conservative Marco Rubio.

Gov. Charlie Crist is expected to announce Tuesday that he is running for the U.S. Senate, setting off a high-stakes game of musical chairs that will completely overhaul the top echelon of state government in 2010.

Crist's former chief-of-staff, George LeMieux, confirmed late Sunday that the governor will make an announcement at a ''low-key'' event Tuesday in Tallahassee.

LeMieux and Jim Greer, chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, have been dropping hints about Crist's decision for the past week.

Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL) is retiring at the end of his term, and the popular Crist will surely be the front runner, both in the (closed) primary and in the general election. Crist has been criticized on the right for, among other things, joining the majority of Floridians in support of the President's stimulus bill.

This goes way beyond strange bedfellows. But it looks like Dick Cheney has emerged as the single most forceful proponent of a full investigation of the Bush administration's torture policies.

In an interview on CBS's Face The Nation yesterday, the ex-veep claimed, as he has before, that the Obama administration's rejection of torture has made us less safe. But he also went further ever in repeatedly arguing -- contra congressional Republicans -- that we need to look back at the details of the torture program before moving forward.

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The House and Senate have each passed versions of the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act, both of which call for the creation of an independent, external, 10-member commission to investigate the causes of the financial crisis. And now all the fun is in musing about who Democratic and Republican leaders will select to sit on the panel.

Bloomberg says "[r]etired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker and former Securities and Exchange Commission chief Arthur Levitt are among those being considered by congressional leaders to head a probe of the financial crisis, according to people with knowledge of the matter."

The one thing that truly unifies O'Connor (79), Volcker (81), and Levitt (78) is that they're all very, very old. Levitt has been criticized for taking a hands-off approach to regulation while serving as chair of the SEC from 1993-2001.

But as important as it is to highlight anonymous chit chat about who might get the nod (and it's very, very important), it's also worth asking whether and how industry will try to influence the selection process, and how serious officials are about launching the project in a timely manner.

More fallout from the release of the torture memos.

The Los Angeles Times reports that sleep deprivation was "one of the most important elements in the CIA's interrogation program, used to help break dozens of suspected terrorists, far more than the most violent approaches." It was also "among the methods the agency fought hardest to keep."

In fact, former CIA director Michael Hayden reportedly (and unsuccessfully) lobbied the White House not to expose its use by releasing the memos that described it, asking: "Are you telling me that under all conditions of threat, you will never interfere with the sleep cycle of a detainee?"

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The SCOTUS situation The Washington Post ran an article this weekend called "In Court Pick, Obama Seeks to Be Bold but Not Provocative," and in exchange for passing on this spin, they saw fit to advance anonymous attacks against Sonia Sotomayor--the court of appeals judge thought to be the leading candidate on President Obama's short list to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter.

Sotomayor presents the most obvious "first" that Obama could fulfill: She would be the first Hispanic justice. And she offers the most compelling life story: Raised by her mother in a Bronx housing project after her father died, Sotomayor rose to the highest academic achievements at Princeton and then Yale Law School. Some say, though, that she has not distinguished herself on the appeals court.

It's unclear whether "some" consists of people whispering to the Post directly, or whether they're relying on the same "some" who approached The New Republic's legal correspondent Jeffery Rosen over the past couple weeks to anonymously question Sotomayor's fitness.

After publishing that article, Rosen himself ultimately concluded that "Sotomayor is an able candidate--at least as able as some of the current Supreme Court justices--and if Obama is convinced she is the best candidate on his short list, he should pick her."

  • In releasing the results of the the stress tests, the Federal Reserve cut their estimates by billions of the capital short-fall facing some banks, after haggling from the banks. (WSJ)

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On Friday, we told you about Specter For The Cure--a website that appeared at first blush to be a fundraising hub for the fight against cancer, but was in fact a fundraising hub for the re-election of Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA).

The site still serves that purpose, but, as Adam Green noted over the weekend, it's now more explicit about its real aims:

In 2010, Arlen Specter will seek re-election to the United States Senate. With his unsurpassed record of support for medical research, helping to return Senator Specter to the Senate is a powerful statement on behalf of those suffering with disease. The purpose of this web site is to encourage support for Senator Specter's mission to improve America's health by helping assure Senator Specter's re-election....

Become a member, today, of Specter for the Cure. Please contribute to Senator Specter's re-election Committee - Citizens for Arlen Specter. All contributions, of any amount, will be gratefully welcomed. Those who sign up to donate $10 each month for ten months, will receive members only information on the Senator's effort to transform medical research and accelerate cures.

Cancer may have been a bridge too far, but we'll be on the lookout for new Specter initiatives, like, perhaps, Specter For Orphaned Puppies, on the off chance that something like that surfaces.

Obama Meeting With Health Industry On Lowering Costs President Obama is meeting today with drug companies, insurance companies, hospital executives and doctors to work on an industry initiative to decrease health care costs by $2 trillion over 10 years. The New York Times points out that the government wouldn't necessarily have a direct way to hold industry to these promises, but that the industry itself is undertaking this initiative in order to head off direct price constraints from being imposed by the government.

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will be meeting with health care reform stakeholders at 11:30 a.m. ET in the Roosevelt Room. At 12:30 p.m. ET, he will deliver remarks from the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, on reforming the health care system and reducing costs. At 2 p.m. ET, he will welcome the University of North Carolina men's basketball team an the South Portico.

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Obama Plays Comedian At Correspondents' Dinner President Obama told all manner of jokes last night at the White House Correspondents' Dinner, roasting himself, his administration, his party, the opposition, and the press:

My personal favorite: "Now Sasha and Malia aren't here tonight, because they're grounded. You can't just take Air Force One on a joyride to Manhattan. I don't care whose kids you are."

Cheney: Opponents "Prepared To Sacrifice American Lives" Former Vice President Dick Cheney appeared today on Face The Nation, and he had a tough response to the Obama Administration's opposition to his approved methods of interrogation: "Well, then you'd have to say that, in effect, we're prepared to sacrifice American lives rather than run an intelligent interrogation program that would provide us the information we need to protect America."

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