TPM News

On Monday, we noted that Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) has not yet commented on a Louisiana justice of the peace who made national news by refusing to marry an interracial couple. Now, Vitter has actually been asked about the incident and dodged the question. Watch the video below.

Mike Stark asked Vitter about being "the only senior official" from the state not to have commented on the story, to which Vitter responded, "I don't think that's the case." Both Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) and Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) have called for Hammond justice of the peace Keith Bardwell to be removed. When Stark pressed Vitter for a comment, Vitter smiled, thanked him, and left.


(h/t Think Progress)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is the power player right now, negotiating a careful merger between two bills with a goal of reaching 60 votes in his chamber. But the two other major players - the White House and Speaker Nancy Pelosi's House are left in a bit of a holding pattern.

Top White House staffers are helping with the merger, but sources tell TPMDC it's a more hands-off approach (for now) as Reid (D-NV) builds something that his caucus will fully support. Meanwhile, Pelosi (D-CA) is presenting the "robust" public option as the more fiscally responsible choice in hopes of pushing the conservative Blue Dogs closer to support it.

Pelosi is working hard to hit the 218 votes needed for passage by bringing together the most divergent factions in her caucus.

President Obama, for his part, urged Democrats last night to consider unity over the perfect bill, highlighting good things in "the bill you least like."

Progressive Democrats learning of the president's comments this morning were baffled since there seems to be growing support for the public option and the Congressional Budget Office is expected to score the bill with that included as less costly than originally anticipated.

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There are no two ways about it. What Speaker Nancy Pelosi's doing in the House of Representatives is a big play, and very, very bold--indicative of her confidence in both the wisdom of the public option as a political and policy tool, and in her ability to get results out of her 256 member caucus, despite the wide ideological chasm between its most liberal and most conservative members.

Pelosi's pulling out all the stops to pass a health care reform bill with a public option that pays providers at rates slightly higher than Medicare--even if it means she has to squeak a bill out of the House with the barest majority. Since the beginning of the push to pass reform, the public option has been at the center of the fight, pitting Republicans, moderates, and major industry stakeholders against an extremely determined majority of Democrats, progressive interest groups, and the public at large. It has been an epic tug of war, and at times, the pro-public option side seemed on the verge of being yanked into the mud.

But in recent weeks, as the health insurance industry further disgraced itself by rolling out the big anti-reform guns, and liberal leaders in both the House and Senate made it clear that they view the public option as an essential component of reform--one that serves voters' interests, and saves money--even if the White House isn't willing to put its full weight behind the measure.

It's in that context that Pelosi is running thiis public option endgame.

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Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) told Fox News today that President Obama should make a decision about whether to send more troops to Afghanistan before the country's runoff presidential election Nov. 7.

"The decision ought to be made before the elections," he said.

Lieberman, chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, believes Obama should send the 40,000 more troops requested by top U.S. commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has also said that the decision should be made before the runoff.

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The new Rasmussen poll of the Florida Republican Senate primary confirms that the race is getting closer between the frontrunner, the moderate Gov. Charlie Crist, and the more conservative former state House Speaker Marco Rubio.

The numbers: Crist 49%, Rubio 35%, with a ±4.5% margin of error. Back in August, Crist had been ahead by 53%-31%.

This is nearly identical to this morning's Quinnipiac poll, which has Crist ahead by 50%-35%.

Silence is golden. That's Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's mantra as he heads the delicate process of crafting a single Senate health care bill from two separate packages. But so far, the House's swift and decisive action on the public option seems to have had little impact on the hiss position.

Reid is adamant that the insurance industry should lose a decades-old anti-trust exemption that allows companies to divvy up markets and agree not to compete against one another. But he and other senators are still mum about whether they'll systematically end the non-competitive nature of health insurance markets by including a public option in the Senate's health care bill.

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In a speech this morning on the Senate floor, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) offered the White House "a friendly suggestion."

"Don't create an enemies list."

Alexander, according to his prepared remarks, described President Nixon's famous list of political opponents and dissenters, which included journalists.

"Now the only reason I mention this is because I have an uneasy feeling, only ten months into this new administration, that we're beginning to see symptoms of this same kind of animus developing in the Obama administration," he said.

Video after the jump.

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Dede Scozzafava, the moderate Republican running in the three-way NY-23 special election, is now challenging her opponents to hold more debates -- and focusing on the one who has been the biggest thorn in her side, Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman.

Scozzafava held a press conference this morning, right outside of one of Hoffman's campaign offices. "I've agreed to debate," Scozzafava said. "I've agreed to every forum that's been offered and I think it's time that the opposition and both of my opponents agree as well."

Hoffman spokesman Rob Ryan responded in a statement saying that they have tried to debate -- and also lambasting Scozzafava's campaign for calling the police against Weekly Standard reporter John McCormack, and calling on her to drop out of the race for the good of the GOP.

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