TPM News

Are the Senate Finance Committee's bipartisan health care negotiations getting anywhere? According to the panel's lead Republican, Chuck Grassley, the answer is no. And yes!

"I don't think it's going to be possible to work it out with the administration because they're all over the field -- all over the ball park, I guess, as we say," Grassley told reporters in Iowa, presumably while trying to come up with the word "map."

He added that the Obama administration has been unclear about whether it wants health care legislation to include a public option, which, Grassley said, "leads to single-payer, completely government-run health care system and no choice."

So I guess that's it for bipartisanship, then, right? Well....

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Here's a great example of the new Republican populism -- a Web ad by a GOP candidate that bashes his opponent as a greedy Wall Street executive, using footage of the infamous Gordon Gekko from the movie Wall Street, declaring, "The point is, ladies and gentlemen, that greed -- for lack of a better word -- is good."

The new Web ad from Republican former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie, the GOP nominee for Governor of New Jersey, attacks Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine's administration for having invested $180 million in state pension funds in Lehman Brothers, shortly before the firm collapsed, and insinuates a dirty connection on account of Corzine appointees having previously served at that same firm:

Christie might be a going little bit too far to the left, when the Web ad uses audio of none other than President Obama: "This financial crisis is a direct result of the greed and irresponsibility that has dominated Washington and Wall Street for years now."

Late Update: Corzine press secretary Lis Smith gives us this comment:

"When Governor Corzine and the state of New Jersey filed their lawsuit against Lehman Brothers, the Governor said 'we intend to hold Lehman executives and directors accountable for the fraud and misrepresentation.' If Christie wants to discuss greed on Wall Street, he should speak with his brother, Todd, who was one of 20 former New York Stock Exchange floor traders charged with securities fraud by the S.E.C. for cheating customers to benefit their firms. In fact, the S.E.C. said he ranked 'in the category of amongst the worst in terms of the harm cost.' Of course, if Christie does that then he might have to talk about David Kelley and the no-bid contract he received."

Late Late Update: In an e-mail exchange with TPM, DNC spokesman Michael Czin denounced the invocation of Obama. "It's cynical and intellectually dishonest," said Czin. He also gave us a lengthier statement, available after the jump.

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Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) has a proposition: If the government is going to mandate that Americans buy health insurance from private companies, they should know how much of that money actually goes to paying health insurance costs. And insurers aren't happy about it.

On Friday, Rockefeller sent letters to executives at the 15 largest health insurance companies in the country, asking them to compile data on this question for the Senate Commerce Committee by September 8.

"It's another page out of the same playbook," says Robert Zirkelbach, spokesman for America's Health Insurance Plans. "There's an effort to shift the focus to the health insurance industry rather than on the bills in Congress."

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The top fundraiser for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign has been charged with fraudulently applying for a loan of over $74 million from Citigroup.

Federal prosecutors allege that Hassan Nemazee, a New York businessman who was national finance chair for the Clinton campaign, "submitted, and caused to be submitted to Citibank numerous documents that purported to establish the existence of accounts in Nemazee's name at various financial institutions containing many hundreds of millions of dollars. In fact, those were fraudulent and forged documents."

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At a health care town hall today, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) broke out some of his campaigning skills, not the least of which is calming an angry crowd.

McCain spoke to a group of mostly older citizens opposed to health care reform. When he said President Obama respects the Constitution, the crowd booed. They booed again when he said, "I am convinced the president is absolutely sincere in his beliefs."

"Wait a minute," McCain said, putting his hand up to stop the boos, in a flashback to rowdy campaign rallies last fall. "He is sincere in his beliefs, we just happen to disagree. He is the president of the United States and let's be respectful."

Later, he said, "We don't shout at my town hall meetings."

But, McCain said, what he's been seeing at town halls across the country is "the beginning of a peaceful -- and I emphasize peaceful -- revolt in America."

In another flashback, McCain dusted off an old campaign joke about the fate of presidential candidates from Arizona.

"I still want your sympathy for the mothers of Arizona, because Arizona is still the only state in America where mothers can't tell their children that some day they can grow up and be president of the United States," he said, chuckling.

Sen. Jeff Binagaman (D-NM)--one of the six members of the Senate Finance Committee who have been hashing out a health care reform bill for months--says that if bipartisan negotiations go nowhere, he'd support an effort to circumvent a filibuster and pass legislation without any Republicans.

"If we are unable to do it any other way, that is an option. It is a very difficult option," Bingaman told a crowd of about 200 at a town hall event in Albuquerque yesterday. He was referring to the possibility that Democrats will pass health care reform through the so-called budget reconciliation process.

The acknowledgment signals that even those members of Congress most invested in passing bipartisan health care reform are well aware that those efforts might not bear fruit.

"I don't think that that effort [at bipartisanship] is what is stymying progress," Bingaman said.

"It may well not succeed, but it has been worth the effort, and we are continuing with it."

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Mike Ensign, casino magnate and father of Sen. John Ensign (R-NV), has dropped out of plans to develop a casino in Kansas.

Ensign's firm was one of three with vying proposals before the Kansas Lottery until last week, when it dropped its proposal in order to back another one presented by Foxwoods.

But now, according to lottery officials, Ensign and a fellow former executive of the Mandalay Group have left the project entirely.

Mike Ensign's involvement came under public scrutiny after he and his wife admitted to paying $96,000 to his son's mistress and her husband, both of whom worked for the senator.

Lottery officials at first said they would investigate the payment, but later said it wasn't an issue.

Mike Ensign was an executive at the Mandalay Group, which owned the Mandalay Casino in Las Vegas. Ensign sold his shares for around $300 million at the beginning of the decade.

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told CNN today that former Vice President Cheney's statements about the DOJ's investigation into interrogation techniques "are kind of pathetic."

"He should know that the Obama administration is doing everything they can to keep American secure," Albright said. "That is the major job of the president of the United States and his appointees, and I feel very confident that is taking place."

Albright is apparently referring to Cheney's response to the investigation. The decision "serves as a reminder, if any were needed, of why so many Americans have doubts about this Administration's ability to be responsible for our nation's security," he said last night.

Albright also said she's not an expert on interrogation, but cited experts, included Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who say torture doesn't produce results. She said we need "to operate in a way that's reflective of America's values and our rule of law."

Rep. Peter King (R-NY) is quite up in arms about the investigation of CIA interrogation techniques, airing his objections in an interview with the Politico. Indeed, he wonders which side the Obama administration is on:

"It's bulls***. It's disgraceful. You wonder which side they're on," he said of the Attorney General's move, which he described as a "declaration of war against the CIA, and against common sense."


"You're talking about threatening to kill a guy, threatening to attack his family, threatening to use an electric drill on him - but never doing it," King said. "You have that on the one hand - and on the other you have the [interrogator's] attempt to prevent thousands of Americans from being killed."

"When Holder was talking about being 'shocked' [before the report's release], I thought they were going to have cutting guys' fingers off or something - or that they actually used the power drill," he said.

King also asked this question: "Why is it OK to waterboard someone, which causes physical pain, but not threaten someone and not cause pain?"

And as we all know, it's okay to waterboard someone, since that has not in any way been the subject of arguments or controversy.