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It should be a sparky affair. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer have made conflicting pubic statements over the last several weeks about the need for, and viability of, a public option. In fact just today, both Hoyer and Majority Whip James Clyburn both said the House may need to embrace a public option trigger. This as Pelosi's fighting to keep the public option as endorsed by three House committees alive. Seems like they should have plenty to discuss...

It's an obscure policy tool that isn't even written yet, and would be buried deep in the weeds of a thousand page health care bill. But somehow, a "trigger-mechanism" is the talk of Washington right now. How did that happen?

Substantively, the purpose of a trigger would be to delay--perhaps briefly, perhaps forever--the implementation of a public option; making it contingent on the failure of insurance companies to broadly expand access to affordable coverage. The question of how long that delay would be (one year? eternal?) is impossible to answer, and would depend in large part on the way the legislation is written. But it's that essential lack of certainty that could provide both liberals and moderates enough political cover to get on board.

As Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said today, the strong preference among Democratic party leaders is to pass a health care bill without resorting to procedural tactics that would shut out Republicans completely. That means coming up with a plan that will win the support of (at least) Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), whose preference all along has been to affix the public option to a trigger mechanism.

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Even as the Speaker of the South Carolina House calls for his resignation, Mark Sanford is remaining defiant.

"God can use imperfect people to perform his will," declared the embattled governor moments ago, explaining in a radio interview that he needs to stick around in office to carry out God's will by working to restructure state government to make it more effective.

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Chris Christie is clearing up a seemingly false statement that he made on Friday, when he said that there had not been a lawsuit over his 2002 car accident in which he injured a motorcyclist after he turned the wrong way onto a one-way street.

In fact, the man that Christie hit, Andre Mendcona, had filed a lawsuit in 2004. It was dismissed two months later, implying a possible out-of-court settlement. For his part, Christie has now told NJN's Zachary Fink that he'd never actually been served with the lawsuit.

Mendonca's attorney Stanley Marcus told me that, without going into private details that would require the permission of his client, he never actually interacted with Christie. "I didn't talk to him, he didn't talk to me," said Marcus. "He may have talked to the insurance company."

Think Progress seems to have caught Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-OH) saying something very interesting to a Birther -- that Schmidt agrees with her.

The Birther spoke to Schmidt, as the Congresswoman was making a very frustrated effort to calm her down. "He cannot be a president by our Constitution," she complained.

Schmidt then ducked in close and tried to whisper something in the woman's ear -- which was picked up by the camera. "I agree with you," said Schmidt, "but the courts don't."

Here's a little noticed moment from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's press conference earlier today.

"[T]his, as I say, is the legislative process. And right now, we will have a public option in our bill," Pelosi said.

But I said it before and I'll say it again: The health insurance industry, which is out there fighting the public option tooth and nail because it does increase competition, which they don't want. They'd be better getting a public option now than one that is triggered because if you have a triggered public option, it's because the insurance industry has demonstrated that they're not cooperating, they're not doing the right thing, and I think they'll have a tougher public option to deal with.


Emphasis mine.

It would be premature to say that this is the deal being hashed out behind the scenes right now. But this seems like a clear warning from Pelosi to insurers--and also a signal to public option skeptics within her own party--that if the House backs a plan to "trigger" the public option, it will only do so if the triggers are affixed to a stronger, more robust public plan. That's a bit of a tell, I'd say.

Gov. Jon Corzine (D-NJ) has a new TV ad attacking his Republican opponent, former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie, for saying that he would reject federal stimulus money.

The ad reminds people of what is probably Christie's biggest weakness in this race. Although he's ahead int he polls right now, Christie is a Republican running in a Democratic state -- and he worked in the George W. Bush administration:



"But Chris Christie's so partisan he'd reject President Obama's stimulus funds - driving up property taxes $2 billion," the announcer says. "Chris Christie -- the same Bush policies that got us into this mess."

On a conference call just now with Democratic supporters, DSCC chairman Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) sought to paint an optimistic but cautious outlook for 2010 -- and also dealt with some skepticism from the base over health care.

Menendez said how the president's party has almost always lost seats in the mid-term elections, but that Dems have a good set of candidates and will have real accomplishments to run on in key races in 2010.

He then took questions that had been submitted by e-mail, and got a tough one: Why should the e-mailer continue to help Democrats, if they can't get health care done?

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Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) said today that, because of angry town hallers and the like, President Obama should show "humility" when he speaks to Congress Wednesday night.

"What you're seeing is folks on my side anxious to see what the president has to say tomorrow night," Chambliss said. "I think he's gonna have to express some humility based on what we've seen around the country this August and that's not his inclination."

The implication here is that Chambliss's side -- the one that opposes much of the Democrats' reform plan, especially a public option -- is winning, and that the president had better be humble.

Video after the jump.

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During a press conference outside the White House after meeting with President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid left no doubt that the overriding goal for health care reform remains passing a bill through the regular legislative process rather than using procedural tools to enact measures that can't be filibustered.

"We have a lot of work to do, understand that, but we're still approaching this in the form of bipartisanship," Reid said. "We want a bipartisan bill. We do not want [to use] reconciliation unless we have no alternative."



As we've reported, Democratic leaders have been gaming out the possibility of using the budget reconciliation process to enact reform measures that would be exempt from a 60 vote requirement. But for the time being, the goal remains to push forward with negotiations with moderate Republicans--notably Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME)--to advance a bill that can overcome a filibuster and, maybe, win a couple of Republican votes.

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