St. George, Utah (CNN) – Supporters of the Tea Party movement said Monday that critics have unfairly portrayed them as an uneducated and inarticulate band of activists with little knowledge of politics.
Mitzi Butler, an area coordinator of the Tea Party Express Tour, chastised critics who describe her fellow grassroots activists as, "a bunch of hillbillies with no teeth, and [say] we're stupid."
"We are not stupid," she said in an interview with CNN as the tour was preparing to pull into St. George, a picturesque Utah city nestled in a valley of cliffs. "We are well versed. And I think we're smarter than what we've been sending to represent us in Congress."
WASHINGTON (CNN) – President Barack Obama is set to claim final victory on his top domestic priority Tuesday by signing into law a package of changes to the newly enacted health care reform bill.
The signing ceremony at a community college in northern Virginia will culminate almost a year of fiercely partisan debate and a tortuous legislative journey on the proposals generated by Democrats and unanimously opposed by Republicans.
Due to a shifting political landscape, Democrats eventually needed the separate bill being signed Tuesday to make changes in the original legislation in order to get the overall package passed by Congress.
Among other things, the so-called "fixes" bill significantly expands health insurance subsidies for lower- and middle-income families while watering down a tax on expensive health policies.
The bill also increases the overall cost of the health care reform legislation to $940 billion over the next 10 years, $65 billion more than the original health care bill Obama signed into law last week.
Washington (CNN) – The Obama administration is wasting no time beginning its implementation of the new health care legislation.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius sent a letter Monday to the insurance industry regarding a key feature of the Democratic health care plan – the prohibition on denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions. She cautioned the industry not to try to find loopholes in the new law that would ‘preserve a broken system.’
In an interview on CNN’s John King, USA, Sebelius explained why she sent the correspondence.
Some media reports, Sebelius said, suggested the insurance industry was looking closely at the language in the new law.
Related video: Sebelius reaches out to insurance industry
“And we just thought it was appropriate as we are in the process of developing regulations for the policy that will be the law in September of this year, to make it very clear that parents shouldn’t worry,” Sebelius said. “The law is that children with pre-existing conditions must be covered under their parent’s policies. The services that they need for those pre-existing conditions must be covered.”
Washington (CNN) – A California-based political consultant who charged the Republican National Committee nearly $2,000 for a night out at Voyeur - a risque West Hollywood nightclub now at center of the latest controversy surrounding RNC chairman Michael Steele - will return the money to the party, a committee spokesman told CNN Monday.
Erik Brown, president of the Orange County-based Dynamic Marketing, Inc., was re-imbursed in February for $1,946.25 worth of charges at the nightclub, according to the RNC's latest filing with the Federal Election Commission.
It's not clear why the RNC re-imbursed Brown for the charges or who else was with him at the club. A spokesman for the RNC said Steele was not at the club when the charges were made.
The RNC said Brown is returning the money in question to the RNC. "The committee has received a commitment that the money will be returned," the spokesman told CNN.
(CNN) – Sen. John McCain is not letting the memory of Sarah Palin's recent visit to Arizona slip away. In fact, McCain is highlighting the former Alaska governor's two campaign stops in a new, fast moving Web video that promotes her support for his Senate re-election bid.
McCain's campaign released a 1 minute and 37 second video Monday of Palin and McCain on the campaign trail – bringing back memories of their 2008 White House bid. Now, McCain is facing a primary challenge from former Rep. J.D. Hayworth, who claims the Arizona senator is not conservative enough.
Having Palin by his side might help McCain dilute some of Hayworth's criticism.
And to emphasize his ties to Palin, McCain has also posted photos and full length videos of her visit.
Washington (CNN) – California Senate candidate Chuck DeVore has "severed all ties" with Erik Brown, the political consultant who billed the Republican National Committee nearly $2,000 for a visit to a risque Los Angeles nightclub in February.
Monday's revelation of the expenditure forced the RNC and its chairman, Michael Steele, to launch an investigation into why the RNC financed a night out at the trendy West Hollywood nightclub, where scantily clad dancers can be seen mimicking sex acts on stage.
An RNC spokesman called the spending unacceptable and said Brown will be returning the money to the committee.
CNN reported Monday that Brown had also done consulting work for Republicans including DeVore and state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, who is seeking the Republican nomination for governor in California.
DeVore spokesman Joshua Trevino described the campaign's relationship with Brown's firm, Dynamic Marketing, Inc., as "brief and straightforward."
"We had them print some campaign letterhead, trifold signs, and stickers," Trevino said in a statement. "That engagement ended some weeks ago when we contracted with a different printer, and will not resume.
"This is a non-story in itself, but as Chuck DeVore is being noted in some media outlets as a Brown client, it's important to provide proper context for the relationship, and to publicly state that there is no present relationship with DMI," Trevino added.
Washington (CNN) – The Obama administration’s announced date to begin to reverse its surge of 30,000 troops into Afghanistan is a “transition point” in the U.S. military presence in the country, a White House national security aide said Monday.
Denis McDonough, the chief of staff to President Obama’s National Security Council, accompanied Obama over the weekend on an unannounced trip to Afghanistan. While there, Obama met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and American troops at a U.S. base.
McDonough told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that the administration’s military plans in Afghanistan are on track.
“We’re just so excited and so proud of all that’s happening there,” McDonough said on CNN’s The Situation Room. “The surge is, in fact, on target. There's about 10,000 of our guys there. We're going to - there are obviously - the president ordered an additional 30,000 there. And that surge then will continue through the course of this year, into the summer of 2011.”
McDonough called the July 2011 date set by Obama to begin to draw down the additional troops “a transition point.”
“But this is not going to be the end of our effort there,” he said. “We have set that target as a time to draw those troops down. But the pace of that withdrawal will be determined by the situation on the ground.”
Obama’s surprise weekend trip to Afghanistan was his first since taking office. He previously visited the country during his presidential campaign.
Washington (CNN) – A conservative women's group is calling out the Republican National Committee after the party paid for a nearly $2,000 visit to a racy West Hollywood nightclub.
"As women we find the very idea of officials from either party conducting business inside an establishment that objectifies and demeans women outrageous," Penny Nance, the Chief Executive Officer of Concerned Women for America, said in a written statement Monday.
"Aren't these girls young enough to be your daughters?," Nance asked. "This kind of behavior is not appropriate for national leaders that our children should be able to look up to as role models, and that our daughters could be working for. Did you really swill drinks, ogle young girls and plan party business at this kind of establishment? Please explain!"