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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.

    Read More →

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.

Continuing a big push to get a health reform bill, President Obama met today with Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) in the Oval Office. The two senators have been described as "crucial swing votes for the health care bill."

From the NYT:

Mr. Nelson is one of several Democrats who have expressed apprehension about the idea of a government-run insurance plan to compete with private insurers and he has said repeatedly that he does not know if he will support the Democratic health care legislation.

Sen. Nelson and Obama, courtesy of the White House/Pete Souza

Today was an eventful day for health care reform, with both the White House and outsiders adding to the mix: President Obama continued to give interviews on health care, the American Medical Association endorsed the House Democrats' health care bill, and the CBO chief testified before the Senate Budget Committee today with some less-than-stellar opinions of the same bill.

Read TPM's full health care coverage here.

As I noted in the post below, the Associated Press is standing by the assertion that House health care legislation will cost $1.5 trillion, even though it now says, based on its own analysis, that the same bill will likely cost $1.65 trillion.

This is puzzling on its own, but as Greg Sargent notes, it's also pretty irresponsible.

[T]he AP doesn't address the core problem here: That it keeps portraying its price tag as a matter of fact, rather than as a matter of dispute.... Even if you agree that the bill is likely to cost [$1.5 trillion] in the end, it's still reckless of the AP to keep treating this number as established fact, when it simply isn't any such thing. More on this in a bit.

Right. Something that's been elided here--and I'm guilty of this to some extent--is that Tuesday's CBO analysis isn't conclusive analysis. It's a preliminary analysis based on, in the words of Doug Elmendorf, "the major provisions related to health insurance coverage [and] does not take into account other parts of the proposal that would raise taxes or reduce other spending (particularly in Medicare) in an effort to offset the federal costs of the coverage provisions."

Read More →

Former Congressman and C Street resident Chip Pickering's estranged wife has filed a lawsuit against Pickering's alleged mistress. Leisha Pickering is suing Elizabeth Creekmore-Byrd for alienation of affection.

Rep. Pickering, a Republican from Mississippi, allegedly continued seeing his college sweetheart while they were both married. According to the suit, some of the "wrongful conduct" occurred at the C Street facility for Christian congressmen -- the same one where Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) have lived, and where Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC) has recently sought counseling.

What's with this place?

The suit alleges Pickering and Creekmore-Byrd are still together. Perhaps they're soul mates?

The complaint, filed Tuesday in Hinds County Circuit Court in Mississippi, is 28 14 pages long, plus evidence, so we'll be posting more if we find anything particularly juicy.

Late Update: The suit says Rep. Pickering and Creekmore-Byrd rekindled their relationship while he was a congressman, before and while living at the C-Street facility. The relationship was "completely unknown" by Leisha Pickering, as it occurred in Washington on weekdays, and the congressman would return home to his wife and five children only on weekends.

Later Update: The suit also alleges Pickering declined Trent Lott's Senate seat and instead quit Congress altogether when his mistress gave him an ultimatum. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour denies he offered Pickering the seat.

Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) told reporters earlier today that President Obama is "making it difficult" to reach a bipartisan compromise on health care.

"Basically, the president is not helping us," the Finance Committee chairman said. He was referring to Obama's opposition to a tax on some employer-provided benefits.

The White House brushed off the comment when a reporter brought it up to Bill Burton, a White House deputy press secretary.

"Nobody said it was going to be easy," Burton said. "And there are obviously bumps along the way to getting to final passage of legislation in both the House and the Senate. But we think that we've been able to make a lot of progress. And those comments notwithstanding, this week has been a very great week."