TPM News

After telling Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) to put a public option in his health care bill, and strip it of a financing provision that would tax employer-provided health care benefits, Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid tried to assure Republicans that he wasn't abandoning bipartisanship. Now, Baucus is saying much the same.

"Everything's on the table," was Baucus' mantra yesterday. "By far the better approach is a bipartisan approach to get this moving."

These are palliative words, but they don't seem to have changed momentum on the Hill. Most indications suggest two key provisions that were recently expected to be included in the Senate Finance Committee's health care bill--health care co-operatives and the benefits tax--are on life support. That pleases reformers, but also makes them nervous. They abhor the co-op model--preferring a public insurance plan instead--and though their feelings about taxing benefits are mixed, they see no reason to ignite controversy when there are plenty of other, more-popular ways to finance reform. But at the same time, Finance is now way, way behind schedule, and there are precious few days left for them to complete work on a bill, merge it with the HELP Committee's bill, debate the final product on the floor, and bring it to a vote.

Obama Calls For Climate Deal This Year At the G8 Summit, President Obama called for the member countries to make continued progress on climate change, before a new round of U.N. treaty talks this December. Press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters that Obama said "there was still time in which they could close the gap on that disagreement in time for that important (meeting)."

Obama's Day In Italy President Obama is in Rome today. At 3:30 a.m. ET (9:30 a.m. local time), he met with Brazilian President Lula da Silva. At 4 a.m. ET, he attended a meeting of leaders of the G-8, plus China, India, Mexico, South Africa and Egypt, with a working lunch at 6:30 a.m. ET. At 8:30 a.m. ET, he attended a meeting with representatives of the Junior 8, and he attended a world trade discussion at 9 a.m. ET. At 10:15 a.m. ET, he will attend a Major Economies Forum discussion on the environment, and will make a statement to the press at 12:30 p.m. ET. AT 2:30 p.m. ET, he will attend a G-8 working dinner, hosted by Italian President Giorgio Napolitano.

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Yesterday, Doug Hampton, a former aide to Sen. John Ensign and the husband of his mistress, went on Face to Face with Jon Ralston, a local news show in Las Vegas, to talk about the affair and the ensuing cover-up. He'll be on the show again tonight.

Below, last night's show in four parts:

President Obama and First Lady Michelle arrive in Rome, Italy on Wednesday morning after spending a few days in Moscow.


Sasha Obama arrives in Rome.


President Obama arrives at the Quirinale presidential palace in Rome on Wednesday morning.


President Obama and First Lady Michelle at the Quirinale presidential palace.


President Obama and Italian President Giorgio Napolitano hold a joint press conference at the Quirinale palace.


Obama and Napolitano.


President Obama and First Lady Michelle with President Napolitano and his wife Clio.


Obama and Napolitano.


First Daughters Malia and Sasha in Rome.


Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi greets President Obama as he arrives at the main G8 conference hall in L'Aquila, Italy.


President Obama and UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown arrive at the main conference hall in L'Aquila.


From left to right: Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso, President Obama, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and Italian PM Berlusconi.


From left to right: Canadian Prime Minister Harper, President Obama, French President Sarkozy, and Italian PM Berlusconi.


A hostess removes name tags from the floor as heads of state pose for a 'family photo.' From left to right: President Obama, French President Sarkozy, Italian PM Berlusconi, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and British PM Gordon Brown.


The L'Aquila G8 family photo.

G8 Summit Photo

TPMDC's update on the biggest legislative initiatives on the Hill:

  • Health Care: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid met with Republican members of the Senate Finance Committee today to reassure them that they wouldn't be closed out of the health care reform debate--after reportedly telling committee chairman Max Baucus to stop chasing Republican votes. The upshot? The Finance Committee's still not ready to set a mark-up date for it's yet to be unveiled bill. And the early, aspirational, August deadline for completing legislation in the Senate is fast approaching...

  • Appropriations: The White House is threatening to veto the Intelligence appropriations bill, working its way through the House, if it contains a provision that would strip the President of the power to determined who in Congress could be briefed on classified information, and give it to the congressional intelligence chairs. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi supports the provision.

  • Climate Change: A few weeks ago, Rep. Colin Peterson (D-MN) extracted concessions from climate change leaders in the House and made the Waxman-Markey bill friendlier to agricultural interests. Now, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) wants to see much the same thing happen when the Senate takes up the issue in the coming weeks.

Al Franken is now officially a senator. And with a 60-member caucus, Democrats have the power to circumvent every Republican filibuster--at least in theory. Two members are battling serious health conditions and often unable to vote at all. And even if that weren't the case, Dems would still need to be united to guarantee an up or down vote on every bill. But that's exactly what party leaders want to see.

After a caucus meeting on Tuesday, Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) said he told members, "Don't let the Republicans filibuster us into failure." Here's how he characterized his position:

If they will stick with us on the procedural votes, we at least know that we can move forward.... They may vote against final passage on a bill, they may vote with Republicans on an amendment. That's entirely their right to do. But this idea of allowing the filibuster to stop the whole Senate.... We ought to control our own agenda.

Sources on the Hill have been fairly mum about how the message came across. Was it more of a pep-talk? An attempt to rally the troops? Or was it a warning to conservative Democrats, who've extracted more than a pound of flesh from the President's agenda already, and who stand poised to do so again as the health care debate moves forward? It's a bit unclear.

But there are a couple of interesting data points.

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Yup, you've read that headline correctly.

The Minnesota Republican Party has tied off a remaining loose end from the epic, eight-month battle to determine a winner in the 2008 Minnesota Senate race, sending Democratic Sen. Al Franken's campaign a check for almost $96,000 that was owed to him by Republican former Sen. Norm Coleman's campaign.

This had been the result of a trial-court judgement in early June, finding Coleman liable under the state's loser-pays provision for a small portion of the legal fees that Franken had piled up in the course of the election litigation.

Also, the state GOP's check to Franken includes $872 in interest, which had built up from it not being paid over the past month. Coleman had initially sought to delay the judgment until the appeals were done, as the state Supreme Court had not yet handed down its final ruling that Franken was the winner. Instead, the order to pay came down, and interest would have continued to build up as long as it was not paid.

Looking at the immediate fallout of Sarah Palin's announced resignation as Governor of Alaska, a big question is whether she has a future in the Republican Party. It's also worth asking whether she has a present in the Republican Party -- that is, do Republican politicians want her around to campaign for them?

Taking a look at the headlines, it's starting to look like there's significant variation on this question. Some don't want her around, some are hedging, and some are still quite eager to see her.

For starters, Palin is apparently not wanted by Republicans in New Jersey, which has a hot gubernatorial race this year. "We don't have any plans on having her in," said New Jersey GOP chairman Jay Webber. Then again, New Jersey is a blue state that went 57%-42% for Obama last year, and where Christian Right candidates can't get elected dogcatcher -- so this was probably the situation even before her resignation, too.

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Doug Hampton has spoken publicly for the first time about his wife Cindy's affair with Sen. John Ensign. And it's good...

The highlights from Hampton's interview with Las Vegas Sun political columnist Jon Ralston:

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This afternoon, Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid met with Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee--not to apprise them that they've run out of time. But to reassure them that efforts to achieve bipartisan consensus on health care reform would continue.

Two possible explanations come to mind. First, that Reid approached Republicans gently today, but with the same resolve not to compromise reform efforts. And second, that earlier reports of Reid's sudden hard line overstated things a bit. I've placed a call to Reid's office for some clarification.


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