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Americans United for Change released this statement about Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's announcement today about the Senate health care reform bill:

Tom McMahon, acting executive director, Americans United for Change: "Over the last several weeks, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was forced to choose between the urgent need that everyday Americans have competitive choices when they buy health insurance or the insurance industry pressure to maintain its stranglehold on our health care.

"Senator Reid's announcement that the Senate health care bill will include a public health insurance option, shows that he has refused to buckle in the face of withering pressure from the big insurance companies and sided instead with everyday health care consumers."

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs issued a statement reacting to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's press conference on health care:

"The President congratulates Senator Reid and Chairmen Baucus and Dodd for their hard work on health insurance reform. Thanks to their efforts, we're closer than we've ever been to solving this decades-old problem. And while much work remains, the President is pleased that at the progress that Congress has made. He's also pleased that the Senate has decided to include a public option for health coverage, in this case with an allowance for states to opt out. As he said to Congress and the nation in September, he supports the public option because it has the potential to play an essential role in holding insurance companies accountable through choice and competition."

Speaking to reporters on Air Force One today, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) said he would support either a trigger or an opt-out public option.

Nelson, who was traveling with President Obama to events in Florida this afternoon, added that states should be required to be part of the public option for at least two years before getting the chance to opt out.

If they can opt out right away, "the insurance lobbyists will just convince state legislatures to opt out and as a result you won't get the benefits of competition to see if in fact the competition is there," he said.

"It will be hard for the states to opt out if the rates have been brought low by the public option," he added.

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Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has released this statement, on Harry Reid's announcement of a public option proposal that includes an opt-out mechanism for states:

"Leader Reid has always been a strong supporter of a public option that could help keep the insurers honest, and today he showed just how deep his commitment is. The public option has new life because as Americans have learned more about it, they have come to see it is the best way to reduce costs and increase competition in the health insurance industry. This form of public option is not exactly what either liberals or moderates would want. But a public plan based on a level playing field, with an opt-out for states, is the best compromise that has the potential of getting 60 votes in the Senate."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced what we've been reporting today - the merged health care bill will include a public option allowing states to opt-out.

"Under this concept states will be able to determine whether the public option works best for them," Reid told reporters. He said it was the "fairest" way to go.

Reid (D-NV) said after "countless hours" of talking to his caucus, there is a "strong consensus" for this plan. He said he will not submit a plan with a triggered public option to the Congressional Budget Office.

"As we've gone through this process, I've concluded, with the support of the White House and Senators. Dodd and Baucus, that the best way to move forward is to include a public option with an opt out provision for states," Reid said.

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Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN), a potential presidential candidate in 2012, has now endorsed Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman in the NY-23 special election -- passing over his party's actual nominee, moderate Republican Dede Scozzafava.

Pawlenty said in a statement given to Red State:

"We cannot send more politicians to Washington who wear the Republican jersey on the campaign trail, but then vote like Democrats in Congress on issues like card check and taxes. After reviewing the candidates' positions, I'm endorsing Doug Hoffman in New York's special election. Doug understands the federal government needs to quit spending so much, will vote against tax increases, and protect key values like the right to vote in private in union elections."

Pawlenty is the second possible GOP presidential candidate to pick the Conservative over the Republican, following Sarah Palin's endorsement of Hoffman late last week. Newt Gingrich has been vocally supporting Scozzafava, and catching a lot of flak on the right as a result.

TPMDC is on hand for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's press conference about the merged health care bill.

We're hearing that once Reid presents the plan, leadership staffers soon after will huddle with Democratic Senate aides to explain its elements.

The question-and-answer session will allow staffers to get a clear sense of what is in the bill, and particularly detail the way the public option opt-out will work. Our source said this will help on-the-fence senators start making up their mind.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) warned this afternoon that just because ACORN is persona non grata on Capitol Hill these days doesn't mean the what he called "failure of government" to fund the group is over.

"Let's not pretend ACORN is gone," Issa, the ranking member on the House Government Oversight Committee said at a press conference in D.C. this afternoon. "With over 300 organizations inside their umbrella, they're going to change their names" and re-apply for government money.

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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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