TPM News

A progressive California group is calling for an investigation into whether "Hot Mike" Duvall sold his votes for sex.

"A vice-chairman of the Committee on Utilities and Commerce was literally in bed with Sempra Energy's lobbyist," said Rick Jacobs of the Courage Campaign in a statement. "Assemblyman Duvall's 'sex for votes' affairs have cheated Californians out of honest government. We call on the attorney general to investigate Mr. Duvall to see if he can be prosecuted for selling his votes."

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Well this probably won't make reformers very happy. White House adviser David Axelrod now says that, in his speech before Congress tonight, President Barack Obama will acknowledge the potential for compromise on the public option

"He believes the public [option] choice, within that pool that we're going to create for uninsured Americans and small businesses would be helpful in terms of bringing competition and choice. He thinks that could be good for consumers, and he's going to make the case for that, but he's also going to make the point that this is not--this is an ends to a means. It's not the essence of this debate. It's a part of--it's one of the tools, and there are other ideas out there that-to-bring competition and choice that are--that are worthy as well," Axelrod said.

Emphasis mine. Questioned further by Wolf Blitzer, Axelrod said Obama will nod at both of most commonly suggested public option alternatives: the co-op model, and the triggered public option.

"He will acknowledge [co-ops]," Axelrod said. "There's the idea of putting trigger on the public option so it goes into effect at some date when it's clear that a market is uncompetitive. There are a number of ideas, but what is very important is that we have the kind of competition and choice that will help consumers in many states in this country."

Mike Duvall, the California GOP lawmaker and married family values champion who just resigned after a hot mic picked up his graphic bragging to a colleague about two affairs, was in 2000 awarded the "Ethics in America" award by a local university, for his "demonstration of the highest standards of ethical integrity" as a community leader with the Yorba Linda Chamber of Commerce, according to a 2008 press release on Duvall's state government website (the site has now been dismantled.)

We'll let you make your own joke.

A new Rasmussen poll in Massachusetts finds that support has fallen for changing the law to allow for a temporary appointment to the Senate, and the question is now evenly split.

The numbers: 44% are in favor of a temporary appointment while waiting for the special election, to 43% against it, within the ±3.5% margin of error.

A poll taken nearly three weeks ago, shortly before Ted Kennedy's death, found that 52% supported an interim appointment, to 40% against. The news had just broken at the time that Kennedy had requested a change to the law, to allow Gov. Deval Patrick to make an interim appointment.

Numerous reports now suggest that President Obama's health care speech tonight will include a fairly ringing endorsement of--though not a demand for--a public option. And though from all accounts, Obama's position on the public option (supportive, but not insistent) will remain unchanged, the development might come as a surprise to those who were paying close attention to the news last week. And, if it's emphatic enough, it will be a welcome sign to reformers that the public option will fight another day.

On Wednesday, a number White House officials began whispering to members of the White House press corps that the public option was on its way out--a trial balloon that led George Stephanopoulos to ask, "What is "death with dignity" for the public option?"

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Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), in an interview with The American Prospect, said he's "always favored using reconciliation for the good parts" of the health care reform bill.

"We've looked at it and you can't use reconciliation for everything, [but] you can use it for a good number of things," he said. "There's nothing wrong with using it for the places where you can use it and then trying to get the 60 votes on the places where when you can't. You'd be surprised -- the number of places where you can use it is larger than we first thought."

He declined to be more specific.

Schumer also said piece-by-piece reconciliation would strengthen the bill.

"I think that will get you the best bill, the strongest bill and the bill that will have the greatest positive effect on the American people. Ultimately, we'll be judged not by whether we pass the bill, but ultimately we'll be judged by whether it works," he said.

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That was quick. Mike Duvall has resigned from public office.

In a statement on his campaign website, he wrote:

I am deeply saddened that my inappropriate comments have become a major distraction for my colleagues in the Assembly, who are working hard on the very serious problems facing our state. I have come to the conclusion that it would not be fair to my family, my constituents or to my friends on both sides of the aisle to remain in office. Therefore, I have decided to resign my office, effective immediately, so that the Assembly can get back to work.

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Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) spoke today before the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Election Laws, testifying in favor of the proposed law to empower Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick to appoint a Senator to Ted Kennedy's seat until the special election in January.

"This is no time for the people of Massachusetts to not be represented fully in Washington. We need to be in the strongest position possible," said Kerry. "Big decisions are being made now -- not in five months. And important votes are coming now -- not in five months. Massachusetts cannot and should not be underrepresented."

There's a certain irony in Kerry coming before the committee -- the legislation that took away the power of governors to appoint Senators was passed by the state Democrats in 2004, when they thought that Kerry himself might get elected President while Republican Mitt Romney was Governor. The old law had provided for an appointment until the next regular general election, and legislators rejected the possibility of even having an appointment combined with an expedited special election.

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Senate Finance Committee chair Max Baucus (D-MT) is becoming less relevant to the health care debate, report MSNBC correspondents Chuck Todd and Andrea Mitchell.

Baucus, who's been the lead negotiator in the Senate, released his own proposal for legislation earlier this week. But, Todd said, he had quietly circulated the same document to the White House in June. If Baucus had released it publicly then, Todd said, he may have been able to get Republicans Chuck Grassley and Mike Enzi to sign on -- but now it's too late.

"How he managed the politics of this has made him less relevant to this process," he went on. "He is still relevant because he is an important committee chair, but he is no longer the person playing point. The president of the United States is playing point. He's drafting, frankly, the legislation with what he says tonight."

As Mitchell said, the White House is passing him by.

Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) may be the deciding vote--and the deciding voice--on health care reform, but for the time being she's warning President Obama that she doesn't support a public option without a trigger and urging the White House to compromise with other Republicans.

"I talked to [President Obama] last week while I was in Maine and I talked to him on Monday as well," Snowe said on MSNBC earlier today. "We talked about the public option. I was ... urging him if he could take the public option off the table in his speech this evening so it could provide, I think, a momentum of a different kind in moving this issue forward overall."

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