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CBO chief Doug Elmendorf testified before the Senate Budget Committee today and spoke words that will invariably come back to haunt Democrats. "In the legislation that has been reported we do not see the sort of fundamental changes that would be necessary to reduce the trajectory of federal health spending by a significant amount," Elmendorf told chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND). "On the contrary," he said, "the legislation significantly expands the federal responsibility for health-care costs."

This is true, but it's also more complicated than that. First of all, the CBO has analyzed two bills so far: The Senate HELP Committee's bill and the House's so-called tri-committee bill. But, crucially, the HELP Committee doesn't have jurisdiction over Medicare and Medicaid where many of these savings can--and likely will--be found. And, just as crucially, the CBO hasn't scored those parts of the House bill either.

"The analysis issued today 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," Elmendorf wrote with regard to the House bill on the CBO's blog two days ago. In fact CBO has only analyzed "the major provisions related to health insurance coverage that are contained in draft legislation." Most of the provisions that would reduce the trajectory of federal health care spending, though, will not be found in the sections of the legislation that pertain to expanding coverage.

But that doesn't mean either the House or the Senate is working on legislation that will maximize the reduction in federal health care spending. As Ezra Klein notes, many of the hypothetical provisions that would work dramatically on that score have been eschewed for political reasons.

Words are words, though. Conservatives are already beginning to use the words of an anonymous Democratic aide against the House's health care reform bill. And they'll likely latch on to this as well.

Rejected Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork doesn't believe for a second that Sonia Sotomayor is committed to the "fidelity of the law."

"I don't take Sotomayor's protestations that she's entirely governed by law seriously," Bork said in an interview with Newsmax. "I think the statements she's made and the rulings she's made show that she's not governed entirely by law."



He also agreed with the interviewer that her comment about wise Latinas should have immediately disqualified her from the bench.

She has a "preference for some minorities over the majority," he said.

Bork, who was nominated by Ronald Reagan, also lashed out at the way Democrats conduct confirmation hearings.

"It's quite true that the Democrats are willing to engage in furious attacks, often without any basis in fact, and Republicans are not," he said.

"I don't know if that's a Republican virtue or Republican timidity. But I think the Republicans are either going to have to persuade the Democrats to quit that approach to confirmations, or take up the same kind of tactics themselves, which would be too bad."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) released a statement this afternoon reemphasizing his support at the conclusion of Judge Sonia Sotomayor's testimony before the Senate Judiciary Commitee. The committee today wrapped up four days of questioning of the Supreme Court nominee; currently, both Democratic and Republican witnesses are testifying before the senators.

Read the statement below:

I want to congratulate Chairman Leahy for conducting informative, spirited confirmation hearings and thank both Chairman Leahy and Ranking Member Sessions for their commitment to a fair and open process.

Once again, I commend the President for selecting such an accomplished, qualified and experienced jurist to replace Justice Souter on the Supreme Court. Judge Sotomayor has the right combination of legal experience and perspective on the lessons of the real world. She has a unique understanding of the responsibilities of the judicial branch and a respect for both the law and the people to whom the law is applied.

Her performance at this week's hearings has only strengthened my belief that Judge Sotomayor will be a fine Supreme Court Justice. Her grasp of the issues, her experience on the bench and her record of moderate rulings that put the rule of law before everything else were on display this week.

It is particularly encouraging that Judge Sotomayor will be our first Latina Supreme Court Justice - a fact that should be a source of pride, not only for Hispanic Americans, but all Americans.

I look forward to the committee's vote on Judge Sotomayor's nomination and a vote before the full Senate in a timely fashion.

Just a couple weeks ago, the AMA was trying to have it both ways with the public option. The group had long opposed the provision, but in an appearance on CNN, its President J. James Rohack was unable to come right out and say so. Now it seems as if they've gotten over, or at least managed to suppress, their concerns. "On behalf of the Board of Trustees of the American Medical Association, I am writing to express our appreciation and support for H.R. 3200, the 'America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009,'" wrote AMA Vice President Michael Maves in a letter to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel.

This legislation includes a broad range of provisions that are key to effective, comprehensive health system reform. We urge members of the House Education and Labor, Energy and Commerce, and Ways and Means Committees to favorably report H.R. 3200 for consideration by the full House.


You can read the full letter here.

Note, this caveat. "The AMA looks forward to further constructive dialogue during the committee mark-up process. We pledge to work with the House committees and leadership to build support for passage of health reform legislation to expand access to high quality, affordable health care for all Americans." 'Building support' would likely entail weakening the bill in some ways, and it seems likely that with respect to certain provisions, the AMA would be just fine with that. But this is nonetheless a pretty major development.

I'm told that the AMA will be releasing a statement shortly, and I'll pass that along when I receive it.

Today, two days after House Democrats unveiled their health care plan, President Obama & Co. continue to push hard for support on the bill.

MSNBC aired Obama's full interview with Nancy Snyderman, aka "Dr. Nancy," at noon ET today. In it, he predictably emphasized "self-responsibility," saying, "The American people have to recognize that there's no such thing as a free lunch." He kept to talking points about mandated individual insurance, taxes and small business, avoiding discussing the political entanglements.

Vice President Biden and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will talk health care at a Middle Class Task Force meeting at 1:30 p.m. ET, specifically about how "health care reform will lower costs, cut waste and improve quality for seniors from across the country," according to the White House.

Obama was also holding meetings with Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE).

After the meeting, Snowe told ABC that "We shouldn't be restrained by an artificially compressed timeline."

But just a few minutes ago, in an interview with Andrea Mitchell, she said she hopes they can commit to something before the August recess.

If only it were that cheap. ABC is now picking up on the claim that the House Democrats' health care reform bill will cost a made-up number.



A couple things stand out here. First, the ABC reporters who wrote the piece--Jonathan Karl, Z. Byron Wolf, and Huma Khan--seem to be basing their article a couple Associated Press pieces which peg the legislation at $1.5 trillion...based on the contention of one anonymous Democratic aide. For whatever reason, the AP isn't relying in this instance on the Congressional Budget Office--or other, on the record House Democrats--which prices the bill at about $1 trillion. That's without taking into account revenue-generating measures.

Second, they're using the word "billion" instead of "trillion"--a three-order-of-magnitude difference notwithstanding all the problems with the number "1.5".

That now makes two news organizations--Time, and ABC--along with Newt Gingrich who have taken this AP number and run with it. How far will it go?

Karenna Gore Schiff will not run for Rep. Carolyn Maloney's (D-NY) seat, a Gore family spokeswoman confirms.

"Karenna Gore Schiff has no intention of running for the House of Representatives. She's currently working on a documentary and spending time as a full-time mom," Kalee Kreider told TPMDC.

Roll Call reported speculation this morning that Al Gore's oldest daughter was eyeing Maloney's seat. Maloney is reportedly planning a primary run against Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in 2010.

We've seen it happen before: disinformation, disseminated for political reasons, becomes a talking point, and then, maybe, conventional wisdom. And there's a real risk of this happening with respect to the House's health care proposal.



Time's Mark Halperin is linking to this morning's Associated Press story, which repeats the claim--based on the claim of one anonymous Democratic aide--that the bill will cost $1.5 trillion. But the Congressional Budget Office--normally the arbiter of these things for reporters--says the bill will cost significantly less. One trillion dollars, specifically. And that's the number House health care leaders--and most reporters--cite on the record when asked.

Not the AP, though. They seem to be standing by their flimsy story. Flimsy or not, though, it's starting to take hold.

Since the news broke (sub. req.) at the start of the week that CIA director Leon Panetta had pulled the plug on a secret program to assassinate or capture al Qaeda leaders, we've been raising questions about one key aspect of the story. In particular, what was it about the program that was so shocking that Dick Cheney reportedly ordered it kept secret from Congress, Panetta quashed it as soon as he heard about it, and Congressional Democrats risked being painted as soft on terror by shrieking about being kept in the dark?

We may have gotten a good piece of the answer here: The Washington Post reports today on how the program had been revived and then put on hold several times since 2001. But it also says, referring to the "presidential finding" with which President Bush authorized the program in 2001:

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