TPM News

This afternoon, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs announced in an email that President Obama " held 64 meetings or phone calls with Members of Congress on health insurance reform."

Gibbs even sent around a photo, seen at left, of Obama making one of those calls while en route to George Mason University today for what could be his last health care reform rally.

It seems the White House is already staking a claim on the credit for health care reform, a signal that the administration is pretty sure the bill will pass this weekend.

Top aides to House Democratic leaders issued a statement decrying Republicans who sent out a memo that they claimed was written by Democrats.

In an email, Speaker Nancy Pelosi spokesman Nadeam Elshami and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer spokeswoman Stephanie Lundberg said Republicans - who earlier dismissed questions about the memo's legitimacy - will "do anything" to stop health care from passing on Sunday.

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Another one: Rep. Suzanne Kosmas (D-FL), who voted no in November, has announced that she will vote for health care reform.

In an interview with the Orlando Sentinel, Kosmas cited the CBO scores as part of her reason for switching. She also said the final legislation does more for small businesses than the first House bill.

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Rep. Joseph Cao (R-LA), who was the only Republican to vote "yes" on the House health care reform bill last year -- but has since maintained that he'll vote "no" on the Senate bill -- said today that "right now, I'm a firm no" on the Senate version of the bill.

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In a letter sent yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told two senators that he would push for a vote on the public option in "coming months."

The letter to Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) says Reid was "disappointed" the public option did not make it into the final legislation.

"As we have discussed, I will work to ensure that we are able to vote on the public option in the coming months," Reid wrote. His spokesman, Jim Manley, confirmed to TPMDC that the letter came from Reid.

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Rep. Jason Altmire (D-PA) will again vote against health care reform, he announced in a statement this afternoon.

"I regret that this year-long process of debating health care reform has resulted in a final product that I cannot support," he said. "The cost of inaction on health care is great, but it would be an even bigger mistake to pass a bill that could compound the problem of skyrocketing health care costs."

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The man with Parkinson's who sat down in front of a group of anti-health reform rally in Ohio this week, only to have dollar bills thrown at him by an angry protester screaming about "handouts," tells TPM in a phone interview that he was aiming to present his own body as a powerful symbol of the debate.

"I feel I embody the controversy that was being fought out," Bob Letcher, 60, tells us. "No one was engaging, everyone was screaming. I thought, I don't have to scream, I just have to be there. I walked over and sat down ... I sort of presented myself as an argument by myself."

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Republican leaders were asked today to vouch for the authenticity of a memo that their press aides emailed to reporters saying that it proves Democrats want to make major changes to Medicare. We posted the memo earlier when Democrats accused Republicans of sending it out as a hoax.

"The appropriate question there really is ask the reporter who wrote the article alleging that it was a hoax. I know nothing more than what I read in Politico," Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) told reporters in response to a question at a press conference this afternoon.

Cantor's office emailed reporters the Politico post - since been removed when questions arose about the memo's legitimacy - earlier this afternoon. Cantor scolded the press: "The question that you really ought to be asking is the hoax on the American people presented by the budget assumptions made on this bill."

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