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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid often says that he supports a public option "or something like a public option." But he spoke about that a bit more specifically today:

"The purpose of a public option is to create competition, which is so important, and to create quality healthcare," Reid told reporters today. "If we can come up with a concept of a cooperative that does just that, that is it makes more competition and makes insurance companies honest, yes, I think that would fit the bill," Reid said.

A couple things jump out about this. First, this is a bit more specific than we're used to with Reid. He's very clear here that, at least in theory, a co-op could meet all of his and the President's requirements with respect to creating competition and honesty in the insurance market.

More importantly, though, this comes a day after Obama's speech where he specifically warned liberals that he doesn't see a government-run public option as an end in and of itself. It's a tool. Reid is using very similar language to say a co-op model might serve that function as well. And since the just-released Senate Finance Committee draft provides for the creation of a co-op system, it seems pretty clear that Reid's taking the idea seriously.

Late update: A Reid spokesperson tells me "Reid did not endorse the co-op plan at today's press conference. He reiterated again today that he supports a public option but is open to interpretations of such a plan. The goals for him are lowering cost and keeping the insurance industry in check." And indeed, it does seem that other reports have overstated Reid's remarks.

On his radio show today, Rush Limbaugh lambasted Republicans for condemning Rep. Joe Wilson's (R-SC) outburst of "You lie!" during President Obama's speech last night -- and even said he wished Wilson hadn't apologized:

"That was a blatant lie. I'm gonna tell you something. I've -- one of the things that's really irritated me all morning and last night, was listening to Republicans, even after wilson has apologized -- and I wish he had not. But he's apologized, and even after he's apologized, members of his own party are all over television denigrating him."

Does this mean Wilson will now have to apologize to Limbaugh for the apology to Obama?

What did conservative Republicans think of President Obama's health care speech last night? Not very much, apparently. Sen Orrin Hatch (R-UT)--who, you'll recall was a part of the "gang of six" back when it was the "gang of seven"--even went so far as to predict that the proposal Obama outlined would get zero Republican votes. No Collins. No Snowe.

"I really sincerely doubt if Olympia or Susan will go with them. I really sincerely doubt that Chuck Grassley and Senator Enzi will go with them," Hatch said.

The one thing the President said where people can get insurance across state lines, anywhere in the country, lowest possible prices they can, that's a good idea but that's an idea that Republicans came up with long ago. That takes some conservative Democrats came up with that as well. When he talked about medical liability reform, he is talking about, you know, small projects. We don't need small projects.

We'll have video for you shortly. And, we'll try to get an answer from Sens. Snowe and Collins on what they think of Hatch's powers of prognostication.

Late update: Video Below.

Speaking at the end of his Cabinet meeting today, President Obama said he accepts Rep. Joe Wilson's (R-SC) apology for yelling out "You lie!" during the president's speech yesterday.

"We all make mistakes," Obama said. "He apologized quickly and without equivocation."

"We have to get to the point where we can have a conversation about big, important issues that matter to the American people without vitriol, without name calling, without the assumption of the worst in other people's motives," he went on. "We are all Americans. We all want to do the best for our country. We've got different ideas but, for the most part, we have the same aims."

Wilson yelled out after Obama said a public option wouldn't cover illegal immigrants. He apologized soon after.

Check out the video after the jump.

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In a Facebook post responding to President Obama's speech last night, Sarah Palin said that Obama's debunking of the "death panel" smear -- which she has propagated -- showed a lack of civility:

"In his speech the President directly responded to concerns I've raised about unelected bureaucrats being given power to make decisions affecting life or death health care matters," Palin wrote. "He called these concerns 'bogus,' 'irresponsible,' and 'a lie' -- so much for civility."

Yes, Palin is saying Obama lacks civility. This from the politician who said: "The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's 'death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their 'level of productivity in society,' whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil."

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Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) had an, um, interesting take a few minutes ago on Obama's health care speech to Congress last night. Appearing on FNC, the GOP Senator called the President's speech "a disaster" and "combative."

"If his goal was to try to unite the Democratic Party and the hard left, maybe he succeeded," Graham said. But what Obama did not do was "create consensus and bring people together."

Just like Obama's speech, the public option would be "a disaster," Graham said, and Obama's explanation of it is "not credible."

"I wanna work with Democrats," he added without any apparent sense of irony. "I want a bipartisan bill."

Graham said if the Democrats resort to passing health care reform through 51-vote reconciliation, "it's an admission that you can't get your own party on board, because they got 60 votes in the Senate."

And as for his fellow South Carolina lawmaker Rep. Joe Wilson, who shouted "You lie!" in the middle of Obama's speech? He was wrong to shout, Graham said, and was right to apologize. However, "the President of the United States set the wrong tone," Graham said. "I quite frankly was offended by the whole tone. I thought it was a partisan pep rally."

And Wilson's re-election chances, considering his Democratic opponent has raised more than $100,000 since Wilson's gaffe last night? "I will do everything I can to help him get reelected," Graham said. "Democrats are not going to take that seat over."

Late Update: Here's the video.

Americans United For Change has a new ad on Washington cable TV, essentially aimed at the media and pundit class, as well as testing it for wider distribution, attacking an insurance company for denying a liver transplant to a 17-year old girl, who died just a few hours after they finally approved it -- and for paying big money to executives:

"This year Cigna CEO Ed Hanway will retire with a $73 million golden parachute," the announcer says. "Seventy three million dollars. That's 292 liver transplants. Nataline only needed one. If insurance companies win, we lose."

ABC News is reporting that President Obama has summoned 17 members of the Senate Democratic caucus--most of whom have expressed some degree of skepticism over President Obama's health care plan--to the White House for a meeting late this afternoon.

The members are: Sens. Mark Pryor (D-AR), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Mark Warner (D-VA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Evan Bayh (D-IN), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Tom Carper (D-DE), Arlen Specter (D-PA), Mark Begich (D-AK), Mark Udall (D-CO), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Ben Nelson (D-NE), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Kay Hagan (D-NC), Herb Kohl (D-WI), Joe Lieberman (I-CT).

We'll be on the lookout for developments.

The Democratic Congressional Committee is now aiming to cash in on Rep. Joe Wilson's "You lie!" outburst, with a new fundraising e-mail sent out to its supporter list.

"Help us raise $100,000 in the next 48 Hours to send a message to Republicans like Congressman Joe Wilson that we will not stand for our President to be called a liar in front of the nation," the e-mail says. "Your contribution will be immediately put to work to defeat Republican Members of Congress and support meaningful health insurance reform."

Wilson's Democratic opponent, Rob Miller, has already taken in $200,000 in less than 24 hours since the big moment.

Check out the full e-mail, after the jump.

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Responding to President Obama's speech last night, RNC chairman Michael Steele accused Obama of bringing "partisanship" to the speech.

"To start throwing up the Bush administration and start throwing up, basically, 'If you disagree with me I'm gonna call you out,' is not the way you precede in a debate," Steele said.

Obama mentioned the Bush administration in a positive way, saying their plan to look into reforming malpractice law was a good one. He said he'd call out those who spread misinformation, and he also said, "My door is always open," but Steele brushed that away, saying Republicans have been completely ignored on health care reform.

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