The White House issued the following statement from President Obama Wednesday:
“I want to thank the members of both the Senate and House of Representatives for continuing their work on health reform to provide more stability and security for Americans who have insurance, and quality, affordable coverage for those who don’t. I’m especially grateful that so many members, including some Blue Dogs on the Energy and Commerce Committee, are working so hard to find common ground. Those efforts are extraordinarily constructive in strengthening this legislation and bringing down its cost.”
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana slammed fellow Republican George Voinovich Wednesday for saying the GOP's problems stem from the fact that it is "being taken over by Southerners," calling the Ohio senator "a moderate, really wishy-washy."
"I'm on the side of conservatives getting back to core conservative values," Vitter told the Washington Times. "There are a lot of us from the South who hold those values, which I think the party is supposed to be about. We strayed from them in the past few years, and that's why we performed so badly in the national elections."
"[Voinovich is…] a moderate, really wishy-washy," he said.
Voinovich, who has decided not to run for re-election next year, told a newspaper in his home state that Southern dominance of the GOP was hurting the party elsewhere.
"We got too many Jim DeMints and Tom Coburns," Voinovich told the Columbus Dispatch Monday. "It's the Southerners….
President Obama takes his push for health care reform on the road. CNN Senior White House Correspondent Ed Henry and CNN's John Lisk have more.
Slapping a tax on fattening foods could help pay for health care reform while also combating the nation's growing obesity epidemic. A new study by the non-partisan Urban Institute says a 10-percent tax on fatty foods could raise more than $500-billion over the next 10-years.
They liken it to the steep taxes on tobacco, which helped dramatically reduce the number of smokers in this country.
However, taxes alone won't do the job when it comes to battling obesity. The study also recommends banning advertising of fattening foods to children and better labeling these products.
Restaurants and beverage groups have already waged a multimillion-dollar media campaign against any new taxes on food or drinks. They say it's no time to add taxes on "the simple pleasures we all enjoy" and argue this tax would be unfair since it soaks the poor.
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(CNN) – House Democratic leaders and some members of the conservative Blue Dog Coalition might be happy with a deal that allows health care reform legislation to move forward, but some of their fellow Democrats remain skeptical and others openly reject the proposal.
"I cringe at the word 'deal.' It sounds back room," said Rep. Lois Capps, a member of the liberal New Democrat Coalition/Caucus who has also been that group's liaison during the ongoing negotiations.
Capps said she and other progressives on the House Energy & Commerce Committee need to look at the details of the plan before getting behind it.
Another member of the Energy and Commerce Committee who is also part of the Blue Dog Coalition, Rep. Charlie Melancon of Louisiana, is one of the three Blue Dog Democrats on that panel who did not sign onto the agreement.
"It was not a conscious split. If we were doing it as a group, the easiest thing for us all to do is to say yes or no. But that wasn't what it was about," Melancon told reporters off the House floor. "We all have to deal with our own politics, our own constituency. We just happen to be labeled by the press as the 'Blue Dog coalition.' If you poll the Blue Dog coalition individually and separately, you'll find that not everybody is on the same page and there is no position collectively."
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Four senators pushed for a bill Wednesday to ban texting while driving, a day after a study found that drivers who text while on the road are much more likely to have an accident than an undistracted driver.
Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-New York; Robert Menendez, D-New Jersey; Mary Landrieu, D-Louisiana; and Kay Hagan, D-North Carolina, unveiled the ALERT Act, which would ban truck and car drivers and operators of mass transit from texting while driving.
The proposed legislation would prohibit any driver from sending text or e-mail messages while driving a vehicle, said an earlier news release from the senators. If the bill passes, the Department of Transportation would set the minimum standards for compliance.
States that do not enact text-banning laws within two years of the bill's passage could lose 25 percent of their federal highway funds, Schumer said in a news conference announcing the legislation. The non-compliant states could recuperate that money once they meet the text-banning standards, Schumer added.
Fourteen states and the District of Columbia already have laws barring texting while driving, which include the home states of three of the bill's sponsors: Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia and Washington.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - A group of fiscally conservative House Democrats announced Wednesday they reached a deal with the chamber's Democratic leaders on a health care reform bill.
Rep. Mike Ross of Arkansas, speaking for the so-called Blue Dog Democrats, said the agreement calls for the House Energy and Commerce Committee to begin debating the bill later Wednesday, but for no vote by the full House until after the upcoming August congressional recess.
Ross and the Blue Dogs had threatened to derail the bill in the Energy and Commerce Committee due to concerns that it cost too much and failed to address systemic problems in the nation's ailing health care industry.
The Energy and Commerce Committee is one of three House committees that needs to pass the bill before it is voted on by the full chamber. The other two committees have already cleared it.
The deal was announced as President Barack Obama hit the road to build more public support for reform, telling a North Carolina audience that a failure to fix the system now will have catastrophic consequences in the years ahead.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - CNN has obtained an e-mail from a top aide of Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus – a message that aims to debunk a Washington Post headline that negotiators are close to a deal.
The authenticity of the e-mail, sent to top aides to senators on the Finance Committee and obtained by CNN from a GOP source, was confirmed by a Baucus aide.
"While progress has been made in recent days, neither an accord nor an announcement is imminent," wrote Russ Sullivan, Democratic staff director for the committee. "In fact, significant policy issues remain to be discussed among the Members, and any one of these issues could preclude bipartisan agreement."
While several senators have been more upbeat about the negotiators' progress over the last 24 hours, there is also concern about managing expectations, and about backlash from senators left out of negotiations who have not been briefed on all the details of the talks.
Still, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley told National Public Radio Wednesday morning they are "on the edge" of a deal this week.
(Read the full text of the e-mail after the jump)
After finally beating then-Sen. Hillary Clinton in those grueling Democratic primaries, Obama launched his general election campaign right here. And then proceeded to carry the commonwealth of Virginia - first time for a Democrat in 44 years - on his way to winning the White House. Now he's hoping Bristol will help engineer another improbable victory on health care reform.
After a town hall in North Carolina, the president is literally taking his sales pitch to the produce aisle here at the Kroger supermarket. Most employees here are union workers who have generous health benefits. The conventional wisdom back in Washington is that the insured don't want to pay higher taxes to pick up the tab for the 46 million who are uninsured.
But over the course of the last two days, I've talked to a lot of supermarket employees and was surprised to learn that the assumption the president's critics are making could be wrong. Democratic - as well as Republican - employees told me they would be willing to pay higher taxes to get a reform bill, with a few important caveats the president will have to pay attention to.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Democratic National Committee is again taking aim at top Republicans in Congress over their lack of support for the president's $787 billion stimulus bill, as the image war over the success of the stimulus continues to escalate.
In "Broke It," a 30-second TV spot, Sens. John Kyl of Arizona and Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Reps. John Boehner of Ohio and Eric Cantor of Virginia are taken to task for opposing the Democratic stimulus plan.
"They supported the Bush policies that sank our economy into recession," an announcer says in the TV ad. "They broke it. Now they refuse to fix it."
The DNC offensive also includes radio spots targeted at Kyl, McConnell, Boehner, Cantor - all top GOP congressional leaders who have been regular targets of Democratic ads this summer attacking them over their opposition to the stimulus. Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, who chairs the House Republican Conference, is also being slammed in a radio spot.
Entitled "No Thanks," each radio ad highlights projects funded by the stimulus bill in each Republican's state or district.
"So when you see that sign that says 'this project funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act' you can say no thanks to Eric Cantor," the Virginia version of the radio ad says.
"Broke It," will air nationally on cable and in the District of Columbia area, the DNC said Wednesday in a statement announcing the new ad campaign.
The "No Thanks" radio ads will air in Phoenix, Arizona; Louisville and Lexington, Kentucky; Dayton, Ohio; Richmond, Virginia; and Indianapolis, Indiana, according to the DNC.