TPM News

Former DNC Chairman Howard Dean sounds off on the health care bill on MSNBC's Keith Olbermann show last night.

"They're not thinking about what they are doing here," Dean says, calling the negotiations a "real disappointment."

He said "to make Joe the issue" is a mistake, though he told TPMDC last month that Sen. Joe Lieberman and others have a "moral obligation" to vote with the caucus on procedural issues.

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Obama Sent Letter To Kim Jong Il President Obama sent a personal letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. An anonymous government official would not disclose the exact contents of the letter, but said they were consistent with the general message that the United States has had: "The North Koreans have a choice: continued and further isolation or benefits for returning to the six-party talks and dismantling their nuclear weapons program."

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama and Vice President Biden will receive the presidential daily briefing at 9:45 a.m. ET, and Obama will receive the economic daily briefing at 10:15 a.m. ET. Obama will meet with Peace Corps Director Aaron Williams at 11:45 a.m. ET. He will meet at Consumer Product Safety Commission Chairwoman Inez Tenenbaum at 12:10 p.m. ET. He will meet with NASA Administrator Charles Bolden at 3:05 p.m. ET. The President and First Lady will host a Hannukkah reception at 5:15 p.m. ET.

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December 14: Leaders from across the globe converge in Copenhagen for a historic diplomatic summit aimed at agreeing to a plan to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. And following these leaders were thousands of protesters.



While a majority of the demonstrations were peaceful, violence did break out -- resulting in hundreds of arrests. The protests added a layer of tension to a summit already rife with political and diplomatic complexities.

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Central to many of the protests at the climate change talks is that they are just that -- talks. Several activists held signs like the one above. Their message: the gravity of global warming demands immediate political resolution and action.



But it looks like they may have to continue to wait. Even prior to the summit's start, global leaders were clear that the intent was not necessarily to arrive at a global treaty like the Kyoto Protocol.

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December 12: A female demonstrator holds a sign playing off the famous poster of the U.S. president. In a last minute change, President Obama moved his travel plans to the end of the Copenhagen summit. Obama will arrive in Copenhagen with complex diplomatic considerations at play.

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December 13: The Copenhagen protests brought many well-known international environmental and human rights NGOs, like Oxfam International.

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December 15: A rioter in the Christiania quarter in Copenhagen. The Guardian reports that 194 were arrested on Tuesday after protesters set fire to street barricades in central Copenhagen.

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Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) released the following statement on health care reform tonight:

"While many of us expressed cost and bureaucracy concerns about early drafts of health care reform legislation, it is clear that the product the Senate is debating is a dramatic improvement. Senate Democrats have developed a consensus that combines the best blend of private and public approaches to reduce cost, expand coverage and increase choice and competition for Americans. The Congressional Budget Office and the nation's premier economists have confirmed that premiums will go down or remain stable, so that wages for millions of Americans can increase.

"If this bill is passed, 31 million uninsured Americans would have access to quality health care coverage. This reform bill creates an insurance exchange that will ensure that families would always have coverage - regardless of whether they change jobs, lose a job, move or get sick. We have also established immediate options for people who cannot get insurance today. About 11 percent of people in Louisiana have diabetes, and 32 percent have high blood pressure - two conditions that insurance companies could use as a reason to deny coverage. It would establish a high-risk pool to enable people who cannot get insurance today to find an affordable health plan.

"Although we eliminated the public option, about 900,000 Louisianians who do not currently have insurance and 200,000 residents who have non-group insurance could get affordable coverage through the health insurance exchange. For the 70 percent of Louisiana families that make less than $88,000 a year, the government would offer an affordability subsidy to help them purchase insurance, and a Medicaid expansion would bring health care coverage to more working families. Small businesses get help too. In Louisiana, more than 50,000 small businesses could be helped by small business tax credits to make premiums for their employees more affordable.

"Our bill has shored up Medicare for seniors, and extended the Medicare Trust Fund for an additional nine years. More than 600,000 Louisiana seniors will also begin receiving free preventive care, and thousands more will have the price of their brand-name drug in the Medicare Part D coverage gap cut in half.

"At my request, the bill also includes provisions to address part of Louisiana's Medicaid shortfalls and to extend health care coverage to 29,000 young adults who 'age out' of the foster care system each year."

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) says he's in for health care reform, even though his key initiative--the public option--and all of its alternatives, have been swept into the dust bin.

"I'm going to vote for it," Brown told reporters. "I can't imagine I wouldn't. I mean there's too much at stake. And it's not at me, it's not about any senator, it's not about Lieberman, it's not about Harry Reid."

I asked Brown if he'd challenged Lieberman on his opposition to the public option and the buy-in.

"In the meeting with the President, I just made a direct appeal to him...I answered the arguments I've heard him make from your reporting: that it's revenue neutral, that it doesn't hurt Medicare," Brown said.

So what of the fact that Lieberman supported the buy-in as recently as three months ago?

"That's for him and his...that's for him to figure out.

It wasn't much in doubt, but Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) confirmed to reporters tonight that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid assured her all of the contentious aspects of the public option compromise--particularly the Medicare buy-in provision--have been dropped.

The two met this afternoon so that Reid could gauge the likelihood that she'll ultimately vote with the Democrats, at least to push the bill past a filibuster.

He assured you that the Medicare buy-in and the public option are out, I asked?

"Correct," she said.

Still, Snowe insists, as she did earlier today, that there may not be enough time between now and the end of this week for her to understand the bill well enough to support it, as it enters the Senate holds a series of supermajority votes needed to finish the bill by Christmas.

With three unknowns--Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Roland Burris (D-IL), and Russel Feingold (D-WI)--on the left, and a wavering Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) on the right, Reid still has a lot of ground to cover.

The new Rasmussen poll of the Florida Republican Senate primary has big news for conservative insurgent candidate Marco Rubio -- he's now tied with moderate Gov. Charlie Crist, the favorite of the GOP establishment.

In the new survey, the two each have 43% support, with a ±5% margin of error. Back in October, Crist was ahead by 49%-35%.

Rubio has been hammering Crist over his having campaigned alongside President Obama for the stimulus bill. And it seems to be working. The primary will be held on August 24, 2010.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) isn't ruling out the possibility that he would run for re-election in 2012 as a Republican -- which would certainly be an odd situation for the 2000 Democratic nominee for vice president.

"I don't know what I'll run as," Lieberman told CNN. "I like being an independent, so that's definitely a possibility. I'd say that all options are open."

"It's unlikely that I would run as a Republican," he added, "but I wouldn't foreclose any possibility."

Former Ted Kennedy office manager Ngozi Pole has been charged with stealing $75,000 by submitting false salary paperwork to the Senate Disbursing Office, the Justice Department announced this afternoon.

Between 2003 and 2007, Pole, who is being charged with theft of government property and five wire fraud counts, allegedly received bonus and salary payments that had not been authorized by Kennedy or his chief of staff.

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