Bart Stupak

Former Giuliani aide John Avlon complains about the Texas Republican Party: What’s the matter with Texas? Congressman Joe Barton’s bizarre apology to BP last week is only the beginning. Ditto the newly released Republican Texas State Party Platform ably solidifying its worst stereotypes—calling for the re-criminalization of sodomy and making gay marriage a felony.

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As if BP wasn't in enough trouble, the company now has Henry Waxman on its case. Waxman has long been one of the House's a most brutal investigators—back in the '90s, he and his staff dredged up those damning Big Tobacco documents showing that cigarette manufacturers had lied about their products for decades.

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This is the fourth of a five-part series explaining, in remarkable detail, how Obama and the Democrats came to pass health care reform. (Click here to read parts one, two, and three.) Be sure to come back tomorrow for the final installment, which reveals how the White House decided not to drop health care reform in the wake of Scott Brown's victory, and what Nancy Pelosi did to broker the final deal.   Reset Barack Obama, the law professor, was acting like a prosecutor. He’d invited Grassley to the Oval Office, to talk about the senator’s concerns.

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How They Did It

When the president and his closest advisers huddled in the Oval Office last August, they had every reason to panic. Their signature piece of legislation, comprehensive health care reform, was mired in the Senate Finance Committee and the public was souring on it. Unemployment was on the march, and all this talk about preexisting conditions and insurance exchanges barely registered above the Fox News pundits screaming, “Death panel!” Suddenly, health care reform was under attack everywhere—even in the West Wing. All week, the group had debated whether to scale back the reform effort.

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Ben Dolnick writes in to point me to this, from Megan McArdle, circa March 3rd: I have never seen conservatives and liberals so divided . . . in beliefs, not values.  On the one hand, there are people like the TNR crew, and Jonathan Bernstein, Andrew's guest-blogger, who seem to think that this it's the next best thing to a done deal.  Meanwhile, all the conservatives and libertarians I know think that it's pretty much hopeless, because Pelosi can't get it through an increasingly rebellious House.

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Last Hurrah

From the opening seconds of the final vote on HR 3590, all you had to do was watch the House leaders of both parties to know what the outcome would be. On the Democratic side, Speaker Pelosi, radiant in lilac suit and matching pumps, was handing out hugs and kisses and posing for pics with groups of her House sisters. Across the aisle, meanwhile, Republican whip Eric Cantor looked even edgier and more vibratory than usual as a handful of his members huddled close, all eyes on the giant illuminated list of member votes projected on the wall above the press gallery.

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March Madness

Walking across the Capitol lawns yesterday morning, a little Hispanic girl noticed something exciting: protesters massing on the steps, waving flags and chanting. “Look at all the signs here!” she exclaimed to her father (in a mixture of Spanish and English), pointing toward the white marble dome. Her father might have explained to her, however, that it wasn’t their protest. The family was there for an immigration reform rally, which drew at least 100,000 participants. Meanwhile, on the steps of the Capitol were tea partiers taking a last stand against health care reform.

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Health care for all is about to become law of the land. On Sunday evening, the House of Representatives voted for the Senate's health care bill--a bill that would make affordable insurance available to nearly everybody, strengthen coverage for those who have it, and nudge American medicine in the direction of higher quality and lower costs. The final tally was 219 to 212, with the vast majority of Democrats voting for it and every single Republican opposing it.

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When Democrat Bart Stupak announced he'd be supporting health care reform, thanks to an agreement on abortion rights, a reporter asked Stupak if he'd consulted with fellow Michigander, John Dingell. "Yes," Stupak smirked, "Mr. Dingell had a piece of me last week." He went on to explain that the two had been in close contact. "I kept him apprised of what I was doing," Stupak said, "and he kept me apprised of the need to move forward." Stupak may simply have been paying homage to Dingell, who has been something of a mentor over his career.

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The abortion issue isn't going to stop health care reform. In a late afternoon press conference, Michigan Rep. Bart Stupak and six of his Democratic colleagues announced that they were dropping their objections to the Senate bill, thanks to a new executive order that makes clear taxpayer dollars won't finance abortion services. Instead, the seven Democrats said, they will vote yes when the Senate bill comes up for consideration later tonight.

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