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We already know that House progressive leaders are giving President Obama's health care speech positive, if not overwhelming reviews. But they're engaged in a bit of legislative tug-of-war with Senate centrists, particularly over the public option. So how did conservative Democrats and moderate Republicans react?

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), who's come out in support of the idea of triggering the public option, said "I think it was a bit of a game changer."

That's about as positive a review as you can get. But right now all eyes are on Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), and her response was a bit less enthusiastic.

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It was the shout heard 'round the world (at least the country) last night - when Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) shouted "you lie!" to President Obama during his speech on health care to a joint session of Congress. The disruption came when Obama addressed rumors that his proposed health care plan would grant coverage to illegal immigrants.

Let's check the facts behind the issue.

Here's what Obama said in his speech:

There are also those who claim that our reform effort will insure illegal immigrants. This, too, is false - the reforms I'm proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.

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The new CNN snap poll from after President Obama's speech provides some preliminary good news -- though the self-selectiveness of the speech-watchers does make for something of a caveat.

Going into the speech, 53% of the speech-watchers favored Obama's proposals. Coming out of it, that support has now risen to 67%. More than seven in ten say Obama clearly stated his goals -- which was of course a key goal of the speech itself. And three out of four think it's somewhat or very likely that Obama will pass most of his proposals through Congress.

However, the speech audience polled was 45% Democratic, only 18% Republican, and the remainder independent. And while Democrats certainly do out-number Republicans, it's not by that much -- meaning that the people who chose to tune in were naturally more sympathetic to Obama to start with than the population as a whole.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) released a statement saying President Obama's speech on health care to Congress "cut through the smokescreen of distortions and outright lies that too frequently dominated the debate in August."

He told us his vision for what we need to do, and set out specific approaches for moving forward that includes both Republican and Democratic ideas. And he made it clear he will use his prestige and all his considerable leadership and communication skills to achieve a meaningful health care reform bill that will affect every American. I am ready to do all I can to work with the President and my colleagues in the House and Senate to pass this legislation and enact it into law.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) said in a statement following President Obama's speech to Congress on health care reform that "now is the time for Congress to act."

Months of delay and distortion have come to an end. For those interested in bringing new ideas to the table - the President has said 'welcome.' But for those seeking to prevent tens of millions of Americans' access to quality health care - we will not accept their cynical agenda.

The Blue Dog co-chair Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin (D-SD) is out with a mostly non-committal response to the President's speech. I've placed it below the fold, but in the most significant part of it, Sandlin says, "Blue Dogs agree with President Obama that the insurance market should be reformed. We must end the practice of denying coverage to individuals with pre-existing conditions, and we must eliminate the waste, fraud and abuse that is currently bankrupting the system." Adds Herseth-Sandlin, "The Blue Dogs share the President's commitment to passing health care reform this year, and we look forward to continuing the important work of crafting this critical legislation."

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Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) released a statement after President Obama's health care speech saying that "anyone who doesn't understand the urgency of this crisis fails to recognize the needs of the American people."

The President understands that health care reform isn't about him, or about any of us in Congress who already have great health care. It's about the millions of Americans who can't afford insurance and the millions more whose insurance doesn't guarantee them the care they need.


Dodd continued: "We have come too far to turn back now. And I believe that this Congress will leave behind the cheap politics of a hot summer and get back to doing the job we were sent here to do."

And for those "who look to sow fear by spreading lies" or are concerned with "political scoreboard-watching?" They are "irrelevant," Dodd said.

"The President made it clear tonight that the time to act is now -- and I, for one, am ready to join him in this fight."

I noted this moment during the speech itself, but President Obama threw Republicans a pretty big bone tonight, by announcing he has greenlighted an initiative that will allow states to implement a range of medical malpractice reforms to see if they lower health care costs.

Republicans were pleased.



But, of course, the official GOP position on health care reform remains: "No!" In the official Republican response to the speech, Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA) said, "it's time to start over on a common-sense, bipartisan plan focused on lowering the cost of health care while improving quality."

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) appeared on Larry King Live after President Obama's speech. McCain was almost expressionless as King showed a clip of the president calling the 'death panel' canard -- advanced by McCain's former GOP running mate Sarah Palin -- "a lie, plain and simple."

McCain twice called that portion of Obama's speech "an unnecessary comment." McCain said "it was partisan in nature" and "did nothing to contribute to bipartisan dialogue."

King asked if Sen. McCain believed there would be death panels.

"No," McCain said, before adding that portions of a bill "winding its way around here" were removed "which may have intimated such a thing."

"And we know there's some questions about some of the manuals in the Veterans administration."

Actually, there aren't.

To his credit, McCain did have harsh words for GOP Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina, who heckled Obama during the speech by shouting, "You lie!"

"Totally disrespectful," McCain told King. "No place for it, in that setting or any other, and he should apologize immediately."

Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) has apologized for breaking with protocol and calling the President a liar during his speech before Congess this evening.

"This evening I let my emotions get the best of me when listening to the President's remarks regarding the coverage of illegal immigrants in the health care bill," Wilson said. "While I disagree with the President's statement, my comments were inappropriate and regrettable. I extend sincere apologies to the President for this lack of civility."

Here's the video, for posterity:



I guess that's 90 percent of an apology, but politically, it may be too late to undo the impression that the GOP is handling the health care fight uncivilly.

Late update: Wilson apparently called the White House to apologize to Obama directly. Instead he ended up speaking to Rahm Emanuel. Oh, to have been listening in on that f@(&ing conversation.

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