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Michael Steele appeared this morning on CBS, and was asked by host Harry Smith whether he believes the public option is socialist. "Yes I do," he said. "And quite frankly I think a lot more people believing (sic) that there's more to this than meets the eye."

Steele explained: "And the reality of it is, you know, I just don't understand this idea that somehow people think that the federal government can enter into a marketplace and compete with private industry. That goes counter to everything that we know about how markets work and the role that the government plays in those markets."

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In an interview today on Good Morning America, President Obama previewed his speech to Congress tonight, promising to lay out a detailed plan for health care reform and admitting he has "probably left too much ambiguity out there."

"I, out of an effort to give Congress the ability to do their thing and not step on their toes, probably left too much ambiguity out there, which allowed, then, opponents of reform to come in and fill up the airwaves with a lot of nonsense," he said, naming "death panels" and government insurance for illegal immigrants as example of the nonsense.

He said he'd define which principles must be in the bill for him to sign it, but wouldn't answer whether that includes a public option.

"The intent of the speech," Obama said, "is to make sure the American people are clear on exactly what we're proposing ... and to dispel some of the myths and, frankly, silliness."

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As I noted last night, Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) has given health care negotiators on his committee until 10 a.m. today to suggest any changes to a proposal he circulated over the weekend. Now, a Senate Democratic aide says Baucus will likely announce a date for mark-up hearing schedule this afternoon at the party's weekly caucus lunch.

Baucus has said he'll enforce a September 15 deadline to unveil a draft of his legislation, which means hearings on the bill could begin as early as next week.

We told you yesterday about Allen Weh's hilarious claim that, in working to get David Iglesias fired as U.S. attorney because he wasn't prioritizing bogus voter fraud cases that would help Republicans, Weh, then the state GOP chair, was actually going against his party.

And now, Iglesias has responded. In a lengthy statement to TPMmuckraker, Iglesias calls Weh's claim "a world class display of chutzpah," and writes that Weh, who yesterday formally announced his campaign for New Mexico governor, "may not be in touch with reality or may not even be literate."

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In a move that comes as a fairly big surprise, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) will reportedly announce today that he is not taking over the chairmanship of the Help, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which became vacant upon the death of Ted Kennedy. Dodd had been expected to take up Kennedy's mantle, leaving a vacancy on the Banking Committee, which he currently chairs.

The HELP chairmanship will instead go to Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), who is next in line after Dodd. Dodd had been the focus of much attention, because if he had taken the HELP chairmanship then Banking would have gone to Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD), whose home state is a major base for the credit-card industry.

To round out the game of musical chairs, Harkin will have to vacate the Agriculture Committee chairmanship, which will likely be filled by Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR)--the only senior member of that committee who doesn't already have a chairmanship.

Obama: Speech Tonight Will Make It Clear Exactly What is Being Proposed In an interview aired this morning on ABC's Good Morning America, President Obama said that his speech to Congress tonight will bring "clarity" to the health care debate: "So, the intent of the speech on is to, A, make sure that the American people are clear exactly what it is that we are proposing," said Obama. "B, to make sure that Democrats and Republicans understand that I'm open to new ideas, that we're not being rigid and ideological about this thing, but we do intend to get something done this year."

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will address the Walter Cronkite Memorial Service at 10:30 a.m. ET, at Lincoln Center in New York City. He will depart from New York at 1:25 p.m. ET, arriving back at the White House at 2:35 p.m. ET. At 8 p.m. Et, he will address a joint session of Congress, delivering a speech on health care reform.

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U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Chief Justice John Roberts stand at the steps of the Supreme Court after her Investiture Ceremony in Washington on September 8, 2009. Justice Sotomayor is the U.S. Supreme Court's first Latina judge.

Newscom/UPI/Roger L. Wollenberg




Associate Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor following the investiture ceremony.

Newscom/Ron Sachs/CNP




Justice Sotomayor stood with Chief Justice John Roberts before walking down the steps of the Supreme Court. The Justice was then greeted by her stepfather Omar Lopez, her mother Celina Sotomayor, sister-in-law Tracey Sotomayor and brother Dr. Juan Sotomayor outside the Supreme Court building.

Newscom/Ron Sachs/CNP




Justice Sotomayor (R) hugs her mother Celina and stepfather Omar Lopez.

Newscom/Olivier Douliery/ABACAUSA




Justice Sotomayor stands with members of her family on the steps of the Supreme Court after her Investiture Ceremony in Washington on September 8, 2009.

Newscom/UPI/Roger L. Wollenberg




Justice Sonia Sotomayor walks with her mother and step-father past the steps of the Supreme Court.

Newscom/UPI/Roger L. Wollenberg




Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor in front of the Supreme Court building.

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Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Newscom/Olivier Douliery/ABACAUSA




Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Newscom/Olivier Douliery/ABACAUSA




President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden meet with Justices prior to the investiture ceremony for Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza




President Barack Obama with Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus says that if the three Republicans and two Democrats he's been working with to negotiate a health care reform want to see changes in his proposal, they better speak up by 10 a.m. tomorrow.



"The rubber is starting to meet the road here. We're gonna have to start fishing or cut the bait pretty soon and I made that very, very clear to the group."

Lot of metaphors in there. But also a hard deadline. We'll see if, after weeks of trashing health care reform to constituents, Republicans Mike Enzi and Chuck Grassley are ready to start playing nice.

It should be a sparky affair. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer have made conflicting pubic statements over the last several weeks about the need for, and viability of, a public option. In fact just today, both Hoyer and Majority Whip James Clyburn both said the House may need to embrace a public option trigger. This as Pelosi's fighting to keep the public option as endorsed by three House committees alive. Seems like they should have plenty to discuss...

It's an obscure policy tool that isn't even written yet, and would be buried deep in the weeds of a thousand page health care bill. But somehow, a "trigger-mechanism" is the talk of Washington right now. How did that happen?

Substantively, the purpose of a trigger would be to delay--perhaps briefly, perhaps forever--the implementation of a public option; making it contingent on the failure of insurance companies to broadly expand access to affordable coverage. The question of how long that delay would be (one year? eternal?) is impossible to answer, and would depend in large part on the way the legislation is written. But it's that essential lack of certainty that could provide both liberals and moderates enough political cover to get on board.

As Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said today, the strong preference among Democratic party leaders is to pass a health care bill without resorting to procedural tactics that would shut out Republicans completely. That means coming up with a plan that will win the support of (at least) Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), whose preference all along has been to affix the public option to a trigger mechanism.

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