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During President Obama's speech tonight, some Republican House members were waving around their own bill -- to disprove the contention that the GOP doesn't have a plan of its own. It was announced as being an act of "silent protest," perhaps in contrast to the loud "You lie!" protest:

The bill from the Republcian Study Committee -- the caucus of hte most conservative members of the House GOP -- is available here.

A three-page summary shows that it is focused on promoting individually-owned insurance policies, while preserving employer-provided health care as an alternative with an opt-out clause.

On a conference call with reporters just now, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) said that Obama's decision to adopt Sen. Max Baucus' $900 billion financing scheme was a "major concession," but gave Obama high marks for his statement on the public option.

"He wants to always be open to ideas...but he sets his standard. And the standard is it's gotta offer better choice... it's got to discipline insurance companies... and it's got to bring prices down," Brown said in response to a question from TPMDC. "The other options don't even come close to doing it."

Brown's statement amounts to a belief that Obama has implied a demand for a public option. Obama has insisted that the plan he signs must increase competition and bring prices down. But though he's said he's open to triggers and co-ops, Brown says those options fall short enough that they likely won't meet the President mark. "I think he laid it out in a way that only a public option will get us where we want to go."

I asked Brown whether he would be supportive if Obama ultimately came to the conclusion that one or both of the alternatives--a co-op or a trigger plan--do meet his criteria. Brown said he'd have to wait and see, but said he'd only be supportive if he were convinced that the policies on offer would meet those goals.

NASA released new photos of deep space today from the refurbished Hubble Telescope. The telescope underwent a billion dollar repair mission last spring. See the photos here, along with NASA's descriptions.

Butterfly Emerges from Stellar Demise in Planetary Nebula - NGC 6302. What resemble dainty butterfly wings are actually roiling cauldrons of gas heated to more than 36,000 degrees Fahrenheit.


Stars Bursting to Life in Chaotic Carina Nebula - Two images of a huge pillar of star birth demonstrate how observations taken in visible and in infrared light reveal dramatically different and complementary views of an object.


Colorful Stars Galore Inside Globular Star Cluster Omega Centauri - Panoramic view of a colorful assortment of 100,000 stars residing in the crowded core of a giant star cluster.


Galactic Wreckage in Stephan's Quintet - A clash among members of a famous galaxy quintet reveals an assortment of stars across a wide color range.


Gravitational Lensing in Galaxy Cluster Abell 370 - The newly repaired Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) has peered nearly 5 billion light-years away to resolve intricate details in the galaxy cluster Abell 370.


Barred Spiral Galaxy NGC 6217 - Image of barred spiral galaxy NGC 6217 is the first of a celestial object taken with the newly repaired Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) aboard the Hubble Space Telescope.


I just got off the phone with Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ)--co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. His takeaway from the speech was pretty simple: Though the President didn't go all the way on the public option, the fact that he addressed and endorsed it means the fight for the public option will live another day.

"It was very encouraging," Grijalva said. "Obviously our policy point is the public plan and I thought the President dealt with it. He didn't get into a lot of specificity of what he does support and doesn't support."

In an official statement, which I've pasted below, Grijalva said "the President needs to be more direct on what the public option means and what it will do for the American people."

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Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chair and New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez released the following statement after President Obama's health care reform speech to Congress:

Tonight the President was clear and compelling in outlining his vision for health care reform. He was inspiring and he was persuasive. But when it comes to this issue, nobody needs to be convinced that we need to take action.

He went on to say Republicans would "pay an electoral price" if they continued getting in the way of reform.

I hope for the sake of the country that Republicans choose to work with us instead of against us. If Republicans continue their strategy of standing in the way at every turn, there is no doubt they will pay an electoral price. Elections are about accountability and giving voters a choice. If Republicans insist on reflexively obstructing the President, by next November Democrats will have worked hard to fix the economy and address astronomical health care costs, while Republicans didn't lift a finger on either issue.

# # #

Richard Kirsch, National Campaign Manager for Health Care for America Now, said in a statement responding to President Obama's speech to Congress that his group, the nation's largest health care campaign, "will continue to rally Americans at the grassroots nationwide to make sure Congress enacts health insurance reforms that deliver on the President's historic charge this year."

President Obama issued a clarion call for reforms that will guarantee all Americans have good, affordable coverage, directly taking on the insurance industry that wants to protect its profits and his political opponents who are engaging in fear-mongering for partisan purposes. He reaffirmed his support for the reforms that are essential to achieving his goals: assuring that people get good health coverage at work; strict regulation of the insurance industry; competition between private insurers and a new public health insurance option; and shared responsibility between individuals, employers and government in paying for coverage. The President reminded us that those who have opposed government programs like Social Security and Medicare in the past are once again working to deny history.

In a statement, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said Obama's "outline" would be helpful as the "Senate spends the next several weeks crafting and passing legislation."

Now that the President has spoken, those who have opposed reform have a choice to make. They can continue to spread falsehoods about reform as they defend the status quo or they can step up to the plate and offer genuine ideas to strengthen the proposals before Congress.

Reid also called the cost of inaction "too great" and said "doing nothing is simply not an option."

It's time for both sides of the aisle to come together for common sense reform that relieves the burden of skyrocketing costs that are breaking the backs of American families.

At the end of President Obama's speech tonight, he read from a letter Ted Kennedy wrote to him in May, but which was only delivered upon his death.

"For me, this cause stretched across decades," Kennedy wrote. "[I]t has been disappointed, but never finally defeated. It was the cause of my life. And in the past year, the prospect of victory sustained me-and the work of achieving it summoned my energy and determination."

There will be struggles - there always have been - and they are already underway again. But as we moved forward in these months, I learned that you will not yield to calls to retreat - that you will stay with the cause until it is won. I saw your conviction that the time is now and witnessed your unwavering commitment and understanding that health care is a decisive issue for our future prosperity. But you have also reminded all of us that it concerns more than material things; that what we face is above all a moral issue; that at stake are not just the details of policy, but fundamental principles of social justice and the character of our country.

And so because of your vision and resolve, I came to believe that soon, very soon, affordable health coverage will be available to all, in an America where the state of a family's health will never again depend on the amount of a family's wealth. And while I will not see the victory, I was able to look forward and know that we will - yes, we will - fulfill the promise of health care in America as a right and not a privilege.

I've obtained a copy, which you can read below the fold.

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This is pretty wonky, but it's a clear sign that, though he's criticizing Republicans pretty starkly, Obama's also going the extra mile to show he's open to Republican ideas.

"[M]any in this chamber - particularly on the Republican side of the aisle - have long insisted that reforming our medical malpractice laws can help bring down the cost of health care," Obama said.

I don't believe malpractice reform is a silver bullet, but I have talked to enough doctors to know that defensive medicine may be contributing to unnecessary costs. So I am proposing that we move forward on a range of ideas about how to put patient safety first and let doctors focus on practicing medicine. I know that the Bush Administration considered authorizing demonstration projects in individual states to test these issues. It's a good idea, and I am directing my Secretary of Health and Human Services to move forward on this initiative today.

That should mean health care reform gets 90 votes in the Senate and 402 votes in the House, right? No, I didn't think so either.

President Obama just pledged to be fiscally responsible with the health care bill -- and he called out the Republicans who might criticize him, for having been very irresponsible during this past decade:

"First, I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits - either now or in the future. Period. And to prove that I'm serious, there will be a provision in this plan that requires us to come forward with more spending cuts if the savings we promised don't materialize. Part of the reason I faced a trillion dollar deficit when I walked in the door of the White House is because too many initiatives over the last decade were not paid for - from the Iraq War to tax breaks for the wealthy. I will not make that same mistake with health care."

During the applause by the Democrats, the news cameras then went to the Republican leadership -- where House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) could be seen looking down, typing out something on his BlackBerry.